Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rising Immigration Exacts a Heavy Toll on the Environment

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rising Immigration Exacts a Heavy Toll on the Environment

Article excerpt

AS problems involving shortages of water, food, shelter, and fuel grow around the world, a subtle and increasingly troublesome cycle emerges: Environmental degradation creates "environmental refugees," leading to increases in immigration, causing population pressures, adding to more environmental degradation.

There are exacerbating factors - war, sick economies, corrupt and inefficient governments. But the immigration link with environmental problems is one of the most complicated and toughest issues to be faced at the upcoming United Nations population summit. Although it hasn't gotten as much attention, this could be even more difficult than the resistance of the Vatican and its allies to family planning and population control.

In recent months, California, Texas, and Florida have initiated lawsuits and ballot measures to battle floods of immigration. But the issue needs to be seen as more than regional.

The US population, which was 260,173,847 as of May 1, is growing by nearly 3 million a year. Of those 3 million, about two-thirds are born here and one-third are immigrants. But of those births, many are to immigrants. According to the research organization Population-Environment Balance, "legal and illegal immigration, and children born to immigrants after their arrival in the United States, already contribute at least half of our yearly population increase."

"In addition," the analysis says, "the newcomers will account for most of the continuing rapid rise in the fertility rate because it appears that recent immigrants (many of whom come from countries where large families are common) perceive the US as a place where even larger families are affordable."

Projections of US population growth make the picture more serious. If Congress doesn't change the liberalized levels allowed under immigration laws passed in 1986 and 1990, according to a report by the US Census Bureau and demographer Leon Bouvier, "immigration will account for 90 percent of all US population growth between 1993 and 2050. …

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