The Sierra Club lost its way


The Boulder Daily Camera recently published a series of op-eds on the immigration - population - environment connection.

Exploding population is an American predicament, by Frosty Wooldridge, December 10, 2019:

... America absorbs over 1 million legal immigrants annually. According to the Pew Research Center, we allow 500,000 undocumented immigrants [illegal aliens] to cross our southern border and/or visa overstays, annually. That’s a whopping 1.5 million more people added annually. They, in turn, birth 900,000 babies annually, according to Center for Immigration Studies. Additionally, at 330 million people living in America, we add another 1 million net gain ourselves, annually. That totals over 3.1 million added people to the United States annually.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects the United States jumping from 300 million in 2006 to 440 million by 2050. That’s an increase of 140 million people. Do we want that number to land on America’s future generations? Can we survive those numbers as to water, energy and other resources?

Immigration fueling population explosion, by Kathleene Parker, December 19, 2019:

National media — I call them Radio Free Wall Street — no longer legally required to adhere to standards of honesty and ethics in journalism, instead headline our falling birthrate and warn, absurdly, of pending population collapses as they ignore that, not births, but immigration fuels over 90 percent of a population explosion that adds a staggering 28 million to 30 million people per decade to our numbers. (Look at the U.S. Census Bureau’s population clock as it adds one person every 14 seconds.)

The scientists’ warning to the world about population — meaning the size of our individual families, of our states, our nation — means we must move toward steady-state populations and steady-state economies.

And our blind, unquestioning love affair with growth must end.

Find solutions, not scapegoats, for environmental problems, by Rebecca Dickson and Ramesh Bhatt, January 21, 2020:

The Club’s leadership and members long ago decided that inclusivity, education, research and informed collaborative action are the best ways to address the world’s environmental problems, not pointing fingers at immigrants....

Parker also suggests that a millionaire convinced the Sierra Club to abandon an anti-immigration stance. It’s not clear what Parker is referring to here, but perhaps she is talking about the 2004 effort by those with anti-immigrant views to take over the Sierra Club....

The Sierra Club sees consumption as the driving force behind environmental degradation and climate change....

The Sierra Club is adrift, by Jeff Dumas, February 20, 2020:

But my affiliation with the Sierra Club came to a crashing halt in 1998 when the executive director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, stated that “population growth is not an environmental issue.” Where was Pope on Earth Day 1969? That was the entire theme of that iconic event....

In 2004, a famous Coloradan played a pivotal role in challenging the Club’s executive management on that stance. In a dramatic and very public attempt to reverse the Club’s pro-immigration (and pro-growth) stance, former three-term governor and nationally noted conservationist Dick Lamm ran for a seat on the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club. In an election that still rankles former members, and in which Lamm was excoriated by the Club establishment as being a “racist” and bigot (and the conduct of which election is still under scrutiny), Lamm was defeated ....

To this day, Lamm says that this was the ugliest election of his long political career — and, ironically, perhaps his most important. Clearly, in my mind, Lamm’s loss was the Sierra Club’s loss.

I worked to return Sierra Club to sane population policy, by Fred Elbel, February 23, 2020:

Rebecca Dickson and Ramesh Bhatt conveniently obfuscated Sierra Club history in their Jan. 21 op-ed, stating, “(guest opinion writer Kathleene) Parker also suggests that a millionaire convinced the Sierra Club to abandon an anti-immigration stance. It’s not clear what Parker is referring to …”

In 1996, the Sierra Club abandoned their long-standing immigration-population-environment connection. On Oct. 27, 2004, the Los Angeles Times revealed that David Gelbaum, a super-rich donor, had demanded this position from the Sierra Club in return for donations exceeding $100 million.

Kenneth Weiss, author of the Times article that broke the story, quoted what Gelbaum said to Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope: “I did tell Carl Pope in 1994 or 1995 that if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me.”

I was one of the leaders of, the organization of Club environmentalists who at the time worked to return the Club to a sane population policy. I watched in sadness and disbelief as Sierra Club social justice warriors abandoned the most pressing issue of our time.

The following article by Dell Erickson is in response to the Bhatt article.


I have friends in Colorado; we pass through Colorado on Western travels. It always saddens us to see such a beautiful state being bulldozed away, water and land shortages, spreading environmental failures, growing social disharmony, and traffic jams galore.

It's more than adrift. The Sierra Club's open borders and unlimited U.S. population growth programs are promoting widespread loss of Colorado and U.S. natural resources, habitats, critters of all kinds, and ecosystem failures.

The Boulder Sierra Club neglects to ask,

  • When will there be enough people in Boulder, and Colorado, and the U.S.?
  • What is a sustainable population level for Boulder, and Colorado, and the U.S.?
  • What will their environment and ecosystems look like?

Mistakenly believing it supports their non-environment notions, the Boulder Sierra Club revisits an awful period for the environment, the population sell out of the Sierra Club. Indeed, they use the same inflammatory and untrue language today as they did years ago.

As a member at the time, I believed in the existing U.S. population policies and was active in saving the Club from being taken over by these non-environmentalists. They attacked because we true environmentalists wanted to return the Sierra Club's excellent long standing historical U.S. population policies.

At the time, we didn't know what had happened behind the scenes. Subsequently we learned: follow the money.

The Sierra Club violated its own rule that policy change must originate at the grassroots and only then after lengthy discussion and acceptance of a member vote. Surprised, we woke one morning to see the administration had thrown out the U.S. population program, its U.S. committee, and, literally, installed open borders agents in its now, non-U.S. population committee.

The Club had sold its very soul for big money, $104 million and an additional something like $1 - $4 million more each year –the condition being it not having a policy of opposing U.S. population growth and its immigration driver. With that kind of money they had no limits to what they might do to stop members or candidates who did not support the administration

They also played language games to fool members into thinking something that was not the case. They even hired a hit man marketing firm and took the unheard of step to close various member forums where members could exchange viewpoints. (The matter is discussed at, The $100 million sellout to environmental political correctness, and How Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization (SUSPS) Advised Congress in 2001 - An historical perspective followed by the official testimony.

Before the sellout the Sierra Club actively advanced policies to stop U.S. population growth and achieve an environmentally welcome stable U.S. population level.

Reflecting the desperate environmental needs, the Sierra Club's excellent U.S. population position said the following:

  • The Sierra Club, 1969: "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."
  • Sierra Club 1989: "In particular, club policy calls for "development by the federal government of a population policy for the United States" and "for the U.S. "to end (its) population growth as soon as feasible … Immigration to the U.S. should be no greater than that which will permit achievement of population stabilization in the U.S."

This disregard of core ecological factors explains why U.S. environments are failing, and environmentalists, especially the Sierra Club, are often no longer thought well of, few want to join, and the ability to influence legislation has declined.

- Dell Erickson



I feel compelled to respond to Wendy Becktold's horrendous article about population growth ("Why I Don't Stay Awake at Night Worrying About Population Growth," Sierra, 1/6/20). For 35 years I have served the public sector as an environmental scientist, and I take great exception that population growth is nothing to worry about. Indeed, population growth is inextricably linked to environmental degradation.

Simply put, Ms. Becktold is trying to lobotomize her readers into thinking that America's population growth does not matter. What an outrage. Becktold throws her best smoke screen at the argument by citing renegade caron-dioxide molecules in the Earth's atmosphere, high fertility rates in Africa, excessive consumption by Americans (as if reducing consumption rates will make up for more than a million consumers pouring into America every year), and last my favorite -- that if you are concerned about America's rapid population growth, driven by mass immigration, then you must be a racist, xenophobe, and/or eugenicist. If an argument cannot be won on its merits, then name-calling will surely do the trick.

How far the Sierra Club has fallen as the once-important leader in America's environmental movement. There can be only two reasons why the Sierra Club is trying to deny population as a very basic tenet of environmental stewardship -- 1) technical incompetency, or 2) malicious lies to assuage big-money donors. Either way, why continue to donate to such a non-credible environmental group when there are other more deserving organizations that authentically are working to protect the future of America's wild places. (NumbersUSA, which raises alarm about America's rapidly-growing population, is one of my favorite NGOs.)

The only defense for Ms. Becktold and her unconvincing arguments is that the Sierra Club no longer advocates for the meaningful protection of America's natural heritage but, rather, has a sweeping mission to be stewards for all of the Earth's ecosystems and resources. But the Sierra Club continues to mislead Americans by pledging its allegiance for the protection of the nation's wild places. Take for example its cheeky bumper sticker "Make America Green Again". Of course this is a hollow and hopeless goal without addressing America's population growth.

Why be a member of the Sierra Club, when there are other more truthful, effective, and deserving organizations that are in dire need of financial contributions? My guess is that most members of the Sierra Club believe that the Club's Board of Directors is serving their interests by working to protect America's majestic natural beauty and, in turn, the quality of life for future generations of Nature-lovers. If only that were true. I urge you to stop giving money to the Sierra Club and put it towards an organization that cares about America's environment and its people.

- Henry Barbaro

(Note: the author was the Chair of the Population Committee for the Sierra Club's Greater Boston Group from 1996 until he resigned after the Club slandered candidates, to the Board of Directors, who in 2004 campaigned to reinstate the Club's position that mass immigration has a negative impact on America's environment.)