Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States

Article excerpt

The authors argue that a serious commitment to environmentalism entails ending America's population growth by implementing a more restrictive immigration policy. The need to limit immigration necessarily follows when we combine a clear statement of our main environmental goals - living sustainably and sharing the landscape generously with other species. He supports this with uncontroversial accounts of the current U.S. demographic trajectory and of the negative environmental effects of U.S. population growth, nationally and globally. At the current level of 1.5 million immigrants per year, America's population of 306 million is set to increase to over 700 million people by 2100. Recent "reform" proposals would actually increase immigration to over two million annually, which has the potential to nearly triple the U.S. population to over 850 million by the end of the century. The U.S. is losing the battle to create a sustainable society and protect wild nature. Sprawl development destroys 2.2 million acres of wild lands and agricultural lands each year; over 1300 plant and animal species remain on the endangered species list, with more added each year; water shortages in the west and southeast are being used to justify new river-killing dams and reservoirs; and U.S. carbon emissions continue to rise.

Key Words: U.S. laws and immigration; The population density and environment; Urban sprawl; Wild life conservation; Water shortage.


The environmental argument for reducing immigration to the United States is relatively straightforward and is based on the following five premises:

1. Immigration levels are at a historic high and immigration is now the main driver of U.S. population growth.

2. Population growth contributes significantly to a host of environmental problems within our borders.

3. A growing population increases America's large environmental footprint beyond our borders and our disproportionate role in stressing global environmental systems.

4. In order to seriously address environmental problems at home and become good global environmental citizens, we must stop U.S. population growth.

5. We are morally obligated to address our environmental problems and become good global environmental citizens.

Therefore, we should limit immigration to the United States to the extent needed to stop U.S. population growth. This conclusion rests on a straightforward commitment to mainstream environmentalism, easily confirmed empirical premises, and logic. Despite this, it is not the consensus position among American environmentalists.

Some environmentalists support continued high levels of immigration, while most are uncomfortable with the topic and avoid discussing it. So strong is this aversion that groups such as the Sierra Club, which during the 1970s prominently featured strong commitments to U.S. population stabilization, have dropped domestic population growth as an issue. Several years ago, the group Zero Population Growth went so far as to change its name to Population Connection ("PC" for short).

In 2006, the United States passed the 300 million mark in population - that's 95 million more people than were here for the first Earth Day in 1970 with little comment from environmentalists. In 2007, as Congress debated the first major overhaul of immigration policy in nearly 20 years, leaders from the principal environmental organizations remained silent about proposals that could have added hundreds of millions more Americans during the 21st century.

Like immigration policy for the past fifty years, immigration policy for the next fifty looks likely to be set with no regard for its environmental consequences. We believe this is a bad thing. As committed environmentalists, we would like to see our government set immigration policy (and all government policy) within the context of commitment to sustainability. We don't believe that the goals we share with our fellow environmentalists and with a large majority of our fellow citizens - clean air and clean water; livable, uncrowded cities; sharing the land with the full complement of its native flora and fauna - are compatible with continued population growth. …

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