[Forty-eight] years ago . . . America held it’s very first Earth Day, an event credited with the birth of the modern environmental movement. The annual observance was intended by the day’s founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, as a time to contemplate our natural world and to encourage efforts to conserve and protect it. Compared to today’s environmental establishment groups, however, Nelson had a more mature understanding of what environmental sustainability really is.
Central to the theme of Earth Day, the late senator once wrote, was “the understanding that U.S. population growth was a joint partner in the degradation of our nation’s environmental resources.”Like many early environmental advocates, Nelson appreciated that population growth and environmental stability were intrinsically intertwined. With America’s immigration intake representing 80 percent of its population growth-rate, groups like the Sierra Club had actually once been the biggest advocates for tighter immigration controls. But forty-six years on, those groups are now silent.
[Twelve] years ago when the U.S. population hit 300 million (it was only 200 million on the first Earth Day), the Center for Environment and Population warned, “The nation’s relatively high rate of population growth, natural resource consumption and pollution combine to create the largest environmental impact, felt both within the nation and around the world.” On our consumption-levels and its global effects, today’s environmental groups are always quick to remind that despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. uses 20 percent of its energy, 30 percent of its paper and aluminum, 40 percent of its cars, etc. If the Third World were to adopt a middle-class American lifestyle, they lecture, we’d need many more planets.