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Environmentalists Risk Reputations by Aligning with Bigots

Guest Blogger • Sep 29, 2011

By Jesse Sanes

In a blog post on the website of Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), environmentalist Dave Foreman got a great deal of praise for his recent book Man Swarm and his message of overpopulation reeking havoc on the world’s ecological systems. he author of the article, Leon Kolankiewicz, is a familiar face from anti-immigrant circles. He is both on Tanton-network front group Progressives for Immigration Reform’s advisory team and is an advisory board member of CAPS.

CAPS is California’s leading anti-immigrant organization and is listed on FAIR’s website as a state contact. CAPS, like FAIR, has received funding from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that has a long history of promoting the genetic superiority of white, European-Americans through the study of eugenics. Kolankiewicz is also the co-creator of the Sprawl City website, writes for Center for Immigration Studies, and is a former member of Carrying Capacity Network. The Carrying Capacity Network’s president, Virginia Abernethy, is a self-described white separatist.

For Dave Foreman’s part, a long-time ecology activist, he is an Apply the Breaks leader, an organization that helped pioneer the current anti-immigrant co-optation of the environmental movement. He also founded The Rewilding Institute (TWI), which received funding from the Weeden Foundation so that TWI and Apply the Breaks could  “work closely […] to get conservation groups and activists to endorse a position recognizing the role of population growth in harming biodiversity and causing climate change.”

Both Kolankiewicz and Foreman claim to focus on the census and population as an environmental issue, but the real agenda here is primarily concerned with U.S. population stabilization and immigration.

The recent CAPS blog post highlights Dave Foreman’s experience as a champion conservationist and his belief that the number one driver of the loss of wildlife and the destruction of the wilderness is population growth. It cites “Seven Ecological Wounds” the environment has supposedly suffered as a result of population growth, something he incessantly links to immigration to the US. However, Foreman’s reasons for citing population are maligned, skewed by politics similar to Kolankiewicz’s staunchly anti-immigrant stance and that distract from real ecological solutions. Contained within Foreman and Kolankiewicz’s argument are 5 Wounds to Good Ecology. These are:

Fallacy – overpopulation is not a real global threat

Ignoring root causes of ecological degradation – by focusing on population and immigration as opposed to addressing the real social conditions that create environmental degradation important issues like civil rights, economic equality and environmental justice;

Upsetting and weakening ecological movements – industrial pollution, health burdens from toxics and the effects of global warming all fall disproportionately on immigrants, the poor and the global south. Alienating those groups from solutions to global warming only weakens the movement;

Spread of erroneous math – The I=PAT equation (Environmental Impact= Population*Affluence*Technology) completely ignores important complexities like political systems or social values and by dividing impact by person it predisposes population control policy even though population is just one factor among others like income bracket or nation or bio region that could have been chosen and given better implications about where to act;

Letting the real immigration culprits off the hook– Real damage to the fragile ecosystems at the border is caused by the militarization of immigration enforcement. 600 miles of border walls and barriers constructed by Homeland Security are having devastating effects on the local bioshpere.

Kolankiewicz may claim to focus arbitrarily on population growth, but his connections and leadership in anti-immigrant groups proves otherwise. Dave Foreman is coming close to running a similar path and compromising his reputation as a conservationist.

As a long time environmentalist, Foreman needs to reevaluate his strategy for ecological preservation: dwelling on overpopulation distracts from real policy changes that would save our planet, and blaming immigrants alienates the people who have the most to lose from environmental degradation.

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