Sam Smith

Best estimates of unsanctioned immigration to this country puts the total at 3-4% of the total American population, or roughly twice as many people as support Mike Gravel, who can’t even get into the presidential debates, let alone become a major topic of them.

While it is clear that immigrants are being used by conservatives as a target to deflect criticism from themselves – much as southern whites used blacks in the days of segregation – it is possible that something else is happening as well.

What if large number of Americans are afraid – consciously or not – of something that their leaders, most environmentalists and the media won’t discuss at all: the real consequences of population growth? Immigrants make an easy substitute for dealing directly with this issue for in the end they commit only one real sin other than not following regulations: adding to the competition for human existence by an ever increasing population.

Ten years ago, I wrote about it this way:

|||| We know it took about four million years for humans to populate the earth with its first billion humans. It took just a hundred years for the second billion. Thirty-five years for the third. Fifteen years for the fourth and twelve for the fifth.

The world is growing by 10,800 people an hour, adding the equivalent of a city the size of Newark, NJ every day

Former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, counselor of the Wilderness Society, has a good way of describing it. At the current rate of growth, he says, the population of the United States will double in 63 years. So at some point around the middle of the next century, we are likely to have (or need) twice as much of everything we have now. Twice as many cars, trucks, planes, airports, parking lots, streets, bridges, tunnels, freeways, houses, apartment buildings, grade schools, high schools, colleges, trade schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons.

Imagine your city or town as it would look with twice as much of everything. And, oh yes, don’t forget to add twice as much farmland, water and food if you can find it. And twice as many chemicals and other pollutants in the air and water, twice as much heat radiation from all the new construction, twice as much crime, twice as many fires, twice as big traffic jams and twice as many walls with graffiti on them.

Not that everyone accepts this scenario. There are those who think we can, with the help of science and technology, feed tens of billions more people. Some of them are scientists who admit that life will be degraded but think it still physically possible. Some are Roman Catholic bishops who said a few years ago that the earth could support 40 billion people.

Some are the voices of industry or in think tanks. Their argument is based on the economic notion that growth is an unmitigated virtue and that anything opposed to growth is wrong. And many of them are economists who, as Amory Lovins has said, “are people who lie awake nights worrying about whether what actually works in the world could conceivably work in theory.”

Gaylord Nelson suggests some questions for them: “Do the unlimited growth folks really believe that the more crowded the planet becomes, the freer and richer we will be? Do they think a finite planet with finite resources can sustain infinite economic expansion and population growth? If not, where do they draw the line? They don’t say.” ||||

The number of foreign born – legal or not – now comprise the same percentage of the population as was the case in 1930 and considerably less than between 1860 and 1910. Looking back, those weren’t such bad times. Why are American so worried now, even discounting for all the politicians and media George Wallacing the issue?

One answer is that people are really worried about something they know is happening and no one will talk sensibly to them about it.


  1. When I was a kid in the early seventies, I remember hearing dire predictions about what would happen in 20-30 years if we didn't curb population growth. It turns out those people were "alarmists". More than 30 years have passed and it may be another 10 years before over population is as much of a problem as people once feared. Of course, maybe I am the "alarmist" now and it will actually be another 20 years before the problem is really that bad.cemmcs

  2. I am glad that someone has finally raised this issue. A few years back I moved about 20 miles to get away from an area which had become over populated. Eventually, I'll have to move again. And eventually there will be no place to move to. Americans have to get their heads out of the sand on this issue.

  3. "…the problem is poverty."Uh, okay. That's at least a fraction of the answer.But what causes the poverty? Is it time to revisit the Thatcher/Reagan era and say that poverty is caused by laziness, or mental illness? It it once again time to blame the victim?Poverty exists because there is immense inequity in America. Our experiment with Capitalism has proved to be a failure. Instead of creating a "free market" where there is a "level playing field" to allow "all boats to rise," we have a system where wealth = power and the power is used to make the powerful's wealth increase, while the powerless find themselves drifting toward "poverty."There is also the problem generally with "poverty" when viewed in the American system. Only in America can someone "in poverty" have so much more than the average person in a 2d or 3d world country. Poverty should not be measured by size of one's house, nor by the number of cars one owns, nor by one's annual salary + bonus, nor by the number of TVs in one's house.It should be measured strictly by the standards of person being examined on a few critical scores:- satisfaction with one's job or line of work- satisfaction with one's place in society- satisfaction with one's home lifeA society that strives to improve these areas will be better for the human condition than any "rising tide of capitalism, which lifts all boats."

  4. When I was a kid in the early seventies, I remember hearing dire predictions about what would happen in 20-30 years if we didn't curb population growth. It turns out those people were "alarmists".I don't think so. If you think we are doing fine, ecologically speaking, with the current population and its growth trend, you're missing some very critical points. Of course you are going to see what you want to see, and not what is, when you have an agenda to advance.

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