Sunday, July 27, 2008

Immigration, the Hidden Side of Population Growth

The United States, the world's third most populous country, is increasing its population at just under one percent per year, almost 3 million new Americans each year.
In Canada, with a similar population growth of just less than one percent, immigration plays an even bigger role, contributing 66% of total population growth.

This is robust growth, especially when compared to the birth dearth in western Europe and Japan, and not a good thing since (northern) North Americans are the most profligate consumers on the planet and we are already well past the Earth's carrying capacity.

About 35% of the US population growth is by immigration, with more than a million immigrants receiving permanent resident status annually (not to mention illegal immigrants).

Sadly, population (and immigration) are virtually never discussed in rational ways and certainly never by our policy makers. E-The Environmental Magazine broke this awkward silence with its May/June 2008 issue that tackles the issue head on and in depth. It states that immigration is an environmental concern because "America's rapid growth makes it nearly impossible to achieve sustainability."

Clearly, what is desperately needed is a national policy that assesses the big picture and integrates immigration, family planning, foreign-aid policies as well as including economic factors.

We need to start talking openly about immigration and how it fits into an overall population policy. What do you think? What kind of policies and practices would you like to see?


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I have been teaching this message of human overpopulation for many years and it is truly disturbing that population is over the 6.7 billion mark. Human population growth is the proverbial "elephant in the living room" - it's definitely there but no one wants to admit that they see it.

Unfortunately, we have literally fueled population growth with the artificial inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to expand agriculture (the so-called "Green Revolution"). However, coupled with the increase in price and decline in supply of these fossil fuel products, there are signs it is breaking down. Additionally, technological advances in fisheries have increased catches but severely depleted or wiped out the resource. Regrettably, the people of the world ignored Paul Ehrlich's "Population Bomb" and went ahead with continuous growth. He is being proven correct as humans have already exceeded the earth's carrying capacity and I don't see anything but a crash in population ahead (caused by disease, starvation, war, who knows?)

As you pointed out, most scientists have buried their heads in the sand in regards to this issue and I think that shows an extreme lack of integrity as well as blind self-indulgence.

Ultimately, all nations need to work together to stabilize population and scientists have to get involved in explaining the consequences of exponential population growth. If not, ever-shrinking habitat will not only make it crowded for us but leave little natural areas for other species and only exacerbate their already accelerated rate of extinction.

Both the Population Connection and Negative Population Growth are organizations that provide information and educational tools to help inform the public about the problems of human overpopulation.

Thank you for having the courage to write about this issue in a major newspaper.

Doreen said...

If presented with a forced choice, which do you think would collapse first: The Human Global Economy OR God’s Creation?

Never in human history has so much wealth been concentrated in the hands of so few people. A tiny minority of people in the human family have accumulated a gigantic portion of the world’s wealth. What could be wrong with this picture?

At least to me, a pyramid-like scheme is not a satisfactory system for organizing the human family’s world economy or for distributing the world’s wealth because such a “trickle down economy” is unfair, grossly inequitable and soon to become patently unsustainable. The limited resources and frangible ecosystem services of Earth cannot sustain much longer the way the global political economy is currently grown without regard to biophysical limits to its seemingly endless growth.

After all, the air, land and seas are being relentlessly polluted with human waste products; fresh water, fish stocks, food reserves, fossil fuels, and wetlands are being depleted at an alarming rate; the catastrophic effects of massive over-consumption and unrestrained hoarding of resources cannot be sustained much longer by our small, finite, fragile planetary home.

If the environment is being irreversibly degraded and natural resources are being dissipated recklessly, how can human civilization, life as we know it and the integrity of Earth as a fit for human habitation be maintained much longer?

Something new and different needs to be done. The wealthy and powerful leaders among us have unwelcome responsibilities to assume and duties to perform. If these leaders continue to adamantly insist that we keep producing endlessly as we are doing now and if we keep getting what we are likely to keep getting by overproducing as we are now, then the unbridled growth of the global economy, in all likelihood, will soon precipitate a colossal ecological wreckage unless, of course, the ever expanding global economy proceeds like a runaway train, barreling headlong into a sharp ‘turn’ called “unsustainability” where the manmade global economy crashes and destructs before rampant economic globalization destroys the Creation.

In the preceding paragraph I make reference to “unwelcome responsibilities to assume and duties to perform.”

Those “unwelcome” responsibilities and duties are only unwelcome to people who are idolaters of the global economy, who count its many material ‘blessings’ first, last and always. And what are these ‘blessings’ but products of avarice borne of greediness for personal gain and riches.

Leaders of human civilization have spoken loudly, clearly and often with one voice through human history about eschewing the insatiable passion for acquiring, consuming and/or hoarding every object of personal desire.

All this is to say that what is “unwelcome” in choosing to live differently is only apparently unwelcome…..not really unwelcome. Necessary behavior change is actually something to be welcome, I believe, because making needed changes in behavior is somehow the right thing to do. At least to me, it appears the leaders of human civilization have harmoniously exemplified for all of us how to live a way that is somehow right.

Perhaps there is another way, a better way to communicate what I am trying to say here.

It is the Creation that is being overwhelmed by the unrestrained over-consumption, unbridled overproduction and unrestricted overpopulation activities of the human species, which can be seen so clearly overspreading the surface of Earth in these early years of Century XXI.

In our time, sacrificing the Creation on the altar of the seemingly endless, distinctly human-driven expansion of economic globalization is what concerns me.

How can the human economy exist without the Creation? Surely we can agree that the Creation will likely go on long after the last idolaters of the global political economy have somehow determined to end their pursuit of a fool’s errand: dominion of the Earth and everything we derive from it.