Thursday, March 03, 2011

More on Environment and Immigration

So Wilderness Watch responded to my critique of their connection between immigration and environmental problems, detailed here.

This was their reply:

While some may take offense, the reality is that overpopulation, which in the United States is driven largely by immigration, is a major global environmental problem, one we agree knows no borders. It is important for every country, including and maybe especially the United States, to stabilize its population. That can’t be done in this country without limiting immigration. It’s the indisputable numerical demographic that drives population growth in the U.S. Howie never implied that immigrants are any more of a problem than anyone else.

Overpopulation is the root cause and driver of all of humanity’s other problems (in the U.S. and around the globe)—including climate change, water shortages, overcrowding, etc. Quite simply, the earth cannot indefinitely sustain an ever-expanding human population without major die-offs of other species. We think it’s pretty darn important to recognize this issue, especially when no one seems willing to tackle it.

We agree that overconsumption is also a major problem, and it’s well-known that industrialized nations use much more than their fair share of resources. That’s an issue we’ll try to address in another post.

There are many great organizations dedicated to important humanitarian and social/environmental justice work, but Wilderness Watch is the only national group working to ensure that America’s great National Wilderness Preservation System stays wild.

–Wilderness Watch staff
My response in return:

Why on earth would it be especially important for the United States to stabilize its population? I don’t understand why this would be so over other countries.

Also, you might think about writing about consumption in another post, but it’s precisely the type of behavior that allows wealthy white people to be wilderness consumers that goes toward creating climate change, not immigrants. By far, the greenest place in the United States is Manhattan. If you are really worried about these problems, isn’t it far better to move into a 500 square foot apartment in an urban center and not drive a car (and of course I don’t have any idea of your lifestyle) and never burn fossil fuels to visit wilderness areas?
Immigration is essentially a non-issue to US environmental problems, particularly when compared to transportation infrastructure, housing policy, and personal consumption patterns. If you truly believe in these the sanctity of these wilderness areas, the best thing you can do is never visit them unless you walk or ride a bike. And if you do visit them and say that the peoples of the world should not be allowed to come to America (as your ancestors were allowed to do) is to say that only the wealthy (and mostly) white can benefit from visiting the wilderness.

And that’s really screwed up.

One of the biggest threats to wilderness areas are the people who purport to love them and visit them all the time–because their burning of fossil fuels creates climate change and because of the desire of people to live in the “wilderburbs” of the West which breaks up wildlife habitat, forces people to buy gas guzzling 4×4 vehicles, and drive 50 miles into work and back.

Compared to this, the threat immigrants pose to wilderness is a drop in the bucket.

I think it would be very interesting to take a poll of the Wilderness Watch staff to see where they live, what kind of vehicles they drive, and gauge what their carbon footprint is.

Then we can compare that carbon footprint to the average person in Bangladesh, Zambia, or Indonesia. And we’ll see if overpopulation is really the issue here.

I print all of this to give you a sense of the battles within the environmental movement between people who want to shift the blame for environmental problems off of themselves and their consumerist lifestyle and toward others who cannot fight back. Again, I find this all very offensive, antisocial, and poorly argued. Moreover it's a politically losing strategy toward building a successful environmental movement.