Verbal 2001 Congressional Testimony

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107th Congress of the United States -- House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims

Oversight Hearing: United States Population and Immigration, August 2, 2001

Verbal Testimony on the Need to Reduce Immigration and/or Natural Increase to Stabilize U.S. Population at an Environmentally Sustainable Level


(Also see our written testimony
and the complete U.S. House of Representatives witness testimony, including Center for Immigration Studies testimony)


 


 

Thank you Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to testify today.
 
My name is Bill Elder. I am chairperson of a network of Sierra Club members that has been commonly referred to as Sierrans ® for U.S. Population Stabilization or SUSPS. Based on past election results, we represent the views of 40% of the nearly 700,000 members of the Sierra Club. I am testifying on behalf of this network - not in my capacity as Population Issue Coordinator of the Cascade Chapter, nor am I otherwise representing the club itself.
 
The subject of this hearing is the relationship between immigration and our U.S. population boom. "Boom" is right! Our 1990's growth of 33 million exceeds that of any other census decade in our nation's history.
 
Thirty three million is equivalent to adding a state the size of California - including all its houses, apartments, factories, office buildings, shopping centers, schools, streets, freeways and automobiles - its consumption of power, water, food and consumer goods -- and its entire waste stream of refuse, air and water pollution - to an already crowded and stressed U.S. environment. Once would be bad enough. But until Congress enacts corrective legislation, this California size shoehorning will occur over and over, decade after decade after decade.
 
 
Sierra Club recognizes need to stabilize U.S. population:
 
Some economic interests with a short-term outlook welcome population growth. Environmentalists do not because we understand its true environmental, quality of life and economic costs. We've already lost 95% of our old growth forests and 50% of our wetlands. We have grown well beyond the energy supply within our borders. Water supplies are declining.
 
My home state of Washington (and a number of others) has been growing at about 20% per decade, just like Bangladesh. We are fighting to save the last of our wild salmon runs from growth related sprawl, dams and deforestation. A task made all the harder as state and local governments unsuccessfully struggle with growth-caused traffic gridlock and a $40 billion infrastructure deficit for which there is no funding plan.
 
The direct relationship between population growth and loss of natural resources has been a mantra of the environmental movement for years. It is expressed by the formula: Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology
 
Accordingly, the Sierra Club has called for stabilizing U.S. population for over 30 years. In 1999, the club began favoring "...eventual decline in U.S. population since it has already reached levels that are not environmentally sustainable."
 
 
Population growth and immigration:
 
Its been a tough issue for environmentalists to deal with. We value children. We value all people of the world and immigration. We have a hard time reconciling these values with the knowledge that too much of a good thing is harmful.
 
Some organizations, like the Sierra Club, have adopted a position of neutrality on U.S. immigration policies. But, at least 60% of U.S. population growth in the 90's (twenty million) was from immigration and children born to immigrants. Given the crucial role of immigration in the current population boom we -- and 42 other environmental leaders listed in our written testimony (see attached) - realize that it must be addressed directly if we are to stabilize our numbers in the foreseeable future.
 
For almost 200 years (1776 through 1965) immigration averaged about two million per decade. If we had simply continued at that rate we would now be in equilibrium with the approximately two million people who emigrate from the U.S. per decade.
 
But Congress enacted legislation in 1965 and subsequent years that has more than quadrupled the rate of immigration. Intentionally or not, Congress created the current population boom. It replaced the 'baby boom' with an 'immigration boom.' The progress of the American people towards a stable and sustainable population and the sacrifices we made in voluntarily adopting replacement level reproduction (i.e. an average of two births per woman) have been undone by our government.
 
 
Recommendation:
 
Respected environmental organizations recognize that continued growth in U.S. population and our consumption is decimating the natural resources that this and future generations need to live healthy and satisfying lives.
 
Our network of Sierra Club members urges Congress to enact a comprehensive population policy for the United States that includes an end to U.S. population growth at the earliest possible time through reduction in natural increase and net immigration.
 
Thank you very much. I'll be happy to respond to any questions.


 
 


 

Attachment
 
The following individuals have endorsed our position that a comprehensive population policy for the United States needs to be adopted that includes an end to U.S. population growth at the earliest possible time through reduction in natural increase and net immigration:
 

  • Al Bartlett, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Anthony Beilenson, U.S. Congressman 1977-1996; 100% from League of Conservation Voters; Congressional leader for international family planning
  • John R. Bermingham, ZPG [now Population Connection] Board member, President Colorado Population Coalition
  • Nicholaas Bloembergen, Nobel Laureate, Harvard University
  • Lester Brown, co-founder and President Worldwatch Institute; co-author State of the World series
  • William R. Catton, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Washington State University, author Overshoot - The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change
  • Maria Hsia Chang, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Benny Chien, Past President, Californians for Population Stabilization; U.C. San Diego School of Medicine
  • Herman Daly, co-founder International Society for Ecological Economics; co-author For the Common Good
  • Elaine del Castillo, founder, Save Our Earth
  • Brock Evans, Executive Director, Endangered Species Coalition; former Sierra Club Associate Executive Director; former Vice-President Audubon Society; former Sierra Club director; John Muir Award
  • Dave Foreman, co-founder Earth First!; former National Sierra Club Director
  • Lindsey Grant, author, Juggernaut; former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Population Affairs
  • Dorothy Green, founding President, Heal the Bay; President Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council
  • Marilyn Hempel, Executive Director, Population Coalition
  • Huey D. Johnson, former Secretary of Resources, State of California; President, Resource Renewal Institute
  • George Kennan, former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union; Presidential Medal of Freedom; Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
  • Doug La Follette, Wisconsin Sec. of State; Board Member, Friends of the Earth
  • Martin Litton, former National Sierra Club Director; John Muir Award; former senior editor Sunset magazine.
  • Jan Lundberg, President of Fossil Fuels Policy Action
  • Dan Luten, past President Friends of the Earth; author, Progress Against Growth
  • Tom McMahon, former Exec. Director Californians for Population Stabilization
  • Monique Miller, Executive Director, Wild Earth magazine
  • Frank Morris, Sr., former Exec. Director, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
  • Farley Mowat, author, Never Cry Wolf, A Whale for the Killing, Sea of Slaughter
  • Norman Myers Senior Advisor, United Nations Population Fund; Senior Fellow, World Wildlife Fund
  • Gaylord Nelson, founder Earth Day; U.S. Senator 1963-81; sponsor, Wilderness Act; Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Tim Palmer, river conservationist; author, California's Threatened Environment
  • Dr. David Pimentel, Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell Univ.
  • Marcia Pimentel, Senior Lecturer (ret.) Nutritional Science, Cornell Univ., author
  • Charles Remington, co-founder Zero Population Growth; Professor of Forestry, Environmental Science and Biology, Yale University
  • John F. Rohe, author: A Bicentennial Malthusian Essay
  • Galen Rowell, nature photographer and author, Mountain light, Bay Area Wild, The Vertical World of Yosemite
  • Claudine Schneider, U.S. Congress, 1980-90; champion of biodiversity, tropical rainforests and endangered species
  • Maria Sepulveda, Executive Director, Population-Environment Balance
  • George Sessions, Professor of Philosophy, Sierra College; Author, Deep Ecology and Deep Ecology for the 21st Century
  • Beth Curry Thomas, Sierra Club National Population Committee; founder, Planned Parenthood, Hilton Head, SC
  • Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior 1961-69; Counselor Grand Canyon Trust; author, The Quiet Crisis
  • Casey Walker, Publisher, Wild Duck Review
  • Paul Watson, co-founder Greenpeace; founder and President Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
  • Carole Wilmoth, Past President Audubon Council of Texas
  • E.O. Wilson, Conservation Biologist, Harvard University; author, Diversity of Life

(Affiliations for identification purposes only)
 
In addition, the Wilderness Society has adopted a population policy that calls for addressing immigration as part of achieving a U.S. stable population.
 
President Clinton's Population and Consumption Task Force came to a similar conclusion. As stated by its chairman: "We believe that reducing current immigration levels is a necessary part of working toward sustainability in the United States."


 
 

(Also see our written testimony
and the complete U.S. House of Representatives witness testimony, including Center for Immigration Studies testimony)


 

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