Immigration, Population Growth and the Chesapeake Bay
By Eric A. Ruark | December 2010 | View The Full Report (PDF)
Immigration is driving U.S. population growth and putting a severe strain on the nation’s ecosystems. Politicians have refused to acknowledge this reality, and many leading environmental groups dismiss the issue by claiming it is a “global” problem. While the world’s skyrocketing population is truly a global problem, the effects of overpopulation manifest themselves in localized ways. The growing population of the United States has its most immediate and deleterious impact on the U.S. environment. The solution is the implementation of a population policy that lowers immigration and restores it to a moderate level.
One of the most endangered areas in the United States is the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding environs. The Chesapeake Bay is one of the world’s great natural resources. It is the largest estuary in the United States and home to 3,600 different plant and animal species. The Bay’s watershed spans 64,000 square miles and includes parts of six states and all of the District of Columbia. There are 17 million people currently living in the watershed and that population is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. This growing population is putting a severe strain on the Bay, threatening the survival of aquatic life and increasing the risks to human health.
Overpopulation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is symptomatic of the impact that immigration-driven population growth is having across the United States. The difference is that the population in the Bay’s watershed has already grown beyond the carrying capacity of that ecosystem. The question is not whether the Bay is going to suffer the consequences of excessive growth; the question is whether the Bay can recover from the immense damage already inflicted upon it. Immediate and decisive action must be taken, with the federal government leading the way by reducing immigration levels in order to achieve U.S. population stability.
Among the findings of this report:
- Between 2000 and 2009, immigration directly accounted for 40 percent of the population growth in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Taking into account the children born in the U.S. to immigrants, immigration is responsible for 66 percent of total population growth in the Chesapeake watershed from 2000 to 2009.
- Population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is growing by 150,000 people every year. The watershed population is on pace to exceed 23 million residents by 2050.
- Maryland experienced the most immigration-related population growth. Immigration accounted for 98 percent of that state’s population growth between 2000 and 2009.
- In the District of Columbia, immigration accounted for 61 percent of population growth between 2000 and 2009; in Virginia 58 percent; in Pennsylvania 48 percent; in Delaware 18 percent; and in West Virginia 10 percent. New York experienced an overall decrease in its Chesapeake watershed population. However, the immigrant population in New York’s watershed area continued to increase.
- The leading environmental groups dedicated cleaning up the Bay recognize the harmful effects of population growth on the Bay but do not acknowledge that immigration is driving population growth in the watershed.
- Developers and politicians have touted the idea that population growth is both necessary and desirable while doing very little to alleviate the damage done to the Bay by excessive development. This represents an outmoded and unsustainable economic model for the 21st century. Smarter and more efficient, not ever bigger, will determine long-term economic success.
- Any short term economic benefits of continued growth are limited and will be far outweighed by the long term costs. Overpopulation in the watershed threatens the lucrative Chesapeake seafood industry and will lead to the loss of revenue from the recreational and tourism industries. The cost to clean up the Bay was estimated by the EPA in 2007 at $28 billion.