The Myth of Sustainable Growth: Population, Immigration, Environmental Degradation - Aspen (1999)

In 1999, Mike McGarry organized the hugely successful national conference "The Myth of Sustainable Growth: Population, Immigration, Environmental Degradation" at the Aspen Institute. Speakers included Roy Beck of NumbersUSA, Terry Anderson, Jonette Christian, and many more.

Terry Anderson

From the article: "Terry Anderson: The Prisoner of South Central - A Black American on the Front Lines of Illegal Immigration"

By Mike McGarry, Aspen Post, August 20, 2007

I first met Terry Anderson at a conference in Washington DC in 1999, the same year I decided to become hands-on active in immigration reduction. In October of that year Terry came to Aspen at my invitation to speak at a conference of immigration activists I organize and held at the Aspen Institute: The Myth of Sustainable Growth: Population, Immigration, Environmental Degradation.

Terry Anderson, the self-described “prisoner of South Central,” has a Los Angeles radio talk show on Sunday nights that deals exclusively and aggressively with “the illegal alien invasion.” Terry knows intimately the devastating influence illegal immigration is having on Black Americans. He has twice testified on the impact of illegal immigration before U.S. congressional committees, prompting the chairman of one committee to comment that he believed Terry was the only witness ever to testify wearing coveralls, Terry’s signature, radial-chic leisurewear.

Sadly,Terry died in July of 2010. You can watch a video tribute to Terry Anderson produced by Fred Elbel.

Population Immigration and Global Ethics

Jonette Christian spoke at the conference. Her powerful talk, "Population Immigration and Global Ethics" was notable for its insight and sobriety. An excerpt:

"We all long for a world in which every child born has the chance to flourish. What are the choices we need to make which will move the world in that direction? We must consider those choices very carefully. Saving people is not the same thing as empowering people to save themselves. If we fail to see this distinction, then we may cause enormous chaos. There is nothing more powerful than putting our own house in order, stabilizing our population, lowering our consumption, planning for the welfare of our descendants, and setting an example of enlightened self government for the world."

In 2002 Jonette returned to Aspen at the invitation of the Sopris Foundation’s State of the World Conference, whose theme that year was, Is a Sustainable Future Possible? Jonette delivered her provocative talk, Finding the Trimtab, to a sold-out Paepcke Auditorium. An excerpt:

“Sustainability will be achieved in pieces, and America is our piece. And this alone will be a breathtaking challenge. Like territorial animals in nature, order is established by marking the borders and dividing national responsibilities. We cannot handle our piece, if we have open borders, multiple agendas, and global missions. We disempower ourselves when we assume more than we can possibly handle.”

Article: Population back on enviros' agenda - Solutions global and local

By Mike McGarry, Glenwood Post Independent, August 2, 2002

“If sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their needs, it is axiomatic that continuous population growth is unsustainable, globally and locally.” — Jonette Christian, Carrying Capacity Network

Stabilizing an immigration-driven U.S. population growth rate that is exploding to an unsustainable doubling within the lifetimes of today’s school children is crucial to providing a sustainable future, locally and globally.

Those were the essential words of Jonette Christian and Colorado’s former three-term governor, Richard Lamm, two of the speakers at the Aspen, Colorado-based Sopris Foundation’s State of the World Conference 2002 in Aspen on July 12-14. The conference topic was, “Is a sustainable future possible?”

Thirty years ago Americans were much more aware of the threats overpopulation posed to the country and the world. Stabilizing US population was integral to the ideals of the first Earth Day in 1970, and virtually every environmental organization officially endorsed the need to halt US population growth as necessary to meeting sustainability goals.

The 1970s were also the years the US began showing a noticeable population weight gain from what was the beginning of an unprecedented mass-immigration binge. Since1970 we have engorged ourselves with a dyspeptic 83 million new consumers, a number greater that the populations of most of the countries of the world. Nearly 70 percent of that growth came from immigration.=

Fast-forward from 1970 to 1999 and you might not recognize the place. The country’s population had soared by more than a third, to 278 million, becoming the third most populous nation in the world, with immigration levels several times our historical averages. By now most environmental organizations had dropped US population stabilization from their priorities, and what formerly were convivial coffee-shop discussions about population were now nasty, accusatory shouting matches.

Meanwhile, the population-consumption juggernaut was gaining momentum. Total US energy consumption, for example, in the 1990s grew by 13 percent, exactly the percentage of population growth that decade. The decade of the ‘90s makes clear the numbers of consumers cannot be isolated from the amount consumed. Even if Americans were to significantly reduce consumption levels and continue to improve resource technology, as we must, most gains would be lost to immigration-fueled population growth.

The many influences causing our national population priorities to about-face over the years were discussed in the Journal of Policy History’s, The Environmental Movement'sRetreat from Advocating US Population Stabilization (1970-1998, Beck). What’s important to note is that within that time frame the guiding population principle of Earth Day 1970, Think Globally-Act Locally, was supplanted with, “Population is a global problem (exclusively) requiring global solutions.” Thus was born and promulgated an intellectual dishonesty.

Deforestation is a global problem, but nobody would suggest we wait for the world to tackle our nation’s deforestation challenges. Moreover, there are nearly 200 countries and thousands of cultures and subcultures in the world. International bodies are notorious for their inability to agree on even the nature of a problem, never mind the nightmarish prospect of imposing global one-size-fits-all solutions.

The nation-state is the only practical and effective unit of community and therefore of public policy implementation. International cooperation and assistance do not suffer because of that fact, just as respecting and acting on the primacy of family does not mean families are uninvolved in the greater community.

Not to be ignored is the research by Dr. Virginia Abernethy of Vanderbilt University showing the opportunity to emigrate for the citizens of nations and members of cultures with unsustainable population growth rates keeps them from implementing the necessary  measures to stabilize their populations.

Hence, Mexico, which has more than tripled its numbers over the last 50 years (and is currently on a 32-year doubling course), has no substantive population policy. It also explains why the president of Bangladesh recently said matter-of-factly he would just send his nationals to the “under-populated” US to ameliorate the effects of his country’s projected population doubling within 50 years.

Is a sustainable future possible? No, not when the 6.2 billion people of the world continue to yearly add 80 million more to the planet, when the US continues to be the sixth fasting growing country in the world and when Colorado continues to grow at twice the US rate.

Yes, if we heed the words of Christian and Lamm and if we immediately take to heart the those of the former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Population, Lindsey Grant (Elephants in the Volkswagen): “Most world environmental and social problems can be solved but only if population policy is an integral part of the solution.”