Roy Beck is a leading activist in the US and the founder of NumbersUSA. He recently wrote about environmental sustainability where he explored how inflated immigration can threaten our environment in multiple ways.
Beck wrote about his findings around the same time the US government pledged to protect at least a third of the planet from development by 2030, thanks to an initiative from the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People. More than 90 countries have backed the same mission statement, and the commitment from government leaders shows real promise to help our Earth recover from the dangerous path we’re all on. However, Beck contends that these dreams cannot be realized unless we face what’s really driving sustainability.
Can the Government Meet Sustainability Promises?
Many are skeptical about whether the government can deliver on what they’re promising. Beck says that at the rate at which urban expansion is developing, the goals are unrealistic. The habitat and farm acreage that has been lost over the past two decades is staggering. From 2002 – 2017, America saw 17,800 square miles fall prey to development.
The land loss included both natural habitats and agricultural land — or more than New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware combined. In addition, rural areas developed another 1,200 square miles of land in the same timeframe. Beck says that this is only likely to continue because policymakers turn a blind eye to what’s driving the growth.
The Reports from NumbersUSA
NumbersUSA has looked at rural land loss from 2002 – 2017 at the regional, state, and national level. After running the numbers, the primary reason points back to the immigration policies set at the federal level.
Beck found that 67% of rural land loss could be directly tied to population growth in the country. Around 11,950 square miles were needed to accommodate the additional 37 million residents (i.e., the population growth from 2002 – 2017). Beck says that while the influx of residents was driven by different factors in different locations, the evidence says that the majority of the growth was from non-citizens. The additional land was lost due to sprawl, as residential and commercial real estate sprang up in different parts of the country to accommodate people.
So far, prevention activities by the government have been focused on reducing sprawl as opposed to reducing the population. Roy Beck is happy to report that these measures haven’t been ineffective. By 2017, 26 states in the country could say that people were living, working, and shopping in denser areas compared to 2002. However, despite these improvements, many states have still lost invaluable habitat both for wildlife and farming, undercutting the gains that policymakers have managed to make.
The Future of Sprawl
Roy Beck believes that the sprawl will continue if nothing else is done. The Census Bureau predicts that the US will jump from 332 million to 404 million by 2060. The numbers are a far cry from the ideal population stabilization dictated by the Task Force on Population and Consumption in 1996. The Task Force had warned back then that if the population reached 350 million by 2030, it would be difficult to continue the prosperity the country had enjoyed in the past. They warned it would put a strain on our resources. Since 1996, the country has already lost more than 35,000 square miles of habitat and farmland.
Unfortunately, there’s something of a dichotomy happening in Washington and beyond. It’s the same politicians and groups who want to protect farmland and wildlife habitats that are also calling for a swell in immigration. What they fail to voice to the public is that the two goals are ultimately at odds with one another. Either they’re willfully ignoring how population growth plays a part in sustainability or they’re downright lying to their constitutions.
If you read the plans proposed by the White House, those pertaining to immigration often don’t even mention what population growth will mean for the environment. Until policymakers begin to look at the realities of the situation, Beck remains highly skeptical about their so-called commitment to the Earth.
Listen to Roy Beck’s recent audiobook on Audible: https://www.audible.com/author/Roy-Beck/B09JFG4BTM