Earlier this week, the UN released a report revealing that significant measures are urgently needed to avoid an environmental and humanitarian disaster. Meanwhile, some population control extremists are manipulating environmental discourse to blame immigrants for climate change. In our haste to find solutions, we must be wary of those who are using environmental rhetoric as cover for their attacks on immigrant communities.
The first indication that population control extremists are up to no good is that their arguments are illogical and rely on outdated ideas about climate change and population growth. Groups like Californians for Population Stabilization, NumbersUSA and Negative Population Growth argue that immigration increases the US population, which in turn causes resource depletion, pollution, climate change and even oil spills. Beyond unfairly blaming immigrants, the arguments are simply inaccurate. They presume that the United States’ environmental problems are isolated from the rest of the world. Rising temperatures and sea levels don’t respect national boundaries, and migration across national boundaries does not change total world population. Moreover, overpopulation has been debunked as a primary cause of environmental degradation.
Beneath the green veneer of groups like Californians for Population Stabilization and NumbersUSA is a more coherent and disturbing agenda. Their real motivation is to keep immigrants out of the United States and stop the advancement of a multiracial country. They use fears over climate change and scarce resources to demonize immigrants as one way of accomplishing this goal. For example, Californians for Population Stabilization’s newly released ad in honor of Earth Day argues that California is overpopulated and resource-depleted as a direct result of immigrants. The ad cunningly implies that Californian citizens — or “we” — are responsibly managing resources by having fewer children and that immigrants are the uninvited depleters or consumers of scarce resources. Californians for Population Stabilization and its allies promote this divisive and discriminatory framework in a variety of ways, including active participation in mainstream events and conferences. Another example: NumbersUSA is planning to promote itself at a large Earth Day convention in Texas and has done so for the last several years.
Discussions about population are understandably fraught and have a troubling history. These discussions about population don’t need to stop, but they should be fair and inclusive of immigrant communities and communities of color. It’s important that we keep in mind that communities targeted by these groups are often those most affected by climate change.
We know immigrants aren’t the cause of climate change – or even population growth. Over-population alarmism distracts us from the real climate culprits. In order to successfully fight climate change, we must confront population alarmism. We simply cannot afford false solutions.