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  • Dale L. Wilcox

Mass Migration: The Green Movement’s Elephant in the Room


As migrant caravans continue marching toward our southern border unabated, anti-borders activists will continue to appeal to our collective senses of guilt and compassion to turn public opinion in their favor. Some of their most popular attempts include: “America is the richest country on Earth!” “How can you separate families?” “We need them to do jobs Americans won’t do!”

While there are perfectly sound responses to each of those provocations, there is another response for which there is no good comeback. As we just celebrated Earth Day, it is timely to note that runaway population growth, in most cases fueled by reckless and politically-motivated mass migration, is doing severe and lasting damage to our environment.

When he founded Earth Day in 1970, the late Democratic senator Gaylord Nelson, said population growth was “a joint partner in the degradation of our nation’s environmental resources.” The liberal senator from Wisconsin was correct then and, considering the population has nearly doubled since, he’s even more correct now.

Misanthropically (but factually) speaking, human beings are agents of pollution. And every year, America imports by far the most human beings. As environmentalist John Erik Meyer has warned, when people move from developing countries (where most of our migrants come from) to high-consumption ones, they create a larger carbon and ecological footprint. A typical immigrant, he says, emits over four times the carbon emissions that they did in their country of origin. What this means is, by keeping our current immigration pace of more than 2 million annually (legal and illegal), we’ll likely need an even more ambitious Green New Deal than the one Democrats proposed in order to reduce our outsized impact on the planet.

New technologies and increased resource regulation are no environmental panacea. While the wasteful and excessive use of natural resources is certainly part of our carbon-footprint problem, it would be disastrously irresponsible to ignore the effects of population growth as a contributor. Paul Ehrlich, author of the landmark Population Bomb, and John Holdren, chief science advisor under former President Obama, together in the 1970s popularized a shorthand formula for population growth’s impact on the environment: I = P x A x T; ‘I’, or impact, being a function of ‘P,’ population growth, ‘A,’ affluence (or per capita consumption), and ‘T,’ technology. While T can mitigate variables P and A, and thereby decrease I, it is no cure-all. If we let variable P get out of control, we’ll be standing still even while pursuing evermore austere environmental solutions.

The environmental effects of runaway population growth used to be a much-discussed topic. Efforts to stigmatize it as “greenwashing hate” by groups like the now-disgraced Southern Poverty Law Center and the just-as disgraceful Anti-Defamation League, while beyond clownish, were depressingly successful. Before then, however, environmental groups used to understand the impacts. In the late eighties, almost 20 of the top groups in the U.S. presented then-President George H. W. Bush with a “Blueprint for the Environment,” asking him to address the problems of population growth. And up until the early nineties, it was the Sierra Club’s official position that, “immigration to the U.S. should be no greater than that which will permit achievement of population stabilization in the U.S.”

The same goes for Democrats, and not only including Senator Nelson. James H. Scheuer, House Democrat from New York, held the first congressional hearings on climate change in 1981 and was a big pusher for reduced immigration for environmental reasons. The issue was at least a superficial concern of Democrats up to late-1990s when then-President Bill Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development stated that “[m]anaging population growth, resources, and wastes is essential to ensuring that the total impact of these factors is within the bounds of sustainability.”

Despite the sizeable body of research and original positions to the contrary, it has now become forbidden on the left to discuss the link between mass migration and the environmental damage it causes. Going one step further, many environmental groups paradoxically support both green environmental policies and mass migration. The United Nations, which has taken the lead on promoting CO2 restrictions on countries, at the same time enthusiastically supports the large-scale movement of people from developing countries to the West. Among its other activities, the UN is assisting northbound migrant caravans, advocating against borders, and expanding refugee definitions to enable more migration. Besides the Trump administration and a handful of like-minded Eastern European allies, when will other countries stand up and call out the duplicity of these policies?

While the merits of various proposals to safeguard our environment are open to debate, the notion that we have an obligation to be good stewards of the planet should enjoy unanimous support. If the primary goal is to protect our environment, then it is essential to discard other counter-productive positions that are maintained in the name of political correctness. If there is any “settled science” on the issue, it is that mass migration harms the environment. It’s time to accept it and act accordingly.

Dale Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.

Also published at: Dale L. Wilcox, Mass Migration: The Green Movement’s Elephant in the Room, WND, April 25, 2019.


IRLI is a supporting organization of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

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