300 Million Americans Will Take Great Environmental Toll, Report Warns

October 16, 2006

One U.S. demographer says it will be a Hispanic baby boy born in Los Angeles to a Mexican immigrant mother on Tuesday, October 17.

But regardless of whether this prediction proves to be right, someone in the coming days will tip the U.S. population to 300 million people, a demographic milestone with heavy environmental fallout.

A recent study by the Connecticut-based Center for Environment and Population (CEP) paints a troubling picture of the United States as an expanding nation of "super-sized resource appetites" making disproportionate claims on the planet's resources.

Steady birth rates, longer life spans, and heavy immigration have helped make the U.S. the third most populous nation in the world, behind China and India.

"The main point is that we are the only industrial country having this kind of population growth," said Martha Farnsworth, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, who was not affiliated with the CEP report.

"People aren't aware that we differ so much from other industrialized countries in this respect."

Population upticks present political, economic, and cultural challenges, Farnsworth says, but in the U.S., the environmental pressures are especially evident.

The CEP study notes that the U.S. has just 5 percent of the world's people but consumes nearly a quarter of all natural resources.

Unhealthy Choices

Some experts say the link between population trends and land use, water quality, and biodiversity is subtle and complicated.

Population growth alone is a poor measure of environmental impact, notes CEP director Vicky Markham.

"Large numbers of people in America don't always have to automatically translate into negative environmental impacts," Markham said.

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