Stabilize U.S. Population

Stabilize U.S. Population

Frequently Asked Questions – SUSPS (SUSPS=Support U.S. Population Stabilization)

SUSPS Home Overview What You Can Do History Democracy Misc


Ballot Questions o Economic o Mass immigration o Sierra Club o Social o Final Question

The 1998 Ballot Question

Why do the petitioners think Sierra Club needs to change its population policy?

Petitioners seek to restore traditional Sierra Club population policy, which was altered in 1996 by unilateral Board action to exclude mass immigration levels as they relate to U.S. population growth. To preserve wilderness, wild rivers, forests, species, and ecosystems, Sierra Club policy has long called for stabilizing population “first of the United States and then of the world.” (Sierra Club, 1970). We all know well the environmental impacts caused by the doubling of U.S. population over the past 50 years. We must resist another doubling which the Census Bureau projects over the next 70 years, due largely to mass immigration.

The U.S. will add 125 million persons in the next fifty years. California alone will add 17 million by 2025, the equivalent of another southern California. Growth will continue indefinitely thereafter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Mass immigration will account for 2/3 of U.S. population growth over the next 50 years according to the National Academy of Sciences. Thus, a Club population policy which has recently been modified to exclude the overall impact of mass immigration on U.S. population and our environment is an ineffectual policy, at best.

Didn't we need the Board's 1998 Ballot Question to clarify the issue?

The petitioner's ballot question implicitly includes fundamental policies contained in the Board of Directors question. In addition, the Board of Directors question (which supports pro-immigration Club policy) is completely unnecessary because it contains no change in policy which members must approve.

Confusing? That's the Board of Directors intent. The petitioners' question was placed on the ballot by legitimate grassroots member petitions, received as of January 1997.
The “take no position” ballot question was added by the Board of Directors in September of 1997 so that members would have to choose between two similarly-worded statements. There is no other reason for introduction of the “take no position” question, since a no vote on the petitioners' “reverse” question would effectively leave policy as-is.

Then the Board, on November 16, 1997, voted to change the ballot presentation from “Yes or No on either question A or B” to “Vote Yes for question A or question B”. It is doubtful that this can be considered clear, fair, or democratic.

What have the Elections Inspectors said about the B question?

Based upon Elections Inspectors objections, the A vs. B choice on the November 16, 1997 Board resolution violates Bylaw 11.1. The Inspectors stated, “It is obvious why the board of directors would want to put its own resolution on the ballot against the initiated question, rather than just making a well argued ballot statement: many voters may read the initiated resolution but not the ballot statements… Putting an opposing resolution on the ballot may catch the eye of these voters before they vote.” The Board was forced to drop the word “quotas” and rephrase their statement on January 13, 1998. (Contrary to bylaws, it is still not expressed as a question).

What should the Board of Directors do to eliminate confusion on future ballot questions?

The board can end the “logical problem” and the confusion they have created, and the justifiable criticism of their methods, by allowing a fair vote on future ballot questions. This action would enormously increase membership respect for the Board and, members' faith in democratic Club procedures.

Didn't the Petitioners' Ballot Question call for unrealistic immigration QUOTAS?

No. It did not call for quotas or severe immigration reduction. The Petitioners' Ballot Question simply stated to include overall immigration levels along with birth rates in achieving a stabile U.S. population as soon as possible. It did not address who should be chosen to immigrate, based upon country of origin, or how to enforce limits that Congress legislates. This is consistent with traditional Sierra Club policy.

Didn't The Council of Club Leaders support the Board position?

Neither those leaders nor their chapters were told in advance before the September 1997 conference that they would be asked to vote to endorse the board's position. Thus the chapter executive committees did not have an opportunity to discuss the issue and vote on how their representatives should vote at the conference.

Doesn't current policy call for population stabilization?

The Board “no position” on immigration is de facto support for rapid U.S. population growth. Interestingly, on October 21, 1999 Carl Pope stated “The Sierra Club Board of Directors recently clarified — not changed — its existing policy to state that the world and the U.S. should go beyond population stabilization to reduction,…” But how this can be accomplished without addressing mass immigration remains a mystery.

Ballot Questions o Economic o Mass immigration o Sierra Club o Social o Final Question


Economic Issues

Don't immigrants take jobs that others won't?

There are no jobs that Americans would not take if they are given adequate pay. Businesses and large corporations are more than willing to take advantage of immigrants who will work at minimum wage, or less, but this is certainly not a reason to overpopulate the U.S. by allowing unrestricted immigration.

Don't immigrants consume very little after then come here?

Some immigrants come to the U.S. for asylum, but most come here for with aspirations for improved quality of life, more money, and more material possessions.
“In the short term, it is undoubtedly true that immigrants have a relatively modest impact on pollution levels and environmental degradation, because they are not able yet to consume the way the rest of Californians do. But I think we have to be realistic, people do not come from most other countries to the United States to live the way they lived in those other countries.”
— Carl Pope, Sierra Club, NPR's All Things Considered, September13, 1994

Isn't continued population growth necessary for our economy?

“We have looked for, and have not found, any convincing economic arguments for continued national population growth. The health of the economy does not depend on it. The vitality of business does not depend on it.”
— President's Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, 1972

Ballot Questions o Economic o Mass immigration o Sierra Club o Social o Final Question


Mass Immigration

Don't most people accept that we need current levels of immigration?

Even though U.S. population is on its way to doubling next century, there is very little public discussion of the issue, and minimal discussion of the relationship between population growth and environmental degradation. Yet a February 1996 Roper Poll showed that 83% of all Americans want to see U.S. population levels no greater than, or smaller than, current levels. 73% of Black Americans and 52% of Hispanic Americans favor reducing overall immigration levels to 300,000 or fewer annually. The Latino National policy Survey (1993) found 7 out of 10 Latino Americans believe overall immigration is too high. The Hispanic USA Research Group Poll (1993) found 3/4 of Hispanics believe fewer immigrants should be admitted.

Why should we be concerned when current immigration is a small percentage of our population?

The overall numbers of legal (Government mandated) immigrants we admit into the U.S. are dramatically higher than at any time in the past, and are many times our historical average of approximately 350,000 per year. Historically, for only 6 years have we had immigration levels as high as in 1996. Since 1987, we have admitted more into the U.S. than in the previous 50 years. This trend is continuing, as the 1990 Immigration Act increased overall legal immigration by 40%.

Don't unplanned pregnancies account for U.S. population growth?

Some organizations like Zero Population Growth (Population Connection) try to draw attention away from the issue of mass immigration by saying that “unplanned pregnancies” and “population momentum” are the primary causes of unending U.S. population growth. This disinformation is decidedly incorrect, and is examined in more detail in the discussion section of the SUSPS website.

Why make such a big deal out of a relatively small amount of U.S. population growth?

The U.S. is growing many times faster than any other developed country (about 1% per year, with less than a 70 year doubling period) and about 60% of that is from mass immigration. Our population growth is third after China and India. Even though we reduce consumption and implement more sustainable practices, we will not be able to reach equilibrium with respect to the impact on our environment until U.S. population is stabilized.

Should the Club be involved with issues of illegal immigration?

Illegal immigration is already adequately addressed by existing U.S. laws. There is no reason for the Sierra Club to be involved with enforcement of existing laws. The Petitioners' Ballot Question addressed only the role of legal (Government mandated) mass immigration as it affects U.S. population stabilization.

Should we not help others less fortunate than ourselves?

Current legal (Government mandated) U.S. immigration is approximately 900,000 per year, however it is a small fraction of over 4.6 billion people world-wide with incomes under 10% of the average American. In fact, mass immigration into the U.S. is less than 1% of Third World population growth. We should certainly strive to help others and to improve living conditions where they are, but high immigration levels do not help the majority of people less fortunate than ourselves.

Why not just wait a few decades until relations with Mexico normalize?

If we wait 50 or even 20 years, it will be too late to stabilize U.S. population next century because of increasing numbers and continued population growth. Mass immigration is the engine driving the U.S. to double its population next century, and thus needs to be discussed as an active component of Sierra Club population policy.

Can't reducing consumption levels solve our problems?

The Sierra Club should and does work on consumption issues. Yet if the Club, with a concerted effort, convinces all Americans to reduce their consumption levels by 20%, the gain would be offset by corresponding growth in U.S. population. US population must be stabilized for any effort to reduce consumption to have significant long-lasting effect.

Shouldn't carrying capacity be viewed in global terms?

Carrying Capacity is the maximum population that can be sustained in an area without diminishing the ability to support the same number in the future. Thus, carrying capacity is relevant both on a planetary, as well as national level. If we in the United States, by importing oil and other resources, expand our numbers beyond our own capacity to support those numbers, we do so at the expense of the carrying capacity of the rest of the world.

Isn't this country large enough to absorb large numbers of immigrants?

The U.S. will add 125 million persons in the next fifty years. California alone will add 17 million by 2025, the equivalent of another southern California. Growth will continue indefinitely thereafter according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The impact of this growth will be severe not only on the US, but on world ecosystems as our carrying capacity is exceeded. A prime example of our responsibility to control our numbers and consumption (neither alone will suffice) is global climate change to which the U.S. is the biggest single contributor.

“However one cuts it, the question is not whether there are limits to this country's ability to absorb immigration; the question is only where those limits lie, and how they should be determined and enforced — whether by rational decision at this end or by the ultimate achievement of some sort of a balance of misery between this country and the vast pools of poverty elsewhere that now confront it.”
— George Kennan, former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Around the Cragged Hill, 1994

Ballot Questions o Economic o Mass immigration o Sierra Club o Social o Final Question


Sierra Club

Why should Sierra Club have to take the lead on dealing with immigration?

The Sierra Club has taken the lead on population issues for over 30 years, and actively on mass immigration since 1978. The Wilderness Society took a strong environmental position including mass immigration as component of population growth three years ago, at the same time that the Sierra Club issued its surprising reversal of long-standing club policy.

Isn't this issue an internal Club matter – not relevant to non-members and most members?
The Population Ballot Question is not simply an “internal Club matter”. The outcome of the vote will likely have very significant ramifications for the future relationship between the U.S. environmental movement and the question of U.S. population stabilization. Anyone, member or otherwise, who would like to end the environmental community's nearly invisible presence on this issue should be willing to support the Petitioners' Ballot Question.

Why should Sierra Club focus on U.S. immigration, when population is a global problem?

Population is both a global problem and a national problem for the U.S. and many other countries. We must “think globally and act locally” on the issue of population growth within our borders. Each nation has not only the right, but the responsibility to implement policies on population, and to work towards its own sustainability.
To make an analogy, think about the global pothole problem – it manifests itself in every country. Yet it is clear that the best way to deal with the problem is not at the U.N., but rather at lowest level of government that has appropriate jurisdiction over the problem.
“Population policy must be a policy for a nation, not for the whole world, because there is no world sovereignty to back up a global policy. We can, and should, seek to persuade other nations to take steps to control their population growth; but our primary focus should be on the population growth within our own borders.”
— Garret Hardin, Living within Limits, 1993

Won't the Sierra Club lose members on this issue?

On virtually the same day in February 1996, leaders of the Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society chose to take opposite paths concerning U.S. population growth.
Since 1995, membership in the Wilderness Society increased by 9%. Since 1995, Sierra Club membership decreased by 11%. In other words, The Wilderness Society took the sound environmental position and its membership increased. This is not necessarily a causal relationship, however assertion that passage of the initiative will result in net loss of members is clearly unwarranted.

Shouldn't the Sierra Club focus on what it does best – on preserving wild lands, forests, and clean air?

Any cause is a lost cause without population stabilization, both within the US, and world-wide. Environmental gains which we have fought so hard to win will be threatened, and many will be lost as demands from doubling U.S. population mount. Pressure will increase to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to mine coal in the new Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. Likewise, the demand for timber will increase along with sprawl and resultant air pollution. To preserve wilderness, wild rivers, forests, species, and ecosystems, Sierra Club policy has long called for stabilizing population “first of the United States and then of the world.” (1970).

Wouldn't the Sierra Club lose political allies?

White, Black, Asian, and Latino Democratic voting records in Congress are within 4% of each other on environmental issues, according to 1996 League of Conservation Voters ratings. Thus there is no basis for the assertion of a race-based track record in Congress showing that Latinos have a better environmental record.

Won't a major campaign on immigration be too expensive for the Club?

The Petitioner's Ballot Question simply called for reinstatement of traditional Sierra Club population policy, which addresses role mass immigration plays in U.S. population growth. There would be no campaign or expenditure associated with this other than that normally associated with Club population committees and efforts.

Shouldn't we help to forge strong alliances based upon mutual respect to solve our environmental problems?

Most certainly, but voting for the official Board of Directors position is not the answer. That position dismisses the fact that mass immigration as it contributes to population growth is an environmental problem — a problem caused only by overall numbers, and one which affects every American, their children, and their environment.

Why don't Sierra Club leaders have the fortitude to face this pressing issue?

Some do, some are uneducated on the importance of the population-environment connection, and others prioritize Social Justice issues above environmental issues.

Ballot Questions o Economic o Mass immigration o Sierra Club o Social o Final Question


Social Issues

Why should the Sierra Club become involved in immigration – primarily a social issue?

Mass immigration is a demographic issue with social ramifications. Nearly 60% of our current population growth is due to mass immigration, and according to Census Bureau information, with net zero immigration our population would stabilize in the next 30 years. U.S. immigration and resulting population growth is most certainly an environmental issue.
It should also be noted that the Sierra Club is already addressing social and environmental justice issues under its current agenda, and has formed Environmental Justice committees.

Are we not a compassionate nation?

We are a compassionate nation, yet we can not solve the world's problems even with unlimited levels of mass immigration. “The simple fact is that we must not and we will not surrender our borders to those who wish to exploit our history of compassion and justice.”
— President Bill Clinton, New York Times, July 28, 1993

Is immigration unfair to minorities?

Current levels of mass immigration are unfair to established minorities in the United States. A 1995 Roper poll found that 72% of African Americans believe mass immigration should be reduced to a third of current levels.
“African Americans have experienced the effects of this influx first and hardest.”
— Gerri Williams, editor Immigration Impact: Documenting the Effects of Immigration on African Americans

How can we shut the door on others when we're a nation of immigrants?

Most of us are descendants of immigrants, several generations removed and born here as Americans. The majority of citizens in the U.S. are not immigrants, nor is the U.S. a nation of immigrants. We are a nation founded by settlers, yet we have reached the limits of untamed land and there are no more frontiers left to settle.
“There is, of course, a legitimate argument for some limitation upon immigration. We no longer need settlers for virgin lands, and our economy is expanding more slowly than in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.”
— President John F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants

Wasn't the Petitioners' Ballot Question racist?

The Petitioner's Ballot Question asked the Sierra Club to reinstate its traditional population and mass immigration policies. This is not a racist issue, but one which addresses the population-environment connection of unrestrained mass immigration and increasing U.S. population growth. We in the Sierra Club are compassionate, and it is the overall numbers we are concerned about. By addressing all components of U.S. population, we are acting out of concern for our environment, our families, and our future.

What about the inscription on the Statue of Liberty?

The Statue of Liberty was erected in 1886, when world population was little more than one billion and the U.S. population was 60 million. Many do not realize that the Statue of Liberty was a gift to the U.S. from France, with the title, “Liberty Enlightening the World”. The statue and its symbolism had nothing to do with immigration, but rather hope that the rest of the world would adopt Democracy. The Emma Lazurus plaque (it is not chiseled in the base), “send me your huddled masses” was added ten years later during the immigration peak of that age.

The sonnet, “New Colossus”, was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 as part of a literary campaign to raise funds for the completion of the Statue's pedestal. Not much attention was paid to it until the tide of immigration surged at the turn of the century. Proceeds that were raised from its auction were used to complete the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. This plaque memorialized the sonnet in 1903 and was placed on the inner wallof the Statue's pedestal. It currently is displayed inside the Statue of Liberty museum.

Since then, U.S. population has expanded by 4 1/2 times. The U.S. is the world's highest-consuming (and most wasteful) nation, and is no longer in need of settlement.

Why blame immigrants for U.S. environmental problems?

Immigrants aren't to blame, any more than are babies for being born. Yet both contribute to US population growth. Only overall immigration levels as well as overall birth rates must be discussed as part of the U.S. population stabilization equation.
Barbara Jordan, Chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, wrote, “We disagree with those who would label efforts to control immigration as being inherently anti-immigrant. Rather, it is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest.”

Ballot Questions o Economic o Mass immigration o Sierra Club o Social o Final Question

See Myths and FACTS on population, mass immigration, and the Sierra Club.


What kind of environment will we have left to protect as our population doubles within the lifetimes of children born today?

Leaving such a legacy is a hate crime against future generations.

SUSPS Home Overview What You Can Do History Democracy Misc