A claim of those who oppose the ballot initiative is that passage would
be so divisive that it would cause the Club to lose many members and it
would paralyze the Club. One quantitative way to investigate this
supposition is to look at membership totals for the Sierra Club and for
The Wilderness Society between 1995 and now. On virtually the same day
in February 1996, leaders of the Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society
chose to take opposite paths concerning U.S. population growth. The
Sierra Club decision to take "no position on immigration levels" stands
in stark contrast to The Wilderness Society policy.
In short, The Wilderness Society policy is
precisely what the framers of the present initiative would like the
Sierra Club to adopt.
Between 1995 and now, membership in the Wilderness Society increased by
9 percent. Between 1995 and now, Sierra Club membership decreased by
11 percent. In other words, The Wilderness Society took the sound
environmental position and its membership increased. The Sierra Club's
Board of Directors took the non-environmental path and the Club lost
members. We are not claiming a causal relationship, only that any
assertion that passage of the initiative will result in net loss of
members is clearly unwarranted.
What about the claims that adoption of the initiative would paralyze the
Club into inaction or jeopardize political alliances? These scare
tactics completely distort the actual effect the initiative will have
because of the way the Sierra Club works. If the initiative passes, no
persons in the Club would be forced to work on any issue about which
they are uncomfortable. Political allies will continue to vote for sound
environmental legislation when it is in the interests of their
constituents -- which is what they do now. The result of the initiative
passing will be that population activists will again have a
comprehensive, realistic set of policies to guide them toward a final
goal of a sustainable society.
-- Ben Zuckerman