How Many Americans?: Population, Immigration and the Environment

by Leon F. Bouvier and Lindsey Grant

Sierra Club Books, 1994.

Read NPG President Donald Mann’s Review

In this tough-minded, lucid book, Leon Bouvier and Lindsey Grant examine the inevitable and escalating environmental degradation that will result if population growth pushes the limits of our already strained environmental carrying capacity. If we are already grappling with dirty air, poisoned water, destruction of forests, the loss of topsoil, vanishing species, and the deterioration of cities, with the gap between rich and poor growing ever wider, what will the next century be like aswe grow from 260 to 400 million? 

The prospects the authors describe are not pretty ones. Because of our energy-demanding consumption-driven economy, the United States is the leading source of two of the gravest threats to life on this planet – acid precipitation and climatic warming. Given the disproportionate damage we as Americans create, the authors call for appropriate attention to the difficult issues raised by population questions. 

Analyzing current andprojected rates of fertility, mortality and migration, Bouvier and Grant forecast various population scenarios and conclude that low fertility rates alone will not solve our population problem. They recommend lower immigration levels to achieve environmental sustainability in the twenty-first century. Arguing with compassion and concern for the less fortunate in other countries, the authors point out ways the United States could support population-reducing policies abroad and promote the empowerment of women in decisions affecting family size. At the same time, they urge Americans to act responsibly toward our own future, here, at home. 

In the increasingly heated debate over immigration, the reasoned, unflinching, progressive voice of How Many Americans? is sure to play a pivotal role. 

“This book asks questions long overdue. Do we want 400 million Americans? Fifty million Californians? If ‘all great truths begin as heresy,’ this is a heretical — but desperately important — book.”
-Richard D. Lamm,
Former Governor of Colorado

“The future is unbearably grim unless corrective measures are now taken, largely in the form of sharply reducing current legal immigration levels (now about a million a year), while taking strong steps for bringing illegal immigration to a halt… How Many Americans? has several distinctive attributes, aside from its important message: it is well written, well organized, commendably succint, and above all, concludes with positive, specific solutions.”

-Marshall Green
Former Assistant Secretary of State and Chair,
National Security Council Task Force on Population

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