Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

The New York Times is worried about water shortages and population Britain:

"In the future, the changed conditions could amount to a 10 to 15 percent decline in the available water, and rainfall will probably become less predictable, creating a higher risk of drought. At the same time, Britain's population is expected to rise by eight million in the next three decades, to 75 million in 2050, from about 67 million now."

The chief executive of Britain's Environment Agency tells the Times that "Climate change plus growth equals an existential threat."

The "growth" part of that equation is one of the great overlooked and under-reported stories of the day. What the Times story does not reveal is that immigration policy is projected to account for more than 80 percent of future population growth in Britain.

In the U.S., immigration is expected to account for more than 90 percent of population growth over the next four decades. If projections hold, the U.S. will grow by about the size of the entire population of 2050 Britain (79 million).

Americans never asked for that future. Back in 1969, the Rockefeller Commission recommended a 400,000 cap on annual immigration, stating that "The health of our country does not depend on [population growth], nor does the vitality of business nor the welfare of the average person." Twenty five years later, President Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development recommended limiting immigration to allow the population to stabilize. There is no reason to think that another commission would come to a different conclusion today.

U.S. population in 1969: 202.7 million
U.S. population in 1993: 260.3 million
U.S. population in 2018: 327.2 million

Expansionists argue the U.S. should keep immigration at record levels or higher because we have to increase our population into perpetuity in order to grow the economy. Even if this were true, is a smaller economy any worse than a water shortage? One estimate says Florida alone needs an extra 1.3 billion gallons of fresh water every day to keep up with population growth.

In his letter to The Toledo Blade, Pete Shawaker offers a sensible (and sustainable) way to consider the question:

"The common wisdom is that population growth leads to higher economic growth. But there is a cost to this; increased demand on infrastructure, services, and consumption of limited resources.

Instead, maybe we should focus upon per person real GDP. It's nice to state that the United States has the highest total GDP in the world with a third of a billion people. But, Michigan had 10,036,081 people in "roaring" 2006 with $42,206 real GDP/person. Then in the Great Recession of 2009, GDP dropped to $36,676 per person, adjusted for inflation, and Michigan began to lose population. Since 2016 population dropped to under 9,929,300 people, but with over $43,372 real GDP per person.

If you ask the average Michigander if they are better off today than in 2009, they will clearly say yes."

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA


Updated: Fri, Apr 12th 2019 @ 6:35am EDT

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