Roy Beck's picture


  by  Roy Beck

In some ways, NumbersUSA is the Organization That Gumballs Built (see the Gumballs Video that launched us in 1996). So it is fitting that we are flying our gumball colors high in the world's largest Earth Day expo here at the Texas State Fairgrounds with our 7-foot-tall gumball machine.

As an organization with "numbers" in our name, we are here every year helping citizens -- especially students -- come to grips with numbers that their governments, schools and charitable foundations have worked hard to hide for a couple of decades now.

Guess how many gumballs are in that machine, our sign beckons to those passing our booth. The hint is that it is the approximate net number of people added to Texas in the last two weeks. (The number is 20,000. And if you come by the booth and smartly spout it, we'll award you with a free gumball -- the same as for every kid who makes a guess right or wrong.)

Before awarding the free gumballs to puzzled adults and pressing throngs of kids, we show them a few numbers they probably have never seen about the effects of the Texas population explosion. Such as from the most recent decade: New immigrants and births to immigrants drove 72% of U.S. population growth. Every day 350 acres of natural habitat and farmland were destroyed in Texas, most of it to accommodate all the new people (represented by those gumballs).  In the most recent decade, Texas ranked No. 1 in losses. And four Texas metros -- Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio -- ranked in the top 10 of the nation's top "sprawlers."  Every day, 288 new housing units are added, 84 gallons of water are used per Texan, 4.6 miles of new roads are paved, and 201 acres of agricultural land is lost to handle all the new Texas residents.

(Check out our national sprawl study for those crucial numbers for your state and nearest metro area.)

We get criticized by some right-wing commentators for our concern about how continued rapid U.S. population growth affects the quality of life for America's citizens and its critters.

But polling shows that most conservative Americans share our concern about the loss of habitat due to U.S. population growth -- and even more concern about the loss of farmland.

And we get criticized by some left-wing groups who claim that exposing even children to the shocking hidden numbers about immigration-driven population growth is hateful and has no business being talked about at Earth Day events.

But polling shows that most liberal Americans think these are legitimate issues that ought to be addressed. (The "hate" charge, of course, is absurd. Read more on our "No to Immigrant Bashing" page.)

Fortunately, the sponsors of Earth Day Texas (especially the main one, Trammell Crow) try to fill this expo with liberals and conservatives, environmental groups of all kinds, government agencies and one corporation after another with the hope that by including a full spectrum of society there can emerge practical responses that will truly benefit the citizens and critters of our country and the world today, and the citizens and critters in the future.

A huge array of exhibitors fill 1,500 booths here, and we often make for strange boothfellows. Not surprisingly, some organizations and businesses find this kind of open inquiry and diversity of views too scary.

We at NumbersUSA are used to such diversity of opinions because our own membership runs the full spectrum in attitudes about what to do about environmental problems (and most other problems, for that matter). But the one thing that nearly all 4 million of our network participants agree on is that the government should not use immigration to force massive population growth in local communities across the country.

We don't press the thousands of visitors here to agree with that conclusion of our members. But we use gumballs, patches of grass and other visual teaching aids to help people to think about numbers that have been largely censored from public discussion.

The numbers are not up for debate.

But where the visitors to our booth choose to stand in encouraging or opposing these very real trends is up to each of them.

Whatever their answer, they can walk away with a gumball and chew over the new information on their own terms. That's the traditional spirit of the Earth Day Teach-In.

ROY BECK is President & Founder of NumbersUSA

Updated: Sun, May 8th 2016 @ 9:20am EDT

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