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The Debate on the Global Environment

By NicholeGuercio Jan 14, 2013 743 Words
The Global Environment
The United States should promote family planning to curb world population growth.

The world’s population is at 6.1 billion and growing. People who promote family planning would say that the only way to fight poverty and global environmental degradation is by controlling this growth. It is in U.S. interests to share information about family planning with the millions of people living in developing nations. Fewer people will translate into less strain on Earth’s resources. However, people that oppose this say that the United States should not give aid that might be used to promote abortion. Instead, U.S. aid should be spent on helping developing countries improve their education and economics.

I would agree that the U.S. should focus more on improving education in other countries. The widespread education and improvement in living standards will lead to smaller families, renewed attention to the environment, and wiser use of natural resources.

Overpopulation is indeed a problem around the globe, but population issues must be solved at the national level, as global agreements are largely unenforceable and fail to recognize the unique history, customs, and challenges of each country. From an environmental standpoint, U.S. overpopulation is far worse for the environment than overpopulation anywhere else, because of our inordinately high use of resources.

People need more land than just the land they’re standing on–they need land for raising food, producing their oil and water, recreation and entertainment, shopping, transportation, waste handling, and much more. And overpopulation isn’t about how many people you can jam into a given area; it’s about what the optimum population size is before you start destroying resources and quality of life. The U.S. population is growing at about one percent per year. And although an increase of one percent may sound small, such a rate is monumental when talking about a population the size of the United States. A one percent increase means 2.9 million new people in a year and 29 million in a decade.

Population growth benefits business interests, since it means more development. But as an area becomes more populated, its infrastructure starts straining under the weight of all the new people who must be served. Police forces, roads, and schools no longer satisfy the demands of a growing population. Farmland and forests are sacrificed to strip malls and housing developments. And as more and more schools, sanitary systems, roads, libraries, and water services must be built; eventually growth no longer lowers the average cost of services, but instead raises it. When this point is reached, growth increases the tax burden on communities; the revenue brought in by new growth is outweighed by the costs it creates. Meanwhile, congestion increases, schools become more crowded, and pollution levels rise.

Three factors influence population: births, deaths, and migration. We can reduce population by lowering our fertility rate (the average number of children per woman) and reducing immigration. If almost all women had no more than two children, our fertility rate would drop to 1.5, because many women choose to have just one or none. Immigration levels are currently over one million a year–five times traditional averages–and should be returned to more traditional levels of 100,000 to 200,000 annually.

I believe that people should be educated about how overpopulation affects the environment and everyone’s quality of life. And I believe that the people should have access to family planning. And they should make responsible family planning decisions on their own. We could achieve a smaller, more sustainable fertility rate through a combination of social leadership, non-coercive incentives to stop at one or two children (such as tax incentives), free access to family planning education and contraceptives to anyone who wants it, and education. Studies show that as education level goes up, fertility (particularly early fertility) goes down.

Increasing our population means increasing consumption. Every new person consumes resources, takes up space, and disposes of waste products. Even if we can reduce consumption by half, no progress can be achieved if we allow the population to double. Rather than packing more and more people into more and more crowded areas, we need to tackle the problem at its source: an ever-growing population. When populations continue to expand, communities must find places to house, educate, and employ new residents and thus, even the best-intentioned smart growth efforts will eventually run up against population pressures.

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