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The Upper Midwest is home to three major metropolitan areas (Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Chicago, and Detroit) and hundreds of smaller cities. Each of these cities has an ecological footprint much larger than its land area. It is a common misconception that the space between these cities is "empty" because few people live there, but in fact the cities could not survive without many thousands of square miles devoted to farms, forests, and other natural resources.
The region also has immense freshwater resources in the Great Lakes and thousands of inland lakes that have been negatively impacted by increasing human population. Many lakes, rivers, and streams are being deprived of oxygen through excessive nutrient runoff from agriculture and industry. Much of this runoff keeps flowing down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico where it has created one of the largest "dead zones" in the world.
The rich soils of the region, which help feed the world's billions of people, have been eroding at an alarming rate. Over the past 150 years, Iowa farmland has lost half its topsoil! We are mining our fertile soils of their nutrients at an unsustainable rate.
At current population growth rates, Minnesota is due to double in about 100 years. This means people will have to double their infrastructure to provide homes, stores, schools, roads, and everything else!
This increase will drive vast amounts of some of the world's richest farmland to be paved over to accommodate the added millions. And this will put ever more pressure on existing farmland (much of which is declining in fertility) to provide for more and more people.