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The United States in the Wonderful World
December 28, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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A Path to a Better American Future

In the Wonderful World of One Billion I outlined a plan to get the world back on track for a thriving, sustainable human population. My current estimate of that population is one billion, but scientists might come up with a higher or lower target.

What would that mean for the United States? We currently have the highest carbon dioxide emissions per person of any nation in the world. Almost all of our arable land has been turned into fertilizer-dependent farms. We import vast quantities of goods from other nations to support our lifestyles. Clearly the population of the United States should be reduced at least as much, on a proportional basis, as the rest of the world.

The current world population estimate is 7.67 billion. One billion is 13% of that.

The current U.S. population estimate is 329 million. 13% of that is 43 million. The last time the U.S. population was 43 million was in the 1870s.

It sounds like a drastic reduction, but it isn't really. It can easily be reached by having an average of one child per family for a few generations. Really, 43 million is still a lot. The population of the U.S. in 1800, was about 5 million, less than one eighth of our goal.

What a wonderful nation the United States could be with 43 million people. Even if they all lived what is currently an upper middle-class lifestyle, carbon emissions would be well within reasonable limits.

Farmed land could be reduced about 87%. Food quality for humans could be much higher than it is today. Only truly productive areas with the best soil and weather would need to be farmed. The rest could be returned to nature. Species that have been driven to the edge today could flourish in expanded habitats.

The air could be clean, the water sparkling.

Every family could have nice housing, in cities or suburbs or in the countryside. We can keep up the nicer housing as the population shrinks, abandoning inferior buildings. Key infrastructure would be easy to keep up, but the excesses needed to supply 330 million people could be let go.

Of course there will be human opposition. Politicians do not want less people to rule over. Generals do not want less people to send to war or to order around in peacetime. Real estate sales people, construction companies, timber companies and any business person who want to sell more will be frightened.

Let's do it right. There is every reason to concentrate education resources to ensure that the first smaller generation of Americans is well-educated. Every reason to raise income at the bottom of the scale. There should be no need for poverty along the way. Disease and crime may not go away, but it should be possible to minimize them. Instead of seeing shrinking opportunities, each young person should be supported by a larger share of our national accumulated capital than past generations.

It is time to start the ball rolling. Many people still need to be convinced to have smaller families. Educational institutions, local, state and federal governments should all do studies to get a better idea of what is a sustainable population for the United States. Political and economic policies need to be changed so that the transition can be smooth. Families need more help with family planning and prevention of unwanted pregnancies.

We can get to the wonderful world. Just knowing our society has made the decision to go there, in partnership with the rest of the world, will give everyone reason to be optimistic about the future again.

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