A devastating oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara inspired Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson to create the first Earth Day in 1970. Twenty million Americans participated in events as Nelson and other conservationists noted that “every environmental problem is a population problem.”
Since that first Earth Day, the U.S. population has soared from 203 million to 325 million, and California’s population has doubled to 40 million. Today, a Santa Barbara-based environmental group, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), reminds us that continuing population growth is the fundamental environmental problem.
“The consequences of that growth are all around us—loss of open space, air and water pollution, traffic congestion, and never-ending sprawl,” said Jo Wideman, executive director of CAPS. “Habitat loss due to population growth is the greatest threat to wildlife.”
Unlike the situation in 1970, current U.S. and California population growth stems almost entirely from foreign immigration. According to the Pew Research Center, “Future immigrants and their descendants… are projected to account for 88 percent of the U.S. population increase,” between now and 2065.
With the increase in the human population has come an inevitable decline in other species. Land used for housing, roads, businesses, schools and other forms of human activity has displaced land in its natural state. California has already lost 99 percent of its native grasslands, 80 percent of its coastal wetlands, and 94 percent of its interior wetlands.
The late David Brower, a CAPS Advisory Board member and the Sierra Club’s first executive director, noted, “Overpopulation is perhaps the biggest problem facing us, and immigration is part of that problem. It has to be addressed.”
CAPS promotes policies to stabilize the population of California, the U.S., and the world. It supports the proposals of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, chaired by the late Barbara Jordan, that called for lowering immigration rates to more traditional levels.
CAPS is running TV and radio ads this week in California asking, “Where are all the people coming from?” View the TV ad here, listen to the radio ad here, and learn more at CAPSWeb.org.