Why did the environmental movement retreat from the immigration - population - environment connection?

16 November 2018
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John Muir's Sierra Club was once a champion for wilderness preservation. Now, it has been described as "a left-wing diversity organization with hiking boots." 

In 1996, the Sierra Club unilaterally abandoned it's 30 year position that net immigration numbers are an integral component of stabilizing U.S. population growth, and that stabilizing U.S. population growth was necessary for the protection of America's natuaral environment. Why the abrupt about-face?

On Oct. 27, 2004, the Los Angeles Times revealed the answer: David Gelbaum, a wealthy donor, had demanded this position from the Sierra Club in return for massive donations. Kenneth Weiss, author of the LA Times article that broke the story, quoted what David 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."

In 1996 and again in 1998, the Club's leaders proved their loyalty to Gelbaum's position on immigration, first by enacting a policy of neutrality on immigration and then by aggressively opposing a referendum to overturn that policy. In 2000 and 2001, Gelbaum rewarded the Club with total donations to the Sierra Club Foundation exceeding $100 million. In 2004 and 2005, the Club's top leaders and management showed their gratitude for the donations by stifling dissent and vehemently opposing member efforts to return the Club to its traditional population policy.

Once the Sierra Club caved, other environmental organizations followed suit.



The Man Behind the Land - David Gelbaum has shunned publicity while giving millions to preserve California wilderness and teach youths about nature, Kenneth R. Weiss, Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2004.

How the Environmental Movement Became a Casualty of Political Correctness and the Leftist Agenda, by Brenda Walker, The Social Contract, Fall 2012.

The Sierra Club’s Profitable Descent into Leftism, by Brenda Walker, The Social Contract, Spring, 2011.

"The Environmental Movement's Retreat from Advocating U.S. Population Stabilization (1970 - 1998): A First Draft of History", by Roy Beck and Leon Kolankiewicz, 2000:

The years surrounding 1970 marked the coming of age of the modern environmental movement. As that movement approaches its fourth decade, perhaps the most striking change is the virtual abandonment by national environmental groups of U.S. population stabilization as an actively-pursued goal. To begin to understand why that shift has occurred and the significance of that shift, it will be important to review the 1970-era movement and its population roots.

In forsaking U.S. population stabilization, environmental group leaders may have made a Faustian Bargain ... over the long run they paid with their souls, for they are condemning the American environment ..."

An updated version of the article was published as Forsaking Fundamentals - The Environmental Establishment Abandons U.S. Population Stabilization, by Roy Beck and Leon Kolankiewicz, Center for Immigration Studies, March 2, 2001.

The original article was published in the Journal of Policy History, (ISSN 0898-0306) Vol 12, No 1, 2000, published by the, Pennsylvania State University Press, under the title noted above. The issue can be ordered for $12 from

Pennsylvania State University Press, USB 1, Suite C, USB#1, University Park, PA 16802
814 865-1327 email: gah6 at psu.edu.

The original article can also be ordered from:

NumbersUSA, Arlington, VA, phone: 703.816.8820  email: info @ numbersusa.com

In addition, the original article is available on the NumbersUSA website:
The Environmental Movement's Retreat from Advocating U.S. Population Stabilization (1970 - 1998): A First Draft of History.

The original online article is now archived at a site maintained by Cambridge University Press:
The Environmental Movement's Retreat from Advocating U.S. Population Stabilization (1970 - 1998): A First Draft of History