Friday, April 10, 2009


David Jones makes a frankly absurd case. (March 27 OPT forum). He states that “if immigrants stay at home their ecological footprints will still increase as the poor countries industrialize.” True, but while that will take a while, their greatly magnified ecological impact in destination countries will be felt immediately. “In fact,” he continues, “it is much better for them to move to an advanced country, because the birth rate of immigrant families declines sharply from first generation immigrants to second, then by the third or fourth, it is pretty much the same as the general population of that country.” Great, but can we suffer the higher birth rates for another generation or two when disaster is around the corner?

Let’s look at the North American predicament as it stood in 2007. Of the top ten countries of origin for immigrants to Canada, only the US had a higher footprint than Canada’s, 9.4 to 7.1. Other than the UK at 5.3, all other countries, plus those that come after the tenth spot,. are not even close. China is 2.1 and immigrants from India (.9) increase their footprint by 700 per cent by living in Canada, while Bangladeshi entrants multiply their footprint by a factor of twenty. Yes of course sending countries are industrializing. But they are beginning from a baseline so low that it would be a very long time before they caught up to our level of excess. The question is, can the planet afford to wait that time? Clearly not. The need to suppress growth in North America, the resource hog of the world, is urgent.

Dr. William Rees, famous co-author of “Our Ecological Footprint”, further notes that the billions in remittances sent by immigrants shields their home countries from “the ill consequences of degradation of domestic ecosystems…transfers tend to short circuit negative feedback from the local environment that might otherwise lead to domestic policies that would moderate population growth and ecological decay. Hence remittances, like trade, contribute to the gross ecological overshoot that may yet prove fatal to global biophysical integrity.” Global migration, according to Rees, in the article quoted, “Globalization, Trade and Migration: Undermining Sustainability”, is generally bad news for the environment, and should be permitted for largely humanitarian reasons and only in moderate levels. He did not mention that immigration is a safety valve for repressive regimes that allow them to escape the volcanic pressure of unrest, nor did he remark about the fallacy of thinking that in a world that generates 80 million people annually, any escape hatch to the First World will solve overpopulation in the Third World. But I have, and I will further alert readers to a study released in August of 2008 by the Centre for Immigration Studies that established that an average immigrant quadrupled his or her GHG emissions upon arrival to the United States, thereby by accelerating the timetable of our collective demise.

And immigrants to Canada not only grow their footprint when they get here, they also create more footprints than the world average. The fertility rate among immigrant women who arrived between 1996 to 2001 was 3.1 children per woman as compared to the national average of 1.5. Meanwhile the US Census Bureau in 2002 showed that immigrants from the top-ten countries of emigration have a fertility rate that is 23% higher than the women of their home countries. This is all not so surprising to Mr. Jones. But are fertility rates among the descendants of immigrants declining according to the classic pattern of integration to the host culture that he cited? Not according to a report in the Chicago Tribune by Sue-Ellen Christian and Teresa Puente. The number of births to US-born Hispanic girls increased to lead the nation in teen birthrates, with 93 births per 1,000 Hispanic teens per year compared to the overall national teen birthrate of 50 per 1,000. One might recall a story filed in the Washington Post on December 14/08 by Patrick Welsh which documented a disturbing trend where high school teens, most prominently Hispanics, were forming “pregnancy pacts”.

But let us discount these facts and concede that over succeeding generations, fertility rates among the grandchildren and great grandchildren of immigrants will moderate to average levels. Again, we are in critical overshoot now, have we the luxury of waiting for another generation or two before this moderation to reach normality?

Mr. Jones characterizes my anti-immigration comments as “rabid”. Perhaps that is because I have been bitten by the highest population growth rate in the G8 group 70% of which is driven by immigration, contributing to 7 million of our 33 million people, 5 million of whom came since 1990. America, for its part, threatens to add as many as 133 million people to its numbers in the next four decades. Among the most salient costs to Canada from mass immigration is the fact that is responsible for 3 to 4 times as many GHG emissions as the notorious Alberta tar sands project, which is helping mightily to kill life on this planet. So no matter how cozy Mr. Jones feels living cheek to jowl with 61 million other British citizens, he can’t escape the climate change consequences of our immigration policies either.

If indeed we all share the same lifeboat, as Mr. Jones describes it, one might wonder, how sea-worthy that lifeboat would be if the people sitting on the third world side of it decide to get up, and move to his side, and some of them even sit on his lap? I would think that we would “sink all together” and in that case truly Mr. Jones would not care what skin colour or language his fellow victims had. On that note it is always fascinating to observe that critics somehow feel obliged to play the race card when immigration dares to rear its awful head. How is that material to the question of overhoot?

Of further interest is that apparently so many OPT members seem fixated on the number of consumers who enter through the maternity ward but not through the air port. Do British immigrants have no footprint? Immigrants cannot be scapegoated as exclusive practicioners of hyper consumerism—but they are none the less the drivers of population growth and that is why it has become a cross-cultural crusade to stop it. Among the leading crusaders is Chinese-born Yeh Ling-Ling of the ethnically diverse “Alliance for a Sustainable USA”. She doesn’t care about the complexion or the discourse of the passengers either, obviously, but she knows that they all can’t occupy the American side of the lifeboat.

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