The U.S. Population Situation

While the facts of overpopulation are challenging, remember: we can choose our future. Through a dramatic and voluntary reduction in births we can begin to create a more positive and sustainable future.  See the "Help Us Now" section to learn what you can do!
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  • U.S. population at the beginning of 2016 was over 322 million.1
  • U.S. population is growing by over 2,500,000 people per year -- that's 285 per hour -- about half from new births and half from immigration.1
  • According to a Global Footprint Network data, the U.S. can sustain a population of only about 150 million at a reduced consumption level similar to Europeans.2
  • The U.S. population is using renewable resources twice as fast as they can be regenerated.3
  • If everyone on the planet lived like an average American, it would take over 4 Earths to produce the renewable resources and absorb the wastes needed to support us.4
  • Each additional American requires about 1 acre of urbanization and highways, which means less land is available for growing food.5
  • Although the average American consumes roughly the same amount of energy as 30 years ago, the U.S. population has increased over 30%.  This has led to total U.S. energy consumption rising 25%.6
  • At the current population growth rate, the U.S. population will double in the next 100 years.  That will mean more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution of land, water, and air; less open land; more overcrowding; and more species loss and habitat destruction. 
  • Overpopulation has diluted American representative democracy.  In 1790 each member of the House of Representatives represented about 34,000 people. Today, each member represents over 735,000.7
  • The average American is responsible for over 3 times the greenhouse gas emissions of the global average.8
  • U.S. natural resources are increasingly depleted and polluted:
  • The California Central Valley produces 1/4 of U.S. food.  The Central Valley Aquifer loses the water equivalent of 1 Lake Mead - the largest reservoir in the U.S. - each year.9
  • The Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to 40 million people in 7 states, lost the water equivalent of 2 Lake Meads in the past 10 years.10
  • Due to high levels of agricultural and urban pollution runoff, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the majority of streams and rivers in the U.S. cannot support healthy aquatic life.11
  • Half of Iowa topsoil has been lost in the past 150 years. Today, Iowa topsoil is being lost 16 times faster than soil is naturally created.12
  • One in five plant and animal species in the United States - nearly 1,300 total species - is at risk of extinction.13
  • The average American consumes a much larger amount of total resources than the average person from a developing country. For example, the average American uses the energy resources of 17 people from India.14
  • According to a recent Gallup survey, 138 million adults worldwide would permanently migrate to the U.S. if they could.15
  • Fewer Americans = more ample resources, less pollution, and healthier ecosystems. Smaller American families can help give the U.S. - and the world - a more sustainable future. 

 

1 - U.S. Census. Accessed January, 2016. census.gov/topics/population.html
2 - Global Footprint Network.  Accessed December, 2015. footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/trends/united_states_of_america/.
3 - Global Footprint Network. Accessed January, 2016. footprintnetwork.org/pt/index.php/GFN/page/state_of_states_press_release/.
4 - Per Square Mile. Accessed January, 2016. persquaremile.com/2012/08/08/if-the-worlds-population-lived-like/.
5 - Pimentel,David. Global economic and environmental aspects of biofuels.  Boca Raton, London, New York: CRC Press. 2012.
6 - U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Energy Information Administration data.
7 - U.S. Census 2010. Accessed January, 2016.  census.gov/2010census/data/apportionment-data.php.
8 -  Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. "CO2 time series 1990-2014 per capita for world countries". Accessed January, 2016.
9 - Famiglietti, J. S., M. Lo, S. L. Ho, J. Bethune, K. J. Anderson, T. H. Syed, S. C. Swenson, C. R. de Linage, and M. Rodell. “Satellites measure recent rates of groundwater depletion in California's Central Valley”. Geophysical Research Letters. Volume 38, Issue 3, February, 2011. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1029/2010GL046442/full.
10 - Castle, S. L., B. F. Thomas, J. T. Reager, M. Rodell, S. C. Swenson, and J. S. Famiglietti. “Groundwater depletion during drought threatens future water security of the Colorado River Basin”. Geophysical Research Letters. Volume 41, Issue 16, August 2014. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL061055/abstract.
11 - United States Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed January, 2016. epa.gov/national-aquatic-resource-surveys/national-rivers-and-streams-assessment-2008-2009-results.
12 - Environmental Working Group.  Accessed January, 2016. ewg.org/losingground/report/executive-summary.html.
13 - International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. “The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species” (2015), version 2015-3. iucnredlist.org.
14 - Population Reference Bureau. 2012 World Population Data Sheet. U.S. Energy Information Administration 2012.
15 - Gallup.com. Accessed January, 2016. gallup.com/poll/161435/100-million-worldwide-dream-life.aspx.