No Overpopulation in Wonderland

Kathleene's picture

By Kathleene Parker

A long-time journalist, Kathleene covered Los Alamos, New Mexico, Los Alamos National Laboratory and northern New Mexico timber, wildfire and environmental issues for two major dailies for 13 years. She lives just outside Albuquerque and writes nationally on water, immigration and population issues.

The writer's views are her own.

June 25, 2014

Those hoping to stabilize population can’t succeed if most people consider the problem already solved. Politicians won’t address that which is not a hot-button issue, and population isn’t, because we are – thanks mostly to corporate media – ignorant about population or its potential to exacerbate every challenge facing us.

Worse, it is not a hot-button issue because the national corporate media create an artificial population “reality” that makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland when I do see the rare population story.

Recently, Bill Moyers called U.S. population “somewhat static,” one of many examples of misinformation, the product of sloppy research, unchallenged assumptions or, increasingly, seemingly deliberate deception. In the “reality” where reporting is almost exclusively about “the economy,” with few population stories seeing the light of day, the “slant” is inevitably that population is stable or “worse,” falling.

That’s Wonderland, even as we are the third most populated nation – behind only China and India – and stand among just eight fueling half of all growth globally. That has staggering consequences, to us and the world, since one American environmentally equals dozens in developing nations.

Corporate media want high growth and studiously work, I feel, to create a false “reality” to keep us from acknowledging or addressing population. We are having no discussion of whether our current growth enriches or impoverishes us, no discussion about the wisdom of population stabilization. Critical national policies are implemented absent acknowledgement of their population or environmental effect, even as every problem – social, economic, environmental – is driven or worsened by growth.

We see headlines about falling birth rates. Yes, the per-woman birth rate falls, but more women than ever are having babies, so births still fuel 18 percent of growth. Further, that focus on births is a convenient way to ignore that growth is 82 percent immigration-driven. Due to births and immigration, we ratchet up by a whopping 2.3 million people annually.

If growth is “stagnant,” why does our population increase by 25 million or more a decade? How can journalists ignore something so glaringly obvious? Some take press releases at face value, ignoring the basics of sound journalism: take established “contact lists” and seek out additional independent views, including population activists’ comments. That takes little time. Reporters do it routinely. Yet, it rarely happens on population, despite the subject’s huge importance.

Meanwhile, powerful business interests want “immigration reform” to sharply increase some of the highest immigration in history and keep the labor market flooded and labor cheap – thus the “disappearing middle class.” In our current media “reality,” many politicians happily oblige, working for those who fund their campaigns, not for us.

Fortunately, the recent primary delivered a major blow when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated. With the removal of one of immigration reform’s most powerful advocates, this was a wakeup call as loud as they come that there are still risks, even in our current corrupt political climate, to representing corporate and “elite” interests over those of the people. But politicians would not dare ignore immigration’s population impacts if population were the hot-button issue media won’t let it be.

Notice how media, unlike in the 1960s and 1970s, no longer acknowledge overpopulation as a problem, here or abroad, particularly its part in climate change. They use words like “population control,” and routinely imply that achieving stabilization requires “draconian measures,” or coercion, like China’s one-child policy, ignoring that the lowest birth rates are voluntary in nations like Catholic Italy.

What haunts me, here in Wonderland, is that we were warned in the 1970s by the President’s Rockefeller Commission that if the nation – then at “only” about 210 million – reached 300 million, we would endure traits of overpopulation: failing government, services, education, medicine and infrastructure. The Commission warned, prophetically, of water shortages and increasing poverty.

More recently, Clinton’s Council on Sustainability urged that immigration be lowered so as to not fuel growth, advice ignored by leaders, likely in part because it is ignored by reporters who have become – shamefully for those who understand journalism – staunch growth advocates. Reporters are supposed to report, not advocate.

We were 200 million in 1968 and passed the Rockefeller Commission’s dreaded 300 million in 2006. Just eight years later, we nudge against 319 million, nearly one-fifth of the way to a staggering 400 million by 2039, as we accept more immigrants than all the other nations combined, many of them bound for California.

But why should anyone be concerned, when in Wonderland, overpopulation isn’t happening?

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