Taboo you

Contrary to popular belief, Auntie Ruth, who has no children to call her own, is not barren. As a young girl, she learned early on that one of California’s most pressing problems is its exploding population, which is already stressing the state’s natural resources. Currently, there are nearly 40 million residents in the Golden State, and according to the Department of Finance, the population will crest the 60 million mark by 2050. Not wanting to add to that number but being no prude, your Ruthness has always been careful to take the appropriate birth-control measures, and you should, too.

That’s not just Auntie Ruth’s idea. Many others have followed the same practice, as according to the United Nations, our national birth rate is now 1.9 children per woman, a figure that is actually below the replacement level necessary to achieve zero population growth. Moreover, family-planning methods are heartily endorsed by such environmental stalwarts as the Sierra Club, which has a program explicitly designed to spread the word about birth-control methods and the growing population’s effect on the environment.

But all of this begs the question: If we’ve already stabilized the national birth rate, why does the population continue to explode? The answer, according to the demographic experts? U.S. immigration policy. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that if today’s rates of birth and immigration remain the same, the nation’s population will double by 2050, from 300 million to 600 million, with immigration accounting for most of the growth. However, as several failed anti-immigration candidates in a 2004 election for the Sierra Club board discovered, discussing the issue openly remains one of the great taboos among the environmental community. That doesn’t change the fact that we’re currently growing at a rate that may be unsustainable in the long run.