Because I believe that environmental organizations have ducked the immigration-population issue too long, I am running for the board of directors of the Sierra Club. I am not part of a slate; I represent only myself and the issues I care deeply about.
One of the most important challenges
of public policy is to recognize when an old world is obsolete and
a new one in place. If I could have left anything carved on the
state capitol in Denver after my 12 years as governor, it would be
something like this: Beware of solutions appropriate to the past
but disastrous to the future.
A pressing environmental
question faces America: What is our demographic destiny? How big a
country do we want to become? How many people can live satisfied
lives within our borders? These issues will not go away and will
only grow more complicated. Environmental organizations must add
population and immigration to their list of issues and concerns. It
is environmental mal-practice not to, and the Sierra Club has never
faced up to this issue.
Our natural American birth rate
will lead to a stable population around 2050. But with the current
level of immigration our population will be approximately 500
million on its way to a billion. I have yet to meet an American who
wants one billion neighbors. What possible public policy advantage
would there be to an America of 500 million? Do we lack for people?
Do we have too much open space, parkland and recreation? What will
500 million Americans mean to our environment?
We have a
chance to stabilize America’s population or we can double it
and double it again: The key driver is immigration. If we continue
with our present policy of mass immigration (America takes twice as
many immigrants as the rest of the world combined) we will continue
to grow and grow and grow. The geometry is relentless.
The first census, 1790, found 4 million Europeans in America. In
1990, 200 years later, we had approximately 260 million Americans.
That means we had six doublings of the original European
population. (4,8,16,32,64,128, 256). Please note that two more
doublings (we have already had five in our short 200 years) gives
us over a billion people sharing America. Can you imagine an
America of one billion people that you would want to leave to your
Of course, immigration has been good for
America, and yes, we are all immigrants. But is that the extent and
depth of the argument? Population compounds every environmental
issue we face. Where will we draw inspiration when America is
paved, polluted and overpopulated?
approximately 5 billion people in the world who live below the
American poverty level, and polls show literally billions of them
want to come to America. Immigration is no longer a solution to the
problems of the world. The best gift this country could give to the
world would be to develop a sustainable, equitable, environmentally
benign nation that could serve as an example of sustainability to
the world. America before immigration "reform" averaged
approximately 250,000 immigrants a year. Returning to those
historic numbers would take a great step toward leaving our
children a sustainable America.
My candidacy, and the
candidacy of some other people -- whom I have never met, never
talked to, and never heard of -- has caused consternation among
some Sierra Club old-timers. For the record, I am not an
animal-rights activist but a hunter and fisherman who goes fishing
in Alaska on a regular basis. To those who charge that anyone
interested in immigration limits must be a racist, let me say that
I organized the NAACP at the University of California and served as
its first vice president. My first job out of law school was for
the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Commission, and I have received
numerous brotherhood awards. When we had little money, we paid for
my wife to go to Selma, Ala., to take part in a march for civil
rights to show our support.
It is past time for us to
move from name-calling and toward sustainability, and that means
addressing the twin questions of consumption and population. And it
is time that the Sierra Club confronted these issues.