David Brower was a widely celebrated activist conservationist who steered environmental organizations and led campaigns to save the Grand Canyon and other unique places. He also declared to a stubborn Sierra Club, “The leadership are fooling themselves. Overpopulation is a very serious problem, and overimmigration is a big part of it. We must address both. We can’t ignore either.”
Senator Gaylord Nelson was a voice for the wilderness inside the halls of power. He also founded Earth Day and believed that a population policy that included immigration limits was central to protecting America’s natural heritage, saying, “The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become… The United Nations, with the U.S. supporting it, took the position in Cairo in 1994 that every country was responsible for stabilizing its own population. It can be done. But in this country, it’s phony to say ‘I’m for the environment but not for limiting immigration.’ “
Certainly the subject matter of Friday’s segment was important — that excessive immigration is destroying America’s natural treasures, not to mention severely taxing resources like water supply and farm production to maintain human life. But erasing conservationist history serves no one.
On the subject of true environmental history, Professor Cafaro carefully evaded the reason for the Sierra Club’s reticence, saying, “for complex reasons and really starting about 20 years ago environmental leaders dropped the ball on population.”
“Complex reasons”?? How about a $100 million secret bribe given to the Sierra Club on the proviso that immigration would not be mentioned as an environmental factor. It should have been a major scandal, but the left press and correcto environmentalists won’t repeat that evil truth even now that Wall Street investor David Gelbaum gave a generous donation with strings attached. As reported in the Los Angeles Times (The Man behind the Land, Oct 27, 2004), Gelbaum said, “I did tell [Executive Director] Carl Pope in 1994 or 1995 that if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me.”
The Sierra Club had previously been an immigration realist until the secret money changed management’s mind. A group of traditional members got together in 1996 to reverse the bad policy using the club’s democratic process by bringing the issue before the membership for a vote. We were surprised at the ferocity of management against our reasonable initiative to return the club to its earlier position, not knowing that a lot of money was involved. We got three like-minded individuals elected to the Sierra Club board over 2002-03, and when it looked like population sanity might prevail with a possible election majority, the Sierra old guard’s character assassination became very shrill. And then the Gelbaum bribe was revealed.
For lots of gory details, see my Sierra Club series in Vdare.
So anyway, back to Cafaro, it’s quite amazing that liberals are still covering up for the corrupt post-environmental Sierra Club more than a decade after the immigration controversy.
However, the treatment of the struggle for reform in the Sierra Club starting in 1998 leaves out vital elements, and they are important. Were any of the reformers interviewed? Apparently not. The book quotes Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope as saying that he had once believed that immigration should be reduced for environmental reasons, but that the issue could not be debated in the organization “without stirring up racial passions.”Here’s the interview. The actual facts about immigration and population growth are important, although there are distractions. The immigration part starts at 1:25:
TUCKER CARLSON: The President is pushing for restricting immigration into the United States, focusing on the alleged economic, criminal and cultural problems caused by heavy immigration here, but those aren’t the only reasons you might oppose mass immigration: what about the classic liberal cause of protecting the environment? Phil Cafaro is a philosophy professor at Colorado State University; he’s the author of the book “How Many Is Too Many?” the progressive argument for reducing immigration into the United States. Professor Cafaro joins us tonight. . .
It seems I was looking for you for a year because when I was a kid — there were liberals and sincere liberals, progressives who said, no I’m not against immigrants or anything but too many people is bad for the environment — it seemed an obvious point I can’t find anybody on the left who says that, other than you. What’s your argument?
PHILIP CAFARO: Well the argument is relatively straightforward, Tucker, immigration currently is driving US population growth and population growth is a big part of many of our environmental problems in the United States, so part of the progressive argument has to do with with that if you care about creating a sustainable environment, you need to look at immigration driven population growth.
CARLSON: Yeah because you don’t go to midtown Manhattan for nature, you go to Yellowstone because there are fewer people there. I mean it seems an obvious point wise. Is the Sierra Club and the NRDC pushing for reductions in immigration?
CAFARO: Well I mean years ago if you go back to the 70s and even into the 1980s the Sierra Club did have a policy that the US should reduce immigration to levels that would stabilize the US population but over time that got to be a harder and harder argument to make for complex reasons and really starting about 20 years ago environmental leaders dropped the ball on population, so there are quite a few of us though who still believe it’s an important component of sustainability and we’re trying to make that case.
CARLSON: Crowded countries are dirty, all of them, it’s obvious if you travel. So what does our population look like if current trends continue say 100 years from now? What are the effects on the environment be in the population be?
CAFARO: Well currently our population is 326 million people in the United States, and if we keep immigration levels where they are, we’re on track to add 200 million more people by 2100 so that would put us at about 525 million people. On the other hand if we reduced
CARLSON: Wait, wait, We’re on track to be the 500 million by the end of of when, in how long?
CAFARO: By 2100.
CARLSON: By the end of this century?
CAFARO: By the end of this century, that’s right, and most of that population growth is driven by immigration. if we could simply cut back to the levels of immigration we had 50 years ago, we’d be on track to stabilize our population in a few decades; so basically what’s happened is the American people have chosen to stabilize our population. We’re having about enough children to replace ourselves, but Congress has increased immigration in recent decades, and so we’re on track to add hundreds of millions of more people and of course that has a pretty large environmental impact, whether you’re talking about greenhouse gas emissions, sprawl on loss or wildlife habitat. People make a difference.
CARLSON: Five hundred million people by the end of this century, so if you’re watching, your children will live in a country with 500 million people — that’s a remarkable number. Professor I hope you’ll come back. I’m sure you take a lot of crap for saying stuff like that on the left but good for you for doing it anyway.