We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2014 NPG Essay Scholarship Contest. Each year, NPG conducts an Essay Scholarship for high school and undergradute students.
Explain why the average American citizen – particularly our youngest generation – should become active in the cause to slow, halt, and eventually reverse U.S. population growth.
Let’s Keep It “America the Beautiful”
By Gregory Ross, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Despite the 100-degree Arizona heat, the Colorado River was freezing cold. My toes, dipped in its muddy waters, told me the Grand Canyon is not in its natural state. I was studying the Canyon’s ecosystem on a nine-day river-rafting trip. Fifty years ago, to accommodate the masses of migrants settling in western US cities, the massive Glen Canyon Dam was built above the Grand Canyon, effectively cutting off all natural river flow, cooling water temperatures, and creating a chain reaction that has, to this day, irreversibly altered the Canyon’s ecosystem. Among the billion-year-old cliffs that soared above my eyes, my ice-cold toes reminded me that the Canyon is in great danger. One of our science tasks on the trip was to track Humpback Chub, a fish that has suffered mightily in the wake of the Colorado’s cooling. Native species like the Chub are being erased, and as a result, the entire ecosystem is off-kilter. Sadly, the negative consequences of the behemoth concrete dam are almost as large as the grand gorge itself. Behind the dam is the burgeoning population of America, and frankly, this overpopulation is the cause of the slow destruction of one of our nation’s greatest treasures.
There comes a point when a given something becomes too much and turns against itself, destroying the core of its own strength. At the heart of America are rolling hills, pristine peaks, tall timber, and greatest of all, an undeniable lust for adventure. As evidenced in the Grand Canyon’s recent pains, these staples of American beauty are slowly deteriorating. What should be concerning to all Americans is that we are not just dealing with a loss of forest, field, or canyon, but a loss of identity. The great philosopher Plato once said, “For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.” As America overpopulates, we must channel our inner-Plato, as we are chewing away at our own strength. The slow destruction of our natural treasures parallels an erosion of the American identity of adventure, exploration, progression. When the endless rolling Appalachians have an end, due to the sprawl of eastern populations, and when the bottomless Grand Canyon has a bottom marked by the unnatural waters of a dam feeding the boomtowns of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, then what makes the America of purple mountain majesties and fields of grain will be gone. Our Manifest Destiny will have burned itself out.
Overpopulation gobbles up the once-strong sense of American identity in many ways. Along with natural resources, our economic resources are being stretched thin. A growing income disparity—a byproduct of too many people and too few jobs—also damages the American ideal. The once-attainable American Dream of unlimited opportunity will become, well, merely a dream, as the population continues to burgeon. Too many people and too few resources; as a result, the bedrock core of America is deteriorating.
A dwindling source of identity is an alarming thought. Without a proactive effort among all Americans, especially younger generations who will have a tremendous amount of responsibility over resources in the future, overpopulation and its devastating effects will become a widespread reality. Sustainable efforts in the present may slow resource damage, but America’s land, and identity, will only be restored from a decrease in the destructive activity that population growth inherently breeds. As the government attempts to help struggling Americans, who are economically disadvantaged in a nation with too many people and too few resources, it must compromise in other areas of funding, including natural resources. In the past decade, national park funding has dropped by $250 million.
It is thus crucial that every American is aware of the consequences of population growth; if everyone from the Atlantic to the Pacific realizes the imperiled nature of our very identity, an active effort to stem and reverse the nation’s crowding will certainly result. A mindful, conscientious approach should be instilled in Americans to reverse the negative effects of overpopulation. Especially in an increasingly globalized society, younger generations of Americans must be made aware of dwindling resources and deteriorating treasures. Furthermore, citizens should know what methods are available to remedy overpopulation. To protect ourselves, we need to safeguard our country’s resources and treasures, because they are the forces that foster our indispensable identity. We the people—who knew there would be so many of us?—need to keep the American ideal intact for generations to come.
World population, now over 7.3 billion, is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2050, an increase of almost two billion, or 23%, in the short space of only 34 years from now.In the highly unlikely event that per capita greenhouse gas emissions could possibly be decreased by an equal percentage in such a short space of time (a blink of an eye) the total amount of worldwide emission would remain the same!
From this simple illustration it would appear that without drastically reducing the size of world population, there is no solution to the problem.None at all.So then why do our world leaders pretend that there is one?What is to be gained by pretending rather than by proposing a solution that would solve the problem – a reduction in the size of world population to not more than 1- 2 billion?
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