OP-ED: Are you tired of watching America's natural landscapes disappear?
America's population is soaring. Our nation currently houses 330 million people. And each year, that number grows by 2 million. By 2065, more than 440 million people may call the United States home.
This explosive growth threatens everything Americans hold dear, including our open spaces, pristine air and water, and abundant wildlife. Much of the natural landscape around us is being subdivided and paved over. Farms are turning into shopping centers. Meadows are giving way to housing developments.
Fortunately, two senators — Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Tom Udall, D-N.M. — recently introduced a resolution that could help conserve the environment. Senate Resolution 32, otherwise known as the "30 by 30" resolution, urges the federal government to "establish a national goal of conserving at least 30% of the land and ocean of the United States by 2030."
This resolution couldn't have come at a better time. America loses 1.5 million acres of natural land per year. Development has destroyed half of our wetlands. More than 12,000 plant and animal species are currently at risk of extinction. Our oceans have seen dramatic reductions in coral reefs, mangroves and fishes. And nearly a third of North American birds have disappeared since 1970.
Overdevelopment exacerbates the effects of climate change by pushing communities into floodplains and fire-prone areas. If we don't act now, the adverse consequences of warming — including more frequent and intense wildfires, storms, and floods — will ravage the United States in the future.
To combat this looming catastrophe, the resolution calls for a cooperative conservation effort between the federal government, states, local communities, Native American tribes and private landowners. That's the right approach — we are all in this together, and we all have to work together to address the challenge of overdevelopment.
Overall, the United States adds enough people to create a new Los Angeles County — about 10 million people — every few years. Pew Research predicts that America will add another 25 million people by 2030.
In other words, many open spaces will transform into endless urban sprawl.
Combatting overpopulation and overdevelopment is the single best way to protect the environment. Globally, the human population is predicted to increase from 7.7 billion currently to 8.6 billion by 2030 and 9.8 billion by 2050. Unless we act now, the resulting voracious demand for land and natural resources will likely result in a sixth mass extinction of plants and animals.
Given the sheer political chaos we see in Washington, D.C., every single day, it's not just refreshing but inspiring, seeing a vision put forward like Senate Resolution 32. It's time for all environmentalists to voice their support for the effort.
Gary Wockner is a scientist and conservationist based in Colorado. Follow him on Twitter, @GaryWockner.