New Growth Perspective Needed

Congress left in place immigration laws that caused the US to grow from 202 million people in 1970 to 330 million people in 2020. Over that time we increasingly lost our “freedom of movement”.  This is the “Y” in Medford, OR in the late afternoon. But the scene could be in any of hundreds of US cities.  Why is growth still accepted since crowding and the loss of the freedom to move about is the result? 

A New Perspective Is Needed on US Population Growth’s Effects on Global Warming and Environmental Deterioration.

  Supposed environmentally conscious leaders seem to have abandoned terms such as carrying capacity, sustainability, and optimum population.    Nor do they discuss the Native American concept of planning for seven generations.  Environmental discussions by those in power ignore people as in ever more people as THE principal environmental problem. Why?

          The reason for this is probably due to a confused racial consciousness or racial awkwardness on the part of whites. The result is a self centered, self righteous, sanctimonious, even smarmy phenomenon of “liberal white guilt” where white people feel awkward about any talk of race or about limits on immigration.

          So replacing the perspectives offered by such terms as carrying capacity, optimum population, and sustainability and the Native American concept of planning for Seven Generations, we have “open borders”, sanctuary cities and states, and amnesties as evidenced in the debates for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020 where all but one or two candidates indicated they favored abolishing the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  

          The justification given is that since Dad or Grandpa came into the US as a refugee, we are shameless, hypocritical, and selfish  if we don’t allow so many millions into the country every 10 years that we grow by 25 million people in those 10 years as evidenced by census data.  Thus, in the 50 years since 1970 as the guilt assuaging culture dominated, we grew from 203 million people to 330 million people.  It is shocking there was no wide scale environmental outcry.  But there was not because the white liberals who dominate environmental groups do not want to seem prejudiced about the many non whites who entered.

Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day had a simple explanation or perspective concerning the issues of race, immigration, and environment. Senator Nelson said environmental degradation (and now he would certainly include the global warming threat) is an issue of people not race. It is the quantity of PEOPLE in the US and on the planet that causes deterioration. It is not the fault of any single race.

And in the US people confuse “anti immigration” with “anti immigrant”, but they are not the same. The first deals with the preservation of the environment, of a way of life, and of personal freedoms by lessening the amount of people, and the second deals with bigotry and maybe fear.

          After the population increase of the last 50 years, we have teeming airports where flying is an ordeal not a fun adventure.  At least 40 of our largest airports were at capacity before the pandemic.  We have waits at National Parks such as Glacier National Park with crowding and the prospect of waiting lists at many more.  We have 20 mile long traffic jams between Los Angeles and Las Vegas over holidays   We have an increasingly impersonal society.   

Many young people feel forlorn, helpless, angry, and lost as we hurl ourselves towards what they believe will be environmental catastrophe brought about by: 1. The additional millions of people in the US; 2. The geographic growth of our cities, and 3. Our continued heavy consumption.

And back to Gaylord Nelson’s cause, in the US we lost 3 billion birds and trillions of insects since 1970.

But despite the misplaced guilt, why is there no will to level our own population as a step towards our own sustainability and to set an example for the world?  Why must we maintain an economy based on ever more people needing ever more goods, services, and housing as well as transportation options?  That is the unasked and unanswered question. What young person wouldn’t be alienated in the face of our societally wide blindness as to what is needed to solve environmental problems?

In many cities we lost freedom of movement.   To enter or leave metropolitan areas unless we accept being stuck in traffic, we must travel during the hours when prospective trips are not delayed by traffic.  This can mean leaving between 8 PM and 4 AM.  Leaving at other times often means delays.

In “pristine” Oregon the traffic increased to where we must allow three hours to drive 60 miles to catch a plane on a Friday afternoon from our capital in Salem to the Portland Airport. 

The prevailing attitude with too many of our sanctimonious and timid elected officials is that we are evil if we enforce our borders and insist that those who are illegally in the country leave.  As a result it is perceived that we no longer have the will to enforce our borders.

That same liberal guilt mentality assumes as a given that all problems in Latin America were brought about by “Yankee Imperialism” and exploitation. This omits  the reality that the colonial heritage from Spain did not inspire enlightened leadership due to the triumvirate of the Church, the Military, and land owners who controlled Latin American governments since their inception.  Latin America also had an intricate and enduring caste or social status system based on social position, place of birth, extended family, and race.   That resulted in endemic inequities.               

But while the perspective prevails that we are at fault for what ails Latin America, we will continue failing to enforce immigration laws.  Meanwhile we continue to do a horrible job of providing for those here legally.  Our homeless population, which is an international embarrassment, continues to increase.    We have permanent water shortages in the southwest and in other areas which will only become worse with growth.     

As an aside– Latin America now has a more diverse religious community, but for centuries the Catholic Church seemed to be in a “body count” race with Islam to be the largest religious body so birth control is still not something that is sanctioned.   But some hope finally emerged when a study years ago showed that so called soap operas where women are portrayed as having lives free from the demands of large families inspired many women to accept and seek family planning.     

But while we focus so much on packing in “would be” Americans or residents most of which are “economic opportunity immigrants”, our African American population continues to be educationally, occupationally, and financially disadvantaged.   Our Native American population (no, we are not all descended from immigrants) continues to lose hunting, fishing, and water rights along with their age old freedom of movement as immigration and growth fueled sprawl encroaches on their supposedly guaranteed resources and their tribal reservation lands.

And all of us are increasingly be subjected to inconveniences from increased crowding. Americans have become victims of our pro growth policies.

Thus, we are in a moral quagmire where a failure to set aside a collective (white) guilt to move towards a more sustainable civilization sets us up for a continued failure to preserve– our natural heritage, our freedom of movement, and the welfare of those already and legally here.  And we fail to lead the world towards the population stabilization needed to counter global warming. Pity.

Brent Thompson

Brent Thompson is the son of an immigrant who came to the US in 1916 when the US had less than 100 million people and the grandson of one who came to the US in 1890 when the country had 75 million people—and unlimited freedom of movement and a perception of unlimited resources. He has a degree in Hispanic Civilization from UC Santa Barbara.