March 26, 2023

Roy Beck Reports on How Population Growth Poses a Risk to Environmental Sustainability

an article featured in

Roy Beck, founder of leading immigration reduction advocacy organization NumbersUSA, recently wrote an article featured in emphasizing the sometimes overlooked threat high levels of immigration can pose to environmental sustainability.

His article coincided with the announcement by the U.S. government of a new commitment to environmental stability spearheaded by the country joining the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People. This organization consists of over 90 countries intent on protecting a minimum of 30% of the planet from development by the year 2030.

According to Beck, given the rate at which urban expansion is eating up the country’s natural habitat and farm acreage, those in the conservationist camp are justified in being skeptical as to the seriousness of the federal government’s dedication to meeting these goals.

To support his case, he cites the fact that, from 2002 to 2017, America lost 17,800 square miles of land including both agricultural and natural habitats. “That’s an area larger than New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut combined,” Beck writes.

Furthermore, around 1,200 square miles of land in rural areas is developed on a yearly basis. Beck says that this sprawl appears set to continue unabated, as policymakers will not deal with its primary cause – population growth driven primarily by immigration policies at the federal level.

NumbersUSA has run studies on the national, state, and regional level documenting the loss of rural land in the United States over the past two decades. Its latest study discovered that from 2002 to 2017, 67% of rural land loss could be linked to population growth in the U.S. Around 11,950 square miles were developed in order to accommodate the additional 37 million residents in the country in 2017 above the amount dwelling here in 2002.

While the specific percentages of foreign in-migration in each state differed over that time, on balance, the majority of that growth, according to Beck, was caused by net in-migration of non-citizens.

He said that the remaining 33% of land loss in rural areas was linked to a number of factors boosting the average developed land on a per resident basis for houses, shopping malls, power plants, streets, and places for employment, recreation, culture and religion.

It is this 33%, Beck points out, where just about all of the government’s sprawl prevention activities have been centered. And these policies aimed at optimizing land use and cutting consumption have had some success, Beck reports. As of 2017, 26 states could boast that their residents, on average, “lived, worked, and shopped more densely than in 2002.”

However, each of those states nevertheless lost significant habitat for wildlife and farmland due to population growth overcoming the gains reaped by increased density and better resource planning.

Beck reports that this sprawl looks likely to continue in future decades as the U.S. population grows. A projection by the Census Bureau sees the population jumping from 332 million people currently to 404 million by 2060. While that rate of population growth is below that of recent decades, it is nevertheless nowhere near the objective of stabilizing the population established in 1996 by the Task Force on Population and Consumption.

Beck noted the task force’s warning that if its recommendations were not followed, the “U.S. population is likely to reach 350 million by the year 2030; a level that would place even greater strain on our ability to increase prosperity, clean up pollution, alleviate congestion, manage sprawl, and reduce the overall consumption of resources.”

With the Census Bureau predicting a population of 355 million in 2030, the task force’s prediction appears to have been prescient. “The country has already lost more than 35,000 square miles of habitat and farmland since the 1996 Clinton task force report,” Beck writes.

He adds that “many of the same politicians and groups who are ambitiously calling for protecting 30% of the U.S. land area from development by 2030 are also advocating large increases in immigration that would swell the U.S. population even further.” According to Beck, most of these individuals and groups don’t seem to realize that this population growth plays a major part in the country’s loss of open space and natural habitat.

This is exemplified by the “30×30” plan proposed by the White House, which does not even mention population growth once. As Beck points out, this flies in the face of the Global Footprint Network’s findings that, “largely due to population growth, the United States is one of the worst contributors to the global loss of biodiversity.”

Read Roy Beck’s new book here:

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