Is the population of the United States sustainable?
The population of the United States will pass 300 million today, or tomorrow. No one knows exactly where, no one know precisely when. It is a milestone for sure but is this a cause for celebration or anxiety?
Some American commentators are already saying the landmark is a chance to note the US is perhaps the only country in the developed world where the economy is being bolstered by a population that is growing at a discernable rate. But many experts say passing the 300 million milestone should be a wake-up call that demands a reappraisal of the extraordinary, unparalleled rate of consumption by the world's largest economy and its third largest by population.
As an economic model for the rest of the world to follow - in particular the rapidly developing economies of China and India - it is unsustainable, they say.
On a global scale the average US citizen uses far more than his or her fair share of the planet's resources - consuming more than four times the worldwide average of energy, almost three times as much water and producing more than twice the average amount of rubbish and five times the amount of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming. The US - with five per cent of the world's population - uses 23 per cent of its energy, 15 per cent of its meat and 28 per cent of its paper. Additional population will mean more people seeking a share of those often-limited resources.
It may be that America's citizen number 300,000,000 will be an undocumented migrant, born to undocumented parents somewhere in the South or the West, where population growth is the fastest. Almost one-third of America's annual population growth of between 0.9 per cent and 1 per cent is the result of immigration - much of it illegal.
"America is the only industrialised nation in the world experiencing significant population growth," Victoria Markham, the director of the Centre for Environment and Population (CEP), says in a new report. "The nation's relatively high rates of population growth, natural resource consumption and pollution combine to create the largest environmental impact, felt both within the nation and around the world." She adds: " The US has become a 'super-size' nation, with lifestyles reflected in super-sized appetites for food, houses, land and resource consumption. 'More of more' seems to characterise modern-day America - more people than any generation before us experienced, more natural resources being utilised to support everyday life and more major impacts on the natural systems that support life on earth."
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