TUSCON, Ariz. – This New Year’s Eve there are more than 322 million people in the United States — 2.5 million more than the number that rang in the New Year in 2015, according the U.S. Census Bureau. Among the states that crossed population milestones this year are North Carolina, the ninth state to reach 10 million people, and Florida, which became the third state with more than 20 million people.
The United Nations predicts the U.S. population could hit 389 million by 2050.
“We’re growing by nearly 7,000 people a day and rapidly squeezing out wildlife across the country,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The cost of this runaway growth — whether it’s bulldozed habitat, polluted waterways or a worsening climate — is more than endangered species and our remaining wilderness can afford.”
North Carolina is home to endangered red wolves whose recovery program was stalled earlier this year with only 100 animals left in the wild. In Florida, which surpassed New York a year ago as the third most populous state, Miami tiger beetles living in pine rocklands that are threatened by a planned strip mall (with a Walmart and proposed theme park) were recently proposed for Endangered Species Act protection.
There are a number of steps states can take to begin to address population-related problems, including improving access to family planning, contraception and reproductive healthcare and integrating comprehensive sex education into schools. Options also include enhancing smart growth policies that protect habitat and coastal ecosystems, create room for species to move inland, and embrace renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“We’ve seen so many attacks on family planning this year, while more than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended,” said Feldstein. “Our New Year’s resolution for people, wildlife and the planet should be to make sure everyone has the tools and information to choose if, when and how many children they want to have.”
The Center distributed 40,000 free Endangered Species Condoms over the holiday season to encourage people to talk about the effects of runaway human population growth on wildlife and the environment. Volunteers handed out the condoms at office parties and as stocking stuffers and plan to give them away at New Year’s Eve celebrations across the country. The Center has given away more than 600,000 condoms since 2009.