Enviroment: All-American eco-freaks want to ban immigration

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The Independent Online
The biggest environmental organisation in the US, the century- old Sierra Club, is to ballot its members on whether to include an anti- immigration policy in its platform. Mary Dejevsky examines the background to the vote.

The half-million strong Sierra Club is a venerable American institution, whose current publications discuss conserving a state forest in Pennsylvania, the ecological benefits of wetlands and how writing letters to politicians can be as effective a form of lobbying as donating large sums of money. For more than 30 years, however, it has incorporated into its aim of preserving wild places in the US and the world, the need - as it sees it - to limit population numbers.

To that end, it supports and helps to fund family-planning projects across the world. "A rapid end to population growth in this country and around the world," says its literature, "is an essential part of any effort to protect the environment." In 1990, Sierra Club members gave "population control" the highest number of votes of any of the Club's national campaigns - and the popularity of that issue has not waned.

Now, with immigration registering high among political concerns of several US states - especially California where the Sierra Club has its headquarters - the club has taken a step further. It has passed to a membership vote a grassroots initiative calling for a reduction in immigration into the United States.

The argument advanced by one of those behind the initiative, Alan Kuper, is that immigration feeds overpopulation which in turn increases traffic, air pollution, water shortages etc. With US population growth now deriving exclusively from immigration - as native-born Americans have fewer children - he believes the club should lend its considerable political weight to the anti-immigration movement.

The vote is scheduled for March and members' approval is not a foregone conclusion.