Saturday, May 12, 2007


I should like to recall a remark that Dr. Neil Dawe of the Qualicum Institute made some time ago to the effect that Canada could sustain its present population level of 32 million people --- if, and this was his guess---we consumed at the level we did in the 1950’s. As a child of the 50’s, can I tell you what that level was for the average trade union household in an “affluent” working class Burnaby neighbourhood? Seven people, three small bedrooms, one bathroom, one car. The iceman came once a week with his calipers to fit a block of ice customized for our ice box. I never heard of ice cream until we got our first refrigerator in 1958. That was also the year we acquired our first TV—a small black and white set with rabbit ears that you were constantly adjusting to receive just 4 channels. You could never rely on the reception from one night to the next and it seemed that every ten minutes you had to get up to pound your fists on the console in anger to make the snow and the lines disappear. One TV for the whole house, and like the bathroom, you fought for its possession. There was a radio, which had been the centre of our lives until the TV arrived, and the record player which played scratchy music that seemed quite wonderful at the time. Canadians today would find it amazing that for us, one bath a week sufficed for hygiene. Greasy hair was not a problem because you wanted it greasy—in fact you added Brylcream (“a little dab’ll do ya’”). I shared my bathwater with my two brothers as well as my bedroom. I never had my own bedroom until they were married. We were satisfied with this standard of living because, frankly, we never had it so good. And yet our quality of life, by the terms that I would measure it, was much better than today. We knew all of our neighbours. They waved at us as they drove by, they dropped by with their surplus vegetables, baby-sat, helped my dad with renovations and we never ever locked our doors. In fact, people left their cars at English Bay unlocked with the windows open. Kids were never “street-proofed” or driven to school. Traffic congestion was a joke by contemporary standards. Parks were not over-used. I’m sorry if this sounds like a Leave-it-to-Beaver nostalgic whitewash of an era that is so often depicted as oppressive and conformist. But what I say is essentially true. My bumper sticker summarizes my sentiments: “The 1950’s: Fewer Toys, Fewer Choices, Happier Times”.
But could I go back there? I know what “quality of life” means to me but what does it mean to Canadians under 30? Would they willingly accede to that level of material existence? Richard Wakefield, in his “The Future of the Quality of Life in Canada”, would answer with an emphatic “No!”. Any Canadian government that tried on a “Green Agenda” that would severely slash our consumption levels-- a power-down-- would be quickly tossed out of office like yesterday’s newspaper. It is fashionable to get on the green bandwagon now, but wait until we get down to brass tacks and ask people to give up their toys. They won’t. Except under the duress of a collapse of unprecedented magnitude, which seems inevitable. That’s Richard’s grim assessment.
Mine is that cutting back consumption is actually a tougher nut to crack than reducing population, despite all the roadblocks that are thrown in front of us. Yeah, theoretically if we all lived like Mahatma Ghandhi you could make a case for not beating the drum so loudly about population growth. But the reality is, we won’t. And we are not alone in our attachment to consumerism. Affluenza is a western epidemic. An April 2007 study carried out by the Demoskop polling institute revealed that 60% of people living in the richest nation on earth—Sweden—would not be prepared to lower their standard of living in order to fight global warming.
I think I am on the right track. A moratorium on immigration would not solve all our problems but at least it wouldn’t exacerbate them. If you haven’t read Richard’s essay, read it. It’s at

Sunday, May 6, 2007

THE COST OF GROWTH DOWN UNDER----A Letter From an Aussie Friend

I may not be as pessimistic as you, but I think it's all up
with climate change. It's finally being talked about by politicians, and
there was a report released yesterday that in 60 years Sydney will be 5-7 C
hotter with 40% less rain. It is already an arid hell. The kindest thing
would be a mercy cull of everybody under 30! I expect lots more talk, but
no action. The PM has said a number of times that global warming is a
serious problem, but he won't take any measures that damage the economy. I
can't fathom that sort of blinkered thinking, but that's all we'll get from
any politicians. They are too steeped in their thinking about growth being
good, consumption being good, spending being good, prosperity being good
etc etc. The trouble is that a dollar value is not put on the real costs of
all this growth. Yes, we are far richer than before and have lots more
stuff; but out society is totally buggered. What's the social cost of
traffic jams, long commutes, mad working hours, delinquent and crazed kids,
crime of every sort, unsafe streets, ethnic conflict, the atmosphere of
living in an anarchic mad-house created by the tsunami of graffiti that
totally defaces Sydney and most other cities? I'd go back to being much
poorer but living in a sane society like the one we had when I was a kid -
though I know it had lots that needed improving.
I'm not too worried about oil. I think they'll get around that, though
it'll be costly;. Personally, I'd be happy to see petrol cost $3 a litre,
if it would price the fool-boxes (4 WDs) off the roads.
Of course, we are plonking urban sprawl on our farm land too. Sydney used
to have an extensive network of market-gardens, orchards and dairy farms on
the river flats and other fertile land in the basin it is in, but most have
gone and the rest will go.
I must go too, but I'll keep in touch. I hope you are going well, even if
the world isn't.

Thoughts of best mate Stephen Collier, Armidale, NSW

Tim Murray and check out

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Portland, Oregon was long held up as an example of how growth can be "managed". You know, the usual Sierra Club/progressive developer cant about densifying urban areas and containing people within those boundaries so as to preserve open green space. Sounds nice. After all, we don't want urban sprawl, do we? OK, so your lovely land-use restrictions and "smart-growth" strategy are in place.

But what happens when, over the following ten years, your state is flooded with 309,700 foreign-born migrants and the population grows by 20% from 1990-2000? It's pretty hard to keep people confined in these tight urban sheep pens when they are bursting at the seams and developers are chomping at the bit.

This is taken from "Immigration in Your Backyard", Federation for American Immigration Reform: Immigration Impact: Oregon:

"Disappearing open space: Each year, Oregon loses 20,800 acres of open space and farmland due to development.18 In December 2002, the Portland area’s regional government voted to allow development on 18,600 acres of rural land in and around its suburbs.19 Portland, once a model for limiting urban growth, has been forced by a growing population to repeatedly expand its urban boundary, most recently urbanizing 200 hundred acres in nearby Hillsboro, 370 acres in West Lynn, 520 acres bordering Forest Park, and 720 acres in Bethany (which is about half of its farmland).20 About eight acres in Portland were paved for development each day during the 1990s.21 Portland’s population increase has forced more and more development of the area within the growth boundary, crowding current residents and eating up any pastoral areas."

Oh dear me. It looks like another "smart-growth" cure went bad. Oregonians can now commiserate with the British, who are seeing their 60 year experiment with Greenbelt protection crumble because their towns and cities cannot hold the development pressures that build up from the population growth from annual injections of 170,000 immigrants or more. Perhaps folks in either of those localities could do us a service by telling the David Suzuki Foundation, the Sierra Club and the Environment critic of the British Columbia New Democratic Party--the developer with a green hat--that "smart growth" is a dumb option. It simply ain't what it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


The same way of thinking that got us into these environmental problems is not going to get us out.

All I hear in the news is how we are looking for alternative energy sources. (obviously to prop up more population growth)

Whatever energy humans have been able to exploit, they've used it to grow their population, which only makes them more dependent on new energy sources.

If humans did stumble upon a source of energy more abundant than oil, there would be a population explosion that would rapidly wipe out the earth's natural capital.

Here is an example of how alternative energies combined with Canada's mass immigration only make matters worse.

There is a 900 acre Solar panel farm planned near Sarnia, Ontario.

According to: the solar farm will generate 40 megawatts or provide power to 6,000 homes.

From 2004-2005 Canada netted 244,600 immigrants. (even higher in 2005-2006, but we'll go with this conservative estimate)

Since there is about 2.6 people per household in Canada as of 2001 ( ) ...

6,000 homes accounts for domestic electricity for only 15600 people.

In other words, this technological marvel will be cancelled out after 23 days of immigration.

In less than 1 month of business-as-usual immigration, this solar farm will in fact have a negative net environmental benefit!

When 15,600 immigrants are added in those 23 days, there will be a huge negative environmental effect since:

-the construction of this solar electricity plant consumed a lot of fossil fuels and exhausted a lot of GHG emissions
-the farm land that the solar panel site has taken over is lost forever, thereby increasing our reliance on food imports
-the immigrants will consume in many other ways besides household electricity (water, electronics, air-travel, paper products, etc) thereby pushing more species into extinction and paving over more greenspace.

Brishen Hoff

RE: Technological Advances Won't Save Us

Brishen Hoff’s logic is inescapable. More people only negate the gains made by energy-efficient technology. His analysis simply validates studies done in other countries that have made similar correlations between immigrant-driven population growth and increased energy use and pollution. Professor Mark Diesendorff warned that Australia would not be able to reduce its GHG emissions if it continued its mass immigration policies. Professor Kolankiewicz demonstrated that since 1970 88% of America’s increase in energy use was due to an increase in population, mostly driven by immigration, while only 12% was attributable to an increase in per capita energy consumption. In other words, it’s not so much that people are driving SUVs rather than fuel efficient cars, it’s just that there are 3 million more drivers each year out there. In the UK government statisticians reveal that of the 11 million new houses that will need to be built before 2050—much of it on formerly sacrosanct Greenbelt land—59% will be built to accommodate Britain’s growing population, nearly 70% of that from immigration. Only 17% of the new housing will be built because of lower household sizes. More immigrants, more people, more houses, more energy consumption, more emissions in one form or another. Since the publication of Dr. William Rees’ watershed book, the Green mantra has been to reduce our individual ecological footprint. But as these studies show, as Brishen Hoff’s analysis shows, it is the sum total of individual ecological footprints that matter. Ultimately it’s a numbers game. As always, Garrett Hardin said it best. “The population problem has no technical solution: It requires a fundamental extension in morality.”

“If we had the population level we did in the eighteenth century, it wouldn’t matter what energy source we used.” James Lovelock

SMART GROWTH ON QUADRA ISLAND? A response to Sierra Quadra's Oxymoronic Concept

The letter published in the DI (April 27/07) vindicates my decision to leave the Sierra Club. I am not interested in "accommodating" growth. Or managing it, or deflecting it, or making it "sustainable". I am only interested in stopping it. The only impediment to doing so is our belief that it cannot be done. "Smart growth" is not the antidote to urban sprawl, as the British are finding after 60 years of trying to defend their greenbelts. Urban densification and strict land use planning cannot indefinitely contain the development pressures that build up from continual injections of people. Eventually greenbelts and nature reserves will succumb to these pressures. There are only so many sardines that you can pack into a sardine can. With smart growth you get to the same destination, but at a slower pace. You want your cake, and develop it too. Smart or dumb, growth is still growth. However which way they are distributed, more people compete for fewer resources, pressure wildlife habitat, generate more GHG emissions and contribute to longer ferry line-ups, whether they live in dense villages or subdivided acreages.
"The population of Quadra will continue to grow". One of those matter-of-fact pronouncements taken as gospel that when unchallenged become self-fulfilling prophecies. It's going to happen whether we like it or not so lets-make-the-best-of-it kind of reasoning. Well, growth can be stopped. Population can be capped, not managed. Qualicum Beach, Okotoks, and even Lasqueti Island in their own fashion are doing it. And Boulder, Colorado too. See, once upon a time "planning" involved the selection of an ideal or optimal arrangement of resources and the formulation of guidelines to steer haphazard development toward it. Now it has come to mean merely the accommodation to projected trends that are said to be the signal of "inevitable" occurrences. Planners now simply forecast future demands and pander to them. Now the folks in Qualicum Beach, Okotoks and Boulder are restoring "planning" to its authentic meaning. This is the population level we want, so let's plan for it. If our current political structure does not afford us the levers to do that, then we had best deploy our energies in trying to exit from it.

Tim Murray

The Trade-Off Between Services and Quality of Life

I don’t want to talk about water tables, sewers and lot-sizes. I want to talk about our lack of contentment with what should satisfy us. For it is not only the desire of landowners to turn a profit from subdividing acreage that will be our undoing, but our own appetites for those things cities offer.

The argument that I want to wage locally here is that there are trade-offs between the extra amenities people want and what they have give up in exchange for getting those amenities. Each amenity or service requires a certain population base to make it viable. For example, in the early nineties, Quadra had less than 2500 people. Not enough to make a dental practice work, or a full-time doctor establish himself, or a drugstore. People also had to go to the Hospital in town to get a blood test. Quite an inconvenience. But we enjoyed a rural life style with trust and familiarity and community spirit. Quality of life. By 2000 there were 3000 people and two doctors working two days each were able to succeed, and two dentists were able to practice. Great. A year or two after that another breakthrough. We got a drugstore. At last we didn't have to go to town for medications or have them sent by ferry. With 3500 people however, there are some of us who still are not satisfied. They want their cake and eat it too. City amenities and rural living. A friend of mine said that she is afraid that the sushi bar in the village will not survive unless more people move here to support the business. And a lot of people want a swimming pool built. The tax base required for that would have to be huge. As for myself, I am irritated that the local office supply store won't carry print cartridges for my printer. I have to have them order them for me and wait 8 or even 20 days for it. The alternative is to order on line and the delivery charge is twice the cost of the cartridge itself. But for the office supply store to have those cartridges on hand would require twice or three times our current population level. The owner told me that when she stocked cartridges there wasn't enough turn-over because there weren't enough printers on the island. The cartridges got stale and she had to fire-sale them.
The question for me is, how badly do I want those print cartridges? How badly do people want a sushi bar? Or a swimming pool? At what price convenience? For there is a price. The price of more people, longer ferry line-ups, more crime, less familiarity among people, less trust, less community spirit. The change can be incremental and unnoticeable as it happens but retrospectively there would be a realization that something precious and irretrievable has been lost. Quadra is at 3500 or 4000 now. Maybe at 5000 not much of our quality of life would be lost. But there would be a fulcrum point. 5500, or 6000, and suddenly we are just an island suburbia, where people walk by without stopping to say hello and store clerks can't remember your name.
And there would be another casualty of population growth too. The wildlife. Sierra Quadra asked me to mail a postcard to the minister to protest the shooting of wolves on the island. Let me put it this way, there are no wolves or cougars left to shoot on Saltspring Island. They have 10,000 people or 55 per, vs. our current 13 per Proper game management and "smart growth" will not and has not shielded wildlife indefinitely from the pressures of human population growth. Noticeably absent from the April 28,2007 meeting were any representatives from the deer, wolf or cougar population of Quadra. I wonder how many homo sapiens they are willing to "accommodate" in their OCP? (Official Community Plan)
It seems to me that the proper course in developing a community plan is to first decide what an optimum population level for your community would be. Once you have established that, then you work down from there and fit Local Area Plans and an allotment for non-market housing for seniors and low-incomers within that framework. Ideally, growth is not something you "manage" or "accommodate" but cap, as Qualicum Beach, Okotoks and Boulder, Colorado have done. If our current political structure does not afford us the levers of control that these jurisdictions enjoy, then I would deploy my energies in exiting that structure and getting control. Growth will be limited by resource depletion---water or oil-- or by us. I would prefer that we find a way of doing it rather than surrendering to its "inevitability" and then hitting a brick wall called Peak Oil or biodiversity collapse.It should not be a given that we have to accept growth.

Tim Murray

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


What is a "useful" immigrant? Is it one who has a degree in engineering, medicine, a tradesman in construction, a surveyor, a businessman with experience in land development/subdivisions?
What does "contributing to society" mean? In the old fashioned days when wilderness was the rule and civilization was the exception, building bridges, railroads, providing medical care to growing populations was considered good for society.
But times have changed.
Immigrants may have ‘built this country’ but this country doesn’t need any more building.
We have already paved over the most biodiverse treasures our country had to offer.
Our lifeboat is full and adding passengers (immigrants account for 2/3 of Canada’s present population growth) will compromise our ability to survive the resource scarcities of the very near future. At this point, there is no more sustainable development or ‘smart’ growth. They are oxymorons.
What will the superficial environmental groups come up with next? “Sustainable extinctions”? “Smart pollution”? “Managed clearcutting”?
Groups like Sierra Club, Green Party, NDP, Nature Conservancy of Canada, World Wildlife Fund, Ontario Nature, Friends of Clayquot Sound, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, The David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Nature Federation are all dependent on being politically correct to maximize their donations from the ignorant public and large business entities which are pro-immigration/pro-population growth.
All these "green" groups care about is maintaining their high salary jobs and their yuppie, feel-good approach to environmental issues. Many of these said organizations promote the concept of "smart growth" which is the absurd idea that population growth can be environmentally benign if new housing is stacked up (highrise apartments) instead of sprawled out (subdivision homes, cul-de-sacs). This so-called "smart growth" would only be smart if people didn't need to consume
resources in order to survive or if earth was infinite. If people could survive without consuming resources and producing pollution or if the earth itself was infinite, we could have an infinite human population on earth. However, we know better. Unfortunately the earth is finite and people consume finite resources and therefore, there are limits to the human population. The more humans, the less wildlife is an accurate rule of thumb.
If we ignore these limits we will convert an ecologically rich planet into an impoverished planet and worsen our quality of life to the point where war, disease, and famine become the norm for the majority of the population and the already ubiquitous "too many people chasing too few resources" reality will become obvious to an absurd degree.
A litmus test for any Canadian environmental organization is to ask them if they see a connection between immigration and environmental degradation. If they don't see the connection, they are not an environmental organization.
The following, among others are NOT environmental organizations despite their claims:
Sierra Club
Green Party
Nature Conservancy of Canada
World Wildlife Fund
Ontario Nature
Friends of Clayquot Sound
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
The David Suzuki Foundation
Canadian Nature Federation
None of these organizations have a simple public policy statement to the effect that Canada is overpopulated and humans are out of balance with the rest of nature and it is therefore necessary to reduce Canada's population as well as the global population. Importing immigrants has the opposite effect on Canada's population and the global population.
Ecosystems are collapsing, species are being marginalized and lost forever and the only way to resolve this problem is to have an end to population growth and therefore a ban on immigration. Population growth on a finite world by definition is unsustainable. These organizations only work on incidental symptoms of overpopulation and population growth, such as when a swath of mixed wild forest is made into a Wal-mart or a parking lot. Such efforts will only slow down the inevitable loss of wilderness. In order to prevent the loss of wilderness, you have to stop population growth.
"Canada is the most immigrant-friendly country in the world, accepting twice as many immigrants per capita as the next most welcoming nation, many of them people about whom little is known." according to Stoffman.
Consequently, Canada has the fastest decline of real wealth per capita in the western world.
We are liquidating our forests, fish, freshwater, minerals at rates that jeopardize our future by destroying Canada's biodiversity.
Immigration to Canada is almost always involving immigrants from countries with low per capita consumption. Of course once they arrive in Canada, their consumption skyrockets. This is a bad multiplier effect from an environmental perspective.
Allowing human population to spread from countries with scarce resources per capita (UK, China, Taiwan, Holland, Lebanon, Vietnam) to countries with a relatively abundant resources per capita like Canada, only serves to maximize the global population by efficiently spreading humans over the land without borders to impede human expansion.
Unfortunately Canada cannot solve global overpopulation single-handedly. By stopping immigration and providing incentives to Canadians for not having children, Canada can provide some desperately needed environmental leadership on the global stage. However, history has proven that no lands are protected when the population surrounding them is growing. This applies to countries, national parks, islands, or whatever. Once growing populations that surround pristine areas reach a tipping point, the demand for the resources of the protected area will become so great that all safeguards, laws, or barricades will be obliterated and the resources will get exploited.
In Canada 80% of immigrants are unskilled and take more benefits from our revenue system than they pay in taxes. In the US, each family of the 20 million illegal immigrants costs American tax payers the equivalent of one Mustang convertible annually.
I couldn't care less about artificial constructs like the economy. The biosphere is real and the economy is only an abstraction of this. If we are beyond our carrying capacity, we've got much worse problems than economical problems.
American and Canadian immigration is driven by the big businesses who profit from the cheap labour and additional consumers.
These big businesses fund political campaigns and dictate government policy on immigration.
The average North American has to put up with an ever more competitive workforce as hoardes of cheap labour immigrants arrive. The jobs of today aren't like the jobs of the 1950's. The educational requirements are higher. Scholarships are scarce, tuition is greater. A middle class person of the 1950's who wants the priviledge of pulling his own weight by growing his own food could afford a huge amount of prime agricultural land to do so. A modern middle class person could work his whole life just in order to afford a smaller amount of marginal land in a poor climate. In
the 1950s anyone could hunt moose without a license. Now you have to pay to enter a lottery for the right to 1 hunting tag for 1 moose. Resources per capita are becoming scarce.
In the UK there is barely more than 1 acre per person. They have a net ecological deficit. With roads and infrastructure rendering much of Britain's land useless, it is clear that Brits can't even feed themselves without being dependent on foreign food imports. Will Canadians learn anything from the British failures? Or will we grow our populations, plunder our resources, all while making more stringent laws until there is scarcely anything left to protect?
Hearing the CBC Radio's The Current this morning with Anna Maria Tremonte, they were talking about the boreal forest in Canada and even the so-called environmentalist they interviewed was only shooting for protection of 50% of the boreal forest since over 50% of this is scheduled for clearcut logging. The Minister of Natural Resources was interviewed and said the token statement: "We take the boreal forest very seriously" and assured listeners that the aboriginal residents would get a piece of the profit from the clearcut logging of the boreal forest north of the 51st parallel near Red Lake, ON as though that is some sort of consolation to destroying Canada's natural wealth and biodiversity.
Of course, the CBC "the thought police" avoided interviewing any environmentalist that would state the obvious that human populations are out of balance with the rest of nature and to make matters worse, human populations are still growing, and no intelligent discussion on limiting human expansion ever enters the environmental debate.
As a side note, CBC no longer broadcasts any new episodes of "The Nature of Things". Perhaps this is because David Suzuki is 70+ years old. This was one of their few programs that had any connection to nature and how Canadians interact with their land.
Wouldn't it be prudent to get a new host and broadcast new weekly episodes of The Nature of Things year-round? Ideally they would select a host this time who was not afraid to be politically incorrect by saying that Canadian population growth is making permanent environmental protection impossible.
In summary, as long as our planet and her resources are finite (last I checked they were) and so long as human beings must consume these finite resources in order to survive, the only good immigration for Canada's environment is none at all. April 10/07.

Brishen Hoff’s blog

Saturday, April 7, 2007


PRESS RELEASE from Immigration Watch Canada, May 17,2006

Making the connection between too much immigration and environmental degradation continues to be the litmus test for environmental groups. As many critics have observed, if a group says there is no connection, it is confessing that it is really not an environmental group.

The most notorious case of an environmental group which has failed to assert the connection is the U.S. Sierra Club. For years, many people were suspicious of why the club did not speak out against record increases in U.S. population (largely due to legal and illegal immigration). In 2004, the truth surfaced in a report in the Los Angeles Times. In an interview, a major benefactor, David Gelbaum, said that he had contributed over $100 million to the club. He also confessed that he had made it clear that his generosity would end if the club took a stand against immigration.

Gelbaum told the reporter: "I did tell (Sierra Club Executive Director) Carl Pope) in 1994 or 1995 that if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me."

In the interview, Gelbaum, who... is married to a Mexican American, said his views on immigration were shaped long ago by his grandfather, Abraham, a watchmaker who had come to America to escape persecution of Jews in the Ukraine before World War I. "I asked, 'Abe, what do you think about all of these Mexicans coming here?' Abe didn't speak English that well. He said, 'I came here. How can I tell them not to come?' "

Gelbaum told the reporter: "I cannot support an organization that is anti-immigration. It would dishonor the memory of my grandparents."

Since the U.S. has always restricted how many people arrive on its soil, it seems illogical, especially for a mathematician like Gelbaum, to argue that limits on total immigration (and, in this case, support for U.S. population stabilization) can be interpreted as "anti-immigration" or a stand against "all" immigration.

Moreover, it is both illogical and scandalous that the U.S. Sierra Club has ignored the impact of an increasing U.S. population on the U.S. environment as well as on that of the rest of the world. The club has never revealed any attempts it has made to persuade Gelbaum to accept some logic. Instead, it has tried to focus attention on American consumption levels, and minimize the importance of immigration. At the same time, it has concealed its motive in doing so. The U.S. Sierra Club is aware that U.S. population growth in the past 15 years is the highest in its history. The major factor in that growth is legal and illegal immigration. For an environmental organization to agree to say nothing about immigration (in effect, abandoning sustainability in order to continue receiving millions of dollars) is a complete betrayal of its supporters.

Does a similar situation exist in Canada? Although characters like David Gelbaum have not surfaced, Canadian environmental groups remain largely silent about immigration. When the immigration issue arises, these people either intimidate the persons who bring up the topic, try to minimize the impact of immigration, or run to the nearest hiding place.

The recent behaviour of a large Canadian environmental group which warned about the loss of farmland in British Columbia is a case in point. This group should know that almost all of the pressure to take farmland out of the province's Agricultural Land Reserve has originated directly or indirectly from Canada's immigration policy. Like many Canadians, members of this group should know that Canada has the highest immigrant intake per capita in the world. These very high inflows of people have created significant pressure to convert farmland to housing or industrial use ---especially in areas such as Greater Toronto/Southern Ontario, Greater Vancouver/Fraser Valley, and Greater Montreal.

Ontario's Environmental Commissioner spoke eloquently about the inability of Southern Ontario to absorb the population inflows (largely due to immigration) that it has taken. British Columbia's environmental groups have said almost nothing about immigration. The environmental group, which issued an otherwise very good report on the threat to farmland, did not even mention the word "immigration" in its report. Such an action amounts to ignoring basic cause and effect.

It is illogical for this Canadian environmental organization to behave in this way---just as it is illogical for the U.S. Sierra Club to ignore the effect of the inflow of 2 to 3 million people per year, on the U.S. environment. It is even worse for both groups to ignore the cumulative, long-term effect
of high inflows.

Like the Sierra Club, the Canadian organization has to answer one important question: Is it interested in the critical issue of environmental sustainability or is it interested primarily in sustaining itself and the comfortable incomes of its staff? In other words, is an interest in the environment really just a pretence?

Those who contribute to this organization as well as to all other environmental organizations have to ask the same question. Contributors have to look carefully at what these organizations say they are interested in and in what these organizations are actually doing. And if contributors are not satisfied, their contributions should go elsewhere.



(1) The complete Los Angeles Times article on the connection between the U.S. Sierra Club and David Gelbaum is available on the Immigration Watch Canada web site in the "News Articles---American" section. The date is October 27, 2004. The title is "The Man Behind The Land".

(2) A previous weekly bulletin (April 27, 2006) focused on the publication "Forever Farmland" which was published by the David Suzuki Foundation.


Not too long ago I was about to join David Orton’s Left Biocentric discussion group of 40. His requirement was that I pledge my support for the 8 principles of the Deep Ecology platform, and that I submit a statement of my beliefs and a short biography. I replied that Deep Ecology’s principles met with my enthusiastic support and that I would submit a biography. But then I made an impertinent request. I said that if it was important to the group that I met their standards, it was equally important to me that they in turn met my standards. It was important for me to deploy my limited time and energy to the most central issue facing Canada—and the world---over-population. While there was so much in Deep Ecology that resonated with me, I found nothing that pointed directly and shouted loudly at the Elephant in the Room. I simply couldn’t afford to piss away precious time on admittedly fascinating theoretical discussions, which are clearly Orton’s forte. If the Left-Biocentrics wouldn’t commit themselves on this litmus test of green credibility, then I’m gone.
Orton replied that I was “rather arrogant” in making this request. While the Liberal Party, or the Conservative Party, or the NDP or the Greens are only too happy to confess to their outrageous population policy or lack thereof, Orton said that I would have to ask the group individually. Which of course I couldn’t unless I was accepted and I committed my self to them on blind faith. As for himself, if I wanted to know where he stood, then I should go to his website and read his scholarly articles. That was that. All I wanted was a simple yes or no. Is Left Bio-Centric dedicated to a policy of population stabilization for Canada, and all that that implies?
Well, it looks like I finally got my answer. In a recent article called “Reclaiming the Commons” (Spring 2007), Orton states:
“Canadian Greens need to look at the ecological carrying capacity of Canada, considering the habitat needs for all species, as well as humans, before we can form positions on emotion-laden topics like immigration and population. Tim Flannery’s 1994 book The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People, which I highly recommend, does this kind of population capacity study for Australia. He comes up with “an optimum, long-term population target of 6–12 million” (p. 369), meaning that country is already overpopulated. Here in Canada we need to do similar work about what an optimum human population would be and situate immigration discussions within this.”
In other words, Orton comes upon a man bleeding to death on the roadside from a car accident. Instead of simply stopping the bleeding and patching him up, he wants to first hold an inquiry into how much blood volume he has lost and whether he can get up and start moving. We don’t know what Canada’s carrying capacity is yet. We may never know what it may be. Carrying capacity is not a static concept. For example, a study done by Mario Giampietro and David Pimentel placed the maximum US population at 200 million for a sustainable economy—two-thirds its present level. But they didn’t factor in declining fossil fuel production, which author Dale Allen Pfeiffer argues could necessitate the reduction of America’s population to half of its current level. There are so many wild cards---the strip mining of the oceans, toxins in the ecosytems, military and political upheaval. In 1975 the Science Council of Canada determined that our population should not exceed 30 million people. But they were largely focusing on diseconomies of scale, environmental time-bombs of growth were not so much anticipated then.

Orton is only one of a very long line of people to call for a look into establishing an optimum population level for Canada, a carrying capacity. But Ottawa has never listened. John Meyer of Zero Population Growth proposed it in the late seventies but no one listened. Professor Michael Healey of UBC led 23 academics in 1997 on a $2.4 million study into the environmental damage to the Fraser Basin wrought by population growth. Observing similar damage nationally Healey’s report recommended that Ottawa formulate a Population Plan for the country and that provinces comply with it. The report was left to gather dust and now 20% of the Fraser Valley is covered by buildings and 10 species of mammals exclusive to that region face extinction. The Population Institute of Canada followed suit with a presentation to a parliamentary committee in May of 1991 proposing the development of a Population Plan for this country. We still haven’t got one.
Meanwhile 70% of endangered species in Canada inhabit ecoregions under duress from the population growth of urban centres. Farmland continues to disappear at an alarming rate. How many people can our environment sustain indefinitely? What is our carrying capacity? Preliminary evidence, alarming evidence, suggests that we have long exceeded it. Assuming that carrying capacity could indeed be definitively established, until then, until that magical day when policy-makers wake up to the concept, would it not be prudent in the meantime to declare a moratorium on immigration, since two-thirds of all current population growth comes from this source and soon it will be the only driver of growth?
We don’t need to, as Orton suggests, “look at the ecological carrying capacity of Canada…BEFORE we form positions on emotion-laden topics like immigration and population.”…and only “situate immigration discussions within” what some lengthy government study finds to be “an optimum human population.”
We need instead to stop the car crash victim from bleeding NOW based on the manifest evidence of our own two eyes, and worry later about the definitive diagnosis and appropriate protocol.
David Orton is a brilliant intellect with a rare and valuable perspective, which I share substantially. But I fear that he is afflicted with that trademark handicap of great scholars—analysis paralysis. The ability to see the complexities of an issue can prevent one from seeing the urgency of taking quick, immediate and simple remedial action. Additionally, of course, Orton is also a political animal, a one-time Green Party in Nova Scotia. Telling the truth about population issues in Canada and deferring to political correctness at the same time is an impossible task. Too many bridges would be burnt. That’s my take on his hesitancy over immigration reductions.
What is depressing about Orton’s position is this—if even the best mind of the greenest wing of the environmental movement, Deep Ecology, can’t see the urgent need for an immediate freeze on immigration, who on the political landscape will?

Friday, March 30, 2007


When the media gushed over the Census report released in mid-March, of all the letters that were written to challenge the conventional wisdom and religion of population growth in Canada, did you see a single one authored by a representative of the Sierra Club or indeed of ANY so-called environmental organization in this country? Neither did I. The biggest ecological disaster that is facing us and they say nothing. Kind of reminds me of anti-poverty groups in the Deep South in the 1950’s who had nothing to say about segregation. Biodiversity loss and the disappearance of farmland in the Fraser Valley, the Okanagan and elsewhere in Canada to population growth is self-evident and they remain silent. This is a scandal. Like me, Brishen Hoff of London, Ontario had questions. Questions like the ones I had put to the Sierra Club, but were ignored. Hoff’s questions were these:

1. Do you believe there is a correlation between population growth and environmental degradation in Canada? If so, why doesn’t your public policy recognize this connection and suggest what to do about it?
2. How many million people do you think is ecologically sustainable for Canada?
3. If Canada is beyond a safe-carrying capacity, would you advocate reducing population growth by stopping immigration?
4. Can you think of any disadvantages with our present practice of forcing population growth in Canada to stimulate the economy? If so, what?
5. Who are your top 10 Sierra Club of Ontario’s highest paid employees and what are their salaries?

As one might expect, Hoff was stonewalled. When he persisted with his questions, they interpreted it as harassment. They could have instead made Sierra Club history and just answered his questions. Loretta Allen of the Ontario Chapter termed Hoff’s commitment to population issues his “pet cause” that deserved no more consideration than anyone else’s cause, and there are many in the Sierra Club that different people deem crucial. “Not everyone’s pet cause is immigration and population control. Just because it’s yours doesn’t mean it has to be everyone’s,” she said. In other words, while we’re on board the HMS Ecological Titanic don’t harass me or the crew about your “pet cause”-- the iceberg you see looming straight ahead-- because my cause is to manage the kitchen, someone else must run the boiler-room, some else’s cause is to clean the cabins, etc. We all have our causes and they are all important to us so don’t bother me with questions about why we are ignoring an iceberg which I don’t want to see and if it exists it’s only a problem in some distant shore. So take me off your email list.
Hear no evil. See no evil. Just shut up and send in your donations to save Rudolph the Rocky Mountain Cariboo, but don’t ask why his habitat is really threatened. And if people pour into our country by the millions, well, just reduce your “footprint”. With “smart” growth, we can shoe-horn the whole damn world into this place without ecological consequences because apparently if everyone lives in a highrise, rides a bike, drives a hybrid car, uses fluorescent bulbs and becomes a vegetarian, there will be no consumers in Canada. Consume less so we can keep adding more consumers. The lengths to which these hypocrites will go before they acknowledge the iceberg is amazing.
Brishen Hoff summarized the Sierra Club response this way: “You call yourselves environmental protectors and yet you still have your head in the sand. You refuse to discuss the worst ecological problem in Canadian history: overpopulation and continued population growth. You distance yourself from this problem by saying it’s only a global problem, something in India or China, but not here. I guess this is your business strategy. If you keep the public in the dark by avoiding Canada’s overpopulation problem, you will have plenty more environmental problems resulting from continued population growth as new industrial developments destroy more habitat; helping you attain more donations from your dumbed-down followers. Your replies have only confirmed my suspicions—the Sierra Club is a corrupt organization that only cares about political correctness, procuring donations, and holding their cushy salaried positions.”
It could be put another way. The Sierra Club is a cowardly, chicken-shit, head-in-the-sands, feel-good, yuppie organization chasing peripheral safer targets rather than addressing the root cause of environmental degradation in North America, human population growth, that in tandem with over-consumption, make for a lethal brew. Address both problems, or you address neither.
In posing his probing questions to Sierra Club officials Brishen Hoff did the unforgivable. He challenged their self-image as noble and self-less green crusaders and for that impertinence he was told to drop them from his email list or be subjected to a spam filter. Well, the Sierra Club can ignore Brishen Hoff and his “pet cause”, but they won’t be able to indefinitely ignore the biodiversity limits to runaway population growth. One day it will catch up with them, and make their trivial pursuit of marginal issues seem in retrospect like a criminal misuse of membership time and money. Try getting an email program to “filter out” the total collapse of biodiversity services that will fall under the weight of another ten million new Canadians which their former leader, Elizabeth May, will welcome with open arms. One can only wonder at what point the Sierra Club would finally sound the alarm. 42 million? 52 million? 62 million?

Monday, March 26, 2007


Reviewing what I have written, Brishen Hoff of London, Ontario, summarized my position concisely. It is a position he shares and has articulated with equal passion at On March 26/07 he wrote:

“Immigrants may have ‘built this country’ but this country doesn’t need any more building. We have already paved over the most biodiverse treasures our country had to offer. Our lifeboat is full and adding passengers (immigrants account for 2/3 of Canada’s present population growth) will compromise our ability to survive the resource scarcities of the very near future. At this point, there is no more sustainable development or ‘smart’ growth. They are oxymorons.”

You need read no further. That essentially is what this blog is about.


The Sierra Club is a corrupt money grab organization full of sheep/puppets who ultimately prop up the status-quo and CEOs of corporations who benefit from the pyramid scheme of population growth. The Sierra Club even got a $100 million donation by a rich corporate donor David Gelbaum in exchange for not appearing as anti-immigration and thereby supporting more population growth in the USA. This was why informed and more altruistic members split away from the organization and started their own: Sustainable Population Society
Brishen Hoff, March 26/07

Brishen Hoff's blog addresses the imminent peril of continued population growth at


Geraldine Kenny,
Sierra Quadra
March 23/07

Re. Your request for membership renewal

In the past several months, I have sent letters to the Sierra Club critical of their campaigns and their approach. I have told them that they have failed to provide any leadership on the issue of balancing the human footprint with the rest of nature. I have asked for answers. None of the recipients have bothered to reply. Like the NDP, the Sierra Club appears to want passive members who will pay their dues and make donations to save the habitats of their poster animal of the month.
What I require is a mission statement. Something like: “ Sierra Quadra recognizes the limited context for human expansion on earth and that any further population growth will displace wildlife and be self-defeating for Canada’s human inhabitants.” Because long-term environmental protection alongside human population growth is physically impossible.
Rampant human population growth in Canada is concentrated in those ecoregions where most of our country’s rare and endangered species of wildlife live. Ten species of mammals not found elsewhere in Canada are threatened by growth in the Fraser Delta, which is now covered by 20% in buildings, excluding greenhouses and covered farms. Wildlife and farms in the Okanagan Valley are also meeting their holocaust to this malignant cancer. The Sierra Club, along with the David Suzuki Foundation and every other environmental organization save one, simply will not acknowledge the role that population growth plays in environmental degradation. They will not address root causes but only the symptoms. They will not face up to the need for a Population Policy in Canada. Nationally and locally. The Fraser Basin Study of 1997 made a grim assessment of the environmental damage done to biodiversity and concluded that a population policy was needed to secure environmental protection across the country. In May of 2001 the Population Institute of Canada presented a parliamentary committee with a similar report.
Until the Sierra Club supports this effort, I will deploy my money and energy to those organizations that will effectively pursue the goal of population stabilization. They are, the Population Institute of Canada, and the Sea Sheppard Conservation Society headed by Captain Paul Watson. Watson was the man Sierra Club Canada president Elizabeth May tried to malign and misrepresent when he attempted to return Sierra USA to its former commitment to that policy.
I leave you with two questions and one quote. The first question is, if we are having trouble saving wolves and cougars with an island population of 3,500 people, how do you think these animals would fare if we tripled our numbers? Secondly, Saltspring Island has 27,000 residents---do they have any wolves and cougars to save? People will not tolerate cougars and wolves in their neighbourhoods. People must be kept where they belong. Environmentalist Steve Hoecker:

“It does no good to preach that we should not destroy habitat or that we should reserve more open space. When push comes to shove, we are going to clear more land to build houses, plant more acres to crops, build roads to carry an increased traffic load, create more jobs as well as a host of other habitat-destroying activities in order to provide for an ever-increasing number of people. Each year we convert more wildlands and open space to human-dominated landscapes to provide for human needs. It can be no other way as long as our populations continue to grow. We continue to attack the symptoms, not the underlying cause.” (from “When More is Less”, Hunting Magazine, Dec.1996)


Forgive me for using a tired old metaphor, but it's the only one that comes to mind. We are all on board the HMS Ecological Titanic. In my former life, when I was a socialist, before I saw the iceberg, I was concerned about the plight of the people in steerage, especially since a lot of them were of my dad's stock, poor Irish immigrants. I dreamed of re-organizing the ship so as to eliminate 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, and of replacing the captain. But now I see the iceberg looming dead ahead, and I'm screaming to get somebody's attention. The officers aren't interested in hearing from me--in fact, they want to silence me for causing undue alarm. My comrades in third class aren't too concerned either, there may be an iceberg out there, but it’s more important that they receive more equitable service and accommodation on the ship. There are, however, four or five men who share my worry, and as luck would have it, one votes Conservative, one Liberal and two are apolitical. But we need to collaborate to form a delegation to petition the captain and raise the alarm. Left/right dichotomies don't matter so much when your ship is about to sink. Nor do issues of social justice. The iceberg in our case is over-population. The ship is planet earth. The passengers are 6.5 billion human beings and the millions of plant and animal species that we threaten to take down with us.
The relationship between man and nature must take priority over the relationship between men. Human activity is just a subset of the biosphere. Without healthy biodiversity or a livable atmosphere, both compromised by runaway population growth, were are dead. And there is obviously no social democracy on a dead planet. Where once my slogan had been “People before Profits”, now it must be “Nature before People”.
Our first order of business is not only to reduce our footprint, but our numbers. As James Lovelock said, if we had the population we had in the eighteenth century, it wouldn’t matter what our energy source was. The same point was made more colourfully by Manitoban Buster Welch when he said that “It’s OK to shit in a river or drive an SUV if you’re the only one doing it. But if a million people do it, you have a problem. That’s over-population.”
We must keep our focus and our eye on the ball.


Immigration is religion in Canada. It is simply part of our culture. To challenge immigration policy in Canada is equivalent to a Saudi Arabian proposing to introduce pork and alcohol to his society, or an Iranian publicly declaring that there is no Allah. A look at the internet confirms this. There are over a hundred websites in the United States dedicated to the advocacy of immigration reduction and population stabilization. In Canada I’ve found three.
The immigrant is celebrated as a hero. He is folklore. Every Canadian family has an immigrant story. For mine, it was the grandfather who arrived in Toronto at 17 to work his way across the Prairies doing hard farm labour, only to arrive in Vancouver in 1908 with just $5 in his pocket. He went on to build three homes, raise four kids and have six grandchildren. My Icelandic great-grandparents arrived in Winnipeg in 1885, and wisely bypassed Gimli to build a house in the mild climate of Victoria the following year---the house still stands today as a heritage house. They came with no English, funny clothes, a different cuisine and a strong work ethic, a familiar formula for Canadian success. That was a century ago but there are still New Canadians made of similar stuff.
I met an Iranian man who went AWOL from the Army during the murderous war with Iraq, trekked overland through Kurdish territory and into Turkey, where he was jailed and badly beaten. Some how he made it to Vancouver and of course, was penniless. Five years later he was running three gas stations.
Then there was “Richard”, who drove his “beater” up to the Canadian border in the Kootenays when he was 18 to escape the Vietnam draft. The Canadian border guard told him to turn around, but when he was distracted, Richard floored it and escaped into our country never to be apprehended. He found friends, work, learned a trade and raised a family. Good on him. In Nelson a monument was built to commemorate the contribution made by American war-resisters like him to West Kootenay society.
The most impressive immigrant I ever encountered was a gentleman in his late 80’s who lived in my father’s care home. He had been the son of kulaks in Ukraine when they were murdered by Red soldiers. He was trained in auto-mechanics and drafted into the Soviet Army when war broke out. Promoted to captain, he survived some harrowing tank battles to be posted to the British sector in Berlin at war’s end as a liaison officer. He made contact with Canadian officials and was accepted for passage to Canada as an immigrant. As an auto-mechanic he was employed by the Ford Motor Company for ten years where worked hard and long and saved feverishly. Then he took the gamble and set up his own auto-mechanics shop in Toronto. He built up a loyal customer base and then came his biggest break, he secured the Volvo franchise for the city. He retired a multi-millionaire and moved to Vancouver. So from a poor orphan in Stalin’s Russia to a multi-millionaire—are these not the kind of people our hearts belong to!
As a footnote, when my mother arrived at the dinner table, this little Ukrainian man with a broad Russian accent, jumped up like a jack-in-the-box, bowed and took her hand and kissed it. Underneath the millionaire, he was still a Soviet officer.
How can we not admire such people, people that overcome so much adversity to get here and then make the most of their opportunities? Statistically we know that immigrants are better educated and less likely to commit crimes, and anecdotally, don’t we suspect that the typical immigrant is harder working and a better citizen than those of us who were born here? The common refrain is that immigrants built this country. That is undeniable. They are still building it.
But the question is, how much building remains to be done? At what point do we say that we have over-built? The carpenter who built my house did a fine job and I thank him very much for doing it. But the job is finished. No more additions are needed to be made. None that is, that don’t come at the expense of the property itself, of the trees and shrubs and the birds that nest and perch in them.
What was needed in 1885 when my great-grandparents came to Manitoba is not needed now. Icelandic fishermen are not needed to fish Lake Winnipeg. Irish Catholic miners are not needed to mine the silver mines of Rossland, B.C. as my grandparents did in 1907. The perceived needs of the labour market of 2007 will not be the needs of the post-carbon world decades from now. What Garrett Hardin said of America can be said of this country. “There is no rational excuse for encouraging an immigration rate that was appropriate to, and beneficial in, our juvenile phase.” Yet we are still captives of a cult that belongs to a bygone day---the era of mass immigration.
We have yet to formulate a Population Policy for Canada. Its development has been advocated and promoted by several people and groups for decades, but Ottawa has never listened. John Meyer of Zero Population Growth Canada proposed it in the late seventies, but no one listened. Twenty-three academics led by Professor Michael Healy of UBC were commissioned by the federal government in 1997 to conduct a $2.4 million study into the environmental damage to the Fraser Basin wrought by population growth. The report recommended that Ottawa construct a Population Plan for the country and that provinces comply with it. The report was left to gather dust and now 20% of the Fraser Delta is covered by buildings, excluding greenhouses and covered farms, and 10 species of mammals exclusive to that region face extinction. The Population Institute of Canada followed suit with a presentation to a parliamentary committee in May of 1991 proposing the development of a Population Plan for this country. We still haven’t got one.
We have yet to define what our carrying capacity is. How many people can our environment sustain indefinitely? Preliminary evidence suggests we have long gone past that point of sustainability. Only when we have established our carrying capacity can we then fit in our “economic” requirements. It is irrelevant how many immigrants we need to support an aging population, or how many are needed to fill key areas, or how many refugees Stephen Lewis thinks we have a moral responsibility to accept. It’s what our environment can indefinitely sustain. Period.
Until then, it would be prudent to declare an immigration moratorium, just because two-thirds of all current population growth comes from this source and soon it will be the only driver of growth. We must therefore, regrettably, restrict the intake of people of high moral caliber such as those examples I cited. Because this is not about immigrants. It’s about numbers. It’s not reflection upon the outstanding qualities of the people left standing outside the gate or a judgment of their worth.
Recently I attempted to board a B.C. Ferry. I arrived five minutes before departure and my car was third in the queue waiting for the signal to drive aboard. I waited and prayed. The entrance guard motioned for the first car to come forward. It just squeezed on. The guard turned, then crossed his arms to convey the message that there was no more room for us. Did this indicate that the Ferry Corporation was “anti-passenger”? No. Only that the car-deck was full and I had arrived too late at the terminal. I am not “anti-immigrant”. I am simply against more immigration.
The safest course for Canada’s environment is to assume that our boat is already full and to effect an immediate freeze on immigration. And then begin an inventory of current biodiversity—a State of the Union Address---and establish its tolerance for more people. That is, articulate a definition of Canada’s carrying capacity.
But given the Canadian cult of immigration, and the deification of the immigrant, this may never be politically realistic. For the sake of all of Canada’s passengers, both human and non-human, one can only keep trying.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Re. “Immigration policy debate lacking” (CP story Tuesday, March 13/07)

Mr.Cheadle, if ever such a debate was to take place:

a. It would be too late. The environmental damage has been done.
b. The “debate” would likely be moderated by a CBC journalist and the panelists would be an economist from the Royal Bank, Stephen Lewis, someone from the Laurier Institute or the Ethnocultural Council and a Liberal senator. Biologists, ecologists, analysts like Richard Embleton, authentic environmentalists like Paul Watson, or passionate animal rights advocates like Farley Mowat would not have a voice. The words “carrying capacity” or “biophysical limits” will never enter the conversation. The staggering loss of biodiversity and farmland to population growth in Canada would never be mentioned.

Instead, all we would hear about would be our job requirements, our aging population, and most of all, our moral obligation to draw from a bottomless pit of refugees. In other words, the discussion would be all about what economists and bleeding hearts want rather than what our environment can sustain.

All debates in Canada are constrained by Political Correctness and the Thought Police in the CBC and other media outlets will filter out any input that fails to meet their narrow test of political acceptability. In Canada it s now socially outrageous to speak the truth---that, for example, government-induced growth is not working.

So panelists and talk-show guests are hand-picked to conform to the State Ideology, the ideology shared by all the parties and the chattering classes, despite their superficial differences. All of them repeat the mantra---“Growth is good”, “Immigration is good”, “All refugees should be accepted”.

And when the Census Report reveals that we have indeed grown beyond all expectations, the media gushes. Therefore we know it to be true. Growth is good.

And if the media says so, why do we need the debate?

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Lorne Calvert,
Premier of Saskatchewan.
March 14/07.

Re. The latest census report:

I wish to offer my hearty congratulations to you, your government and your province, for once more lowering your population level. This is an achievement for the whole country and the whole world to emulate. At 6.5 billion people, the planet is anywhere between three and six times beyond its carrying capacity. The best assessment is a 20% “over-shoot”.
Canada itself has been estimated by one educated observer to be over-populated by a factor of four to ten. Some say that we can viably support only 6 million people in the long term. The most optimistic guess was provided by Dr. Neil K. Dawe of the Qualicum Institute, who said that Canada might sustain its current population if we consumed at 1950 levels. But if we grow to 40 million, we will have to go back to 1935 levels.
For too long growth-a-holics have driven our population agenda, and the question has always been what our economy requires rather than what our environment can sustain. Never has “carrying capacity”, “sustainability” or “biophysical limits” been part of the conversation. Now along comes the census report and the media act as cheerleaders for growth while ordinary Canadians suffer more pollution, more congestion, more crime, unaffordable housing, subdivided farmland and diminished biodiversity.
Saskatchewan is cited as a “loser” in the census count, while the media anoints B.C. a “winner”. Let me assure you, speaking as a British Columbian, you are the winner. Fewer people, a healthier environment and a higher quality of life. We do not live in an “economy”. We live in a biosphere, of which the economy is only a subset. Continue to degrade biodiversity services as we have done through unrelenting population growth and the economic forces it unleashes and you undercut the human economy. We foul our own nest. We must relieve the pressure. That’s just what you’ve done. Good work. Keep it up.


In an email dated March 9/07, you state, in reply to your constituent Brishen Hoff, that “equitable production, consumption and distribution patterns often have more to do with generating environmental degradation than the impact of population growth.”
Really? I’m sure the U.N. would like to know how. They have estimated the global population to be 20% in “over-shoot”. Paul Ehrlich’s most hopeful estimate is that we are over-populated by 4.5 billion. Some experts say planet Earth cannot sustain more than a billion people without oil. The numbers are a matter of contention. The fact of over-population and its fatal impact on biodiversity is not.
I’ve read one estimate that we in Canada are over-populated by a factor of four to ten. An optimistic guess was made by esteemed biologist Dr. Neil K. Dawe of the Qualicum Institute, known for his studies on sustainability. Dawe said that Canada’s environment could viably support its current population level of 32 million if we returned to the level of consumption we “enjoyed” in 1950. Add the 8 million new Canadians that Jack Layton wants to add to that total through immigration and we would likely have to consume at 1930’s levels to protect natural capital. Do you think contemporary Canadians would give up their toys to do that? And where would all the extra bodies live? The Arctic Tundra? The Canadian Shield? The Rocky Mountains? No, on the last vestiges of remaining arable land outside of our major cities.
The Fraser Valley is perfect example of this kind of demographic impact. Ten years ago Ottawa paid $2.4 million to have 23 UBC academics conduct The Fraser Basin Ecosystem Study. They catalogued the devastating impact that population growth has had on the valley’s native plants, fish, aquifers, rural streams, soils and wildlife with the conversion of wetlands to farms, and then ironically, farms to subdivisions. They concluded that the population level of the region was three times greater than what the ecosystem could sustain. They found that population is central to sustainability and that government cannot pursue sustainability and at the same time ignore population. The study group recommended that Ottawa adopt a population policy for Canada “that is consistent with the principles of sustainability”, and that the provincial government likewise adopt a population policy as one of the foundations of social policy for sustainable development. Trouble is, as principal investigator Professor Michael Healey observed, “no one wants to talk about population policies…if anyone raises it, they are accused of racism.” Things haven’t changed much in ten years, have they? The difference between Dr. Healey and Jack Layton is that Dr. Healey is chasing down the scientific facts while Jack is chasing the votes of ethnic Toronto and Vancouver. What should govern our population policy is not what our economy requires, but what our environment can sustain, not how many immigrants the ethnocultural council wants or how many refugees Stephen Lewis wants but how many our environment can sustain. Period.
So what has population growth done to Canada and the world? According to Millenium Assessment Studies it has compromised 60% of 24 biodiversity services so critical to our survival. Thirty-three trillion dollars worth of services like replenishing aquifers, filtering water and replacing topsoil. Without these services our “ human” economy would die. Climate change is a canyon that cuts across our highway, but it is still fifty miles down the road. The collapse of biodiversity services is very much closer than that.
You cite Simon DeJong as an environmental champion way back in 1983. Well, way back in 1972 we BC New Democrats passed resolutions in favour of stopping population growth as a key to protecting environmental integrity. Verbatim: “An NDP government will give top priority to environmental problems with particular emphasis of population control.” (1972) You see, we read “Limits to Growth” and we knew that the Population Bomb (Paul Ehrlich) was ticking just as loudly in Canada as elsewhere. Our environmental literacy then was higher than the class of 83 and light years ahead of your class of 07. Any one of us then could have seen, that if you cut your per capita energy consumption in half, but then turn around and double your population, you are doing the Labour of Sisyphus. Or if you try to reduce greenhouse emissions by 20% with the introduction of tough restrictions on cars and factories that spew noxious gases as Tony Blair did in 1996, but then allow the number of cars and factories to increase by that amount from economic growth, you are back to square one. You are bailing water out of a leaky boat. In fact, greenhouse emissions actually increased by 3% during Blair’s decade-long plan, causing 80 MPs to sign a declaration calling for the abandonment of economic growth as a foolish pursuit and faulty paradigm. Economic growth, it should be noted, is a function of population level and per capita consumption rate. Too many people. Too much consumption. Deal with both. Or you’re not dealing with either. You are in denial.
Ms. Mathyssen, you are in denial. Like all of your parliamentary colleagues, as well as the Greens, and the mainstream environmentalists, you are apparently unable to see the Elephant Standing in the Room. And he is only going to get bigger. By century’s end, Canada will have 70 million people, and America 700 million, barring refugee admissions, if immigration levels persist. Biodiversity cannot coexist with a fraction of these numbers, yet green politicians and environmentalists will do back-flips before they will acknowledge the Elephant. Such is the power of Political Correctness.
To compound matters, you argue that “there is no ethical mechanism to prohibit population growth in Canada or abroad.” Is there an ethical option not to? What is the point of having a morality if our species becomes extinct from over-population, perishing, as Farley Mowat once put it, like yeasts in vat breeding to the point that we are poisoned in the lethal brew of our making? Oil and natural gas depletion could kill 800 million people yearly for 18 years---that’s one scenario. Biodiversity collapse will surely do us in if that doesn’t. Global warming is just the coup de grace that should be the least of our worries, although it has captured all of our attention. As my bumper sticker says, “Either we limit growth, or Nature will limit Us”. Nature’s way is highly unethical, I can assure you.
We can limit growth, if we resolve to do so, but first people like you have to acknowledge the existence of two concepts and grasp their meaning. “Carrying capacity” and “biophysical limits”. When you’ve done that, then you can set to work reforming your position to conform to this reality. And you can begin to explore ways to limit growth locally, nationally and globally. Start locally. Check out Qualicum Beach, BC and Okotoks, Alberta. They’ve capped their population. If it can be done locally, it can be done nationally. To tackle the global problem, several ideas are current, Australian biologist John Reid has some, the education of young women is a proven winner---there are problem-solvers out there. Become one of them. Not just another problem-denier.
One more thing. There was an NDP slogan I recall from a provincial election in 1969, it read : “People Before Profits”. It’s a new era, with new priorities. I think you should try this slogan: “Nature Before People”. Just as a lifeboat must come before its passengers. Because if the lifeboat sinks, they all drown. And there is no “social democracy” on a dead planet, and no “social justice” for endangered species—your human-centered agenda has no value for them and they too are citizens of Canada and the world.


In your email of March 15/07 you state that “The Sierra Club is concerned that gains made in energy conservation might be wiped out by increased GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector.” Yet you apparently are not concerned that increased population growth driven by immigration will wipe out “gains made in energy conservation”.

The census report, released days ago, revealed that Canada grew by an alarming 5% since the last report—the highest of any G8 country. The impact this is having on biodiversity is manifest, yet all the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy of Canada can do is whine about habitat protection without mentioning the taboo of population growth, which will make any protected areas insecure.

Similarly, when Tony Blair introduced tough regulations on cars and factories in 1996 as part of his bold plan to reduce greenhouse emissions by 20% over 10 years, greenhouse emissions actually went up 3% over that same period. Why? While individual cars and factories spewed less noxious gases, the number of cars and factories increased thanks to economic growth, a function of growing population and per capita consumption rates.

In the tradition of Elizabeth May, The Great Pretender, you fail to acknowledge the Elephant-in-the-Room, because immigration and population policy is a no-no in the land of political correctness. Better to focus entirely on reducing consumption while ignoring the other half of the equation, and solicit funds to set aside a habitat for Rudolf the Rocky Mountain Cariboo while ignoring what it is that will ultimately will destroy his habitat.

You are a counterfeit environmentalist group, like so many others, chasing peripheral issues and decoying sincere people away from THE major task at hand: stabilizing our population.

“It does no good to preach that we should not destroy habitat or that we should reserve more open space. When push comes to shove, we are going to clear more land to build houses, plant more acres to crops, build roads to carry an increased traffic load, create more jobs as well as a host of other habitat-destroying activities in order to provide for an ever-increasing number of people. Each year we convert more wildlands and open space to human-dominated landscapes to provide for human needs. It can be no other way as long as our populations continue to grow. We continue to attack the symptoms, not the underlying cause.” (Steve Hoecker, “When More is Less” Hunting Magazine, Dec.1996)


I wished I had a rocket-launcher to deal with the ATVs and snow-mobiles
I encounter in the woods. These operators claim to want to enjoy a
natural experience but they are destroying mine and those of every hiker
and cross-country skier in ear-shot. How can these barbarians enjoy
nature if they can't even hear it? What gives them the right to usurp my
The FDA screens out all harmful drugs before they are permitted release
onto the market. Why then aren't these toys first screened for there
environmental impact before they are allowed to be unleashed on the
innocent bystander? We act as though there are only two parties involved
here. One the product manufacturer or retailer who wants to make a buck
selling these noise machines, and two the insensitive moron who wants to
operate them.
There is a third party. The person, the people, who want to experience
the forest and the meadows as they are meant to be experienced, in peace
and tranquillity. That's why people leave the cities to go to them. If
you like motorized transport, stay in urban Canada, which every day
encroaches on precious wilderness. If you like the forest, walk,
snow-shoe, or ski. If you like the water, row, canoe or kayak. Leave
your ATVs, snow-mobiles, outboard motors and jet-skis behind. Only
police and rescue personnel, or those in the serious business of making
a living have any justification to use them.
If regulation and a shift in attitudes will not chase these rednecks out
of the woods, then maybe the imminent collapse of fossil fuel production

PS My friend Keith Hobson of Saskatoon had a more sober suggestion: short of banning them a surcharge should go on the sale of these machines and be put into an environmental recovery fund. But how would that recover my peace of mind and lost nature experience?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


On this morning's TV news, you reported that Kitimat and Prince Rupert, B.C. were "census losers" for having dropped 12.5% of their population. I would submit that they were census "winners". The losers were the hundreds of towns and cities across this country, and especially the province of British Columbia as a whole, that have to suffer the unchecked growth imposed by an agenda driven by corporations, developers, economists and politicians. These vested interests do not know or care that more people means a degraded environment and a lower quality of life. And their twisted vision of "prosperity" forms the underlying assumption of news reports like yours. If you want an alternate vision, go ask the town councils of Okotoks, Alberta or Oualicum Beach, B.C., who have capped their population. Now THAT is a census success story.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


So God gave us dominion over the creatures of the earth
Without us understanding how nature even worked

“Go forth and multiply!” said He.
Don’t practice birth control said most of his believers
Or choose abortion—God forbid!

Just let our 6.5 billion people keep growing
Because somehow they will be provided for

Well we followed your mandate Lord
And now our planet is in ruins
And our prognosis is terminal

Nice work Christianity!

Just remember though,
If you are lonely and in despair as I am,

Monday, March 5, 2007


If you read Lynn Townsend White Jr. you realize that Christianity lies at “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.” No item in God’s physical creation had any purpose save to serve man’s purposes. White says “Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects…it’s the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen…what we do about ecology depends on our ideas of the man-nature relationship. More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecological crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink the old one.” I rather doubt that the old one can be rehabilitated.
There was a book written in the early eighties by John Livingston called “The Myth of Wildlife Preservation”. Livingston argued that environmentalists were losing the war to save wildlife habitat because they were fighting the battle with the men in suits on their terms—that is, the terms of facts and figures and dollars and cents. But you can’t always quantify the priceless bounty of wildlife and pristine lakes and streams. The power-brokers only want to know about hard numbers, “tourist dollars” vs. the opportunity cost of no development. The only way to save wildlife is to win a constituency for it and to do that you’ve got to get people out of their shopping malls and fitness clubs and into marshes and lakes and actually “experience” wildlife. The battle to fight climate change or save the environment cannot be won by producing hard data or scientific papers and presentations. That’s been done. Ad nauseam. People aren’t listening because they have lost their connection to the land. To nature. They live in cities. Artificial bubbles that insulate them from an appreciation of the wonderment of this country. For native Americans, for aboriginal Canadians, religion issued from the land itself. And as White said, in Antiquity, “ every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit.” When we re-establish that kind of connection, which I think involves a kind of mystical understanding that Capra spoke of, as opposed to the purely rational, scientific mind-set that is presently favoured, then we might have some hope of saving something of this planet.
We need a spiritual awakening, much more than a scientific understanding. And a spiritual awakening definitely not of the Christian kind. “God” did not grant us dominion over everything that lives on earth. “We are one among millions of species, stewards of nothing…Nature does not exist for us, had no idea we were coming, and doesn’t give a damn about us.” (Stephen Jay Gould) “Humans need to move from stewardship to studentship, and better learn the ways of the Earth and ourselves, for it is not the planet or its ecosystems that need stewarding, it is us.” (N. K. Dawe)

Sunday, March 4, 2007


There is a battle being fought on my island. It is being fought silently and incrementally. It is a battle to maintain our quality of life. And it is a battle we are losing, with our own unwitting collusion, day by day. We are losing this battle with our attitudes, attitudes that are shared by people and communities across Canada—and the world. It is the attitude that we have no right to stop growth, and that growth can go on and on forever. As Farley Mowat once said, we will apparently just keep multiplying like yeast in a vat until we perish in the lethal wastes of our own making. Here’s an example of what I am talking about.
Recently I was buying a plant from a local nursery, situated on a beautiful 10 acre estate. Noticing that another house was being constructed on the site, I asked the owner what it was about, and she replied that it was for her kids. She complained that children who grow up on Quadra Island can’t afford to buy land here anymore so the only way we can provide it for them is to build on our own property. Therefore “we must change the law so that we can subdivide properties to make them affordable to them.” At that point I thought I might introduce a contrarian thought: “So instead of 3500 people our population becomes 7,000, and what happens when your kids have kids, are we then to allow more densification to accommodate them? We enjoy a certain quality of life at 3500 people which at 7,000 people could be lost forever.”
“Yes”, she said—and this is the classic response—“but do we have a right to say no more once we’re here?”. “Actually, we do”, I said. “We have a moral right to set limits. There are only so many seats in a movie theatre. Once they are taken, the door is shut. You don’t ask patrons to accept newcomers in to sit on their laps.” This discussion was different than others I’ve had, because it didn’t spiral out of control into a heated exchange. I said that I understood her sentiments because I have a niece who grew up here and would love to live here and can’t. I simply didn’t want Quadra to sleepwalk toward becoming Saltspring Island, once an island like this, but now Paradise Lost with 27,000 people. She nodded agreement to that.
Just as a movie theatre has a limited seating capacity, so too does an island have limited carrying capacity, as does a nation like Canada, as does the planet itself. Once people accept community limits, then I think, they can be moved to accept national and global population limits. Coupled with cut-backs to consumption, they will then have strangled Economic Growth, which is killing biodiversity worldwide and will counter-act any gains made by tough greenhouse gas emissions regulations.
Stopping growth begins at home. It begins with your attitude. You must abandon the assumption that growth is inevitable and unstoppable, or that it can continue indefinitely. Or if we must stop it, we haven’t the right to stop it because we can’t very well “pull up the ladder” once we are aboard. You must put the needs of your local environment ahead of the wants of an unending torrent of newcomers. If not for your sake, then for the sake of our habitat, our remaining fresh lakes and streams and fish and pastures, we must draw a line. Where and when is a question of debate. I should only hope that when and if we have such a debate, that we listen not to politicians, economists, refugee advocates and humanitarians, but to independent biologists and ecologists not on the take. For they understand the concept of biophysical limits and carrying capacity. The debate can only begin with the absolute conviction that we have the right, in our local community, and in our country, to draw that line. My fear is that when we finally come to that realization, it will be far too late.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Overpopulation is a Local Problem and a Global Problem by Brishen Hoff

It's pretty clear that overpopulation is a global problem. Even soft-greens won't argue with that. There are over 6.5 billion people and each year another 80 million people are added to this unsustainably high global population.
As a result, year after year our forests, lakes, rivers, oceans, and ecosystems trend towards an overall worsening of quality.
When I was born in 1980 there were only 24 million Canadians. Quality of life was much better. People didn't need to work long hours. The price of land was much more affordable for the average person. Heck, a middle class person could probably retire easily on one of BC's gulf islands which are now only for millionaires.

More and more, when I criticize Canada's population growth via immigration, I hear from others that population is a global problem, not a local problem.

I would argue that it is both.

-If a small island has too many people, there is the possibility that dozens of unique species would become extinct. Therefore the island would be locally overpopulated.

-In the absurd hypothetical scenario...
If Canada were to accept all 3.5 million people of Lebanon as immigrants, Lebanon would likely grow back to its former population and Canada's ecosystems would be largely destroyed. Canada's biodiversity, water quality, greenbelts, etc would get hugely degraded by the addition of 3.5 million consumers.

Canada is already locally overpopulated and the world is globally overpopulated. This is my opinion based on the fact that we have lost thousands of species and our environment continues to degrade directly in proportion to population growth.

Many soft-greens argue that immigration is not an environmental concern. Eg: If 1000 people immigrate to Canada from Bangladesh, the total amount of resources consumed wouldn't change. This is not true. Canadians consume more per person.

In short, humans have already spread relentlessly across the globe, collapsing ecosystems and throwing nature out of balance.

I am anti-immigration at this point in our human history, because allowing humans to continue to spread accross the earth will just allow them to maximize their population, which is already too high.

I am anti-immigration, not anti-immigrant. We are all immigrants at some point or another. Even Canada's native aboriginal people are immigrants from Asia. I don't blame immigrants. Who could blame an incoming immigrant to Canada for wanting to better their life? They are simply being smart to want to come to a country with more untapped natural resources and freshwater and wildlife than their country of origin. However, I do blame the Canadians who let in immigrants because they are ignoring the finite carrying capacity of our land. Our oceans are already overfished, our large rivers are already dammed, our lakes are already polluted with human sewage. Our farm land soils are already heavily degraded through industrial monoculture farming. Our forests have been converted from biodiverse paradises to tree-farm monocultures that were replanted with a non-native economical tree after the original forest was clearcut.

When was the last time you heard the media present any arguments against immigration? Every day on the CBC news, more propaganda glorifying Canada's immigration system is broadcasted. Never is Canadian immigration criticized from an ecological perspective in the mainstream media. This is because mainstream media is owned by big business and big business likes population growth.

Why should the majority of Canadians suffer with an impoverished environment and intense competition for remaining resources just so a tiny group of CEOs get short-term profits from Canadian population growth (the chief instrument of Canadian economic growth)?

Economic Growth can't go on forever in a world of finite resources, so why don't we stop trying to increase our GDP now while there is still a shred of biodiversity left and before the remaining fragments of Canadian wilderness are gone?

We Canadians have a moral obligation to the flora and fauna that already call Canada home.
We Canadians have a moral obligation to the people who already call Canada home.
Allowing more people into Canada is betraying Canada's current residents by destroying the Canadian environment and reducing resources per capita.

Canada is not a lifeboat of unlimitted carrying-capacity. Our Canadian lifeboat will already sink once oil and gas are depleted. Why make it sink faster by adding more immigrants?

If we don't deal with overpopulation as a local problem here in our home town, our home township, our home county, our home province, our home country, how can we even dream of dealing with the problem globally?
Posted by Brishen Hoff at 10:25 AM Blog site:
Tim Murray said...
Hoff is dead right. The population bomb is not only ticking in the Third World. It's ticking right here. By century's end we can expect to see 70 million Canadians and 700 million Americans if immigration rates are not checked. The environmental destruction which Hoff describes is manifest. It was apparent ten years ago to 23 UBC academicians who studied the Fraser Valley, and after noting the damage to ecosystems from urban sprawl concluded that the population level was three times higher than what was sustainable. Realizing that this kind of growth was rampant across Canada they concluded in their $2.4 million report that Ottawa adopt a population policy that is consistent with the principles of sustainablility. What should also be of concern to soft greens,who apparently don't care if we exceed our carrying capacity and live in a garbage dump, is that immigration to North America is bad news for the global environment too. The transfer of people from areas of low consumption to areas of high consumption will magnify their footprint considerably. Bottom line for green trendies: Too many people. Too much consumption. Deal with both. Or you're not dealing with either. You are in denial.

Just Who Is In Denial?

So Brian Peckford denies the scientific consensus about climate change. He has company. There are still those who deny Hitler’s Holocaust, many who denied Stalin’s Ukranian genocide, people who deny that the moon landings took place and people who deny the decisive cogency of the theory of natural selection. Incredibly there remain people who deny that the earth is a sphere. What makes Peckford’s denial more dangerous than the aforementioned lunacies is that if it proves contagious it would paralyze those who might otherwise effect measures to counter-act climate change.
But more lethal than his denial is the denial of mainstream environmentalists and “green” politicians who refuse to recognize the role that population growth plays in environmental degradation. Their focus is entirely on “consumption”, but that is only one-half, albeit an important half, of the equation.
The questions we must ask are these: What is the point of cutting our per capita energy consumption in half if we turn around and double our population? What is the point of cutting our greenhouse gas emissions by 20% but grow the economy by another 20% so that all things that emit gases exist in greater numbers?
In 1996 Tony Blair introduced a bold plan to slash greenhouse emissions by 20% over ten years. The result? Greenhouse gas emissions actually increased 3% over that 10 year period. Why? Individual cars and individual factories, thanks to his tough regulations, were spewing less noxious gases alright, but thanks to economic growth and the population growth that fuels it, the number of cars and factories increased during that period to erase any gains his stringent standards made. As a result, 80 British MPs signed a document to the effect that the only way that we could combat climate change was to abandon the paradigm of Economic Growth. Economic Growth, it should be noted, is a function of population level and per capita consumption rates.
Economic growth will thwart Kyoto targets and it will continue to destroy habitat across the globe. The loss of biodiversity and the vital services it provides us is the forgotten casualty of our relentless growth—and it is a catastrophe just as fatal as the one Al Gore has dramatized. It’s just that global warming is sexy, the flavour of the month, the one environmental issue that has finally grabbed our attention. What Gore doesn’t understand, what his groupies don’t understand, is that we won’t be rescued by all of us becoming “green” consumers. What we need are fewer consumers, green or otherwise. Globally, but in North America even more so because we have a huge footprint. As author Richard Wakefield put it, “ the more humans there are, the more environmental degradation there will be. More homes needed to be built, more food grown, more energy required and more CO2 emissions.”
And yet so-called “green” politicians like Elizabeth May, Jack Layton and Mr. Dion call for immigration rates which will shortly add 8 million people to our current 32, excluding their permissive attitude to refugees. How can a Canada of 40, 50 million people happily co-exist with a healthy biodiversity and zero energy growth, not to mention with the little arable land that has not yet been carved up by subdivisions. One prominent local B.C. biologist offered the guess that Canada’s environment could sustain its present population level of 32 million IF we reverted to the consumption rates of the early 1950s. If we add another 8 million people do we then have to consume at 1935 rates?
Too many people, too much consumption. If you don’t deal with both, you deal with neither. You are in denial. You are as much a fully-paid up member of the Green Party, the NDP, Dion’s Liberals, the Sierra Club or the Suzuki Foundation, all of whom dance around peripheral issues without addressing root causes. You have jumped on board the runaway train of Economic Growth, which apparently, will not be slowed by the pro-active intervention of awakened politicians, but abruptly de-railed by the imminent calamity of oil and natural gas depletion. A disaster for us, a respite for the environment. Perhaps.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Town Limits: Restricting the Size of Communities for Liveability by Ray Grigg

Is your town outgrowing the comfortable and friendly size that once
made it an appealing place to work, raise a family or retire? Are you
concerned about escalating traffic congestion, increased taxes, crime
and the plethora of social ills that come with a rising population?
Worried that the inexorable result of continual growth will be an urban
sprawl which will eventually degrade or consume the natural places
making your community so beautiful and special?

Bigger isn't necessarily better. That's what some communities are
realizing as they stare into the ominous challenges that come with
continual growth. So some are deliberately limiting their size to
preserve those qualities that make them appealing and liveable.

Okotoks is an Alberta community of 16,500 that nestles in the Sheep
River Valley about 18 km south of Calgary. Its decision to pursue a
policy of "smart growth" stems from a limited supply of water. Rather
than stress their scenic river by taking more than 10 percent of its
flow, the community has decided to restrict its population to 30,000.
And it is petitioning Calgary to reduce its spread before Okotoks
becomes just another impersonalized suburban appendage of the city.

But a much better example is the town of Qualicum Beach,BC. It, too, has
considered the results of continual grown and it didn't like the
prospects. Why should any community willingly participate in a process
that destroys the very attributes that make it appealing? So Qualicum
has set its population limit at 11,000, very close to its present

The reasons are many, explains Councillor Barry Avis. Water supplies
are an issue. So are the natural features and wildlife habitat that
contribute so much to the quality of life in the community. But the
major concern is lifestyle. The town has a friendly and manageable size
that would be compromised by further growth. The challenge now is to
maintain and enhance these desirable attributes, a task made even more
difficult when the pressure to develop actually increases with the
quality of life. Qualicum recognizes this dilemma and is taking
conscious measures to avoid the trap set by its own success.

At first glance, its policy of zero growth seems selfish and
exclusionary. What consideration does it show for others who want to
live in Qualicum? What are the ethical implications of denying others
access to its quality of life? When by-laws are imposed to legitimately
regulate development and population, the situation begins to resemble
the "lifeboat" dilemma that prevents survivors from coming aboard. On
the other side of the ledger, what are the costs to Qualicum's residents
if their openness causes them to lose the very attributes that make
their community special?

Avis sees a way through this dilemma. The strategy is to help others
build their own lifeboats. In other words, to work with the regional
district to discourage sprawl outside Qualicum's boundaries where the
town has no direct control of zoning - adjacent sprawl would inevitably
undermine Qualicum's primary objective of self preservation - and to
promote nodal communities as an option.

Nodal communities would encourage populations to cluster, to develop
their own identities and to solve their own problems in their own unique
ways. Rather than let population increases create expansive and
impersonal suburbs where people feel lost and ineffectual, each node
could eventually become a distinctive community where people have
control and influence. The strategy would also preserve agricultural
land, so important for local food production and sustainability.
Qualicum's gesture of self-interested survival actually becomes a model
for intelligent growth.

Avis is aware of this effect. When Qualicum's living conditions are
manageable - it still wants to better attend to the full life cycle of
its residents by providing more nursing care facilities for its seniors
- it can then more easily help other communities improve their own
living conditions. Communities are most capable of assisting others when
their own lives are in order. The "lifeboat" metaphor is closer to the
"airplane" metaphor - "In the event of a loss in cabin pressure, please
attach your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others." Expressed
on a larger scale, this is the process whereby wealthy nations help poor
ones to help themselves.

Such a strategy has implications for national immigration policies,
particularly when environmental problems are becoming more critical and
human population is expected to rise towards a peak of 9 billion by the
end of this century. Accordingly, immigration policy is already being
hotly debated in Canada and other developed countries. Perhaps the
biggest schism to occur in the century-old history of America's
venerable Sierra Club was related to whether or not the organization
should officially endorse a US policy of continual population growth
through immigration. One side argued that people pollute, consume
resources, occupy space and eventually destroy the natural ecologies
that make places special. The other side countered that immigrants
create economic prosperity and cultural wealth, and that every nation
has a moral responsibility to receive the refugees of other countries.

Qualicum and Okotoks are just two examples of the world's population
dilemma written small enough to be local. Expressed in their by-laws is
the realization that growth can be self-defeating if it ruins the human
and natural environments that enrich community life. More challenging,
however, is the brave realization that we must confront the reality of
population limits simply because indefinite growth is not an option on a
planet of finite space and resources. Perhaps towns are the best places
to test this new thinking