Learn from this population milestone

Two’s company, 300 million’s a crowd.

If you believe the Census Bureau, at 7:46 a.m. today, the U.S. population topped 300 million for the first time. We passed 200 million in 1967, which means the number of people in this country increased by 50 percent in just 39 years.

Where are all of those people living? Certainly not in Cleveland, which has seen its population plummet over a similar period.

No, they’re all living in the sprawling suburbs of cities like Dallas, Phoenix, Atlanta and Las Vegas, where vast swaths of virgin land provide opportunities for massive sub-divisions filled with big backyards and in-ground pools.

U.S. residents are not content anymore to live in cities, where two-bedroom apartments and row houses are considered roomy. We want three-car garages and media rooms and separate bathrooms for each of our kids.

Our closest big city, Cleveland, continues to suffer as residents flee to the far suburbs, where you don’t have to see or hear, much less interact with your neighbor. You don’t have to worry about grocery stores within walking distance — simply load up your SUV and haul everything 10 miles back to your posh ranch.

But how can we keep living and consuming like this? The Associated Press reported this week that while the population surged 50 percent, the number of households almost doubled and the number of vehicles more than doubled. We’re driving almost three times as many miles today as in 1967.

Simply put, Americans continue to consume more and more — land, trees, water, food and fuel.

We do have one of the highest reproductive rate of industrialized countries. And we also have plenty of immigrants — legal and illegal — eager to join us here. This editorial board isn’t talking about halting population growth. If people want to live here, they should.

That means we need urban planning that encourages people to walk rather than drive. Useful and affordable public transportation. Super-efficient vehicles. Alternative energy. Water and land conservation. Trees. It’s time to wake up.

Welcome, 300-millionth American. Barring a massive disaster, you’re likely to be living when the 400-millionth and 500-millionth Americans arrive.

Let’s hope we learn soon, or your life here won’t be very pleasant.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater Editorial board.