Roy Beck's picture


  by  Roy Beck

SAN FRANCISCO -- Not-so-random thoughts from the State of Denial:

  • There are things to be learned from Norman Borlaug. . . .


    As I speak with people across California, I haven't found anybody who thinks the state's enormous problems will be easier to solve by adding millions more people to live here. In fact, most think the prospect to be horrendous.

    Yet, very few citizens of California -- and even fewer well-connected California elites -- are doing anything to try to stop this population growth from happening.

    And this is what is on the way . . . .

    This is a state that doesn't have enough water to meet the daily needs of 37 million people and of its agricultural industry and of its natural inhabitants and ecological systems. Right now, it is agriculture in this grossly over-populated state that is caught in the middle, with farms being denied the water to keep many of them alive.

    Think what the choices will be with 10, 15, 18 million more people.


    Most California politicians won't even talk about what is happening with the population.

    Consider Congresswoman Lois Capps of Santa Barbara.

    Lara Cooper of submitted a number of questions about the health care debate to Rep. Capps and received written answers from Capps' office.

    We were thrilled to see this question asked (and hope that all of you will start asking similar questions of your own Members of Congress):

    QUESTION: The United States admits more than 1.5 million immigrants per year on temporary and permanent visas. The U.S. population is projected to grow to 1.1 billion by 2100, primarily because of high immigration, legal and illegal. Do you believe such a densely populated nation is desirable and sustainable, or would you consider any reduction in immigration levels?


    Perhaps a better way to have expressed it would have been that we are adding a net of around 1.5 million legal and illegal immigrants each year. Also, the 1.1 billion by 2100 figure is assuming the high range of projections, while NumbersUSA tends to stress the mid-range projection of around 600 million (up from 307 million today). Nonetheless, the question is definitely one that should get a thoughtful response from a Member of Congress which is forcing nearly all of that growth.

    ANSWER: Right now, Congress is focused on enacting comprehensive health-insurance reform, but I do think we also need to enact comprehensive immigration reform. I personally believe the United States is a nation that has been built by immigrants and that immigration has always been a source of strength for this country....

    -- Office of U.S. Rep. Lois Capps

    So, apparently Rep. Capps not only believes that a billion people in the U.S. would be great but wants to pass legislation to make sure that happens a lot faster.

    Seriously, is any leader from California really serious about this matter? If they really looked at the numbers and tried to figure out how they are going to accommodate all the infrastructure and water and energy needs for the 18 million additional residents by 2050, shouldn't they be in crisis mode?

    Oh, that's right, they ARE in crisis mode -- permanently, it seems. But the majority position of the state legislature and of the state's congressional delegation is that immigration and population growth should be INCREASED!

    Of course, there are many academics and government specialists out here who propose various measures that meet part of the need. If we stopped pushing massive population growth, those measures might buy some time.

    But even if we halted 100% of immigration tomorrow, the population momentum from the last three decades of higher-fertility immigrants will ensure another 20% population growth by 2050, according to Census. That would mean another 7 million Californians, but would be so very much easier to try to deal with than 18 million.

    Norman Borlaug

    Norman Borlaug


    Which gets me back to Norman Borlaug. He died recently at age 95.

    The Iowa native won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work ending the India-Pakistan food shortage of the mid-1960s. The Atlantic Monthly has estimated that his development of high-yield seeds over the ensuing decades saved the lives of one billion people.

    Until his seeds breakthrough, there had been widespread predictions of global famines because of the skyrocketing global population growth that occurred after World War II.

    His work and its meaning were badly interpreted from two different corners.

    On the one hand, people concerned about the environmental consequences of adding billions more people to the Earth sometimes have seen the ability to feed more and more people as leading to ever-worse crises down the line (not that they wished that hundreds of millions of people would starve).

    From the other end there have been long lines of cornucopians who have seen Norman Borlaug as having disproved that the world has had a population growth problem. The fact that huge famines didn't occur is seen as proving that no prediction of famine is likely to ever come true.

    In fact, though, Borlaug saw his work as BUYING TIME. That is, he knew that global population must some day stop growing for the sake of the planet and of the quality of life of its human inhabitants. But he also had intense concern for the most vulnherable members of the global society who he knew would starve if some kind of agricultural miracle was not found.

    Far from combatting or making needless those who have worked to stop the population explosion, Dr. Borlaug was working right alonside them while feeding the starving masses. He served on the international advisory committee of the Population Institute.

    Fortunately, while his seeds were buying time, the rate of global population growth was slowing. But fertility rates are still high enough to add another 2.5 billion people by 2050. There have been very few improvements in agricultural yields in recent years. Will another miracle occur in time?

    Here is what Dr. Borlaug said in his 1970 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (at a time when the UN was projecting global population was headed to 12 billion):

    I am convinced that if all policymakers would take sufficient interest in population control and in aggressively employing and exploiting agricultural development as a potent instrument of agrarian prosperity and economic advancement, many of the social ills of the present day could soon become problems of the past.

    The green revolution has won a temporary success in man's war against hunger and deprivation; it has given man a breathing space. If fully implemented, the revolution can provide sufficient food for sustenance during the next three decades. But the frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed; otherwise the success of the green revolution with be ephemeral only.

    We must recognize the fact that adequate food is only the first requisite for life. For a decent and humane life we must also provide an opportunity for good education, remunerative employment, comfortable housing, good clothing, and effective and compassionate medical care. Unless we can do this, man may degenerate sooner from environmental diseases than from hunger.

    Since man is potentially a rational being, however, I am confident that within the next two decades he will recognize the self destructive course he steers along the road of irresponsible population growth and will adjust the growth rate to levels which will permit a decent standard of living for all of mankind.

    -- Nobel Acceptance Speech

    Where are the wise California leaders who can see the same situation facing their state? Of course, California needs every creative and prudent effort to deal with the direct problems threatening to bankrupt it financially, ecologically and socially.

    But who will stand up and lead while saying that the state must curb population growth as quickly as possible?

    Are Californians the rational human beings that Dr. Borlaug saw as potential rescuers of the world?

    ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

      • The father of the Green Revolution has just died. He made it possible for billions more people to live on the Earth without starving. Some people looking at the environmental long term have wondered if that was such a great deal.
      • I've been in California all week and can't figure out how in the world 18 million more people are to be crammed into this state by 2050 without destroying any semblance of a middle-class society or the natural and agricultural paradise that once existed here.
      • The U.S. Census Bureau states that if immigration remains basically unchanged the U.S. population will grow by about 50% by the year 2050.
      • Applied proportionately to California, that means the current 37-million population will expand by another 18 million to 55 million (with no end in sight)!
      • The growth is being caused almost entirely by new immigrants and by births to the 10 million immigrants already living in California.

Updated: Wed, Oct 11th 2017 @ 3:51pm EDT

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