I believe the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement must include a sixth goal, to follow “Sound Land Use,” and I propose that it read as follows:
No matter how well we succeed in mitigating the adverse effects of continued population growth by the actions under “Sound Land Use,” we cannot eliminate those effects. A 30 percent reduction in the rate of conversion of forest and agricultural lands to development, for example, means only that we will reduce by 30 percent the rate at which new development caused partly by growth continues by many routes to degrade the Bay.
This means that if watershed population growth continues, the most we can hope to achieve by all our best efforts is that the Bay will die a slower death instead of a quicker one.
Until now, we have treated growth as a given, something no more under human control than the weather. We can no longer afford to.
We have made progress despite the challenge of growth because we have taken remedial actions, such as banning phosphates in detergents, that have made big differences in our per-person impacts on the Bay.
As the population grows, we will run out of these and other tolerably easy remedies, and have nothing left but remedies that are expensive or severely inconvenient or both and yet make only a small difference to the Bay. That is when continued population growth will overwhelm our best efforts to restore the Bay, or to even prevent its continued decline.
It may be argued that population growth could take decades to overwhelm our efforts to mitigate its effects. Even if that is true, we must begin actions now to slow growth, because those actions will take decades to make a difference.
Goal: Explore acceptable measures to slow watershed population growth
State Level: In 2000, each state will appoint a commission on population policy to recommend measures to slow population growth in the state. Measures they might consider include:
Sponsoring public forums and other efforts to educate the public and public officials about population issues;
Ensuring that public schools teach about population issues and human reproduction;
Making sure that contraception is easily available and affordable to all;
Improving educational and occupational opportunities for young women with low-incomes to provide alternatives to early child-bearing;
Making adoption easier and less expensive to provide an alternative to child-bearing;
Limiting income tax exemptions to two children (primarily as a way of declaring a small family ideal);
Sharply curtailing the practice of offering tax breaks and subsidies to attract businesses to locate in the state. (This would also avoid attracting job-seekers.); and
Limiting total residential development in a jurisdiction.
National Level: Recognizing that much of the potential growth in the watershed stems from migration, we call on the Congress to adopt policies to slow U.S. population growth. (We note that President Nixon’s Commission on Population Growth and the American Future concluded in 1972 that “no substantial benefits will result from further growth of the Nation’s population.”)