Without Immigration Reduction, The U.S. Population Will Be 700 to 850 Million By 2100


Immigration Watch Canada.org's latest bulletin is an excerpt from a report published by the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. :

The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States

Philip Cafaro, associate professor of philosophy at Colorado State University, and Winthrop Staples III, a wildlife biologist, are the authors of this research. The report was done for the Center For Immigration Studies in the U.S. The full document is available at http://cis.org/EnvironmentalArgument


The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States

By Philip Cafaro and Winthrop Staples III
June 2009

Philip Cafaro, associate professor of philosophy at Colorado State University, is author of Thoreaus Living Ethics (University of Georgia Press, 2004). He is currently completing a book on the ethics of immigration, with the working title Bleeding Hearts and Empty Promises: A Liberal Rethinks Immigration. A former ranger with the U.S. National Park Service, he has had two children and one vasectomy. Winthrop Staples III, a wildlife biologist, has conducted research on the North American lynx and the Amur leopard. He also worked to recover the American chestnut tree and as a bear technician in Denali National Park. His masters thesis in environmental philosophy is titled For a Species Moral Right to Exist: The Imperative of an Adequate Environmental Ethics (Colorado State University, 2009). This Backgrounder is adapted from a forthcoming article in Environmental Ethics.

This Backgrounder argues that a serious commitment to environmentalism entails ending Americas 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 with uncontroversial accounts of our current 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, Americas 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 our population to over 850 million by the end of the century. Conversely, scaling back immigration to 200,000 per year would greatly reduce Americas population growth, according to studies by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Given the many issues that environmentalists must deal with and the contentious nature of immigration debates, it is understandable that many of us would prefer to avoid them. But the reality is that across the country, environmentalists are 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. Obviously, we havent figured out how to create a sustainable society with 300 million inhabitants. Its not plausible to think we will be able to do so with two or three times as many people.

Still, there are arguments against reducing U.S. immigration that deserve consideration. In what follows, we analyze the main moral, environmental, and economic arguments for the mass immigration status quo, or for even more expansive immigration policies. In the end, we find them unconvincing. We conclude that Americans must choose between allowing continued high levels of immigration and creating a sustainable society.


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

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

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

A growing population increases Americas large environmental footprint beyond our borders and our disproportionate role in stressing global environmental systems.

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

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 thats 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 50 years, immigration policy for the next 50 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 a commitment to sustainability. We dont 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. It is time to rein in this growth or forthrightly renounce the hope of living sustainably here in the United States.