The Sierra War In The American Spectator
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Peter Brimelow writes: After I was purged from National Review, Bob Tyrrell's American Spectator took what what I thought, perhaps wrongly, was a malicious glee in running my review of Pat Buchanan's trade book The Great Betrayal. (I said Buchanan should have focused on immigration, which he did subsequently in Death Of The West.) Here, TAS asked me to reply to RiShawn Biddle's rather orthodox account of the Sierra Club shootout.

[Originally published on the American Spectator website, 3/31/2004]

Re: RiShawn Biddle's Malthus's Quarreling Children (3/25/2004)

I read with nostalgia my fellow Forbes magazine alumnus RiShawn Biddle's attack on both sides in the Sierra Club civil war—the Old Guard, who want to keep the club as a handmaiden of the Democratic party, and the Insurgents, who think it should actually do something about the environment, specifically that it should work to cut immigration, which is now the dominant factor in U.S. population growth.

The immigration reform website I edit,, figures in this war because we have posted several articles on the Insurgents. The Old Guard is accordingly smearing them with our general lack of political correctness.

My nostalgia was triggered by RiShawn's attempt to cram this argument into the old, 1980s-style markets-solve-everything Forbes template.

Doesn't work, RiShawn. The point is not just that ecological catastrophe could possibly result if immigration drives the U.S. population up to 500 million by 2050. (That's the Census Bureau's High Series projection, the 394 million you comfortingly cite is merely its Middle Series projection.)

Of course, population growth can cause ecological catastrophe, as it did in Haiti. But the broader point is that this population growth will certainly result in a loss of amenity. There will be more sprawl, fewer trees. California will cease to be the Golden State and become the Golden Suburb.

It's a value judgment, RiShawn. You can't get around it by saying the market will make it workable. Environmentalists don't want it whether it's workable or not. In fact, a better word for them would be conservationists—a word that was once Republican territory, under Teddy Roosevelt.

Like RiShawn, I used to assume that environmentalists were just refugee socialists, looking for another excuse to push people around. And I still think that's true of the Sierra Club's Old Guard. But I was fascinated to discover, while traveling to promote my 1995 book Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster, that there really are genuine environmentalists (conservationists) out there. They just plain prefer trees, open space, to sprawl. Many of them are just not political people at all—which I think is true of many Sierra Insurgents.

An epochal issue like the need to do something about America's immigration disaster comes along every two or three generations. It cuts across all traditional political lines. It creates new alliances. Environmentalists (conservationists) are just one component of the immigration reform coalition. I'm glad they're there.

Peter Brimelow, editor of VDARE.COM and author of the much-denounced Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster (Random House - 1995) and The Worm in the Apple (HarperCollins - 2003)

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