A Brief History of Sierra Club Population Policy

The 1996 Board's Position Breaks with Tradition

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For over three decades the Sierra Club has recognized the important role that population growth plays in environmental degradation. In 1965 the Club began adopting policies stressing the need for population stabilization and for education on the role population plays in environmental problems. The Club consistently called for an end to population growth "first of the United States and then of the world." However, the 1996 Board of Directors abandoned this long-standing position by voting to "take no position on immigration levels or on policies governing immigration into the United States," even though mass immigration accounts for a major proportion of U.S. population growth today. In 1998, Club members submitted a ballot initiative that would have restored Sierra Club population policy to that in effect prior to 1996.
What follows are excerpts from Sierra Club population policies adopted over the last thirty years. They show dramatically the break with precedent made by the 1996 Board of Directors. The most complete statement of Club immigration policy is given in the Spring 1989 Sierra Club Population Report. That important document describes in detail the history, purpose, and nature of Club immigration policy. Complete versions of all Sierra Club policies can be found here, as well as on the Club's website (http://www.sierraclub.org) and are available from the national headquarters in San Francisco.


Sierra Club Population Policy Excerpts

Population: " "The Sierra Club Board of Directors recently clarified -- not changed -- its existing policy to state that the world and the U.S. should go beyond population stabilization to reduction,..." Carl Pope, Oct. 21, 1999 directive
"The 'population explosion' has severely disturbed the ecological relationships between human beings and the environment. It has caused an increasing scarcity of wilderness and wildlife and has impaired the beauty of whole regions, as well as reducing the standards and the quality of living. In recognition of the growing magnitude of this conservation issue, the Sierra Club supports a greatly increased program of education on the need for population control." Adopted March 13, 1965; amended July 8, 1995.
The Sierra Club urges the people of the United States to abandon population growth as a pattern and goal; to commit themselves to limit the total population of the United States in order to achieve balance between population and resources; and to achieve a stable population no later than the year 1990." Adopted May 3-4, 1969.
Necessary Policies: "We must find, encourage, and implement at the earliest possible time the necessary policies, attitudes, social standards, and actions that will... bring about the stabilization of the population first of the United States and then of the world." Adopted June 4, 1970; amended July 8, 1995.
Population Stabilization: "The Sierra Club reaffirms its dedication and its conviction that: 1. All nations of the world, including developed nations, should formulate and participate in programs designed to curb their own population growth, and 2. All developed nations, including the United States, being the countries with impact on the world development disproportionate to their population sizes, have an obligation both to end their population growth as soon as feasible and to substantially reduce their consumption of this planet's non-renewable resources." Adopted May 6-7, 1978.
U.S. Immigration Laws, Policies, and Practices: "Currently, only the U.S., Canada, and Australia among all countries accept more than a handful of permanent immigrants. All regions of the world must reach a balance between their populations and resources. Developing countries need to enlarge opportunities for their own residents, thus increasing well-being, eventually lessening population growth rates, and reducing the pressures to emigrate. Developed nations must work towards greater conservation of resources as well as population stabilization in order to reduce impact on depletion of non-renewable resources, creation of pollution, and damage to ecosystems. This combination would remove the root causes of international migration, by providing more equitable opportunities for people throughout the world." Adopted May 6-7, 1978.
Mass Immigration: "Immigration to the U.S. should be no greater than that which will permit achievement of population stabilization in the U.S.... The Sierra Club will lend its voice to the congressional debate on legal immigration issues when appropriate, and then only on the issue of the number of immigrants -- not where they come from or their category, since it is the fact of increasing numbers that affects population growth and ultimately, the quality of the environment." Confirmed July 1988.


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