We are pleased to announce the winners of our 2015 NPG Essay Scholarship Contest. Each year, NPG conducts an Essay Scholarship for high school and undergradute students.
Should the United States’ government pursue population policies to protect our quality of life for future generations?
By James Wang, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Sprawling forests of metropolitan areas covered in smog. Vast fields of monoculture. Herds of backed up cars. Mountains of trash and litter. These everyday sights in the United States are replacing nature’s beauty and causing a myriad of problems such as desertification, deforestation, shortage of drinking water, depletion of energy resources, and pollution. These issues ultimately lead to a declining quality of the environment and life in the U.S. and are largely caused by overpopulation.
Anti-Malthusians argue that as population grows increased demand for food and resources will be matched with increased technology to meet those demands. Even though there is no doubt that technology is constantly evolving and improving to resolve problems, it cannot keep up with the current population and rate of resource consumption as evidenced by the various problems in the country right now. In Las Vegas and many arid parts of the country, there have been conflicts over fresh water supplies. Continued development and increased population has led to unsustainable use of water resources and desertification despite new technologies. Productivity increase from new technology must be paired with curbing population growth in order to combat the current predicament. With the world’s third largest population (over 300 million), the government needs to pursue population control policies to protect the quality of life for posterity.
An example of an anti-natalist policy success is Singapore. After the post-World War II baby boom aroused concerns about overpopulation, the government worked to reduce birth rates by promoting a “Stop At Two” campaign, raising the costs of having additional children, and passing a voluntary sterilization act. The anti-natalist policy worked so well that they later flipped and began a pro natalist approach. The U.S. should follow in Singapore’s footsteps and pursue their own policy of antinatalism to bring birth rates down by increasing access to and acceptance of contraception and increasing disincentives for larger families. These measures will result in a population that can better use the resources available at a sustainable pace.
Moreover, the U.S. must pursue aggressive immigration control by decreasing immigration levels and becoming more stringent over illegal immigration. The US accounts for about 20 percent of international immigration, adding hundreds of thousands to the population each year. Even though immigration holds its merits and the U.S. is renowned as a melting pot, the government must restrict immigration in order to achieve negative population growth.
Finally, education holds a key position in future population control policies. By educating future generations about the dangers of overpopulation and fostering a personal sense of responsibility, these new leaders will recognize the imperative of solving the problem. As a youth, it is easy to simply resign oneself to the status quo or turn a blind eye to the problem, but with education comes change and hope. Yes, it is possible to look up into the night sky and see the stars. Yes, it is possible to look out towards the horizon and see fertile forests looming in the distance. Yes, it is possible to gaze into a sinuous stream and see one’s reflection rather than a murky brown liquid. All this can happen with increased awareness and changes starting today.
The U.S. currently faces very real and urgent problems stemming from overpopulation. It is time for the government to put in population policies to decrease the fertility rate, restrict immigration, and increase awareness. Even though it seems like a daunting task right now, with the work of future generations and new policies, the United States can once again achieve a population possessing a harmonious relationship with the environment.