Wednesday, January 2, 2008




There are many in the environmental movement who chose the coward’s way out. They know that population growth plays a crucial role in environmental degradation. And they know that in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom it is immigration which drives population growth and that it will play an even more decisive role in the future.

But they have taken the Fifth Amendment. They have chosen to remain silent and look the other way, focusing instead on campaigns to reduce consumption, promote renewable technologies, greener lifestyles and sideshows to defend this or that threatened habitat, forest or species.

They have done so for fear of the “R” word. Racism. Never precisely defined but always brandished as a weapon of fear and intimidation to shut down debate. It permanently marks the accused with a stain that can never be removed. Ask the widow of the late June Callwood. To be labeled “racist” and have it stick is professional suicide and the death knell of one’s credibility, no matter how broad and sound one’s perspective may be.

In Canada, more so than in America, Australia or Britain, such is the cult status of immigration that to challenge any facet of it is thought in most quarters to be intrinsically “racist”. If you are drawing a quarter of a million people into your country every year and most of them are from “non-traditional” sources, then most of them, an overwhelming number of them, are going have a skin pigment other than white. Therefore, to propose any restriction, or God forbid, a moratorium on immigration for any reason, is “racist”, and the one making the proposal is a “racist” who automatically is beyond the pale of polite discussion and deserves to be consigned to oblivion. He certainly will never see the inside of a CBC studio.

Well, I’m an environmentalist and I have chosen to make a lot of noise about immigration. In doing so, as one could predict, I am just about as popular as flatulence in an elevator. I talk loudly about the ugly “I” word because I would rather be right than politically correct. I know that if we grow our population by 18% we can’t expect to cut our GHG emissions by 3%. It can’t be done. I know that if we have covered 20% of our Class 1 farmland in sprawl with this kind of growth that we haven’t a hope of feeding ourselves when the oil runs out if immigration rates persist. We have the highest growth of any G8 and biodiversity is on the ropes. It cannot coexist with the tens of millions of extra consumers that Ottawa plans to import in coming years.

In advocating an immigration moratorium, I find myself in same predicament I did working in a theatre in a largely Chinese Vancouver neighbourhood. The movies were often times so popular that there were more people waiting on the sidewalk to get in than there were seats available to sell to them. One of my unhappy duties was to close the door when the theatre was full. Canada is such a theatre. It has a limited carrying capacity. Not established by a fire marshal, but by ecologists and biologists who have offered educated guesses as what it might be. Now a theatre manager or owner might propose that more people be admitted off the street and be accommodated as standing-room patrons. His motive would be purely monetary. Similarly, an economist from the Royal Bank would argue that Canada could to admit millions, tens of millions more, and the Real Estate Industry would echo his sentiments. Again for commercial considerations. But neither the theatre owner or the economist are governed by the concept of limiting factors, of carrying capacity. Just as it takes a Fire Marshall to impose reality on the theatre owner, it would take an ecologist or a biologist to introduce the Canadian government to the reality of biophysical limits.

One might recall the politicians of Newfoundland protest that the cod fishery must continue because the “economy” of the province depended on it. So the boats went out until the cod ran out. Ultimately it was not what the economy of Newfoundland required, but what the cod stocks could sustain, and in this case, they obviously couldn’t sustain any more fishing. That economist from the Royal Bank, and any number of federal politicians, will protest that our “economy” requires these massive annual injections of immigrants, but our environment will simply not continue to sustain it.

At some point, we will have to establish as a nation, a population plan, an optimum population for this country. When we do, someone will have to close the theatre door. Now, I would put it to my critics, when I closed that door was I “racist” in doing so because 75% of the people left standing outside were of Chinese ancestry?

Let me ask another question, suppose I was. Suppose I closed the door for two reasons. One, because the theatre had filled its seating (carrying) capacity and for safety reasons it would be dangerous to allow more people in. And two, because I didn’t like Chinese people. Would the second reason invalidate the first reason?

I want a moratorium on immigration to Canada. But let’s make a provision for refugees. In other words, I want immigration levels to be 10% of what they are now. For all of these reasons I advance. Primarily to stop biodiversity loss and save biodiversity services. Stop the erosion of farmland and wildlife habitat. Meet Kyoto targets. Etc.

But there is another reason. I hate right-handed people. I hate the way they have treated me and organized the world for their convenience. Right-handed people make up 90% of the global population. By cutting back on immigration by 90% I know that most of the excluded people will be right-handed. Does this hidden agenda invalidate the previous arguments?

In Canada of late there seems to be a great pre-occupation not with an idea or an action but the alleged motivation behind it. The hate-crimes laws are a case in point. Their logic confounds me. Someone hits me over the head and leaves me with a concussion because he thinks I have a wallet full of cash, and the judge gives him a year. If the same thug hits me over the head and leaves me with a concussion because he thinks I’m gay the judge gives him a much heavier penalty. Whatever the moron’s motives, my medical condition is the same.

But such is the political culture of Canada. My “motive” for anti-immigration views warrants more scrutiny and attention than the views themselves. I could only wish that critics would take my arguments on their own merits rather than subjecting me to psychoanalysis. And I wish that the network that I pay for, the CBC, would entertain the possibility that today’s heresy might become tomorrow’s truth.

Tim Murray

Quadra Island, BC


No comments: