Think Pop

People complain and politicians pontificate about our communal problems without drawing the population connection: if we had fewer people, we would have fewer and smaller problems. Overtaxed infrastructure? Energy shortages? Crowded schools? Depleted fisheries? Declining farmland? Congested highways? Expensive housing? Water shortages? Ask yourself, "Would it be easier to address these problems with a larger or with a smaller population?"

A comedian tells us how much easier it is to solve crime in a small town than in a city: 

"The small town sheriff asks a witness, "Can you describe the suspect?"

"The witness says, "Yes, I can . . . Dwayne"."

As small towns become cities, criminals become anonymous, crimes become more difficult to solve, and crime rates increase.

One of the false solutions to rampant population growth is called "Smart Growth," an oxymoron, if ever there was one. Piling more and more people into less and less space does nothing to solve the need for more and more food and more and more water and more and more energy, metals, and minerals. Meanwhile the quality of life for the inhabitants of these man-made beehives goes down for everyone . . . except for criminals.

Would a criminal prefer to practice his profession walking down streets of family residences with windows on all sides--some with "Neighborhood Watch" stickers--available to observe strangers on the streets? Or would he prefer to walk down dimly lit halls of multi-story residence buildings where he passes only windowless walls?

If you are concerned about crime, there is one organization which effectively and efficiently works through our justice system to ensure criminals are punished and law abiding citizens are protected. To learn more about this organization, please click on Criminal Justice Legal Foundation [LINK TO http://www.cjlf.org/]. 

THINK CULTURE

"Culture (kul'char) n 1. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other works of human work and thought."
-The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

An American tourist visiting China stops a native from crowding into the front of a queue with, "That's not polite!" The native says, "We have too many people to be polite." An American tourist in Japan remarks on the courtesy of the Japanese . . . until she is pushed aboard a subway car with the help of a human hired to pack more people into an already packed car.

Does increasing traffic congestion caused by increasing population density lead to increasing "road rage" and, if so, does that ultimately change culture? Does increasing population density decrease the value placed upon each individual? Does it increase the "Watching Out For Number One" factor?

Does population density have an effect upon culture? Is it a positive or a negative effect? Does a nation's culture change as its population density increases?  

THINK ECONOMICS

Ever notice when con artists are arrested for pyramid schemes, they often say, "If only they had let us operate for a little longer, everyone would have gotten their money back?" A few economists and many politicians sound analogous when they say, "If only we had 20 million more young workers, everyone would get their Social Security retirement benefits." Meanwhile, we move from 40 workers supporting each recipient of retirement benefits to 20 to one to 10 to one to 6 to one to . . . Will it end when each retiree has his own personal worker supporting his pension?

Like a rose, a pyramid scheme by any other name is still a pyramid scheme. So long as retirement benefits for retired workers rely on current contributions from active workers, Social Security can only be "saved" by one or more of the following: (a) increasing payroll taxes, (b) increasing the "normal" retirement age, (c) increasing earnings of trust fund investments, and/or (d) reducing retirement benefits.

A few economists argue the solution to this pyramid scheme is to import more young workers to pay into the Social Security system, i.e., increase immigration of young workers. Unfortunately, they don't explain where these imported young workers are going to find jobs--unless they take jobs from existing U.S. workers. Nor do they explain how millions of low-paid young dish washers, lawn mowers, baby sitters, and hotel service workers are going to save Social Security, especially when many of them are part of the underground economy, i. e., paying little to nothing in payroll taxes. Increasing population is a problem, not a solution.  

THINK EDUCATION

"Education researchers say that ideal enrollments are no more than 300 students for an elementary school, no more than 500 for a middle school, and 600 to 900 for a high school," Valerie Strauss, "A Case For Smaller Schools," Washington Post. "Yet 71% of all U.S. high school students go to schools larger than 1,000 students." High schools with 3,000 or more students are now common in large cities such as Los Angeles and New York. Some schools have as many as 5,000 students. "Smaller schools have higher attendance and graduation rates, lower drop-out rates, less violence, and higher grades and test scores," according to Michael Klonsky, "Small Schools: The Numbers Tell a Story," Small School Workshop; Keith Sharon, "Behind the Curve," Orange County Register, . As in cities, excessive population density creates problems in schools. 

"The number of school-age children is expected to increase steadily for the next nine decades. Total enrollment will reach 55 million by 2020 and 60 million by 2030, according to the U.S. Department of Education. By 2100, the nation's schools will have to find room for 94 million students--almost double the number of school-age children the nation has now.

"Where is the growth in the school-age population coming from? Immigration has been responsible for almost 70% of population growth in the last decade; immigrants arriving since 1994 and their descendants will account for two-thirds of future population growth," according to the National Projections Program, Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau.

THINK ENERGY

As population grows, energy demand grows. How ironic that President Bush appointed as his Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham the former Senator from Michigan--turned down for reelection by his constituents--who perhaps more than any other person in the country assured the U.S. would need ever more energy to support the ever increasing population created largely by immigration laws sponsored by Senator Abraham.

For example, according to the California Energy Commission, per capita consumption of electricity in the state dropped 5% between 1979 and 1999. However, during that same 20 years the state's population grew 43% largely as a result of immigration. While population growth was not as dramatic in most of the U.S., the overall effect was the same--per capita energy conservation was overwhelmed by increasing numbers of "capitas," i. e., people.

Viewed globally, international migration for economic purposes, e. g., better jobs, better living conditions, tends to flow from nations with lower per capita energy consumption to nations with higher per capita energy consumption. Thus, even if world population stabilized, which it shows little sign of doing, world energy consumption would tend to increase so long as economic migration occurred.

As long as population continues to increase, whether in the world or in the U.S., you may assume energy use will also increase along with an accompanying increase in deleterious effects on the environment.  

THINK ENVIRONMENT

It is difficult to take seriously American politicians who harangue about societal and environmental problems without discussing the underlying cause of so many of those problems--America's unsustainable human population growth. Likewise, it is difficult to take seriously American environmental organizations which harangue about depleted fisheries, diminished wildlife, and polluted air and water, but refuse to discuss the primary underlying cause of such problems--rampant human population growth in the country.

Among nationwide environmental groups, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, Wilderness Society, and World Wildlife Fund have consistently earned failing grades since scoring began in April, 2001. More recently, the Izaak Walton League of America, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club have shown decreasing interest in protecting America's environment from the ravages of population growth. Consequently, we have decided to discontinue detailed scoring of all twelve organizations until we are notified one of these has changed its population policies.

Because of the nature of their missions, The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund tend to score low on the Population-Environment Connection Scorecard. However, dedicated populationists may want to support them nevertheless. Populationists who care about the environment may also want to support local and regional conservation organizations with focused missions, groups such as the Save-the-Redwoods League, Yosemite Conservancy, Mono Lake Committee, Friends of California Condors Wild and Free, or the Grand Canyon Trust. While the environmental problems these organizations tackle are typically exacerbated by population growth, it is understandable that small, highly focused organizations may not want to risk their effectiveness by taking a position on the controversial issue of population that could potentially alienate donors and supporters.

THINK FOOD & FARMS

It may be hard to imagine, but "As late as the 1940s, Los Angeles County led the nation in farming income" Washington Post. Now it leads the nation in human population density. Elsewhere in California, about 50,000 acres of farmland vanish each year. Farmland in other states suffers the same fate. "Georgia, Ohio, and Texas each have had more than 150,000 acres of agricultural land consumed in recent years by development that is being stoked both by population growth and the fervent desire that many homeowners now have for more space: Average property lot sizes have doubled in the past two decades."

Even as the number of mouths to feed in California soars toward 40 million and beyond, the very land and water resources needed to feed these multitudes – and the growing populations of a nation and world that depend on California’s agricultural exports – are shrinking.  The irony is that the state’s farmlands are shrinking precisely because the millions added to our population every decade are competing with farmers for water and for the very same land that is best at producing food.

California has long been America’s leading agricultural state, generating over $30 billion a year in revenues. Fertile soils, the availability of irrigation water during the growing season, and a moderate, Mediterranean climate allow for year-round cropping. California cultivates more than 350 crops – including more than half of the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts – on less than four percent of the nation’s agricultural acreage. All of America’s almonds, artichokes, figs, olives, persimmons, pomegranates, prunes, raisins and walnuts are produced only in California.

Unfortunately, the urbanization of these irreplaceable lands, driven almost entirely by population growth, is accelerating.

The future holds more of the same for farmland. According to a study by the American Farmland Trust released in 2002, "Housing developments are encroaching on the wide open spaces of the rural West and could replace more than 24 million acres of ranchland by 2020." More food to feed more people suggests a need for more farmland and ranchland. Instead, both are disappearing rapidly.

Food from the oceans? Fred Krupp, Director of Environmental Defense, wrote, ". . . around the world fisheries are collapsing. The main reason? Too many boats chasing too few fish." More accurately, he might have written, too many people wanting to eat too few fish. The effect is the same, oceans are not likely to save us.

If you are concerned about disappearing farmland, there is one organization whose stated purpose is "to stop the loss of productive farmland and to promote farming practices that lead to a healthy environment." To learn more about this organization, please click on American Farmland Trust [LINK TO http://www.farmland.org/].   

THINK HOUSING

In January, 2002, the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors asked recent home buyers about the factors which influenced their home buying decisions. Here are the percentages of people responding "important" or "very important:" Houses spread out: 62%; Bigger house: 47%; Bigger lot: 45%; Less developed area: 40%; Away from the city: 39%

Bigger houses spread out on bigger lots in less developed areas away from cities! 

Hold on--doesn't anybody want "Smart Growth?" Oh, sure: Smaller houses (10%) on smaller lots (9%) closer to public transit (13%).

What do these results mean? They mean the cost of housing can go only one direction over the long run . . . up. As the supply of suitable land for housing declines, the price of such land goes up. Further, the cost of food goes up as farmland is paved over to become residential lots and parking lots and shopping malls and commercial campuses.

Yet the same politicians who want to create "affordable housing" for everyone, refuse to work toward the one thing which would stop increasing demand for land and increasing housing costs--a stable population.  

THINK INFRASTRUCTURE

Have you lived in a big city long enough to remember when radio traffic reports were given only on the half-hour, only during commute hours . . . generally with nothing to report? Now, they come every ten minutes, 24 hours a day . . . and there is ALWAYS something to report.

Have you driven on Interstate Highways long enough to note their deterioration over the years? Wonder why? According to Steve Heminger, deputy director with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, "No one is out there trying to match population growth with highway capacity--we couldn't afford it even if we wanted to."

Can't afford population growth? That's right. Can't afford it for highway and bridge construction and maintenance. Can't afford it for school construction and maintenance. Can't afford it for sewage and waste water treatment plants. Can't afford it for energy production and distribution. Can't afford it for airport facilities. Can't afford it for hospital and clinic construction. Can't afford to maintain state and national parks to meet the needs of an increasing number of vistors. Can't afford it; can't afford it; can't afford it!

Cities, counties, states, and Congress can't afford to build needed new infrastructure or to properly maintain existing infrastructure. Yet Congress can't find the will to do what needs to be done to stabilize U.S. population until we catch up with needed construction and maintenance of infrastructure.

THINK LEGISLATION

There are 435 Congressmen and Congresswomen in the U.S. House of Representatives. Whether the population of the U.S. is 250 million or one billion, we will still have 435 in the House of Representatives. And just two senators in the United States Senate.

This means as U.S. population grows, each Representative and each Senator represent more and more people, perhaps  two to three times more before the end of this century. Can one person communicate with and represent 575,000 men, women, and children well? It isn't easy, but imagine how much more difficult it will be to communicate and represent 2.3 million men, women, and children. Can it be done well? Probably not. So what is the alternative?

There are two alternatives, given our present system: 1. Stabilize U.S. population or 2. Accept the fact that ordinary citizens cannot be well represented and only the wealthy and powerful will be able to communicate with their representatives in Congress.

Why not increase the number of Representatives in the House? If you understand how difficult it is to make sound legislation with 435 Representatives, try to imagine how a Congress of 1,740 members would operate. Therefore, unless you are satisfied to have poorer representation in Congress and/or poorer legislation, you should work toward population stabilization.  

THINK TAXATION

Bad choice, "Litigation." Increasing or disruptive litigation is not an obvious result of increasing population. We'll delete it with our next major revision of "ThinkPopulation.org." But in the meantime, what were we thinking when we added it to our list of things negatively affected by rampant population growth? Perhaps something like this:

Should a couple with three, two, one, or no children pay more income tax than another family with identical Adjusted Gross Income, but with four or more children? Since the U.S. has the highest birth & fertility rate of any developed nation in the world and since U.S. population is now the third largest of all the nations in the world, does it seem logical that Congress would want to encourage even faster population growth? Is Congress opposed to family planning and therefore taxes those who practice it more than those who do not? Does Congress favor religions which are opposed to family planning? In an overpopulated country and world, what is the logical basis for  forcing those who “do the right thing” and limit the size of their families to subsidize those who do not? What is the Constitutional basis for such discrimination? Is it time for that basis to be challenged in court? In other words, is it time for litigation?

That explains how "Litigation" became an "Action By Effect" item on "ThinkPopulation.org." Now, the question is, is there an organization concerned with such discrimination and willing to take the issue to court? Would FILE (Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement--see "Think Public Safety") do so? Is there another organization which might be interested in doing so?  

THINK POVERTY

There are many different ways to define and to measure poverty. However, if we assume welfare use suggests family income provides an unsatisfactory standard of living, one might conclude the U.S. is importing poverty. For example, among households in the U.S. in which the head of household is U.S. born, approximately 15% use one or more basic welfare programs, i. e., Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and/or Medicaid. However, among households in the U.S. in which the head of household is not U.S. born, approximately 23% use one or more basic welfare programs. (Source: Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) analysis of March, 2002 Current Population Survey data collected by the Census Bureau.)

Why should this be the case? As Dr. Steven A. Camarota of CIS wrote in a March, 2003 report, "The high rate of welfare use associated with immigrants is not explained by unwillingness to work. In 2001, almost 80% of immigrant households using welfare had at least one person working. One of the main reasons for the heavy reliance of immigrants on welfare programs is that a very large share have little education. The American economy offers very limited opportunities to such workers, and as a result many immigrants who work are still eligible for welfare because of their low incomes." Thus, employers who hire immigrant workers at low wages let taxpayers pay for services such workers can't afford.

In this era of "Not one child left behind," there may be need for an organization working to ensure immigration policy is not designed to increase the number of U.S. households, most with children, requiring welfare to live minimally healthy lives.

THINK PRODUCTIVITY

How is productivity affected by rampant population growth? Like a commodity, the price of labor goes down as the supply goes up. When the price of labor is cheap, employers are less inclined to invest in labor-saving materials and equipment, without which, improved productivity is unlikely.

An example: A group of manual laborers, being paid "off the books," are manually lifting and dropping heavy steel pikes to break up a concrete sidewalk. If the employer of those workers had to pay legal wages as well as payroll taxes and workers' compensation, you can bet that employer would have pneumatic tools to break up the concrete efficiently.

Aside from the fact that "off the books" workers and their families often live in poverty and the fact that taxpayers are subsidizing "off the books" employers by paying for their workers' welfare benefits, it is simply unsound economics to allow "slave wages" to discourage mechanization and innovation. Necessity, not slavery, is the mother of invention. Only when an industry finds it is necessary to pay full and fair wages to its employees, will that industry advance into the 21st Century. 

THINK SAFETY

"You read about all these terrorists; most of them came here legally, but they hung around on those expired visas, some for as long as 10-15 years. Now, compare that to Blockbuster; you are two days late with a video and those people are all over you. Let's put Blockbuster in charge of immigration."
From The Shopper, Elko, NV

Advocates of open borders are fond of saying, "We are a nation of immigrants." It would be more accurate to say, we are a nation of legal immigrants. More than being a nation of legal immigrants, we endeavor to be a nation of law-abiding citizens and residents. A sizable portion of public expenditures is devoted to enacting and enforcing laws and to detaining and punishing those who break laws. 

Illegal aliens enter or remain (in the case of visa-over stayers) in the U.S. by breaking U.S. laws. They extend their illegal activity by obtaining false identification documents and by participating in the underground economy. Still, is public safety threatened by having a few million dishwashers, hotel maids, fruit pickers, and baby sitters breaking obscure and not-so-obscure laws?

Demand by these "innocent" law breakers for illegal transit and false identification papers creates a criminal supply which also becomes available to illegal aliens whose intentions may not be so "innocent." Literally tens of thousands of "OTMs" (Border Patrol-ese for Other-Than-Mexican) have entered the U.S. from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America and elsewhere. The numbers are increasing as people smugglers and document forgers hone their skills. While criminals have their way with our borders, "Homeland Security" remains a political slogan rather than a functioning reality. 

If you are concerned about threats to public safety created by lack of enforcement of immigration laws, please click on Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement (FILE).

THINK SOLITUDE

Optimists like to believe science will find ways to solve all problems created by rampant human population growth. Food shortages? "Science will find ways to make food out of bacteria." Energy shortages? "Science will find ways to turn air into energy." Water shortages? "Science will find economical ways to make ocean water potable." There is one shortage caused by population growth even optimists admit science will have a hard time replacing: solitude!

Perhaps one day science will produce "Solitude Chambers" which people can enter to take walks in "virtual" woods, climb "virtual" mountains, survey "virtual" desert vistas, and study "virtual" creatures in "virtual" tide pools. Perhaps when the U.S. population reaches one billion, people will have become so accustomed to "virtual" reality and so sickened by oppressive humanity, they will welcome the relief provided by a machine which can mimic the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of the great outdoors. Perhaps. 

For now, there are still many who would like their descendants to be able to take walks in real woods, climb real mountains, survey real desert vistas, and study real creatures in real tide pools--and to not have to make reservations a year in advance to do so. 

THINK URBAN SPRAWL

"Although there are many definitions of sprawl, a central component of most definitions and of most people's understanding of sprawl is this: Smart Growth efforts to slow or stop sprawl by slowing or stopping the increase in per capita land use – that is, to prevent decreasing population density – are being undermined by rapid population growth. Immigration-driven population growth, in effect, is “out-smarting” Smart Growth initiatives by forcing continued conversion of rural land into urban land. This involves conversion of open space (rural land) into built-up, developed land.

"For those who are concerned about the effect of sprawl upon natural environment and agricultural resources, the more important overall measure of sprawl is the actual amount of land that has been urbanized. Knowing the actual square miles of urban expansion (sprawl) provides a key indicator of the threat to the natural environment, to the nation's agricultural productivity and to the quality of life of people who live in cities and in the small towns and farms that are near cities."  

THINK WASTE

"Recycling has come almost full-circle in the last 60 years. In 1942 everyone in America reduced wasteful consumption, reused all sorts of items, and saved their ‘scrap’ for the war effort. Whether it was metal for planes, rubber for tires, or even left-over cooking fat for lubricants--Americans reduced, reused, and recycled it all! Just 10 years after the war these efforts were forgotten and Americans relearned how to waste. For nearly four decades we threw it all away becoming the 'disposal society'. Then starting in the late 1970's and continuing right up to today, Americans realize we are choking on our own waste and depriving future generations of the resources they will need."
Californians Against Waste at www.cawrecycles.org

And yet . . . even as government, industry, and the public move toward a "Recycling Society," population growth is overwhelming that progress and overwhelming our capacity to handle our waste. For example, in 1991, California dumps accepted approximately 37,500 tons of trash. Yet twenty years later, despite the fact that recycling, diverting, and composting had increased significantly, trash delivered to dumps increased. Dramatic early drops in annual landfill tonnage were overtaken by millions of new residents.

While there may always be more we can do to reduce per capita waste, so long as we have a rampant increase in the number of "capitas" (people) in California as well as the rest of the U.S., waste will continue to increase and become an increasing problem. 

THINK WATER

Collect oxymora? How about this: Optimistic hydrographer? "Currently, the human population consumes approximately 54% of all the accessible freshwater contained in rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers. By 2025, population growth alone could push this figure to 70%."
"Population, Water & Wildlife: Finding a Balance," Don Hinrichsen, Karin Krchnak, and Katie Mogelgaard, National Wildlife Federation

"Today irrigation accounts for two-thirds of water use worldwide and as much as 90% in many developing countries. Meeting the crop demands projected for 2025, when the planet's population is expected to reach eight billion, could require an additional 192 cubic miles of water - a volume nearly equivalent to the annual flow of the Nile 10 times over."
Sandra Postel, Director, Global Water Policy Project

"As much as 8% of food crops grows on farms that use ground water faster than the aquifers are replenished, and many large rivers are so heavily diverted that they don't reach the sea for much of the year. As the number of urban dwellers climbs to five billion by 2025, farmers will have to compete even more aggressively with cities and industry for shrinking resources."
Sandra Postel, Director, Global Water Policy Project. 

“…it takes water to get energy, and it takes energy to get water. And it takes both energy and water to produce food. Increasingly, these entanglements are becoming a source of intensifying competition and conflict between energy and water users and food producers/consumers – that is to say, between all of us.”
Leon Kolankiewicz, CAPS Senior Writing Fellow

 

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