The Environmental Impact of Overpopulation
The Environmental Impact of Overpopulation
The United States’ rapidly expanding metropolitan areas are already overcrowded and contributing to overpopulation on a national scale. Some may object and point to America’s plentiful and vast open spaces as outlets for a growing population and urban/suburban sprawl. Such unfounded optimism – espoused particularly by numerous lobbies with an institutional and economic interest in high population growth, mass immigration, and intensive development – ignores the serious environmental impact of overpopulation and overdevelopment. Paving over our farmland and forests to benefit special interests is irresponsible and bad for the environment.
National overpopulation simply means the population of the country in excess of the ability of available resources to sustain it without degrading the environment. The theory that underscores this concept is that the population size magnified by both per capita consumption (affluence) and offset by technology determines the environmental impact of that population.
Nations with high consumption levels generally have large ecological footprints, i.e. environmental impact. Add to the equation a large population with a high level of consumption — as is the case with the United States — and the situation becomes unsustainable. Population growth is steadily diluting the U.S. biocapacity, leaving only about 0.47 hectares (about 1.16 acres) of arable land available per person (as of 2016). Meanwhile, due to high levels of consumption, Americans’ per capita ecological footprint remains high: 8.3 GHA (Global Hectares, or 20.5 acres) in 2014 (the most recent data available), in effect remaining where it was in 1961 (when it was 8.1 GHA). (In some years, our per capita footprint was much higher, although the record was 11 GHA in 1973.) In 2014, the U.S. had a per capita deficit of -4.7 GHA (11.6 acres). This means that our per capita footprint (8.3 GHA) exceeded our biocapacity per person (3.6 GHA). Another aspect of this same trend into unsustainable consumption is that the U.S. per capita ecological footprint has increased only slightly — 2.5 percent from 1961 to 2014 — while per capita biocapacity has decreased rapidly — 28 percent. During the same time frame (1961 – 2014), the U.S. population increased by 73.4 percent, and – if current immigration trends and policies continue – is on track to double (compared with the 1961 population) within the 2030s. Our biocapacity deficit has also increased by 57 percent between 1961 and 2014.
- Agriculture - Forty-four percent of all U.S. land area is used to support agriculture (2016 World Bank data). However, this percentage has declined by 9.2 percent since 1961. Between 1982 and 2012, 43,380,800 acres of rural land were converted to developed land in the U.S. An annual loss of 1.5 million acres a year, that is larger than the entire state of Florida, and only slightly smaller than Missouri. In this context, it is also important to remember that, in spite of wide open spices, only about 17 percent of U.S. land is ideal for farming. Furthermore, agricultural production is increasingly dedicated to fuel production rather than food. For instance, 38 percent of the U.S. corn production in 2018 was utilized for ethanol.
- Biodiversity - Approximately 1,540 species are listed as endangered within the United States. Meanwhile, approximately 1,000 known U.S. species are already extinct in the past 500 years. The human population has now appropriated half of the continental U.S. for its sustenance, leaving native species with increasingly degraded ecosystems.
- Energy Usage - Increasing energy consumption is closely correlated to population growth. From 1961 to 2018 the U.S. population grew by 78 percent while total energy consumption grew by 121.5 percent. The growing release of greenhouse gases and fuel spills related to supplying the inputs for increased energy consumption degrade species habitat and contaminate waterways used for fishing and recreation (see U.S. Energy Information Administration).
- Forests - Since European colonization, America’s total forest cover has declined by 26 percent. Only a small percentage of the country’s original old-growth forests remains, while all other present day forest has been previously logged and is thus younger and less diverse (see U.S. Department Agriculture data).
- Land Use - Developed land in the continental U.S. increased 58.6 percent from 1982 to 2012.
- Sprawl - Across America, cities are challenged to cope with the effects of over-population-induced urban crowding and sprawl. Yet cities and localities have limited ability to slow growth through zoning and planning. Only the federal government can lawfully adopt measures aimed at stabilizing the population by curtailing mass immigration.
- Water - On a daily basis, according to the EPA, each American uses an average of 88 gallons of water at home; this totals 32,120 gallons annually per American. The decline of water levels has coincided with an increase in water pollution. Nationwide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 55 percent of the nation’s waterways are in “poor” condition, and another 21 percent are in only “fair” condition.
Immigration-driven rapid population growth, urban overcrowding, and overdevelopment will only further exacerbate these trends, thereby recklessly damaging our environment. While most environmentalist groups have consistently ignored or otherwise remained silent on the issue of immigration, FAIR will not stray from our mission to preserve the future of America through stabilization of our population and sensible immigration reform.