Overpopulation and environment
Some opponents of immigration argue that, due to immigration, the immigrant-receiving countries are overpopulated. This places a stress on the infrastructure (roads, housing stock), natural resources, and environment.
For more, see:
- Environment/Population page on the Center for Immigration Studies page
- Environment page on the Numbers USA website
Note that there is a milder form of this objection that applies only to complete open borders and not to current levels of immigration. See swamped.
- Increased footprint: This is a concern about the increase in global consumption of resources due to the increase in prosperity resulting from immigration.
- Citizen preference for reduced immigraton: One version of this argument stresses that, through low birthrates, citizens reveal a preference for slow population growth, and large-scale immigration subverts this preference.
In his book The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal, Mark Krikorian writes:
Even with 100 million extra people fifty years from now because of immigration, Americans can rest assured there will be enough food. But this engineered population growth will subvert many of the quality-of-life goals that modern societies cherish. Thus the real population question for Americans is not whether a Malthusian catastrophe awaits us but rather what kind of life we will bequeath to our grandchildren. Let’s start with conventional environmental matters. In the past, people just weren’t all that concerned with how clean the air was or how pure the water. The fundamental reason these issues are now politically important is not because of the hyperventilating of environmental militants, but because the public in modern societies has come to see environmental stewardship as an important quality-of-life issue. Samuel Hays, a historian of the politics of environmentalism, has written that “environmental objectives arose out of deep-seated changes in preferences and values associated with the massive social and economic transformation in the decades after 1945.”31 In other words, as Americans became more prosperous, “Environmental quality was an integral part of this new search for a higher standard of living,”32 making clean air and water and pristine nature into “environmental amenities.” But immigration-driven population growth conflicts with the widely shared and deeply felt desire for such amenities. The problem is not that the government’s program of artificial population growth will choke us with pollutants; on the contrary, several indicators of environmental quality are actually improving.33 Instead, the environmental progress that can stem from modern technology ends up being eroded, or even wiped out, by the artificially increased number of people. For instance, the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere per person actually decreased slightly from 1990 to 2005 in the United States. But the total amount of such gases went up 16 percent, with carbon dioxide from burning gasoline increasing 22 percent, because there were so many more people.34 It’s the same with increases in fuel economy. In 1975, cars and light trucks got an average of 13.1 miles per gallon, and in 2006 that had increased to 21 miles per gallon.35 But any possible reduction in emissions was wiped out by the addition of millions more cars on the road because of population growth, as well as longer commutes (also caused by population growth, which is discussed more fully later). The pattern is repeated in total energy use. The average amount of energy used by each American in 2006 was about 7 percent lower than in 1979, the peak year, and the amount of energy it took to generate each dollar of national income was fully 44 percent lower.36 But since there are so many more people, the total amount of energy used—generated mainly by burning coal in power plants—went up almost 25 percent. Likewise with solid waste—trash. Even though the amount of solid waste generated per person was the same in 2005 as it had been in 1990, the overall amount of trash increased by 20 percent—because there were more people to generate the trash.37 And the number of landfills to store this waste has been steadily declining for at least twenty years, partly because of increased size and efficiency of modern landfills, and partly because modern Americans don’t want new landfills established near their homes. But continual immigration-driven population growth will inevitably keep generating increasing levels of trash, and it will have to go somewhere, creating political conflicts that would otherwise not exist or would be much milder—conflicts among legitimate political forces all seeking legitimate goals but set against one another by the imperatives of artificial population growth. In the case of water use, the good news would have been much better had it not been for artificial, government-engineered population growth. Per-person water use has actually declined significantly; nationwide, we used slightly less water in 2000 than in 1975, even though the population was almost 70 million larger.38 But how much larger would the drop in water use have been—and how much additional breathing room could we have afforded stressed municipal water systems, depleting aquifers, and polluted streams—if the drop in percapita use of water had not been accompanied by such rapid growth in numbers? Aside from cleaner air and water, another “amenity” whose enjoyment is undermined by mass immigration is protecting open space from development and sprawl. At first blush, the idea that immigration contributes to sprawl can seem more than a little ridiculous. Few of the developers, farmers, preservationists, or others involved in the various land-use fights that go on constantly all across the country are immigrants. But rigorous examination of what actually causes undeveloped land to be paved over—based on data from the Census Bureau and from the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service— has found that about 50 percent of the nation’s sprawl is caused by land-use factors (zoning, bigger lots, and the like) and 50 percent by population growth (driven mainly by federal immigration policy).39 In other words, half of sprawl is caused by each person occupying more space and the other half by the presence of ever more people, each one taking up that larger amount of space.
Krikorian, Mark (2008-07-03). The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal (pp. 201-203). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.