Wednesday, August 19, 2009



" say that immigration is the problem is really to put the emphasis on something that is, when you really look at the various factors,it's basically trivial. I mean, only 3% of the world's population dies in a country other than that in which they were born..." Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May on CBC Radio, May 17/06

So Elizabeth May says that immigration, at 3% of the world’s population, is “trivial”. Trivial to whom? To the workers whose jobs are displaced and whose wages are depressed? (Rubenstein, Briggs, Borgias). Trivial to the taxpayers who must pay for the social services of immigrants? (Robert Rector study, Heritage Foundation 2006, Grubel study, Fraser Institute 2006). Trivial to those who fight traffic gridlock, suffer pollution, housing shortages and inflated prices and loss of farmland?. Is it trivial to the Israelis, the Spanish, and the Indians who have also resorted to building expensive walls to keep migrants out? Is it trivial to South Africa which has been deluged with so many Zimbabweans that civil unrest followed? Will the prospect of 300 million global environmental refugees be trivial?

The Green Party of Canada’s International Affairs Critic, Eric Walton, has attacked the metaphor of Canada as a “sinking lifeboat” that is in danger of capsizing from allowing too many foreign-born passengers on board. He accuses those involved in organizations like “Biodiversity First”, “Immigration Watch Canada” and the “Population Institute of Canada” of being merely anti-immigration activists who cloak their agenda in environmentalism. The flaw in our position, he contends, is our failure to recognize that Canada is not the lifeboat, but rather , it is the world itself---of which we are a passenger, like it or not. The only solution to environmental problems, which Greens seem to believe are all global in nature, is to seek the cooperation of other international “passengers”. Closing our borders is very likely to alienate them rather than entice them into that needed cooperation. In other words, to win the goodwill of our neighbours, let’s throw our gate open and leave our front door unlocked. Moreover, as a trading nation, our ecological impact is not merely a function of our population, or indeed of our consumption, but the consumption of our resources by other nations. Our focus on immigration is therefore rather simplistic. (One then is given to ask, as analyst Rich Shea did, "After years of saying that we have to lower our consumption, are Greens now saying that our domestic consumption is not an issue any more, and that we need to be more worried about the consumption of other countries? Have they abandoned their principles and adopted a quasi-xenophobic platform instead? If this were a dance, I'd call it the "consumption two-step") In Walton's words:

" In the end I think this debate (over immigration) boils down to a 'Small Lifeboat vs a Big Lifeboat' approach to the population/environment dynamic.
The Small Lifeboat group think we can and must save ourselves/environment within a gated Canada independent of the rest of the world while the Big Lifeboat group ( to which I belong) maintain that on the issue of population it truly is "Global or Bust" and that we must fully engage internationally in a spirit of good will and continuing to demonstrate generosity and thus become part of the global solution rather than following the 'each to his own survival' approach.
For the public record, the 'Small Lifeboat' approach is not a GPC position nor is it one that as International Affairs Critic that I would support."
(March 6/2008).

With all due respect to Mr. Walton, we don’t believe that it is necessary to invite the neighbourhood into our home to raid the refrigerator or ravish the garden in order to enlist their cooperation or help the cause of neighbourhood security. We believe that by being good stewards of our own land , protecting our food security from the housing developments needed to accommodate immigrants, and therefore being able to dispense our surplus to neighbours in need will suffice as sufficient testimony to our good will. Japan could serve as one of Walton’s detestable “gated communities”, and it is not an international pariah for doing that. We also believe that the Green Party obsession with thwarting climate change, which they unduly prioritize as the top threat to the environment, is not served by promoting migration. The study released by the Centre For Immigration Studies in August of 2008 clearly established that mass migration to the United States quadruples the GHG emissions of each migrant upon his arrival to America and therefore accelerates the timetable of our collective global demise. Sealing our borders or at least firming them up is a service to the global community. And remittances are not, as Walton believes, of net benefit to recipient countries, according the analysis of Dr. William Rees.

Walton’s answer is a classic Green one. Rather than close the doors, let’s reduce our per capita consumption levels. Why not do both? Why not first do that, why not first establish good land use policies to save farmland and wetlands from sprawl, why not first establish a conserver society, then have a conversation about how much more Mr. Walton wants to grow our population? It seems that the Greens always put the cart before the horse. Nature does not care about Canadians per capita consumption rates, or our “green living” habits like vegetarianism, recycling, screwing in CFL lights, driving hybrid cars or building ‘green’. It only cares about our TOTAL consumption. That is the NUMBER of consumers times their per capita consumption. Get it?

Greens simply won’t understand that stopping more people from getting here either though the airport or the maternity ward is a critical variable in not only our own sustainability but the world’s. Why is that so hard to accept? Whatever happened to “I=PAT”?

Choose your metaphor. If you are not comfortable in our Canadian lifeboat, then let’s for a minute board the virtual reality of Mr. Walton’s global lifeboat, or ship if you like. How can any ship brave the rough waters of climate change, biodiversity loss and Peak Oil, Water and Soil by allowing its passengers to migrate to one side of the vessel? What Mr. Walton and his leader, Elizabeth May, need, is not so much an education in the “population-environment dynamic”, but a course in physics—specializing in the “slosh dynamics” of the “free surface effect”.

" The Free Surface Effect is a phenomenon whereby a small amount of water inside the vessel starts slopping from side to side, making the ship rock. As the water moves it gathers momentum, causing the rocking to become more pronounced. The shifting water quickly makes the ship unstable, and can shift cargo and capsize the ship quickly."
(Wikipedia) Five to eight centimeters can suffice to do the trick. Even if this "trivial" amount of water enters through the doors of a ferry (its "borders")like that of the doomed "The Heritage of Free Enterprise" or "al-Salam Boccaccio Disaster of 1998", as it moves it gather momentum, causing the rocking to be more pronounced.

This clearly a metaphor for overshoot. A nation can become “top heavy” with overpopulation. But the focus on global overpopulation, like the focus by disaster investigators on the “overpopulation” or “overload” of capsized ships, fails to acknowledge that the migration or shift of people or water on those ships was more decisive a factor in their sinking than the number of people or the volume of water in the ships. A ship can be overloaded in a storm but if the contents of the ship---its passengers, its cars or the water on deck----is impeded from movement to one side by secure bulkheads or lashings, the ship’s centre of gravity will remain the same. And its chances of survival then remain very much better. Global overpopulation stresses the global environment. But a smaller global population with open borders is far more dangerous to the environment than a more populated planet with secure borders and impeded migration. Containing the multiplier effect of migrants moving to less populated and more resource rich regions to consume more is a more important key to sustainability than a less politically courageous resolution to simply resist population growth globally.

Our ship---national or global---will founder and capsize if migration is permitted to continue relatively unfettered. Follow the autopsies of major ferry disasters and one can then understand the threat we are facing. While overloading often accounts for high casualties in ship sinkings in such places as the Phillipines, it is the shifting of passengers to one side of the ship that they run to in response to swaying that is typically the straw that breaks the camel's back. And it was not the volume of incoming water--just over an inch covered the car deck--- that sank "The Heritage of Free Enterprise" but its unimpeded movement to one side of the vessel, which posthumously should perhaps be re-christened the HMCS Canada.

Tim Murray
August 19/09

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