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ISSUE 120 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/27/2006

Population runs amok

By Nicole Zepper
Staff Writer

Friday, October 27, 2006

This past week, as fall break came to a close and Oles across the country were begrudgingly making their way back to the Hill, something exceptional happened. On Oct. 17, 2006 the estimated population of the United States reached a new peak of 300 million.

Clearly, this is a significant and potentially congratulatory moment in our nation’s history. The last time our nation had such cause to celebrate was when the 200 millionth citizen joined our ranks in 1967. And actually, since almost all of us current St. Olaf students weren’t alive at that point, one could argue that we are each partially responsible for helping our country to move beyond that point and to subsequently reach the 300 million mark. Thanks to our help, we now share the land of the free and the home of the brave with 299,999,999 other red-blooded Americans. There’s no denying the excitement and overall united feeling that inherently accompanies this collective achievement.

However, before we start patting ourselves on the back and passing around the apple pie, perhaps we ought to take a moment to re-evaluate the status of our population. After all, we wouldn’t want to get carried away; there are real ramifications that go along with an ever-increasing populace, and at a moment like this, it would certainly be prudent to take them into consideration.

First of all, there is the practical issue of space. The total land area of the United States is approximately 3,537,438 square miles. At 300 million people, that equates to almost 85 people per square mile or 327,981 square feet per person. That may not seem very crowded to those of us who are used to sharing a 12 by 12-foot dorm room with someone, but let’s be honest. If you could somehow convince those other 84 people to move to Canada, wouldn’t you want that whole square mile to yourself? Think about it. There are lots of fun things you could do with one square mile of land, such as own and operate a sizable ranch or build a celebrity-style home.

And what about our roads? The U.S. highway network consists of approximately four million miles of roads and streets. Divided among our country’s 300 million inhabitants, that comes out to a mere 70 feet of pavement per person. Granted, not everyone has a car, and even if they did, everyone would probably not be driving at the same time, but there are days during rush hour in the cities when it sure feels like they are. Do you really want to see more people merging into the lane ahead of you on our already busy roads?

Then, of course, there is the matter of sharing everything else. Based upon an even distribution of all 300 million Americans, we are currently sharing each McDonald’s restaurant with about 22,500 other hungry people, each Starbucks with 25,000 caffeine junkies and each Wal-Mart with 101,729 fellow bargain shoppers. Do we really want more disoriented people roaming the aisles as they attempt to fill their shopping carts with low-priced merchandise or holding up the line as they try to make the crucial decision between a tall caramel macchiato and a grande chai crème Frappuccino? In fact, one need not look far to witness the adverse consequences of our plentiful population. Any Ole who has ever stood in line by the POs, waiting to get into the Caf or has experienced a clean-cup-shortage-induced fit of rage understands that the problem of overpopulation is a seriously vexing one.

At the rate at which our country is currently growing, the population is projected to reach 400 million in the year 2043. While I have no qualms about the rights of any individual to enjoy their fair share of life, liberty and the pursuit of the American dream, as a whole I think enough is enough, and 300 million is more than enough. I’m not necessarily advocating a government freeze on immigration or some kind of law against babies; I just think we would all be a little bit happier and a lot less claustrophobic if we gave the whole increasing-population act a rest. In the legendary words of America’s favorite game show host, Bob Barker, “Please everyone, help control the population. Remember to have your pets spayed or neutered.”

Staff Writer Nicole Zepper is a junior from Perham, Minn. She majors in English and in religion.

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