In the twilight of last year, the media were rife with year-in-review analysis and perspectives on the decade it closed out. But now that 2010 has dawned, let me suggest that it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see how this year will unfold as our elected leadership refuses to address human population growth both globally and in the United States.
On three distinct and yet interconnected fronts — environmentally, economically and culturally — population growth will increase its impact and threaten our planet, overwhelm our country and dramatically change our way of life.
The Woolly Mammoth in the Earth’s Living Room
Compared to LBJ’s and Ho Chi Minh’s envoys’ infamous haggling in Paris for nearly a year before agreeing on the shape of the conference table where they would sit, the baby-boomers that jetted into Copenhagen in 2009 to strike a global agreement that reduces greenhouse emissions actually made utter failure look like a success.
The 2010 Forecast: You can count on much of the right wing continuing to dismiss the incontrovertible evidence of human impact on our climate, even as the Left furiously seeks to conceal or discredit credible scientific findings that may conflict with their political orthodoxy. But both sides will once again agree this year to silently bury the fundamental issue of human population growth and the staggering global deforestation, degradation of arable land, loss of wild habitat and the vanishing water supplies that it fuels. If they can’t reach a workable agreement on limiting carbon emissions, then addressing the 1 billion-plus people living in slums around the globe and the epic human migrations such abject misery produces is simply light years beyond their collective pay grade.
It’s The Unemployment Line, Stupid
James Carville coined the axiom “It’s the economy, stupid” to deftly underscore the electorate’s anxiety that swept Bill Clinton into the White House in 1992. Nearly two decades later, the Washington power elite now trumpets an economic recovery even as Americans watch living-wage jobs disappear faster than the dodo bird. Despite brutal job losses that have hammered the American working and middle classes, more than 125,000 foreign workers continue to arrive legally in United States every month. Joining these legally imported workers each month are nearly as many illegal immigrants, most of whom are hungry for work and in need of social services that were created for America’s most at-risk and in-need citizens.
The 2010 Forecast: American workers shouldn’t expect any more appreciable relief from Washington this year than they received in 2009. Most Democrats favor open borders and mass amnesty to boost their voter registration in key states, while many Republicans generally oppose them only as a means to leverage greater concessions from the Democrats on foreign worker visas for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Late, Great State of California
The Golden State’s make-believe economy of the past two decades has vanished with the bursting of its ethereal dot-com and fantasy real estate bubbles, leaving nearly 40 million Californians to face successive budget deficits of more than $20 billion annually, crumbling infrastructure, sustained drought and jobless rates deep in the double digits. Yet the professional politicians perpetually roosting in Sacramento appear alternately paralyzed and punch-drunk; frozen in partisan acrimony one moment and stumbling around with tax-and-spend proposals the next.
The 2010 Forecast: Hope for little and expect even less. This train of unrestricted growth and wild-eyed spending has been out of control for years now and Sacramento has proven itself unable and unwilling to act decisively. Even at its present population growth rate of around 1 percent — almost all of which is due to immigration and birth to immigrants — California will hit nearly 60 million people by 2050 and 85 million people by the end of this century. If you think things look grim now, try to envision what your kids will be facing in a state twice as crowded but with dramatically fewer resources than it has today.
I have no doubt that my prognostications here will be dismissed as too much of a Malthusian “bummer” (in the vernacular of my youth) by many readers who are averse to even the idea that humankind won’t dodge this bullet.
Perhaps even a majority of people still believe that somehow — by hook or by crook — we will beat the odds yet again and cheat the ferryman of his coin. This peculiar strain of denial masked as optimism grows even more aggressively delusional among a younger generation that has been succored with technology and raised, quite frankly, with an unspoken belief that the chaos and misery that is the hallmark of much of the rest of the world simply can’t happen here.
It can, and unless we act decisively, it will.
To paraphrase author James Howard Kunstler: “Life is ruthless and history doesn’t care.”
The cold reality is that without serious action, both internationally and domestically, that adequately addresses the core issue of population growth, we will look back on 2010 in the same way that we must evaluate 2009, 2008 and for so many of the years that came before: as yet another year that was squandered by denial and inaction.
The good news is there probably still is time to act.
The bad news is that’s about all the good news there is.
— Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow at Californians for Population Stabilization.