October 28, 2007
Human Migrations Into Wilderness Areas

The wilderness areas around US national forests and parks are going to see a huge surge in human populations in the next 50 years.

PORTLAND, Ore. October 25, 2007. America’s national forests and grasslands provide the largest single source of freshwater in the United States, habitat for a third of all federally listed threatened or endangered species, and recreation opportunities for people (about 205 million visits are made annually to national forests).

These and other benefits could be altered by increased housing growth. The population of the United States is projected to increase by 135 million people between 2000 and 2050. Americans are moving closer to national forests and other public lands because of the amenities they provide. As a result, housing density is expected to increase on more than 21.7 million acres of rural private lands located within 10 miles of national forests and grasslands by 2030, according to a recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.

“Forests, farms, ranches, and other open spaces are rapidly being developed as more people are choosing to live at the urban fringe and in scenic, rural areas,” says Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell. “This development is affecting our ability to manage national forests and grasslands as well as our ability to help private landowners and communities manage their land for public benefits and ecosystem services.”

The full report is downloadable as a couple of PDFs.

Modest proposal: Put a halt to immigration and prevent most of that projected population growth. America doesn't need more people. Neither does the rest of the world. Adding a few billion more to the entire world's human population will only lower our quality of life and drive many species to extinction. More people means bigger footprints of land used by humans rather than wildlife. More people means more competition for dwindling fossil fuels and other resources. More people means more crowded highways and more polluted air.

Humans are driving lots of species extinct.

Hainan, China – Mankind’s closest living relatives – the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and other primates – are under unprecedented threat from destruction of tropical forests, illegal wildlife trade and commercial bushmeat hunting, with 29 percent of all species in danger of going extinct, according to a new report by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS), in collaboration with Conservation International (CI).

Titled Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates—2006–2008, the report compiled by 60 experts from 21 countries warns that failure to respond to the mounting threats now exacerbated by climate change will bring the first primate extinctions in more than a century. Overall, 114 of the world’s 394 primate species are classified as threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List.

Hunters kill primates for food and to sell the meat; traders capture them for live sale; and loggers, farmers, and land developers destroy their habitat. One species, Miss Waldron’s red colobus of Ivory Coast and Ghana, already is feared extinct, while the golden-headed langur of Vietnam and China’s Hainan gibbon number only in the dozens. The Horton Plains slender loris of Sri Lanka has been sighted just four times since 1937.

Many of these endangered species are doomed.

All the people who imagine themselves as greens for advocating biomass energy need to wake up. Lands cleared of tropical forests to make room for agriculture expansion are a major cause of habitat loss. Clearing loands to grow more sugar cane for ethanol just makes that problem worse.

Habitat loss due to the clearing of tropical forests for agriculture, logging, and the collection of fuel wood continues to be the major factor in the declining number of primates, according to the report. Tropical deforestation also emits 20 percent of total greenhouse gases that cause climate change, which is more than all the world’s cars, trucks, trains and airplanes combined.

See the bottom of this page for pictures of threatened species.

A new UN report sees only unfavorable trends on major issues related to nature.

Since 1987 annual emissions of carbon dioxide—the leading greenhouse gas warming the globe—have risen by a third, global fishing yields have declined by 10.6 million metric tons and the amount of land required to sustain humanity has swelled to more than 54 acres (22 hectares) per person. Yet, Earth can provide only roughly 39 acres (15 hectares) for every person living today, according to the United Nation's Environmental Program's (UNEP) Global Environment Outlook, released this week. "There are no major issues," the report's authors write of the period since their first report in 1987, "for which the foreseeable trends are favorable."

The BBC has some graphs and tables from the Global Environment Outlook. Check out the Biodiversity Ecosystems map for where the damage is greatest. They also have the Global Environment Outlook itself (PDF).

UNEP expects a combination of population growth and rising affluence will triple demand for food. Well, bye bye other species. Good bye animals. Make room for an explosion of human demand on habitats all over the world.

When will environmentalists wake up and remember how back in the 1970s they understood that human population growth is a big problem? When will they regain this lost knowledge?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 October 28 05:01 PM  Trends Demographic


Comments
Jake said at October 28, 2007 6:06 PM:

When prosperity comes to a country, births per thousand drops like a rock. Socialism and communism do not permit prosperity in those countries and they are the ones with population control and pollution problems.

The solution to that problem is for governments and NGOs not to give aid to those governments. Plus both must put pressure on those governments to adopt free market economies.

Prosperity is the answer to all the environmental problems you mentioned in third world countries.

Randall Parker said at October 28, 2007 7:13 PM:

Jake,

I disagree on two points. Sure, industrialization brings a decline in fertility. But beyond that I disagree.

The huge explosion of demand for food (a tripling) is going to happen because of industrialization. Prosperity is increasing the demand for land.

Some countries aren't going to industrialize with or without aid.

averros said at October 29, 2007 12:48 AM:

> When will environmentalists wake up and remember how back in the 1970s they understood that
> human population growth is a big problem? When will they regain this lost knowledge?

Dr. Malthus, come to the office.

Now, anyone who ever had a change to visit parts of the world which did implement population controls (requiring totalitarian enforcement with its attendant "externalities" of poverty and ubiquotous depleted commons) and compare the state of air and land over there with the prosperous places like US and EU, wouldn't buy into the Malthusian crap. Humans are not a problem. Collectivism is.

David Govett said at October 29, 2007 10:31 AM:

When a nation fills up with poorly educated illegals, however, birth rates drop like balsa wood.

guest said at October 29, 2007 10:58 AM:
The huge explosion of demand for food (a tripling) is going to happen because of industrialization. Prosperity is increasing the demand for land.

Some countries aren't going to industrialize with or without aid.

Wrong. Industrialized countries spend only about 10% of their total consumption on food, compared to over 50% for underdeveloped countries. This is hardly a "huge explosion" of demand.

Randall Parker said at October 29, 2007 6:08 PM:

guest,

You are missing the countries who are industrializing. When a country industrializes people shift toward eating more meat and less plant material. The meat requires some multiple of plant material as compared to humans just eating the plant material themselves. So the demand for crops explode.

averros,

China had a very high population density before population controls. Without population controls they'd have an even higher population density.

Dave Justus said at October 31, 2007 11:44 AM:

"Adding a few billion more to the entire world's human population will only lower our quality of life"

I don't think you can back this up. Certainly when there were a few billion less people then there are now, quality of life was lower not higher. Our quaility of life depend on human ideas and ingenuitity far more then it does just dividing up what already exists.

That doesn't mean we should simply destroy the environment of course, but our goal should be to find ways for more and more people to exits, while maintaining the environment.

Hunter-gather technology could never support anywhere near 6 billion people on earth, yet we have that many and have a better quality of life then they did (even in poor third world countries.) To imagine that human ingenuity cannot accommodate 12 billion with more quality of life, and a better environment seems silly.

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