On October 17, 2006 U.S. population numbers officially reached the 300 million mark. Images from that day include a group of people clustered around a population clock in the nation’s capitol, applauding as the number surpass 300 million; a New York Times editorial stating that the 300 millionth person should receive a bouquet and a thank-you card; a statement from the Secretary of Commerce to the effect that America’s growing population is good for the economy and necessary to enable the support of aging populations; and an Associated Press article noting that the 400 million party is likely less than four decades away. Overall the press coverage presented a celebration of a milestone reached.
In all the celebration, the potential negative aspects of growing population numbers were given virtually no attention in the popular media. Yet, as memory of recent events fades, and as numbers continue to quietly advance toward 400 million and beyond, it is worth thinking a bit about what these population numbers imply. There are some tough questions about population that need to be answered in the United States, and now is as good a time as any to start asking them.