Road to Overpopulation is Roads
We must keep overpopulation in our message when trying to save the land and lay the groundwork for sustainable, self-sufficient bioregional economies. Stopping roads in the U.S. is much harder with heavy immigration, if newcomers start driving cars. Modern migrants have lost much of their traditions, whereas such traditions were originally consonant with an ethic of caring for the land-not accumulating material wealth. - Jan Lundberg
by Virginia Abernethy
Roads are the principal means of migration, ever since first built thousands of years ago. Whatever the causes of migration, environmental, social and demographic changes result from the new population's presence.
When people have incentives or opportunities to reproduce without prior constraints-and when there is suddenly available land to exploit and new resources to draw upon-population growth ensues. Studies on Rwanda and Guatemala led Fossil Fuels Policy Action/APM to produce a paper demonstrating that "more roads equal more people." [See Population and Environment: Human Sciences Press, Sept. 1995. Also see Auto-Free Times, Issue #9, p. 31. - ed.].
Not only "If you build it, they will come" - they will also stay and have children. Economic stability creates conditions for increasing births. Therefore, economic growth-usually expansionist, altering the landscape through road building-is a questionable precept for turning around population growth. However, the 1994 U.N. Conference on Population and Development (emphasis added) called for economic growth as a major "solution" to stabilize population.
The United States is the fastest growing industrialized nation in population, and the most polluting and wasteful nation. Through fossil fuels primarily, the U.S. is destabilizing the global climate. Car ownership is our single biggest consumer activity blighting our cities and degrading our dwindling countryside.
If more roads equal more people, the U.S. is the first place to stop road building. The paving moratorium movement originated in the U.S. partly because the U.S. has massive influence on economic and environmental policy in nations rapidly destroying their forests.
Therefore, if population growth is a real problem in the U.S., all major contributing factors must be dealt with immediately. Stopping roads built to accommodate more Americans is the job.
In examining the sources of U.S. population growth, immigration causes just over 50 percent. Three-fourths of the immigration is legal, due to misguided and shortsighted policies of influential corporate interests and well-meaning "politically correct" liberals.
A few publications of integrity do explore all aspects of their field, regardless of trends in politics and industry. The Auto-Free Times and its predecessors, Paving Moratorium Update, Fossil Fuels Action Update, and EcoDemocracy, have never received complaints over coverage of U.S. overpopulation and immigration. Now the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium has broken new ground with its sound theory that more roads result in population growth.
(the following) by Jan Lundberg
Here are some key examples of growth that would not have otherwise happened. First, background on demography may be necessary: In Population Politics (Plenum Press, 1993), Virginia Abernethy debunked the 51-year-old "demographic transition" model, which assumes increased development and education limit family size.
Economic optimism or cash infusions that subsidize consumption seem only to fuel high fertility. Road building for the purpose of profitably exploiting nature is an example of generating conditions of such optimism, as well as the means and space-creation for high reproductivity.
"History provides numerous examples of fertility rising in response to expansion of the ecological niche," she wrote in Scientific American last year.
In Guatemala, the case of pioneer logger families shows how, after a virgin forest was opened to settlement, average family size was eight children. One patriarch "anticipates that his children's families will be of similar size" and expects also that the "forest will be there for them to clear." [From Critical Masses: The Global Population Challenge (Viking, 1994) by George Moffet, reviewed in the Scientific American by Abernethy (July, 1995)]
In Population and Environment (Mar. '95), John May reveals that densely
populated Rwanda has rapidly increased in population not only because of
a lack of birth control and other measures:
"Agricultural colonization" (through roads) and migration resulted in even greater density, and reducing nutrition per capita.Rwanda has tried to redistribute large populations to grow cash crops.
Demographic pressure induces conversion of pasture and forest lands-up to one quarter of Rwanda's forest-into cropland. (Roads enable the logs to be removed, villages set up, and crops to be hauled away and distributed.) Soil degradation results, reinforcing demographic pressure on natural resources, leading to more environmental degradation.
Meanwhile, as Abernethy points out, land made available delayed the decline of fertility as it allayed hunger for land. This removed any incentive to limit family size. Availability of land during agricultural colonization and intensification might have been conducive to higher fertility, May found. He says farm size boosts the number of living children, not by creating a demand for more children, but by increasing the supply of children through natural fertility and child survival.