With U.S. population exploding, can Minnesota remain sustainable?

Article author: 
Frosty Wooldridge
Article publisher: 
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Article date: 
26 November 2019
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 
In 2006, ABC’s Diane Sawyer heralded the 300-millionth person into the United States. Fourteen years later, we exceed 330 million on our way to 440 million by 2050. Ironically, Americans chose 2.03 children per woman in 1970, but Congress overwhelmed that choice with the 1965 Immigration Reform Act that began adding more than 1 million legal immigrants annually, and millions of undocumented immigrants. We jumped from 194 million in 1965 to 300 million in 2006, and gallop toward 440 million within 31 years.
Can Minnesota sustain its population rise, as projected by the U.S. Census Bureau, from 5.1 million to 7.25 million by 2050?
A six-continent world bicycle traveler, I have witnessed firsthand the consequences of exponential population growth around the planet. At 1.4 billion people, China seethes with humanity and copes with unsolvable environmental degradation, while India, at 1.25 billion, limps into the 21st century with entrenched poverty, environmental chaos, and civilizational despair. Both those civilizations cannot solve or reverse their population consequences. They face environmental, food, arable land, and water consequences beyond the scope of this report.
At the same time, legal and illegal immigration drive America’s population juggernaut toward 440 million people. What will that look like? With the addition of 140 million more people, we will double the populations of our 35 most-populated cities. For example, New York City, at 8.3 million, would jump to 16.6 million. Los Angeles, at 11 million, would hit 22 million. Florida, at 18 million, would jump to 36 million people.
At some point, we must ask ourselves about quality of life and standard of living. We must deal with the fact that we face the “tragedy of the commons,” as introduced by bioethicist Garret Hardin. How many horses might a one-acre plot of land with a water tank hold indefinitely? The answer is two. If you put 100 horses into the paddock, the sheer numbers destroy any chance at long-term sustainability.
What does that mean for the United States or Minnesota? Currently, we face enormous scarcity issues with water in seven states, led by California, Arizona, and Florida. As California adds its projected 20 million more people by mid-century, at some point, no viable solutions exist.
Beyond America, the rest of the world will add 3 billion people by 2050, according to the United Nations population report. Africa alone expects to explode from 1.1 billion today to 2 billion in 2050 and 4 billion by the end of the century.\u0009
What do such enormous populations do? They migrate. They flood into Europe, Canada, and America. And America already faces unsolvable problems with more than 60,000 homeless in L.A., 11,000 homeless in San Francisco, and 10,000 in Denver. This illustrates our Catch-22.
When you consider that adding another 140 million people would drive us into massive carbon-footprint exhaust into the biosphere, we face catastrophic climate destabilization on a level not known since the dinosaurs vanished.
I could present ecological-footprint, water-footprint, and resource-footprint data; species extinction rates; and additional information that would depress the most optimistic person as to what’s headed toward their children.
Thus, let American citizens demand, with their knowledge of what’s coming, a national discussion and debate with our leaders. Let’s engage our top food, farming, animal-extinction, and resource experts; environmentalists; climate professionals; and others who understand our predicament. They need to be interviewed on “60 Minutes,” NPR, PBS, and every network regularly to educate the American people.
Let’s publish this knowledge in every media center in America. Let’s deal with our future before it becomes our ugly present. In fact, by reading this commentary, what kind of world would you like to bequeath to your kids? Because if you fail to act, if you fail to speak up, your kids face an extremely unpleasant “tragedy of the commons” in their future.