The Sierra Club And Immigration

A mail-in vote has started among the Sierra Club's 750,000 members to elect five new members to the board. This normally would be ho-hum news except for the fact that three of the candidates want the nation's premier environmental group to use its considerable political clout to have the United States restrict the flow of immigration.

For decades, the Sierra Club had advocated stabilizing the American population for the sake of the environment. Most new migrants to the US use up more resources and do more ecodamage than they did back home (where they most likely didn't own a car, for instance). They take on the consumption patterns of the world's biggest polluter.

But when immigration reform became a hot-button issue in the 1990s, mainly among conservatives, the Sierra Club went neutral on the issue, except to work on the root causes of global population growth. It didn't want to polarize its membership, preferring instead to work on saving the environment from humans, not the US from more humans.

Now that decision is under intense challenge, led in part by a former Colorado governor, Richard Lamm, who's running for the board. He argues that a reduction in the flow of migrants would help the US "develop a sustainable, equitable, environmentally benign nation that could serve as an example of sustainability to the world."

The US has long restricted immigration for various reasons. Saving the planet by keeping poorer would-be migrants in their own country could be added to the mix.

Mr. Lamm's rationale isn't "anti-immigrant," as some claim. Rather, it takes the high road by calling on the nation's oldest conservation group to persuade the federal government to make the US a model in controlling US population growth, and thus helping protect the environment.

After all, restricting human use of the environment naturally means influencing the number of humans using it, and especially where they do so.

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