U.S. Environmental Groups on Population: The Silence of the Lambs

Two weeks ago, and again this week, the U.S. Census Bureau issued reports that should have caused rousing applause and accolades across the ranks of the U.S. environmental movement. First, the Census reported that the rate in the growth of the U.S. population had fallen to a near all-time low. Second, the Census reported that the birth rate in the U.S. had fallen to a historic all-time low.

These reports did get widely covered in the U.S. media, from the Washington Post to CNN to NPR and beyond. The Washington Post story below about the slowing of the U.S. population growth rate:

The NPR story below about the record-low birth rate in the U.S.:

U.S. environmental groups should be sending out press releases, showing up on talk shows, and covering this news with wild fanfare. That’s how it used to be anyway, back in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, Earth Day in the U.S. was founded in 1970 to address overpopulation, when the U.S. population was 205 million. Right now, the U.S. population is 331 million and growing at an average rate of two million people per year.

Despite the slowing of the growth rate, and the lowest birth rate in history, the U.S. is still growing somewhat rapidly due to the federal government’s immigration policies. Los Angeles County contains about ten million people. Thus, the two million people added to the U.S. every year, mostly by immigration, create a new Los Angeles-sized footprint on the U.S. landscape and environment every five years.

Slowing population growth, lowering birth rates, and stabilizing the U.S. population should be a major program of U.S. environmental groups. After all, with a stabilized or lower population, the U.S. would:

  • Emit fewer greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

  • Drive fewer cars that cause pollution and traffic.

  • Use less water from our depleted rivers and aquifers.

  • Cause less suburban sprawl.

  • Cause less urban density, crowding, and congestion.

  • Allow more human access to nature.

  • Protect more wild nature, wildlife habitat, and forests.

  • Consume fewer foodstocks including ocean wildlife, land-dwelling livestock, and all types of agricultural products that require land to be converted from natural habitat to human farming.

In 2019, the Center for American Progress reported: “The United States is quietly losing its remaining forests, grasslands, deserts, and natural places at a blistering pace. Every 30 seconds, a football field worth of America’s natural areas disappears to roads, houses, pipelines, and other development.”

I would argue that every single negative environmental impact in the U.S. would stabilize or decrease if the human population was stabilized or lowered. In fact, that was the goal of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s “Commission on Sustainable Development” in 1993 — to “Move toward stabilization of U.S. population”.

So where is the U.S. environmental movement at this critical time of these Census reports? Silent.

On the issue of U.S. population growth — perhaps the single biggest challenge facing the U.S. and the world — U.S. environmental groups are docile, quiet, meek.

It’s the Silence of the Lambs.