If you arrived at this page by using a link or bookmark for anarcha.org, please update to this url and/or inform the referring page host of the update. Thanks!

How to use this site:
1. Browse through the alphabetical list of posts
2. Use the labels/tags to find pieces on specific topics.
3. Use the search feature for specific items of interest.
4. Browse through zines, books, and other printable items by using the PDF tag.
5. Check out the popular lists to see what others are reading.
6. For updates, bookmark this page and return often, follow, subscribe (by email or other- see below), or friend on facebook and/or tumblr.
7. Check out the other pages for more links, information, and ways to contribute.
8. Comment, and email me your own writings!

Article List

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Controlling Gendered Immigrants and Racialized Populations: overpopulation, immigration and environmental sustainability


by Chris Crass

The Sierra Club election: debating immigration in the environmental movement In April of 1998, the Sierra Club membership rejected a plan to limit immigration as a means of protecting the environment. The Sierra Club is one of the largest, oldest and most influential environmental groups in the United States. Through previous debate in the Club about immigration and in response to grassroots support in the group, the Sierra Club's Board of Directors decided in February of 1996, to "take no position on immigration levels or on policies governing immigration into the United States," and to remain "committed to environmental rights and protection for all within our borders, without discrimination based on immigration status." In opposition to the position taken by the Board, a group of Sierrans calling for limits on immigration put the issue on the ballot, and in the group's April 98, election, the Club's 550,000 members were asked to vote on the issue.

Voters had two choices. Position A called for the Club to reverse its decision to take no position and to "adopt a comprehensive population policy for the United States that continues to advocate an end to US population growth at the earliest possible time through reduction in natural increase (births minus deaths), but now also through reduction in net immigration (immigration minus emigration)." Position B called for the Club to affirm the decision of the Board to take no position and argued that "The Sierra Club can more effectively address the root causes of global population problems through its existing comprehensive approach; The Sierra Club will build on its effective efforts to champion the right of all families to material and reproductive health care, and the empowerment and equality of women; and the Sierra Club will continue to address root causes of migration by encouraging sustainability, economic security, health and nutrition, human rights and environmentally responsible consumption." In the highly controversial election, about 84,000 members voted (a much larger turnout then the usual 60,000-70,000), and of the roughly 78,000 who marked the immigration question on the ballot, just over 60.1 percent voted for Position B.

The campaign leading up to the Club's election generated wide-spread media coverage, intense debate and a storm of controversy and the immigration issue was at the center of it. In an article in the New York Times, reporter John H. Cushman Jr., writes "Campaigns are often hard fought, but this year the immigration question has raised unusually sensitive questions about social justice, racial equity and political strategy, to the intense discomfort of many of the group's generally liberal constituency."

Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope warned "[about Position A] It is offensive to people of color... It is seen by people in the immigrant communities as saying: You are a form of pollution." While Position A supporter, Alan Kuper, one of the leaders of Sierrans for US Population Stabilization which advocates for a return to pre-1965 immigration levels, told the Associated Press, "I recognize this (population growth) as the most fundamental one for the environmental movement... It's the issue that touches everything that we do." Some people warned that this election was a struggle over the soul of the Sierra Club and the larger environmental movement.

During the campaign the Position A and Position B forces mobilized. In the Position A camp were many of the most active anti-immigrant groups in the country including the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Negative Population Growth (NPG), Population-Environment Balance (PEB) and the California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR). Those supporting Position B included most of the current and past officials of the Club, many of the local chapters of the Club and environmental and social justice groups in the coalition effort, Immigration and Environment Campaign that has been organized by the San Francisco based, Political Ecology Group (PEG).

The debate in the Sierra Club over immigration has highlighted growing tensions in the environmental movement and serves as a sign to understand the larger issues underlying these tensions. Social justice activist, Emanuel Sferios, wrote in Z Magazine after the election results, "Despite this victory [the defeat of position A], however, that the immigration issue made it as far as it did within the country's oldest and largest environmental organization demonstrates the effectiveness with which the right wing has exploited people's fears about the "population crisis"." Sferios continues, "It also reveals the level to which mainstream discussion of the root causes of environmental degradation has fallen over the years."

Immigration, the Population Bomb & the Radical Challenge

The debate over immigration in the Sierra Club is at base-level an argument about controlling population growth. Population growth has been identified by many anti-immigrant activists and environmentalists as either A major cause or THE major cause of environmental degradation and collapse. Population control advocates argue that more people on the planet means more drain on resources and increased negative impact of humans on the ecosystem.

"Unless population size is reduced, and as rapidly as possible, the nation's present course will eventually threaten not only the quality of life but, in the worst case scenario, the life support system itself," write Leon Bouvier and Lindsay Grant in their Sierra Club book, How Many Americans. They further argue, "Overcrowded classrooms, clogged freeways, unemployment and related cultural clashes, increasingly severe water shortages, environmental decay - all derive to a certain extent from one common cause: overpopulation."

Therefore, controlling the growth of population is at the core of developing ecological sustainability. Population control theories have gained broad support in the environmental movement and in the general public over the past thirty years and they are increasingly coming to dominate arguments put forward by anti-immigrant groups. Population control groups point to immigration because in the United States, according to the Census Bureau's latest projections, immigration is the prominent factor in population growth. If current demographic trends continue, according to the Bureau, the US will grow from its current 268 million people to 393 million people in 2050, an increase of 125 million people. 60% of this population increase is said to be attributable to immigration and the descendants of immigrants. With this argument anti-immigrant groups like the Carrying Capacity Network claim, "The increase in human numbers poses the ultimate environmental threatS¼ Since population growth is an environmental issue, a crucial component, immigration, must be recognized as one also."

Population control has been a main goal of the environmental movement ever since Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich's book The Population Bomb was published in 1968, which stated that humans were breeding themselves into oblivion and stringent population control measures must be enforced, using compulsion if necessary. Since 1968, controlling population, especially in the third world, has been on the agenda of mainstream environmentalists and as Mark W. Nowak of Negative Population Growth writes, "Over the past 25 years, the link between population growth and environmental degradation has been so well established that it is hard to find an environmental advocate who does not acknowledge it".

However, feminists, civil rights, environmental justice and social justice activists and organizations in the United States and in the third world have been challenging not only the argument of immigration control, but of the entire framework upon which population control theories are built. Voices from the Third World have consistently been critical of population control theories and strategies that aim to control women's reproduction and not the root causes of population growth like the economic institutions and decisions, health services, poverty, education and reproductive freedom. Feminist writers and organizations in third and first world countries (primarily women of color) developed theories which challenged the ideologies of population control, third world development, first world foreign policy and development aid. Meanwhile, these ideologies have held and continue to hold broad support in the most powerful post-WWII international political and economic institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations and the United States.
In direct relationship to environmentalism, the environmental justice movement in the US has been growing rapidly in the past ten years. The environmental justice movement has been organized and lead by people of color and predominately poor and/or working class communities against toxic waste and pollution in poor neighborhoods. The environmental justice movement understands environmentalism as an essential component of the struggle for social justice which challenges race, class and gender inequality.

One people of those challenging the connections between overpopulation and environmental problems has been Betsy Hartmann, a member of the Committee on Women, Population and the Environment. Hartmann argues in her groundbreaking book , Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: the Global Politics of Population Control, that: "The myth of overpopulation is one of the most pervasive myths in Western society, so deeply ingrained in the culture that it profoundly shapes the culture's world view. The myth is compelling because of its simplicity. More people equal fewer resources and more hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, and political instability. This equation helps explain away the troubling human suffering in that 'other' world beyond the neat borders of affluence. By procreating, the poor create their own poverty. We are absolved of responsibility and freed from complexity."

The Population Control Argument: I=PAT and Carry Capacity
"The population argument is compelling to many because it has been veiled in scientific and quantitative terms," writes Penn Loh, a former member of the Organizing Board of the Political Ecology Group. The formula used to understand population was develop in the 1970s by Paul Ehrlich and John Holden. The formula is I=PAT. I is the impact of any human group on the environment. I equals the size of the population, P, times the level of affluence (or average individual resource consumption), A, times an index of the environmental impact of the technologies which provide the goods consumed, T. The formula I=PAT averages everyone into an equation that completely removes economic and political institutions that shape and determine consumption. The equation also blurs all distinctions between economic class and consequently determines that poor immigrants have the same environmental impact as wealthy families regardless of the consumption levels of either. Institutions like the military, which is responsible for the greatest amount of pollution in the US, are invisible in this equation and are not held responsible. Loh writes that as long as population issues are framed by formulas like I=PAT, then "controlling population growth is not a value-neutral, scientific problem but a political one with real social impact." Currently, 70 percent of the world's energy, 75 percent of its metals, 85 percent of its wood and 60 percent of its food is consumed by the industrialized nations with 22 percent of the world's population. Consider for example then that the total net worth of the top 1% in the U.S. is now equal to the total net worth of the bottom 90% of the population. Therefore, consumption rates in the industrialized nations are deeply effected by extreme class inequality. For example, in the United Nations "Human Development Report", it was found that economic inequality in the world had more than doubled in the past three decades and that the richest 20 percent currently receive 150 times the income of the poorest 20 percent.

"Despite the fact that the wealthy consume far greater resources than the poor," writes Emanuel Sferios, "it is not consumers, but producers - and the social institutions in which they operate - which account for the vast majority of environmental degradation." Furthermore, transnational corporations that supply goods to the first world generally use land, resources and labor power in the third world. The entire system of global capitalism and the exploitation of the land, ecosystem and workers are no where to be seen in the analysis put forward by population control advocates.

In a position paper by the group Population-Environment Balance titled, "Why Excess Immigration Damages the Environment", they state, "The point is simple enough: more people demand more of the shrinking resources and, in using them, create more pollution. Species extinction and accompanying loss of bio-diversity, acid rain and deforestation of the Tongass and other national forests are the signals that the United States' and world's population increase is pushing the environment beyond its ability to sustain a desirable quality of life." According to PEB it's all about population control, which in all reality translates into controlling the bodies and reproduction of third world men and women.

The other term used frequently by population control advocates and environmentalists is "carrying capacity". In the same position paper by PEB, the authors explain that carry capacity is the "number of people who can be sustainable supported in a given area without degrading the natural, social, cultural and economic environment for present and future generations." Furthermore, they write, "Carrying capacity includes the capacity of the natural environment to provide the resources, food, clothing and shelter we need, and the capacity of the social environment to provide a reasonable quality of life." They look at several examples to demonstrate these points. The first is water. They point out that in the west, southwest and certain central states (which are all experiencing the highest population growth rate) there are either water shortages or toxic pollution of the water. They mention toxic pollution, but no mention of the military or corporations which create the vast majority of toxic waste, so where did it come from? They write, "Many areas have limited rainfall or few other naturally occurring sources of water, resulting in severe depletion and/or pollution of groundwater." In Florida, where there is also toxic pollution of the water, they write, "the toxic pollution generated by dense population is already destroying underground aquifers". In these two cases they write that pollution either occurs naturally, somehow, or that population size alone is the culprit. It would seem that the population control advocates have developed their own theory of "free markets": that the economic institutions of production and distribution in the market are free of all responsibility.

Another example used by PEB to demonstrate carrying capacity is Ireland and the supposed Potato Famine. They explain. "the introduction of the potato into Ireland in the eighteenth century both increased productivity of the land and encouraged new estimates of how many people could be supported on a piece of land, and thus provided an 'incentive' for larger families... no allowance was made for population growth or for scarcity less than optimal harvests." The result, they argue, "the Irish potato famine". This is a brilliant example of their distorted representation of reality. The actual cause of the famine was neither population growth or a bad harvest, rather it was the result of an exploitive colonial relationship in which England used land, resources and labor power in Ireland to grow food for the market in England. While quality food was being imported to England, the potato harvest, which Irish peasantry was forced to subsist on, failed and famine developed. Throughout the famine, in which the Irish poor were starving, food grown in Ireland continued to be imported to England.

The example of Irish families growing without any concept of long-tern effect is common in population discourse today about the third world. The growth of the family size in Ireland is important as it is similar to the growth in family size in many poor third world countries today that also have similar colonial relationships to the first world, particularly the United States. Children are extremely valuable in agricultural societies and also ensure economic security for the parents inold age. Children, in poor agricultural societies, generally contribute more to the family then they take. Given the economic situation, families are generally making a rational decision in increasing the size of their families. Yet poor families are viewed by population control advocates as acting in irrational ways, and therefore it is necessary for family planning agencies from the first world to educate and control their reproduction. What this analysis simply cannot explain is that poor families are capable of developing long-term survival strategies and would benefit greatly if agencies in the first world worked with them to end colonial relationships that are devastating the environments and majority of people in the third world.

Population control theories and strategies are clearly focused on third world peoples generally and third world women in particular. At the 1984 , International Conference on Population held in Mexico, the United Nations Fund for Populations Activities produced a film called Tomorrow's World. The film depicted the misery of overpopulation and the most vivid scene, according to Hartmann, "was of a poor, landless Mexican woman who had agreed to sterilization after the birth of her fourth child." The narrator of the film said "Life without land will never be an easy matter, but at least this mother's problems will stop multiplying." The issue of why this woman and many other poor people in Mexico have no land is not raised. The political history of peasant land reform and betrayal from the PRI is not addressed. What is stated is that misery is multiplied or stabilized by the actions of the mother. Women's reproduction becomes a battlefield in which the population bomb and explosion are fought

The focus on women's reproduction is not limited to right-wing groups or anti-immigrant pseudo-environmentalists. In the self-described radical wing of the environmental movement, Earth First! and other radical, predominately white, environmentalist have popularized the slogan "Love Your Mother - Don't Become One". Earth First! has been a dramatic force in the environmental movement since the 1980s as they have embraced direct action tactics to halt environmental destruction. There has been a wide diversity of opinion in Earth First! since it was co-founded by Dave Foreman.

Foreman's conservatism lead him to leave the group as it become more class conscious, anarchist and grounded in feminist politics. Foreman has come out in favor of limiting immigration and has in the past made statements about letting people in Ethiopia, suffering from famine, starve to death. Since the days of Foreman, Earth First! has lead important campaigns in Headwaters forest and Ward Valley that have attempted to cross race, class and gender lines. However, the slogan "Love Your Mother" and other such population control politics that appear in the radical environmental movement present strong reasons for concern. The slogan "Love Your Mother - Don't Become One" clearly lays the responsibility of environment destruction on women's reproduction. As population control theories and strategies focus on women of color in the third and first world, the slogan again becomes problematic along racial lines. The slogan fits in perfectly with right-wing analysis that blames individuals, particularly women, for ecological problems while leaving powerful social, economic and political institutions completely out of the picture, and consequently free of responsibility.

Furthermore the slogan eliminates men, at all levels, from not only environmental issues, but from the reproductive process itself. To be fair, there is also a slogan "Love Your Mother - Don't Become a Father", however, it is a slogan rarely heard, rarely seen and rather removed from any comprehensive analysis form radicals, liberals or conservatives. The slogan is also cause from concern, because it is popular among primarily white radical activists who should be working to building coalition with radical women and men of color who are leaders of the growing environmental justice movement. Slogans and analysis that place women at the center of blame are to be expected from the right-wing, but when radical left activists adopt similar ideas it is clear that the racism and sexism of population and immigration control have had a wide influence. It also becomes clear that white racism and male sexism must be confronted in all of its manifestation where ever it appears

Like population control, immigration control ideologies focus on racialized bodies, Mexican men and women, and excite racial tension through gendered images. Sara Diamond, a leading analyst of right-wing movements and ideologies wrote that "Two staples of anti-immigrant literature are the obligatory photos of Mexican "illegal aliens" running perilously from INS agents across traffic on San Diego freeways, and the requisite folklore about 'legions' of pregnant Mexican women arriving in Texas just in time to suck up free childbirth services and 'instant citizenship' for their newborns".

The fact that population and immigration control generally target people of color and women in the third world and in the first world is not inconsequential, it is by design. One of the leading advocates of both population and immigration control is Garrett Hardin. Hardin is the Honorary Chairman of the Population-Environment Balance and a board member of the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the largest anti-immigration organization in the US and one of the most active groups making the environmental connection. Hardin advocates the elimination of non-European immigration, argues that hungry people should starve to death to cut down on population and has expressed concern about, 'the next generation of breeders' now reproducing uncontrollably 'in Third World countries.' He told the Wall Street Journal that population control isn't just about too many people in the world, but that "It would be better to encourage breeding of more intelligent people rather the less intelligent." There are many in the population and immigration control movement who agree with John Tanton, FAIR founding president and head of the anti-bilingual group US English, who stated in a memo, "As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?"

Racism and sexism are not new to the population and immigration control movement, nor are they marginal influences. Eugenics, White Supremacy & Sterilization: the building blocks of population control discourse & strategies Population control has a long history in the United States dating back to it's colonial history. From the very beginning of European contact with North America the goal of 'discovering' riches lead to the forced control of indigenous population through slavery. Controlling reproduction and population size under slavery was further institutionalized during the mass enslavement of Africans. Controlling a slave woman's fertility and developing strategies of 'selective breeding' was a major component of the slave system. Population control of indigenous populations after the mass importation of African slaves became a program of population decimation through the strategic spreading of diseases like small pox, the countless numbers killed during the Indian Wars, and the causalities of forced relocation.

The more formal development of population control theories came in the early 1900's with the racial science of eugenics. Eugenics is the science of improving human heredity through maintaining the genetic superiority of the rich and powerful over the poor, and most whites over all people of color. Eugenics was known as Social Darwinism, a survival of the fittest theory of human society. The poor were genetically inferior, argued the eugenicists and the solution was compulsory sterilization. By 1932 compulsory sterilization laws for the "feeble-minded, insane, criminal and physically defective" had been enacted in 27 states.

The eugenicists joined the growing movement for birth control and in many ways coopted it. Before WWI the birth control movement was a radical call by socialists, feminists, anarchists and unionists to help liberate women and the working class. Margaret Sanger emerged as a leading exponent of birth control, a term that she coined. With the powerful red scare campaign and mass deportation of radicals during and after WWI, the birth control movement was robbed of much of its radical base support. The eugenicists joined the movement and brought its ideas of social engineering through selective breeding with it. By 1919, Sanger herself had began making statements such as, "More children from the fit and less from the unfit - that is the chief issue of birth control." By the 1930s the American Birth Control League advocated "racial progress" and sterilization and was led at one point by Guy Irving Burch who was also the director of the American Eugenics Society and founder of the Population Reference Bureau. Burch supported birth control, "to prevent the American people from being replaced by alien or negro stock, whether it be by immigration or by overly high birth rates among others in this country."

Eugenics was widely discredited after WWII as the Nazis had implemented eugenics strategies on a mass scale that lead to the Holocaust. However, eugenics has still maintained influence and continued to impact poor communities in the US. In Puerto Rico one-third of women of childbearing age had been sterilized on the island by 1968. Hartmann writes, "Not only were many women [in Puerto Rico] unaware that the operation was permanent, but other forms of contraception were either unavailable or prohibitively expensive." African American, American Indian, Latina and poor white women have also been effected by sterilization programs that are either compulsory or exist in a context that limits choice. In the famous Relf case in Alabama in the early 1970's, two young African American teenagers had been sterilized without their consent and a federal district court found that: "uncontroverted evidence in the record that minors and other incompetents have been sterilized with federal funds and that an indefinite number of poor people have been improperly coerced into accepting a sterilization operation under the threat that various federally supported welfare benefits would be withdrawn unless they submitted to irreversible sterilization." In 1977 public funding of abortion was virtually eliminated, although sterilization was covered by Medicaid up to 90% of the cost. Similar welfare policies exist in the late 1990's, in relation to Medicaid funding for such dangerous contraceptives as Norplant and Depo-Provera as opposed to much safer forms that place birth control methods in the control of the women using them. Sterilization violations in the US lead to campaigns by feminists and health care activists, primarily by communities of color, to expose and oppose these programs and gain more grassroots control of family planning programs and women's health clinics.

Eugenics was a strong influence in the birth control movement, and what later became known as family planning by groups like Planned Parenthood. Birth control and family planning have had positive effects, as Hartmann writes, "They helped free many women from the burden of unwanted pregnancies." What is important to remember is that poor communities are not merely acted upon, but also act. Black feminists like Patricia Hill Collins and Paula Giddings have demonstrated that while white racism may have been a strong force among the leadership of the birth control movement, at the grassroots level, the well organized Black women's clubs and associations where able to influence and/or control the use of birth control. The agency of poor women and women of color to react to policies and programs that aim to destroy them and also to act in ways that develop alternative policies and programs that aim at liberation has been a constant counter force to structural inequality and the discourses of power which justify inequality. The contradictory history of birth control as a technology of both oppression and of liberation is one of the reasons that reproductive freedom is viewed as such a complex issue today.

The development of international population control politics began after World War II with the creation of the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF. The Allied powers were the architects of international structures of political and economic power and influence. After WWII, the United States increasingly looked to the third world for resources, labor power, and markets. Hartmann explains the situation as following: "United States access to Third World raw materials and markets depended on the existence of 'friendly' governments, at a time when nationalism was on the rise, often tinged with a radicalism unpalatable to the United States. The success of the Chinese Revolution, Indian and Indonesian nonalignment, independence movements in Africa, economic nationalism in Latin America - all these contributed to growing U.S. fears of the Third World. Population growth, rather than centuries of colonial domination, was believed to fuel the nationalist fires, especially given the increasing proportion of youth."

Hartmann shows that in the 1950s large amounts of money began to go to US universities from the Ford Foundation, the Population Council (which was founded in 1952 by John Rockefeller III) and the Rockefeller family to finance population studies. "Government funding followed soon after," Hartmann writes. In 1957, a report titled, "Population: An International Dilemma" was published which warned that population growth was a major threat to political stability in the US and abroad. In 1959, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations was told by the Draper committee, that was studying the US military assistance program, that "The population problem, I'm afraid, is the greatest bar to our whole economic aid program and to the progress of the world." By 1966, population control had become part of US foreign policy. The Food for Freedom Bill recognized world population explosion, particularly in the third world, as part of the world food crisis, and allowed food aid revenues to be used to finance family planning programs in the third world. Hartmann writes, "Today the US Agency for International Development (AID) is the largest single funder of population control in the Third World, allocating over a half billion dollars annually to population activities."

In 1967, the Campaign to Check the Population Explosion was started. The Campaign had support from the Population Council and a former president of the World Bank. The Campaign financed ad campaigns to provoke fear and paranoia about overpopulation. One ad read, "The ever mounting tidal wave of humanity now challenges us to control it or be submerged along with all our civilized values." Another ad read, "A world with mass starvation in underdeveloped countries will be a world of chaos, riots and warS¼ Our own national interest demands that we go all out to help the underdeveloped countries control their population."

The population control advocates began to make in-roads into the environmental movement when the Sierra Club published Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb in 1968, and in 1974, the Club hired its first population program director. The Population control movement needed to build alliances within the growing environmental movement. While the movement was gaining momentum in the late 60s and early 70s a growing divide developed at the 1974, World Population Conference held in Bucharest. Opposition to population control was most pronounced among the representatives from the third world as well as some of the long-time supporters of population control, like John Rockefeller III, who reversed his opinion at the conference. Critics argued that what was needed was improved social and economic development. With improved social services and greater distribution of resources in the third world, population growth would stabilize. The biggest shock at the conference was Rockefeller's speech. Rockefeller had been one of the largest financial backers of the movement and a major spokesperson. In his speech to the conference he called for a "deep and probing reappraisal of all that had been in the population field". He argued for greater attention to economic and social development and said he believed "that women increasingly must have greater choice in determining their roles in society." In response to this new opposition, the population control establishment began expanding its base of support and believed environmentalists were key to this coalition. Only months after the Bucharest conference, president Ford's administration produced a confidential National Security Study Memorandum 200 prepared by the CIA, AID (Agency for International Development) and the Department of State, Defense and Agriculture which was then adopted as national security policy in 1975. This recently declassified document, writes Hartmann, supports population control as a way to stem radical dissent and protect US access to strategic minerals in the third world. The study claims, "Younger people, who are more prevalent in high-fertility populations, can more readily be persuaded to attack such targets as multinational corporations and other foreign influences."

Population agencies have "vigorously courted" mainstream environmental groups as they saw it as a way to build broad support. AID for example has said about working with environmental Non-Government Organizations that it will "draw upon the advocacy skills and networks that environmental groups employ in their efforts to build 'grassroots awareness around the issue of population and family planning." Over the past two decades the population control agencies and mainstream environmentalists have developed strong alliances. The Sierra Club and Audubon Society have expanded their activities, the National Wildlife Federation launched a large population program in 1990, and the "growing identity of interest between the population establishment and the environmental mainstream was evident in their joint planning of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit, in 1992." Another joint effort was Campaign on Population and the Environment (COPE) begun in 1990, which aimed to "expand public awareness of the link between population growth, environmental degradation and the resulting human suffering and to translate this into public policy."

The population agencies struck a cord in many of the mainstream environmental groups in the US as the movement has long been influenced by Malthusian thinking. Malthusian thinking refers to the work of British economist Thomas Malthus who wrote in the early 1800s on the danger of population growth. Malthus harbored similar notions as the eugenicists, in that he particularly feared the growth rate of the poor. The long-term impact of Malthusian thinking is the emphasis on the numbers of people in determining environmental impact. The formula I=PAT and the idea of carry capacity are modern day interpretations of Malthusian arguments. The recent vote on immigration in the Sierra Club, therefore, is connected to a long history of alliance building between population and immigration control advocates and environmentalists.
The Sierra Club Election, Alliance Building & Lessons for Future Organizing What is of importance in the Sierra Club election, is that the position to limit immigration rates lost. This is a landmark victory in the environmental movement as the growing environmental justice movement that places race, class and gender inequality at the center of analysis, is making an impact on mainstream environmental groups. The environmental justice movement is a not only rejects Malthusian and eugenics ideologies, but it is a growing force that is multiracial, feminist and pro-immigrant rights. The environmental justice movement challenges the assumptions held in the mainstream environmental movement about immigrants, people of color and working class communities; as it is immigrants, people of color and working class communities that have lead and shaped the environmental justice movement.

The Sierra Club election highlighted some of the major tensions in environmentalism - tensions between population and immigration control advocates and environmentalists that see the connection between ecology and social justice. The election also highlighted the alliance building between environmentalists, immigrant right activists, feminists and other social justice groups. The Political Ecology Group has been organizing the Immigration and Environment Campaign since 1995, just months before the passage of anti-immigrant Proposition 187 in California, and both PEG and the campaign played decisive roles in the Sierra Club election. The Committee on Women, Population and the Environment is an alliance "of women activists, community organizers, health practitioners and scholars of diverse races, cultures, and countries of origin working for women's empowerment and reproductive freedom and against poverty, inequality, racism and environmental degradation". The Committee has been particularly effective at challenging population and immigrant control ideologies in international politics as well as in the US. These alliances have not only won a victory in the Club's election, but have put forward an agenda for environmental, social and economic justice. The Immigration and Environment Campaign's position statement identifies seven strategies for the movement:

"1. Building alliances between the immigrant rights and environmental movements for an environmentally sustainable economy that meets the needs of all people. 2. Defending the human and civil rights of immigrants. 3. Resisting the rollback of environmental regulation. 4. Refuting the myths that blame immigrants for environmental and economic problems and highlighting the positive contributions of immigrants. 5. Supporting policies that radically reduce US consumption of the world's resources and promoting the development and use of environmentally sound technologies and practices. 6. Insisting that government, corporations and developers be accountable to community demands for environmental protection and human health. 7. Supporting universal and equal access to education, health care, and livable wages - humanitarian goals that are incidentally, the most effective means to a achieve a sustainable population."

The lessons of the Sierra Club election are crucial: building principled alliances and coalitions, challenging ideologies that support race, class and gender inequality through radical analysis that confronts inequality, developing long-term struggles that include short term campaigns, taking on the oppositions challenge and using it as an opportunity to broaden political support and gain organizing momentum. The lessons learned in the struggle between population and immigration control advocates and social justice environmentalists are important for all of us working for positive social change. Immigration and population control also targets issues relating to education, poverty, health care, food scarcity, unemployment, homelessness. Educators, campus activists, anti-poverty organizers, unionists, tenant rights groups, health care workers and activists and other progressive, feminists, human rights activists need to address immigration and population issues and form alliances to prevent our movements for social change being divided by wedge politics.

Before the election in the Sierra Club, John Tanton, chairman of the Federation of American Immigration Reform said, "The Sierra Club may not want to touch the immigration issue, but the immigration issue is going to touch the Sierra Club." The immigration and population issues should not be avoided because of their complexity, they should be embraced. Embraced because they are issues that can build broad-based support and social movement that is multiracial, class conscious, feminist, ecological, grass-roots and international in its challenge to global corporate capitalism.

If we, as activists and organizers, are to further the possibilities for radical social change then we must not only fight against the injustices of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and authoritarianism in society, but also the ideological effects of these institutionalized powers on our movements. For environmental, social and economic justice - activists must consciously, consistently, and comprehensively develop analysis and strategy that integrates race, class and gender into a radical political challenge that includes all of us who feel the heel of this system on our neck.

Chris Crass is a social justice activist and anarchist organizer in San Francisco.
Footnotes
1. "An Uncomfortable Debate Fuels a Sierra Club Election" by John H. Cushman Jr. New York Times. April 5, 1998.
2. "Fear and Guilt: Why Environmentalists Chicken Out on Population (Not to Mention Immigration) by Brenda Walker. Immigration News, published by the Bay Area Coalition For Immigration Reform. November/December 1997.
3. ibid.
4. "Sierra Club Defeats Move to Oppose Immigration" by John H. Cushman Jr. New York Times. April 26, 1998.
5. "An Uncomfortable Debate Fuels a Sierra Club Election" by John H. Cushman Jr. New York Times. April 5, 1998.
6. ibid.
7. "Wooing the Sierra Club: Anti-Immigrant Groups Make Unlikely Suitors", a special report from the Political Ecology Group. 1998. "Sierra Club Nixes Immigration Plan" by the Associated Press. April 26, 1998.
8. "Wooing the Sierra Club: Anti-Immigrant Groups Make Unlikely Suitors", a special report from the Political Ecology Group. 1998.
9. "Sierra Club Defeats Move to Oppose Immigration" by John H. Cushman Jr. New York Times. April 26, 1998. "Environmental Justice Beyond Borders: Immigrants and Environmentalists Build New Alliances" by Brad Erickson. Semillero, published by the Comite de Trabajadores Generales in San Francisco. April 1996.
10. "Population, Immigration, & the Environment: Eco-fascism and the environmental movement" by Emanuel Sferios. Z Magazine. June 1998. Sferios' essay put forward one of the best arguments over the issues of population and immigration control and the environment in relationship to the election in the Sierra Club.
11. See "Wooing the Sierra Club: Anti-Immigrant Groups Make Unlikely Suitors" a special report by the Political Ecology Group and see chapter 8 of Betsy Hartmann's Revised edition, Reproductive Rights & Wrongs: the Global Politics of Population Control. South End Press. 1995.
12. "Immigration and U.S. Population Growth: an Environmental Perspective" by Mark W. Nowak. Special report of Negative Population Growth.
13. Hartmann, Betsy. Reproductive Rights & Wrongs, page 4. South End Press. 1995.
14. "Immigration and U.S. Population Growth: an Environmental Perspective" by Mark W. Nowak. Special report of Negative Population Growth.
15. Hartmann, Betsy. Reproductive Rights & Wrongs. See chapters 7, 8 & 15. South End Press. 1995.
16. This is not to say that there is universal agreement in or between these powers, or that they do not hold contradictory positions on these issues over the years. The United Nations has held many opinions, and at times maintains commissions that openly disagree with one another.
17. "Protecting the Environment and Human Rights" by Brad Erickson. Outdoors West, publication of the Federation of Western Outdoors Clubs. Summer 1996. See "Immigration and Environment Campaign Position Statement" by the Political Ecology Group.
18. Hartmann, Betsy. Reproductive Rights & Wrongs. Page 4. South End Press. 1995.
19. "Creating an Environment of Blame: Anti-Immigrant Forces Seek to Woo Environmentalist" by Penn Loh. Political Ecology Group.
20. Ibid. and Betsy Hartmann, Reproductive Wrongs & Rights. South End Press. 1995.
21. Zepezauer, Mark and Arthur Naiman. Take the Rich Off Welfare, page 11. Odonian Press. 1996.
22. Hartmann, Betsy. Reproductive Rights & Wrongs, page 24.
23. "Why Excess Immigration Damages the Environment" by Population-Environment Balance. June 1992.
24. Ibid.
25. Hartmann, Betsy. Reproductive Rights & Wrongs, page 128.
26. In the Earth First Journal in the late 80's there were articles written about the AIDS crisis as nature's way of dealing with overpopulation.
Earth First! like many organizations in the primarily white anarchist movement is home to often contradictory ideas and a great diversity of thought, influences, politics and strategies. Today's Earth First! is far more influenced by anti-capitalism and anti-authoritarian politics then in the days of Dave Foreman - and it is this Earth First! that I hold tremendous respect and admiration for.
27. "Blaming the Newcomers" by Sara Diamond. Z Magazine. August 1992.
28. "Wooing the Sierra Club: Anti-Immigrant Groups Make Unlikely Suitors" by the Political Ecology Group. The quote came from the Wall Street Journal, Nov. 2, 1997.
29. Hartmann, Betsy. Reproductive Rights & Wrongs, page 98-99.
30. ibid., see chapter 6 "Birth of an Ideology".
31. ibid., page 99. Statement made in Sanger's Birth Control Review.
32. ibid., page 99.
33. ibid., page 247-248.
34. ibid., page 255.
35. Welfare policies and population control policies generally prefer contraceptives that are not controlled by the women using them, as it is claimed that "user failure" is too high. Further denial of self-determination for poor women.
36. Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought. Routledge 1990. Paula Giddings. When and Where I Enter: the Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. Quill Press. 1984.
37. Hartmann, Betsy. Reproductive Rights & Wrongs. Page 102. South End Press. 1995.
38. Ibid., page 102.
39. Ibid., page 103.
40. Ibid., page 105.
41. Ibid., page 105-106.
42. Ibid., page 106.
43. Ibid., page 106.
44. Ibid., page 109.
45. Ibid., page 111. Hartmann notes that her analysis of this document comes from work by researcher Elizabeth Soto.
46. Ibid., page 140.
47. Ibid., page 147.
48. Ibid., page 146.
49. "Call For A New Approach" by the Committee on Women, Population and the Environment. Betsy Hartmann, Reproductive Rights & Wrongs, page 311.
50. "Immigration and Environment Campaign: Position Statement". Political Ecology Group.
51. "Wooing the Sierra Club: Anti-Immigrant Groups Make Unlikely Suitors" by the Political Ecology Group.

No comments:

Post a Comment