BACKGROUND

Are you:

• Saddened by the ongoing loss of farm land and open space of Vermont?
• Dismayed that most of our environmental problems continue to get worse?
• Worried about the quality of life your children and grand children will have?
• Concerned that because of population growth the dependence on foreign oil will increase from 55% now to 78% by 2025?
• Convinced that we can not have infinite growth with finite resources?

If these are concerns for you then you will want to learn more about population issues because population growth is one of the root causes of most of our environmental problems and many of our social problems.

The Numbers:
The population of the U.S. is now over 300 million and is growing about 4 million per year. It is expected to reach 500 million about 2040. The U.S. is the third most populated country in the world behind China and India and it has the highest population except for China and India. It has the highest growth by far of all of the developed countries. In fact the U.S. is growing by more than all of the other developed countries combined.

A Sustainable Population:
Exactly what is the long-term carrying capacity of the U.S. is debatable, and is a moving target, as technology changes. David Pementel of Cornell University, however, has estimated it to be about 150 million. If he and others are right, we are in an “overshoot,” which will be followed by a die off as critical resources run out. The National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of London have jointly issued a proclamation that global population must be stabilized as soon as possible in order to avoid catastrophic environmental consequences.

The Causes:
There are several causes for population growth including the belief that economies must always be growing, the belief that technology will solve any problems, lack of media and environmental attention to the problem and even misinformation on their part, fertility rates, and very high levels of legal and illegal immigration.

The Solutions:
First, population growth must become an issue of public debate. During the environmental movement of the 60’s and 70’s there was a debate and President Nixon even appointed a special commission to study the environmental issue and make recommendations. Unfortunately, the report was buried and since then little attention has been paid to this issue. Second, public policies should lead to a sustainable population level. This should not be through any kind of enforcement program but simply though education and making available family planning services to all people. Policies should also be established to minimize legal immigration to a net with emigration and reduce illegal immigration to the lowest number possible.


Project U.S. population growth from 1910-2050, based upon U.S. Census Bureau statistics and analysis conducted by Population Enviroment Balance. Trend line represents exponential trend using 1910-2050 baseline, resulting in U.S. population at over 1 billion by 2100.