The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau show a fact I find startling: More babies were born in 2007 than even during the height of the baby boom.
The figures, printed in USA Today, are preliminary, but show a 4.32 million-baby tally for 2007, more than the 4.30 million babies born in 1957.
Experts quoted in the story say it still only amounts to a "boomlet" because the trend in increased births is only growing at a single-digit pace. And the 2.1-child per woman average means that the U.S. isn't doing much more than replacing its population.
Still, 4.32 million new children in the country is a reminder that we have to provide for a new and growing generation. Daily, we're reminded about dwindling supplies of oil and even water, the consequences of a deteriorating climate, as extreme weather takes its toll, and record-high food prices.
Population is the biggest environmental issue that is spoken about the least. No one wants to be told they shouldn't have children. For good reason: It's part of being human. But the growing world population puts a huge strain on natural resources, and the standard of living we've become accustomed to is made possible only because we've pumped up finite fossil fuels to fuel our economy. We've run down that account, and unwittingly bought a climate crisis in the process.
Gloom-and-doom prophets have been warning of impending crisis from overpopulation for decades, and we've arguably averted crisis through technological innovation in most every case. The question remains, however: What is the Earth's carrying capacity?
The next time you hear a scientist talk about the state of the planet as he or she envisions it at the end of the 21st century, remember that many of the 4.3 million babies born last year are likely to live in that world.
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