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For 9 months, I’ve asked environmentalists why they don’t address immigration as population issue


For 9 months, I’ve had scores of conversations with environmental leaders and thinkers about immigration’s impact on the U.S. population and environment.

I heard some of this:

I hope the Trump administration is successful at reducing future immigration flows because such incessant population growth is inhibiting our ability to conserve other species’ habitats. But I won’t share this view publicly in today’s polarized political climate.” — a university editor of an environmental newsletter

I’m all in on population control in the US, have a bookshelf full of [population-environment] books here at home, and I’ve never lost sight of the firm connection between population growth and habitat loss and global warming. But it has been increasingly challenging to come out for immigration reductions as the number of right-wing racist crazies has increased.” — a leader in a national conservation groupp


As we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (in 2020), I’ve wanted to know why I’m not seeing much leadership from environmental groups, leaders and writers in supporting limits to immigration that would allow the U.S. population to stabilize in this century.

After all, the founder of Earth Day – Sen. Gaylord Nelson – (D-Wis.) was clear about the responsibility of environmentalists to address these issues:

The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become… We have to address the population issue. 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.'” — Gaylord Nelson, 2001 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

I’ve spent these last nine months in conversations with fellow environmentalists across several disciplines who understand our current state of global ecological overshoot and its axiomatic connection to the size and growth of human populations.

While most of the people I spoke with recognize immigration’s role in driving continued U.S. population growth and acknowledge that such growth undermines U.S. ecological sustainability, many of the same people refuse to publicly support limiting immigration as a necessary component of any plan to achieve U.S. population stabilization.

The quotes below are representative of most of the answers I got over these months of searching.

The people with whom I spoke knew I was with NumbersUSA. But I do not use their names or identify their organizations because I wish to shine a light on the overall thinking behind the overwhelming silence of so many, rather than criticize specific individuals (and their organizations) who were kind enough to talk candidly with me.

We are practically on the same page except for migration. I believe that, in the short term, in order to avoid a major humanitarian calamity, the global North must be more receptive to migration from the global South, albeit with proper filters for troublemakers.” — an editor of an environmental journal

“On the immigration issue, if climate scientists are anywhere close to correct, the world may live to see huge movements of people this century. Compassion is the only appropriate response to such potential massive suffering, not laws to shut people out or pretend it is someone else’s problem. I believe it is of paramount importance that we, environmentalists, steer fully clear of past mistakes of population controls and, relatedly, get a big chunk of the social justice contingent on our side. We should try to avoid recycling any past acrimonies and misunderstandings.” — a Southeast university author

. . . unsustainable human population numbers, overconsumption, and damaging resource extraction and production techniques are critical factors in the planetary extinction crisis, climate change and ocean acidification. However, because population, consumption and extraction/production are global issues that transcend national borders, we do not view national immigration policy as the appropriate target for addressing these issues.

“We do not oppose migration of people into the United States and do not support coercive population control measures of any kind. Immigration and the pursuit of better circumstances are basic human rights, and U.S. immigration policies should always be rooted in human dignity. While there is room for debate over the best methods to manage immigration, we do not view it as the way to address population growth, over-consumption, urban sprawl, unsustainable growth, and the effects they have on wildlife and the wild places they need to survive and thrive.” — a leader in a national ecology group

“[T]he idea that we should limit immigration into the US in order to combat this problem that we are contributing so extensively to worries me quite a bit. It feels like shutting the doors to protect our privilege, after we’ve done so much to make the world unlivable for some of the people trying to get in.

“[O]ne of the reasons we need to reduce fertility so aggressively in the developed (overdeveloped) world is so that we have room to do what justice demands, which is to let in refugees and those looking to improve their lot by taking advantage of our sunk carbon costs (infrastructure). This makes me unpopular with important allies, I know, as many overpopulation advocates are worried about immigration into high-consuming countries; but I think we get to work to correct one injustice through another injustice (one which, it so happens, protects those lucky few of us already on the inside of the right borders).” — a Northeast university author


“Is it in [anyone’s] interest to have a total societal collapse? No. If we want to prevent that we need to make some hard choices. Reduced immigration is important, but so is having fewer children.” — a leader in an environmental think tank

“The overwhelming view in international organizations — and that means most environmental groups as well as the UN (including UNEP), World Bank, etc. — is that population is an old and tired topic and can’t be engaged in without hints of blaming the victim to outright racism. It’s sad but real…For good or ill, when the immigration issue is added, the population issue becomes further tainted.” — a leader in a population organization

“I can’t get into the subject of immigration, which is important but about which I am personally conflicted since I have family members who are immigrants.” — an activist in a national population group

“[We don’t] engage on the issue of immigration because birds don’t recognize borders and immigration in our country won’t do anything for the bigger problem of world population…The immigrants who come here quickly learn to limit their families in order to have the chance to have the better life that fewer children can offer. Studies have shown that within a generation they learn that they don’t have to have huge families and become Americans. I actually heard that we, as a nation, have attained population stability.” — a leader in a state chapter


I conclude after these first 73 conversations that, nearly 50 years after the first Earth Day, the goal of U.S. population stabilization in pursuit of domestic ecological sustainability remains disturbingly elusive.

Of particular importance here is that many environmentalists don’t appear to value domestic ecological sustainability enough to publicly promote immigration policies that might make it possible, somehow viewing the population issue as a singular global issue rather than a widespread local one.

ROB HARDING is the NumbersUSA Sustainability Communications Manager


12 Comments on "For 9 months, I’ve asked environmentalists why they don’t address immigration as population issue"

  1. DMyers on Sun, 8th Jul 2018 7:13 pm 

    Immigration remains a highly conflicted subject. This article gives an original perspective. It’s a fair question to ask, should we oppose a phenomenon, immigration, that is at odds with the larger common goal of population stabilization?

    We sense here the conversion of immigration from a long-standing legal matter to a political one. And this newer outlook highlights that we continue to view the subject from its old characterization of immigrants coming to America to find their dreams and make some good money (never, of course, to join the welfare rolls).

    This obviously ignores the salient reality that America is no longer the land of opportunity that it used to be, because its former abundance has been greatly squandered, and its political and academic freedoms have been squashed by liberal neurosis and political correctness.

    No one seems to want to take on the immigration question, as they might seem racist or greedy. But at the same time, it is clear from the various quoted responses that these people do not see themselves as threatened by immigration. They see the immigrants as possibly a threat to certain unskilled workers but unable to infringe on their own livelihood.

    As soon as these people do sense immigration as having a negative impact on them personally, e.g., through potential job loss or living standard dilution, you will find them rapidly changing sides and seeing the need to limit immigration.

  2. Sissyfuss on Sun, 8th Jul 2018 8:55 pm 

    I tell progressives I’m anti immigration because I believe the planet is horrifically overpopulated and allowing countries to dump their excess so they can continue to overbreed is damaging to all parties.The look they give me is akin seeing a Martian for the first time. They don’t see the coming cliff or they refuse to see it. The narrative that humans are becoming a death sentence to the environment is too fantastic a possibility. We are not going to change, we are riding this train to the very end of the line.

  3. MASTERMIND on Sun, 8th Jul 2018 9:15 pm 


    And soon it will be every body off the train..And you won’t like the location..


  4. MASTERMIND on Sun, 8th Jul 2018 9:56 pm 

    I believe in open borders..Because drawing imaginary lines in the sand is stupid..And I want as many people as possible to overthrow the elites..

  5. DMyers on Sun, 8th Jul 2018 10:20 pm 

    MM, you think the common man or woman wants more immigrants to come in and take their jobs? Preposterous. The elites see the immigrants coming in as potential slaves and as a favorable political block, legal or not.

    The immigrants are mere fodder for the elites, not their nemesis.

  6. GregT on Sun, 8th Jul 2018 10:21 pm 

    “And soon it will be every body off the train..And you won’t like the location..”

    Not everyone lives in the same location as you do MM.

  7. Anonymouse1 on Mon, 9th Jul 2018 7:25 am 

    ‘mushmind’ lives with some goats in Missishiti uSa. He has claimed on a number of occasions that he is a….. ‘farmer’ of some description. However the sheer volume of time he spends flinging poo, cutting and pasting articles he understands only superficially, and on occasion, grinding out long, rambling diatribes no one reads, precludes any possibly of him being in engaged in ‘agriculture’ in any form whatsoever.

    I sometimes have to wonder, with all of davyturds time and energy focused on spamming this comment area non-stop, if those goats of his even receive the minimal food and water from him. I have little doubt, the ‘real’ exceptionalturds ‘farm’, is likely a genuine house of horrors.

  8. Davy on Mon, 9th Jul 2018 7:43 am 

    If Asperger comments you know the iron was struck hot. LMFAO at the extremist who dedicate nearly all there time to attacks on me. This is an example of victory over extremism and bad behavior.

  9. JuanP on Mon, 9th Jul 2018 8:08 am 

    Delusional Davy “If Asperger comments you know the iron was struck hot. LMFAO at the extremist who dedicate nearly all there time to attacks on me. This is an example of victory over extremism and bad behavior.”

    More insane rants from the board’s certified lunatic! Your idea, Exceptionalist, that you “moderate and neuter” others here is totally disconnected from reality. The only thing assholes like you prove beyond any reasonable doubt is that some Americans are the scum of the Earth and that the world is right in turning its back on you and your nation. It is exactly because of people like you that the USA is the most disliked country on the planet. You are a lowlife goat sucker! LOL!

  10. TurningPoint on Mon, 9th Jul 2018 10:01 am 

    I am Hispanic and I 100% the end of all immigration in this country. As my dad used to say, “we can’t be an immigration country forever.”

    I do not want to see the population of the state of California go above 40 million and I don’t want the population of this country to go much above what it already is. I don’t want a population of 500 million in this country. We’d start looking more third world.

    The problem I have is not so much with Trump’s policies so much as his tone. He’s a bigot. He’s obvious and outrageous about it. That’s not the direction I want to go.

    Very few people come from Mexico these days. Most of these people Trump put in cages are Central American and predominantly Indigenous. Mexican immigration is currently neutral, as many entering the country as leaving the country. The development of the Mexican economy through NAFTA is the reason for that.

    I want immigration to end but the best way to accomplish that goal would be to crack down hard on people who employ illegal aliens. If they can’t work here, the magnet that draws them here, there’s no reason to come.

  11. TurningPoint on Mon, 9th Jul 2018 10:03 am 

    BTW, in Mexico, they currently average about 1.3 kids per family now, or something like that. So their population will stop growing as fast in the coming decades.

  12. penury on Tue, 10th Jul 2018 2:44 pm 

    Someone once said insanity is doing the same action repeatedly and expecting different results each time. Immigration appears to be a sacrosant issue exactly like birth control. Mention it and the human critters panic and run around with their fingers in their ears screaming ” I can’t hear you.”

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