Restrictionists Meet with Population and Environmental Activists in D.C.

By David North on October 5, 2010

Can restrictionists look to the population movement to help hold down immigration? How about to environmentalists?

I spent yesterday at a stimulating conference in Washington of migration, population, and environmental activists sponsored by the Population Media Center. My impression was that many of the population people were sympathetic to immigration limits, and the environmentalists were rather less so.

The day opened on a positive note with presentations by three Australians, who indicated that the size of the population of that country was a major public policy issue, and that despite the efforts of commercial interests, that the nation was moving towards population stabilization.

Many American speakers praised the Aussie efforts and some were openly envious of the success of the population movement Down Under.

The Australian delegation was led by a back-bench member of the ruling Labor party, Kelvin Thompson, who represents an electorate near Melbourne. He and his colleagues, activist Jennie Goldie and Mark O'Connor, a Senate candidate of the newly-formed Stable Population Party, outlined some of the differences between the state of population policy in the two nations.

One outstanding difference the audience noticed was the presence in the room of an Australian parliamentarian, from the other side of the globe, and the total absence of any congressional staff, much less a member of Congress, people who work about two miles away.

The audience learned that the Prime Minister who had been ousted by his own Labor Party a few months ago, Kevin Rudd, had been an advocate of the Big Australia (i.e., unlimited growth) policy. He has been replaced by Julia Gillard, who, in turn, won a narrow victory at the polls and appointed a Minister for Sustainable Population.

The Aussies reported that the population movement was supported strongly by the Anglican Church, and had very little trouble from the immigrant communities, many of which supported a stable population. (In contrast, as a member of the audience pointed out, in the U.S. the immigration lawyers are a major force, and that their multi-story office building, a few blocks from the White House, was across the street from the meeting site, at the Kaiser Family Foundation's offices.)

The main pro-growth supporters in Australia were identified as developers and big business people, but Australian polling showed substantial majorities in favor of a stable population. It was all a breath of fresh air.

There was also a Canadian and a Brit present; the latter was gloomy about the prospects of a stable population growth movement in his country, saying to me at the edge of the meeting: "we have had two successive prime ministers who have had excessive [i.e., over two] children, and then Tony Blair became a Catholic. They don't know we exist."

The meeting was the fourth in a series of annual gatherings, and was organized by, and presided over by, Bill Ryerson, President and Founder of the Population Media Center. An account of last year's meeting can be seen here.

Migration people present included representatives from Numbers USA, FAIR, and CIS.

The opponents of a population policy were identified and discussed at the session. My CIS colleague, Jerry Kammer, who has done considerable research on the subject, described how the Southern Poverty Law Center had sought to portray restrictionists as racists. There were also discussions of the Catholic Church's strenuous campaign against population limitations, and similar campaigns by American big business and "enviro-socialists."

The last-named group focuses on per capita consumption, as opposed to the "numbers of capitas." They refuse to contemplate any relation between the number of people and their impact on the environment.

Several of the environmental groups present had an international orientation and thus were not terribly worried about migration among nations, though it was pointed out that when people from the Third World, who made a small footprint back home, come to the U.S. they rapidly pick up (deplorable) American consumption and energy-use practices.

One of the environmentalists who was not very interested in migration created a bit of a stir at the meeting. Looking the part, being young and bearded, Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity said that his organization's focus was on direct contact with young Americans to get them concerned about the disappearance of various species.

He demonstrated the organization's approach by distributing boxes of condoms at the meeting; the one that I brought home carried a picture of an owl in flight and said "Save the Spotted Owl: Wear a Condom Now" on one side, and "Extinction is Forever: Wear a Condom" on the other. These brightly printed little packages, he said, were a hit on college campuses.

But it did not relate much to international migration.