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One reason many people are uncomfortable talking about population growth is that they are uncomfortable saying or reading things which might be thought to be critical of non-white, or less affluent people.

Most people in America do not want to feel that they are prejudiced against people of another race. We like to feel that we are open to accepting people for who and what they are, and giving each person the chance to succeed on their own merits.

So when we read that people of European descent have stabilized their birthrate, but that various groups of African, Hispanic or Asian populations have not, we feel reluctant to talk about that.

However, it is not racist to lament the build-up of suburbs where once was good farmland, and the rush of developers to cover our hillsides with malls and houses. The color or race of the inhabitants is not the issue; the crowding, the shortage of resources and the loss of space are.

Most people, given the choice, would prefer to have a planet that is not over-crowded: where food, resources, and open space are abundant. Both wood-gathering tribes people and SUV-driving suburbanites would all be better off if there were fewer of us trying to get enough energy for our needs, whether wood or gasoline.

The birthrates of different ethnic groups appears to have little to do with race, but a great deal to do with prosperity, health, and economic opportunities for women. Europe's birthrate was just as high as any other region, until the medical, social and economic changes of the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is useful and admirable for people to take note of the injustices of our society, and to strive to be aware of racism in their own lives. We are all better off for that. But our population surplus is now causing very real problems that will be far worse with 3 billion more people on the planet. We all need to work on solutions. Finding ways to stop population growth will make life better for all the people on the planet.

Racism and Immigration

Nowhere is the issue of race more of a flashpoint than when discussing immigration. But since most population growth in the U.S. comes from immigration and the large families of first generation immigrants, no serious discussion can avoid this topic.

When we discuss emigration and immigration, we are not talking about the population in just one country, but about global population. And there are more people on the planet now than we can sustain at a comfortable American lifestyle. So most obviously, it is not helping the global overpopulation problem to encourage people to move out of densely populated regions to more sparsely populated ones. It is simply allowing the densely populated regions to avoid having to deal with their own social and economic issues directly.

But is it fair?

The first thing many people are going to say is that it is not fair for the U.S., with its relatively plentiful resources, to bar people from overpopulated regions (i.e., where local resources can not support the population) from coming here.

But the question of fairness can be asked both ways. You might also ask if it is fair for other countries to export their excess population to us. Many people in the U.S. have decided to have fewer children and we ought to be benefiting from a lower population with lower housing costs, more available jobs, more open space and less traffic. If there were fewer of us, we could be living good lives and not using unsustainable amounts of the world's resources.

The U.S. is already overcrowded. The resources for a good life are already in scarce supply. Increasing population makes resources scarcer and lowers standards of living. And that neither helps us, nor helps the immigrants.

Does emigration to the U.S. help people in the U.S.?

Currently, approximately 1.5 million people immigrate to the U.S. every year. That is the highest number in U.S. history, and accounts for 44 percent of the U.S. growth rate. If immigration were lowered to pre-1965 standards - levels seen for most of U.S. history - the U.S.'s growth rate would reflect its low birth rate. And that would be a good thing for our economic health - and for the world's. (Read more in Economics).

Does emigration to the U.S. help reduce global poverty?

The short answer: No, it does not. Most of the more than 1.2 billion people who are hungry or who live on less than $2 per day could never dream of raising the funds necessary to emigrate to the U.S. The three countries sending the most people to the U.S. are Mexico, China, and The Philippines - countries with relatively low birthrates (in some cases, lower than the U.S.). The world's poorest countries with the highest birthrates in the world: 9 of 10 of which are located in Sub-Saharan Africa - contribute less than 1 percent of U.S. immigrants. Further, according to the UN, Brain Drain from emigration has detrimental effects to the countries sending immigrants. It is usually the most educated and ambitious people who leave their native countries. While the remittances emigrants send back to their native countries do have some economic impact, they do not even come close to the economic gains those countries could make if their emigrants stayed home.

Does emigration to the U.S. help reduce global overpopulation?

The fact is, the world does not need more Americans. Americans comprise 6 percent of the world's population but consume a whopping 24 percent of its resources. It would take 240 Haitians to equal the amount of resources consumed by one American.

Further overcrowding America will not reduce its consumption of the world's resources. But it will drop standards of living for all.

Next taboo: Birth Control

Classic News & Articles    [old Archive]

The Earth is Full June, 2011 - Thomas Friedman - The title says it all. Maybe now that Friedman has broken the ice, a few others can also say that the Emperor (of endless, thoughless growth) has no clothes! [original] [comments]

Ruling on Contraception Insurance
January 29, 2012 - Obama admin. finalizes ruling that insurance companies cover contraception without a broad religious exemption. Half of pregnancies in U.S. are unintended. [New York Times] [archive]

Resisting Dickensian Gloom by Tony Recsei. Forced high density policies don't reduce our carbon footprint or energy use. This is a very well researched article summarizing many studies. It was posted on a "smart growth" blog and many people have commented. Facinating reading. [article] [archive]

Smart Growth: The Worst Kind of Sprawl? Studies find that urban construction is no better for the environment than the suburban. People have pretty much the same global footprint either way. Transportation is a small part of it, and is offset by extra resources to build high rises. [article] [archive]

Tikopia: Living within Limits Feb, 2011 - The history of the Pacific island Tikopia shows that when humans are confronted with obvious limits to our resources, we are smart enough to constrain our population and enjoy comfortable, prosperous lives. [article] [archive]

Overpopulation at its worst? In the Congo's capital, parents only feed their children every other day. Demand U.S. contribute to U.N. contraceptive program! - Jan 10, 2012 [article] [comment]

Japan's economy stronger than USA's This is usually obfuscated by using total GDP to measure growth, but per-capita GDP is stronger in Japan. - Jan 3, 2012 [article] [comment]

Conjectures on Human Growth Limits, Jan 2004 - Ross McCluney's classic survey of ways to address the question of the best population size for our Planet. Hint: it depends on how we want to live... [archive]

300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds, Jan 2011 - Great(!) video on the history and effects of humanity's use of fossil fuels. As supplies dwindle relative to our population, what will we do? [short video]

The Critics Deconstructed Intersting article about the attacks against population activists, and the need for population awareness [article]

U.N.Predicts 10.1 billion people by 2100 May - This article corrects some common mis-perceptions about population. It is growing rapidly, but can be slowed by easy access to contraception, better education for women, and changing social norms. [article] [archive]

Mother: Caring our Way out of the Population Dilemma, Jan 2011 - The film follows Beth, an American mother who comes from a Catholic family of 12 and has adopted an African-born daughter as she travels to Ethiopia where she meets Zinet, the oldest daughter of a desperately poor family of 12. Zinet has found the courage to break free from thousand-year-old-cultural barriers, and their encounter will change Beth forever. [trailer] [archive]

The Moral Right to Set Limits, Dec - It seems right for us each to protect the positive qualities of our own region, the only place where we have even a modicum of the political ability to do so. But there is always a nagging question about that... [article]

Opposition to Power Line at Fjord Runs Deep, Nov 11 - A beautiful place. Why run a high-tension power line with 125 foot towers through the middle of it? Another toll of increasing population. [article] [archive]

Top 50 Birth Control Blogs. Sept 2010. Grouped by Educational, Methods, Population Issues, Reproductive Rights, Religious, Ethnic & Local issues. [article] [archive]

Nobody Ever Dies of Overpopulation, Garret Hardin
or do they? Much of the Pakistani land which flooded in 2010 is floodplain which was marshland that was only settled in the last 30 years... [article] [archive]

How many People can live on Planet Earth Sept, 2010
Sir David Attenborough asks this question in this fascinating video (YouTube).

The Last Taboo What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives, environmentalists and scientists in a conspiracy of silence? Read The Last Taboo by Julia Whitty in the June 2010 issue of Mother Jones: "Who's to Blame for the Population Crisis?"

Climate Change:
Calling Planet Birth

Family size is the great unmentionable in the campaign for more environmentally friendly lifestyles. Having 1 less child in the US would reduce carbon emissions 19 times more than all the E.P.A.'s recommended actions combined. - [article]

Drop in Birthrates in 2008 is Linked to Recession -Apr 2010
Population growth is not inevitable. When incentives favor postponing having children, many people do. [article]

Smart Growth? the smart alternative is No Growth
Although city planners are trained to call some patterns of growth 'smart', in many areas the only truely smart alternative is No Growth [article]

Parting the Waters - mid-East wars over Water Rights - March 31, 2010.
30 of the 37 Wars over Water in the past 60 years involve Israel and its neighbors. Fewer people living in these desert regions would leave more water per person. This should inform the population policies of all countries involved. [article]

A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice & The Environmental Challenge
Dec 23,2009 This new book compiled by Laurie Mazur discusses environmental issues as they affect equality, justice and sustainability. Regarding the UN's low and high estimates for World population in 2050 "if we take seriously the twin imperatives of sustainablilty and equity, it becomes clear that it would be easier to provide a good life - at less environmental cost - for 8 rather than almost 11 billion people." [Press Release]

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