I currently live in Cairo, Egypt, a city of approximately 18 million people within the metropolitan area. That’s more than twice the population of New York City. Cairo is also a city of extreme pollution. It is said that living in Cairo is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, as the average resident ingests more than 20 times the acceptable level of air pollution a day. And that’s just the air. This part of the Nile is too polluted to swim in and the amount of garbage everywhere is astounding and dangerous, not to mention malodorous.
While there are other factors that contribute to the abysmal pollution levels, it is impossible to overlook the sheer mass of humanity that lives in the city. With a density of nearly 82,000 people per square mile, overpopulation is a direct contributor to the massive traffic congestion and water and air pollution.
The Middle East Economic digest said of Cairo that, “The capital is a magnet for migrants from all over the country. The result is heavy congestion, pollution, and housing prices that are beyond the reach of many.” While not a popular destination for immigrants from other countries, I can easily see how any city in the United States growing too fast is destined to suffer similar environmental concerns. The United States is a magnet for migrants from all over the world. We have the most generous immigration policy in the world, currently admitting more than 1 million legal immigrants a year. An estimated 1 million illegal aliens enter the country each year, as well. At the current rate of growth, the U.S. population will reach 458 million by 2050. More than 80 percent of that growth will be directly attributable to immigration.
A reduction in the current levels of immigration is necessary to achieve sustainable growth in the U.S. Once overpopulation has flooded in, it is nearly impossible to turn back the tide. The Egyptian government has been working in conjunction with international organizations to address not only the dangerous pollution levels, but also the overpopulation. However, with so many people, it is extremely difficult to implement and enforce environmental laws. As it is, Egyptians consume far less fuel and resources than the average American. In fact, living here has caused me to reduce my own carbon footprint by not owning a car or even a clothes dryer (a missed luxury with small children and no yard to hang clothes in).
We are at a stage in the United States where extreme overpopulation and its harmful effects are preventable. Sustainable growth is essential to America’s well-being and survival. What I see in Cairo is exactly what Roy Beck and NumbersUSA warns us will happen if too-high levels of immigration persist in the United States. I hope that our message does not fall on deaf ears so that our children and grandchildren will live in a country of clean air and water, abundant green spaces, and congestion-free roads and schools.
CAROLINE ESPINOSA formerly was a U.S. Senate Press Secretary and spokesperson for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Apr 23rd 2010 @ 8:40am EDT