TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Our Population Hits 300 Million on Tuesday

Our Population Hits 300 Million on Tuesday

Stephen Ohlemacher, AP (
Sat, 14 Oct 2006 22:18:45 -0500

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press Writer

America's population is on track to hit 300 million on Tuesday morning,
and it's causing a stir among environmentalists.

People in the United States are consuming more than ever -- more food,
more energy, more natural resources. Open spaces are shrinking and
traffic in many areas is dreadful.

But some experts argue that population growth only partly explains
America's growing consumption. Just as important, they say, is where
people live, what they drive and how far they travel to work.

"The pattern of population growth is really the most crucial thing,"
said Michael Replogle, transportation director for Environmental
Defense, a New York-based advocacy group.

"If the population grows in thriving existing communities, restoring
the historic density of older communities, we can easily sustain that
growth and create a more efficient economy without sacrificing the
environment," Replogle said.

That has not been the American way. Instead, the country has fed its
appetite for big houses, big yards, cul-de-sacs and strip malls. In a
word: sprawl.

"Because the U.S. has become a suburban nation, sprawl has become the
most predominant form of land use," said Vicky Markham, director of
the Center for Environment and Population, an advocacy group. "Sprawl
is, by definition, more spread out. That of course requires more
vehicles and more vehicle miles traveled."

America still has a lot of wide-open spaces, with about 84 people per
square mile, compared with about 300 people per square mile in the
European Union and almost 900 people per square mile in Japan.

But a little more than half the U.S. population is clustered in
counties along the coasts, including those along the Gulf of Mexico
and the Great Lakes. Also, much of the population is moving away from
large cities to the suburbs and beyond.

The fastest growing county is Flagler County, Fla., north of Daytona
Beach; the fastest growing city is Elk Grove, Calif., a suburb of
Sacramento; and the fastest growing metropolitan area is Riverside,
Calif., about 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

"In New York City, people tend to think of that as an urban jungle,
but the environmental impact per capita is quite low," said Carlos
Restrepo, a research scientist at New York University. "It tends to be
less than it is for someone who lives in the suburbs with a big house
where they need more than one car."

The Census Bureau projects that America's population will hit 300
million at 7:46 a.m. EDT Tuesday. The projection is based on estimates
for births, deaths and net immigration that add up to one new American
every 11 seconds.

The estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.
are included in official population estimates, though many
demographers believe they are undercounted.

The population reached its last milestone, 200 million, in 1967. That
translates into a 50 percent increase in 39 years.

During the same period, the number of households nearly doubled, the
number motor vehicles more than doubled and the miles driven in those
vehicles nearly tripled.

The average household size has shrunk from 3.3 people to 2.6 people,
and the share of households with only one person has jumped from less
than 16 percent to about 27 percent.

"The natural resource base that is required to support each person
keeps rising," Replogle said. "We're heating and cooling more space,
and the housing units are more spread out than ever before."

The U.S. is the third largest country in the world, behind China and
India. The U.S. is the fastest growing of the industrialized nations,
adding about 2.8 million people a year, or just under 1 percent. India
is growing faster but the United Nations considers it to be a less
developed country.

About 40 percent of U.S. population growth comes from immigration,
both legal and illegal, according to the Census Bureau. The rest comes
from births outnumbering deaths.

"It's not the population, it's the consumption that can do us in,"
said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a
Washington think tank. "These are the luxuries we have been able to
support until now. But we're not going to be able to do it forever."

On The Net:

Census Bureau population clock:

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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