The Next Added 100 Million Americans - Part 10: How and why journalists avoid population connection
By Frosty Wooldridge on (Apr 20, 07)

Why do you suppose most Americans remain apathetic to our adding 100 million people to our country in 33 years?


Is anyone in favor of more gridlock, cramming, jamming and congestion in our cities? Who stands in favor of more air pollution created by that extra 100 million? Who in their right mind supports water shortages, climate change, accelerated gridlock and worse ramifications caused by more people? Surprise! More than a few readers of this series refute the harsh realities presented.


Four years ago, I personally called U.S. Congressman Chris Cannon, (R-UT). He said, “America can easily hold one billion people.”


I nearly fell out of my chair. It’s almost beyond my understanding that anyone can be that stupid.


How do Americans live in denial? For the life of me, I don’t understand.


The imminent writer T. Michael Maher said, “Recent surveys show that Americans are less concerned about population than they were 25 years ago, and they aren’t connecting environmental degradation to population growth.


“Using a random sample of 150 stories about urban sprawl, endangered species and water shortages, Part I of this study shows that only about one story in 10 framed population growth as a source of the problem. Further, only one story in the entire sample mentioned population stability among the realm of possible solutions. Part II presents the results of interviews with 25 journalists whose stories on local environmental problems omitted the causal role of population growth. It shows that journalists are aware of the controversial nature of the population issue, and prefer to avoid it if possible.”


Maher continued, “In 1992 the National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society issued a joint statement urging world leaders to brake population growth before it is too late. That same year, 1,600 scientists (including 99 Nobel laureates) issued a statement warning all humanity that it must soon stabilize population and halt environmental destruction. That same year, world leaders ignored population growth at the largest environmental summit in history, the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro.


“Why are the American public and political leaders so indifferent about this issue that so concerns the world’s leading scientists and environmentalists? Not because Americans are anti-environment: Another recent Gallup Poll (Hueber, 1991), showed that 78 percent of Americans considered themselves environmentalists and 71 percent favored strong environmental protection, even at the expense of economic growth. How can Americans express strong concern about the environment, yet a diminishing concern about population growth, which many environmental experts consider the ultimate environmental problem?”


I see a disconnect from reality based on our history of unlimited resources, land, water and air. We continue with the myth of limitless expansion. If we ignore it, like a child that places his/her hands over its eyes, the bad thing will vanish. If we ignore the ‘monster’ called too many people, since it’s not killing us today, it can be ignored.


Maher explained, “Population researchers Paul and Anne Ehrlich opened their book, “The Population Explosion,” with a chapter titled, “Why Isn’t Everyone as Scared as We Are?” They acknowledged, “The average person, even the average scientist, seldom makes the connection between environmental problems and the population problem, and thus remains unworried.” But while they noted that the evening news almost never connects population growth to environmental problems, the Ehrlichs chiefly blamed social taboos fostered by the Catholic Church and “a colossal failure of education” for public indifference about population.”


How Experts Frame Environmental Causality


Maher reported, “With specific reference to habitat loss, Sears (1956), Jackson (1981), Myers (1991), Ehrlich and Ehrlich (1990), Harrison (1992) and many others have shown that population growth pushes people into relatively pristine, natural environments. Endangered species problems are frequently the flip side of this coin: when people convert wildlife habitat to their own habitat, they bulldoze trees, introduce chemicals, divert streams, build dams, alter the water table, and disrupt habitat in numerous other ways.


“While it is well known that environmental experts connect environmental degradation to population growth, it is less well known that land developers are equally straightforward in implicating population growth as a causal agent for turning wildlife habitat and farmland into subdivisions.”


Maher said, “The search produced 1,349 water shortage stories, 1,942 urban sprawl stories, and 6,001 endangered species stories. To be considered for coding, the story had to describe a population-driven environmental conflict.


“Of the 150-article sample, 16 (less than 11%) mentioned population growth as a cause of the environmental problem described in the story. Population growth appeared in eight urban sprawl stories, seven water shortage stories, and one story on endangered species.


“Although many scientific groups, environmental scientists and even land development experts agree that population growth is a basic cause of environmental change, media framing diverges widely from expert framing. Just over 10% of a Lexis-Nexis sample of environmental news stories links human population growth to the environmental problems it affects. Even more significantly, only one story in a sample of 150 presents the view that limiting population growth might be a solution to environmental problems. Such stories effectively tell the reader: population growth affects environmental degradation, but population stability is too outlandish even to be mentioned as a policy option.”


Ignoring that a stable population might be a long-term solution to environmental problems, news stories instead direct the public’s attention to palliative solutions: build new dams to supply water, zone to prevent urban sprawl, set aside land for endangered species. In my state of Colorado, the governor built more dams, created more light rail and built more lanes on I-25. His actions caused more growth that will ‘hit the wall’ once another six million people add themselves to Colorado.


“In thousands of communities across America, population growth wreaks changes: a mobile home park displaces an orchard, a farmer loses his water rights to a city hundreds of miles away, an endangered reptile’s last known habitat is threatened by a subdivision,” Maher said. “These and countless other population-influenced disruptions reduce wildlife habitat, rural solitude, water availability, and many other environmental qualities. But this study shows that only one news story in 10 connects these events to population growth.”


In plain English, those writers entrusted with informing the American public, pass the buck. In the meantime, your U.S. Senate proceeds to not only continue massive illegal and legal immigration, the new S.B. 9 doubles the current 1 million legal immigrants annually to 2 million! No one understands the horrendous consequences, but I do and you do. It won’t be pretty when this “Human Katrina” of 100 million more Americans hits a mere 33 years from now.


By Frosty Wooldridge on Apr 20, 07
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