How environmentalists shaped Republican immigration policy

Ruben Mishchuk/Unsplash

On Monday, May 28, the Sierra Club turned 126 years old. Throughout its existence, the group's lobbying for environmental regulations has earned it a permanent place in progressive circles. But many may be surprised that the group was once a haven for immigration restrictionists.

The Club's restrictionist origins can be traced back to 1968 when it published a best-selling book titled The Population Bomb by biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. In it, Ehrlich argued that population growth was responsible for the earth's environmental decline, and advocated for immediate action in fighting against overpopulation. In the 1980s, the Sierra Club urged Congress to make population stabilization a chief US goal. A few years later the Club asserted that "Immigration to the U.S. should be no greater than that which will permit achievement of population stabilization in the U.S."

RELATED: Time to reverse course: America is being corrupted by its own power

One of the members who was influenced by Ehrlich's work was the Michigan eye doctor John Tanton. Tanton's concern about population growth's impact on the environment inspired him to serve as chairman of the Sierra Club's population stabilization committee from 1971 to 1975. In 1979, those same concerns propelled him to create the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which would become one of the most influential US organizations advocating for less immigration.

Six years after creating FAIR, Tanton helped secure a grant that launched the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) a think tank that describes itself as "Low immigration, Pro-immigrant." He also helped his former editor, Roy Beck, raise funds to launch NumbersUSA, a grassroots nonprofit that's also devoted to immigration reduction.

Tanton's engagement with FAIR ended when he left the advisory board in 2002, and his involvement in CIS and NumbersUSA never extended beyond his startup assistance. But some people involved in the restrictionist network are motivated by the same environmental concerns that worried Tanton. Roy Beck, for example, is a disgruntled former environmental reporter who blames poor air and water quality and a lack of open spaces on overpopulation from immigration. The Colcom Foundation, the largest funder of immigration restriction groups is animated by the same set of concerns, with their mission being to "foster a sustainable environment…by addressing the major causes and consequences of overpopulation."

Several of these environmentalists are concerned enough about overpopulation that they have outright advocated for abortion to reduce the US population size.

Several of these environmentalists are concerned enough about overpopulation that they have outright advocated for abortion to reduce the US population size. CIS Fellow David North, for example, argues that "too many people means too much pollution and not enough green space." He believes that there should be a "low-growth population organization" that seeks to "curtail needless restrictions on abortion." This is similar to the mission of the Weeden Foundation, another funder of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. The Foundation says that "an increasing population causes greater impact on the environment and loss of biodiversity" and believes that the liberalizing of Latin American abortion laws are among the "interventions necessary to lower birthrates." Tanton himself started a local Planned Parenthood Chapter in Northern Michigan for the same reasons he started FAIR.

At first glance, it's difficult to see the environmentalists in a coalition with other restrictionists. The former is comprised of a largely secular, socially liberal elite. The latter is filled with economic and cultural populists. But what they hold in common is a shared belief in a zero-sum world and an ahistorically, pessimistic outlook for what voluntary human cooperation can accomplish.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of CIS, observed in the National Review that 14 years ago there were left/right alliances on both sides of the immigration debate, and the choice was between the patriotic coalition or the post-American coalition.

American conservatism is built on the precepts that individuals are valued as ends in themselves and that public problems are best answered by civil society.

But people are defined by their own principles, not those of their coalition partners. American conservatism is built on the precepts that individuals are valued as ends in themselves and that public problems are best answered by civil society. A conservative vision for the American immigration system is one that removes barriers that impede individual choice, opportunity, and the exercise of responsibility.

Immigration restrictionists of the left and the right may have different reasons for their positions, but both are similar in that they demand the sacrifice of individual liberty in favor of centrally planned objectives.

Sam Peak is a Young Voices Advocate and opinion journalist who writes about immigration policy. You can follow him on twitter @Tiger_Speak.

Acclaimed environmentalist and author of "Apocalypse Never" Michael Shellenberger joined Glenn Beck on the radio program Wednesday to warn us about the true goals and effects of climate alarmism: It's become a "secular religion" that lowers standards of living in developed countries, holds developing countries back, and has environmental progress "exactly wrong."

Michael is a Time "Hero of the Environment," Green Book Award winner, and the founder and president of Environmental Progress. He has been called a "environmental guru," "climate guru," "North America's leading public intellectual on clean energy," and "high priest" of the environmental humanist movement for his writings and TED talks, which have been viewed more than 5 million times. But when Michael penned a stunning article in Forbes saying, "On Behalf of Environmentalists, I Apologize for the Climate Scare", the article was pulled just a few hours later. (Read more here.)

On the show, Micheal talked about how environmental alarmism has overtaken scientific fact, leading to a number of unfortunate consequences. He said one of the problems is that rich nations are blocking poor nations from being able to industrialize. Instead, they are seeking to make poverty sustainable, rather than to make poverty history.

"As a cultural anthropologist, I've been traveling to poorer countries and interviewing small farmers for over 30 years. And, obviously there are a lot of causes why countries are poor, but there's no reason we should be helping them to stay poor," Michael said. "A few years ago, there was a movement to make poverty history ... [but] it got taken over by the climate alarmist movement, which has been focused on depriving poor countries, not just of fossil fuels they need to develop, but also the large hydroelectric dams."

He offered the example of the Congo, one of the poorest countries in the world. The Congo has been denied the resources needed to build large hydroelectric dams, which are absolutely essential to pull people out of poverty. And one of the main groups preventing poor countries from the gaining financing they need to to build dams is based in Berkeley, California — a city that gets its electricity from hydroelectric dams.

"It's just unconscionable ... there are major groups, including the Sierra Club, that support efforts to deprive poor countries of energy. And, honestly, they've taken over the World Bank [which] used to fund the basics of development: roads, electricity, sewage systems, flood control, dams," Micheal said.

"Environmentalism, apocalyptic environmentalism in particular, has become the dominant religion of supposedly secular people in the West. So, you know, it's people at the United Nations. It's people that are in very powerful positions who are trying to impose 'nature's order' on societies," he continued. "And, of course, the problem is that nobody can figure out what nature is, and what it's not. That's not a particular good basis for organizing your economy."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Dr. Voddie Baucham, Dean of Theology at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia, joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to explain why he agrees with Vice President Mike Pence's refusal to say the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

Baucham, who recently drew national attention when his sermon titled "Ethnic Gnosticism" resurfaced online, said the phrase has been trademarked by a dangerous, violent, Marxist movement that doesn't care about black lives except to use them as political pawns.

"We have to separate this movement from the issues," Baucham warned. "I know that [Black Lives Matter] is a phrase that is part of an organization. It is a trademark phrase. And it's a phrase designed to use black people.

"That phrase dehumanizes black people, because it makes them pawns in a game that has nothing whatsoever to do with black people and their dignity. And has everything to do with a divisive agenda that is bigger than black people. That's why I'm not going to use that phrase, because I love black people. I love being black."

Baucham warned that Black Lives Matter -- a radical Marxist movement -- is using black people and communities to push a dangerous and divisive narrative. He encouraged Americans to educate themselves on the organization's agenda and belief statement.

"This movement is dangerous. This movement is vicious. And this movement uses black people," he emphasized. "And so if I'm really concerned about issues in the black community -- and I am -- then I have to refuse, and I have to repudiate that organization. Because they stand against that for which I am advocating."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

We're going to be doing an amazing broadcast on Thursday, July 2nd, and we will be broadcasting a really important moment. It is restoring truth. It is restoring our history. It is asking to you make a covenant with God. The covenant that was made by the Pilgrims. And it's giving you a road map of things that we can do, to be able to come back home, together.

All of us.

And it's never been more important. Join us live from the Standing Rock Ranch on Blaze TV, YouTube and Facebook at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday July, 2nd and restore the hope in you.

Make sure you join us and use the hashtag and spread the word, fight the mob today and you'll save $20 on your year of subscription. We need you now more than ever.

RESTORING HOPE: Join Glenn live from Standing Rock Ranch to restore the American covenant youtu.be

On last week's Wednesday night special, Glenn Beck revealed where the Black Lives Matter organization really gets its funding, and the dark money trail leading to a cast of familiar characters. Shortly after the program aired, one of BLM's fiscal sponsors, Thousand Currents, took down its board of directors page, which featured one of these shady characters:

Ex-Marxist professor and author of "Beyond Woke," Michael Rectenwald, joined Glenn Beck on the TV show to fill us in on the suspicious change he discovered on the Thousand Currents webpage and the Communist terrorists who is now helping run the organization. (Fortunately, the internet is forever, so it is still possible to view the board of directors page by looking at a web archive from the WayBack Machine.)

Rectenwald revealed the shocking life history of Thousand Currents' vice chair of the board, Susan Rosenberg, who spent 16 years in federal prison for her part in a series of increasingly violent acts of terrorism, including bombing the U.S. Capitol building, bombing an FBI building, and targeting police for assassination.

"Their whole campaign was one of unbelievably vicious, murderous cop killings, assassinations, and bombings," explained Rectenwald of Rosenberg's terror group known as the May 19th Communist Organization or M19.

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:


Glenn's full investigation into the dark origins of the funding behind Black Lives Matter is available for BlazeTV subscribers. Not a subscriber? Use promo code GLENN to get $10 off your BlazeTV subscription or start your 30-day free trial today.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.