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US population hits 300 million, but is it sustainable?

Article author: 
Andrew Buncombe
Article publisher: 
The Independent
Article date: 
October 11, 2006
Article category: 
Immigration Impact
Tags: 
Medium
Article Body: 

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...

"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."...

Lester Brown, the director of the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental group also based in Washington, said: "In times past, reaching such a demographic milestone might have been a cause for celebration - in 2006 it is not. Population growth is the ever-expanding denominator that gives each person a shrinking share of the resource pie. It contributes to water shortages, cropland conversion to non-farm uses, traffic congestion, more garbage, overfishing, crowding in national parks, a growing dependence on imported oil and other conditions that diminish the quality of our daily lives."...

If current consumption rates were multiplied to take into account its population growth, China's paper consumption would be double the current total world production of paper and its vehicle fleet would be 1.1 billion; the world's current total fleet is 800 million.

"What China is teaching us is that the Western economic model is not going to work for China and if it will not work for China it will not work for India and in the long-term ... it will not work for us as well," he said.

It was in 1915 that the US population reached 100 million. Fifty-two years later, in 1967, it reached 200 million. It has taken just 39 more years for the milestone of 300 million to be achieved....

1 in 7 Barrels of world oil supply [are] used by US drivers...