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Sustainable Population Australia Lifeboat Ethics on Immigrants

Letter in AFR Australian Financial Review from Jennie Goldie, Sustainable Population Australia commenting on recent article:


Population growth costs quality of life.  Your editorial (“Populate and reap rewards”, AFR, December 2) got one thing right, namely, “it will be hard work to accommodate a bigger population”. The rest was now-outdated classical economic theory that took no account of so-called externalities like climate and energy.

Every new person costs $200,000 in infrastructure. Millions of extra people will, therefore, cost billions of dollars in extra housing, roads, hospitals, schools.

Quality of life for those in the cities will diminish as backyards disappear and space becomes a premium. Roads will become ever more congested and housing even less affordable.

A bigger population may increase total GDP but not necessarily per capita GDP.

Bigger is not necessarily better for the individual.

To get back to externalities.

First, climate. It is only a matter of time before coal is left in the ground to preserve a liveable climate.

That will see the end of coal exports on which Australia’s economy depends.

Second, energy. Once oil is hard to get or expensive, our economy will go into freefall.

Australia does not need more people. It needs to better train the unemployed and underemployed that are already here and not import skills.

We need to stabilise our population as soon as possible and move to a dynamic, steady state economy, not one based on perpetual growth.

 Jenny Goldie

Sustainable Population Australia
Michelago, NSW’

Unfortunately SPA Sustainable Population Australia cannot provide any empirical evidence for their claims, relying instead upon confusing headline population statistics.

However, that’s not the point: 


by Ian Angus and Simon Butler

Lifeboat Ethics and Anti-immigrant Bigots.

 “Environmental” arguments for reducing immigration aren’t new.  In a 1974 article, “Lifeboat Ethics: the Case against Helping the Poor,” US biologist Garrett Hardin (linked to John Tanton’s network) argued that “a nation’s land has a limited capacity to support a population and as the current energy crisis has shown us, in some ways we have already exceeded the carrying capacity of our land.”  Immigration, he said, was “speeding up the destruction of the environment of the rich countries.”

Elsewhere he wrote: “Overpopulation can be avoided only if borders are secure; otherwise poor and overpopulated nations will export their excess to richer and less populated nations.”

Hardin’s ideas have been very influential in the development of the right-wing, anti-immigration movement in the US and elsewhere.  In 1979, he helped to found the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant lobbying group that has been named a “hate organization” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  In addition to the usual array of anti-immigrant arguments, FAIR has made a particular point of linking concerns about the environment with opposition to immigration….

… The racist British National Party, which likes to call itself the “true green party” because it opposes immigration, also uses this argument.  BNP leader Nick Griffin recently told the European parliament that climate change isn’t real — but that hasn’t stopped him saying immigrants will make it worse.  He told author Steven Farris that by accepting immigrants from the third world, “We’re massively increasing their impact of carbon release into the world’s atmosphere.  There’s no doubt about it, the western way of life is not sustainable.  So what on Earth is the point of turning more people into westerners?“

(It is significant that none of these supposed defenders of the environment take their argument to its logical conclusion: if immigration to the North is bad for the climate then emigration to poor countries with low emissions must be good and should be encouraged.)


Greens versus Immigration

For anti-immigration bigots, concern for the environment is just a ploy — they’ll say anything to justify keeping immigrants out.  It’s an example of what author and feminist activist Betsy Hartmann has called “the greening of hate — blaming environmental degradation on poor populations of color.”’

Not only are SPA and Birrell’s Centre for Population and Urban Research linked to FAIR, the common thread is John Tanton:

‘A network of organizations that uses environmental concerns to justify anti-immigration views is now courting liberals.

A few years ago, anti-immigration ads began popping up in a number of progressive magazines, including this one. The ads displayed an environmental wasteland and suggested that immigrants were somehow the cause — one showed an image of a congested highway with an adjoining paragraph about how immigration contributes to commuter traffic.

The ads were purchased by a network of anti-immigration organizations, all of them with ties to a man named John Tanton. According to the Center for New Community, which monitors the white nationalist movement, Tanton has fostered over a dozen groups that work to reduce immigration. Six of these organizations, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), have been cataloged as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, but Tanton doesn’t seem bothered by his critics. He even framed a copy of the center’s 2002 investigation of him (titled “The Puppeteer”) and hung it in his office.

Some of John Tanton’s views from Southern Poverty Legal Center report

‘Tanton’s white nationalist views are fully exposed in his private papers at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” Tanton wrote in a Dec. 10, 1993, letter to Garrett Hardin, a controversial ecology professor.

The papers in the Bentley Library also show that Tanton has for decades been at the heart of the white nationalist scene. He has corresponded with Holocaust deniers, former Klan lawyers and the leading white nationalist thinkers of the era. He introduced key FAIR leaders to the president of thePioneer Fund, a white supremacist group set up to encourage “race betterment,” at a 1997 meeting at a private club. He wrote a major funder to encourage her to read the work of a radical anti-Semitic professor — to “give you a new understanding of the Jewish outlook on life” — and suggested that the entire FAIR board discuss the professor’s theories on the Jews. He practically worshipped a principal architect of the Immigration Act of 1924 (instituting a national origin quota system and barring Asian immigration), a rabid anti-Semite whose pro-Nazi American Coalition of Patriotic Societies was indicted for sedition in 1942.



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