Guzzardi column: Congress ignores World Water Day warnings
World Water Day is a day designated in March to raise awareness about the importance of proper water management in this era of exploding population and wasteful natural resource practices.
On the website for World Water Day, some of the challenges in getting safe drinking water to everyone are identified. Among the leading contributors to the water crisis are population growth, migrant flows and the ever-expanding global economy, all powerful forces that are counter-conservation. As the population grows, especially in the U.S. and other developed nations, the demand for consumer goods and fresh, healthy food products increases with it, and that all requires water.
According to a research team led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, rapid population and economic growth are destroying biological diversity. A constantly growing demand for agricultural products requires evermore cultivated areas. The scientists wrote that the technological advances made in more efficient agricultural cultivation have been offset by rapid population growth. Even though technological advances are making agriculture more efficient, the growing number of people negates these successes. The study shows that “an effective nature conservation policy needs concepts against population growth and for sustainable consumption.”
The German scholars examined the role that population growth and economic development play in biodiversity’s loss by combining land use data and the sequestration of CO2 with economic models for the period between 2000 and 2011. Not surprisingly, the results showed that the growing world population and expanding global economy result in more worldwide land consumption that destroys biodiversity and ecosystem services. Between 2000 and 2011, the period studied, the planet lost six percent of its potential to absorb CO2.
Here in the U.S. where immigration-driven population growth will add 75 million more people by 2060, the water crisis has already arrived, although somewhat under the radar, at least outside of the Southwest. In 2017, Michigan State University researchers predicted that water costs will increase 41 percent within the next five years, and become unaffordable for many households. By 2020, a third of U.S. households may not be able to pay their water bills. The costs of water infrastructure repair will continue to drive prices higher in the coming years. U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who spent 12 years on a municipal water board before running for federal office, said that the U.S. is “billions of dollars behind” in updating repairs.
Congress is in complete denial about the looming water and other ecological catastrophes already at hand. For decades, Congress has ignored warnings from experts that the current immigration level must be reduced. Among those whose advice has gone unheeded: University of Colorado Professor Alfred A. Bartlett, “Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained;” Earth Day Founder Sen. Gaylord Nelson, “The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become… We have to address the population issue,” and President Clinton’s sustainability task force: “This is a sensitive issue, but reducing immigration levels is a necessary part of population stabilization and the drive toward sustainability.”
Yet, on immigration, the federal government has moved dramatically away from sustainability and has instead raced toward and embraced record immigration. Immigration numbers have increased dramatically to more than 1 million annual arrivals plus at least 750,000 so-called temporary guest workers, 40 percent of whom overstay their visas. Currently, Congress isn’t actively considering legislation that would reduce immigration, even such obvious goals as limiting chain migration to nuclear family members. Remember: immigrants are consumers.
The willful neglect of immigration as the major contributor to population growth, and therefore its inevitable negative effect on water usage and the depletion of other, irreplaceable natural resources, is Congress members burying their heads in the sand.
Contact Joe Guzzardi at jguzzardi@ pfirdc.org.
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