The Environmental Load of 300 Million: How Heavy? ; as the US Population Rises, Environmental Problems That Were Once Pushed Aside May Get Worse, Experts Say

By Brad Knickerbocker writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 26, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Environmental Load of 300 Million: How Heavy? ; as the US Population Rises, Environmental Problems That Were Once Pushed Aside May Get Worse, Experts Say


Brad Knickerbocker writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


A flotilla of 100 fishing boats, rafts, and kayaks crossed the Willamette River to a downtown park in Portland, Ore., the other evening to rally for the Pacific Northwest's reigning icon: wild salmon, now plummeting toward extinction due to development across much of the Columbia River basin.

It was a typical event for a "green" city that has one of the best records in the United States for recycling, reducing greenhouse- gas emissions, using alternative energy, and providing public transportation and bike paths.

But Portland's amenities - its natural setting along the Willamette River and its youthful techie vibe - are drawing a surge of new people, threatening to erode the very qualities that drew people here in the first place. As the US approaches 300 million people, that's the story of the nation as well.

In many ways, Americans have mitigated the impact of their increasing presence on the land. Since reaching the 200 million mark back in 1967, they have cut emissions of major air pollutants, banned certain harmful pesticides, and overseen the rebound of several endangered species. Despite using more resources and creating more waste, they've become more energy efficient.

The danger, experts say, is that the US may simply have postponed the day of reckoning. Major environmental problems remain, and some are getting worse - all of them in one way or another connected to US population growth, which is expected to hit 400 million around midcentury. Some experts put the average American's "ecological footprint" - the amount of land and water needed to support an individual and absorb his or her waste - at 24 acres. By that calculation, the long-term "carrying capacity" of the US would sustain less than half of the nation's current population.

"The US is the only industrialized nation in the world experiencing significant population growth," says Vicky Markham, of the Center for Environment and Population, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization in New Canaan, Conn. "That, combined with America's high rates of resource consumption, results in the largest ... environmental impact [of any nation] in the world."

The boomer challenge

The changing nature of the population also has environmental consequences.

"Today's baby boomers - 26 percent of the population - are the largest, wealthiest, highest resource-consuming of that age group ever in the nation's history, and they have unprecedented environmental impact," says Ms. Markham.

The generation's preference for bigger houses and bigger cars - and the proliferation of them - are gobbling up more resources and creating more pollution, according to a recent study by the Center for Environment and Population. For example:

* Land is being converted for development at about twice the rate of population growth. When housing, shopping, schools, roads, and other uses are added up, each American effectively occupies 20 percent more developed land than he or she did 20 years ago.

* Nearly 3,000 acres of farmland are converted to nonagricultural uses daily..

* Each American produces about five pounds of trash daily, up from less than three pounds in 1960.

* While the US is noted for its wide open spaces, more than half of all Americans live within 50 miles of the coasts where population density and its environmental impact are increasing.

That concentration poses special challenges for areas near the coast, like Portland, where land is rapidly being gobbled up. The city's population, which is now a bit over half a million, is fairly stable. But surrounding population pressures are great. The metropolitan area grew about 30 percent during the 1990s to just over 2 million. It's projected to grow to 2.6 million by 2010 and to 3.1 million by 2025.

Some groups worry that Portland's growth will undermine its environmental sustainability. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Environmental Load of 300 Million: How Heavy? ; as the US Population Rises, Environmental Problems That Were Once Pushed Aside May Get Worse, Experts Say
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.