Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Sustainability Ethics: World Population Growth and Migration

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Sustainability Ethics: World Population Growth and Migration

Article excerpt

Large demographic shifts will have many effects on the quest for sustainable use of the planet. Using Garrett Hardin's simile, which portrays Earth as a lifeboat, achieving sustainability requires a dispassionate, objective appraisal of the rate at which additional people can be taken aboard without sinking the lifeboat. However, the world population increase is not uniform among countries, and the growing rate of international migration from countries that have a high fertility rate to countries with a more equable rate is spreading the ecological threat contingent on over-population to all habitable regions of the globe.

Key Words: Zero net immigration; Lifeboat ethics; Sustainability ethics; Carrying capacity; Ecosystem management; Quality of life; Ecological life support systems; Ecological footprint.

Noble intentions are a poor excuse for stupid action. Man is the only species that calls some suicidal actions "noble." The rest of creation knows better.

Garrett Hardin

This article is prompted by an Internet article (Whelan, 2003) and a report (Browne, 2002) which represents a comprehensive evaluation of the economic, social and demographic results of mass immigration into Britain, an advanced but territorially very small country which is experiencing the highest levels of net immigration. It has been primarily due to this high rate of immigration, and the continuing high birthrate among the immigrants after their arrival, that the population of Britain increased by 1.02 million between 1992 and 2000 (Browne, 2002). This growth rate is clearly unsustainable. Britain is an excellent example of a hitherto advanced country that is importing poverty, and concomitantly increasing social tensions, crime, and public health problems such as TB and HIV, as a result of large scale immigration from those parts of the world with high fertility rates (many African and Middle Eastern countries average 6 to 7 live births per woman) that are producing children well beyond their ability to support them.

The Browne report on the results of immigraton into Britain addresses the way that false accusations of racism have hampered, perhaps even suppressed, legitimate debate about immigration. Lack of discussion has allowed widely believed immigration myths to persist, and it should be pointed out that:

1. Britain does not have a declining population - more babies are born each year than people die. Even with zero net immigration, the population would grow at a modest but significant rate from 59.2 million in 2003 to 62.9 million in 2025 (Population Reference Bureau, 2003).

2. Britain is not suffering from a generalized labor shortage. According to the Labour Force Survey, there arc 1.55 million unemployed people in the United Kingdom. Another 2.3 million are out of work but want to work (Brownc, 2002).

3. Immigration is no "fix" for an aging population because immigrants grow old, too. There is also no evidence that immigration raises the level of the one measure of economic productivity that matters, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.

4. The immigration-propelled rapid growth in population sharply increases the demand for new houses, roads, hospitals, schools, and public utilities such as waste and sewage disposal, all of which increase the pressure on the decreasing quantity of open land and natural resources in an already over-crowded island. In this connection, the Browne report calls attention to official studies in the United States showing that average Mexican immigrants will consume, throughout their lifetime, $55,200 more in services each than they contribute in taxes. The state of California, with a large number of legal and illegal immigrants, is now in deep financial trouble due, in part, to this imbalance between what an immigrant contributes and what s/he uses.

The situation in Britain is replicated to a greater or lesser extent in most West European countries today, and even North America is experiencing a similar flood of immigrants from more overcrowded countries. …

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