I believe that environmentalists’ failure to address population issues is a fatal weakness. I am determined to do what I can to help remedy this failure, despite occasional abuse from both the left and the right. For the evolution of my views on these matters, see “Why I am an Environmentalist — For Immigration Reduction” and the website for the group “Apply the Brakes.”
In recent years, I have begun to write more about the population/environment connection in academic and policy venues. See for example this recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education. My two most recent books both deal centrally with population and immigration:
How Many Is Too Many? The Progressive Argument for Reducing Immigration into the United States will be available in early February, 2015 from University of Chicago Press. It argues that current immigration levels—the highest in U.S. history—undermine efforts to achieve a more economically just and ecologically sustainable society. Political progressives favoring a more equitable distribution of wealth, economic security for workers and their families, the preservation of other species on the American landscape, and the political empowerment of common citizens should support reducing immigration into the United States. How Many Is Too Many? will help readers across the political spectrum think more clearly about the inevitable trade-offs of any immigration policy. By using immigration policy as a springboard to explore and clarify progressive goals and values, it also contributes to current discussions about the way forward for progressive politics in America.
Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation seeks to reignite a robust discussion of population issues among environmentalists, policymakers, and the general public. Some of the leading voices in the American environmental movement show how population growth is a major force behind our most serious ecological problems, including global climate change, food and water shortages, and the mass extinction of Earth’s species. 25 contributors honestly explore difficult moral and political issues including abortion, immigration, and limits to growth, arguing that we must humanely reduce human numbers in order to preserve wild nature and build a vibrant human future. Contributors include Lester Brown, Dave Foreman, Stephanie Mills and Captain Paul Watson. Co-edited with Eileen Crist, with a foreword by Anne and Paul Ehrlich, published by University of Georgia Press.
Another recent effort is “Climate Ethics and Population Policy,” published in WIRES: Climate Change 2012 (3): 45-61, appended below. This article reviews the scientific literature regarding voluntary population control’s potential contribution to climate change mitigation. It considers possible reasons for the failure of climate ethicists and policy makers to adequately assess that contribution or implement policies that take advantage of it, with particular reference to the resistance to accepting limits to growth. It explores some of the ethical issues at stake and argues that three consensus positions in the climate ethics literature regarding acceptable levels of risk, unacceptable harms, and a putative right to economic development, necessarily imply support for voluntary population control.
In 2009 I published two policy briefs on U.S. immigration policy, the second co-authored with Winthrop Staples:
Today's immigration levels--the highest in history--increase income inequality in the United States. They do this by flooding labor markets with less-skilled, less-educated workers, putting poor Americans in direct competition with poor foreigners and driving down their wages, while wealthy Americans reap most of the economic rewards. Cutting back on immigration is one of the most obvious and important actions Americans can take to begin to rebuild a more egalitarian society.
A serious commitment to environmentalism entails ending America’s population growth by implementing a more restrictive immigration policy. The need to limit immigration necessarily follows when we combine a clear statement of our main environmental goals — living sustainably and sharing the landscape generously with other species — with uncontroversial accounts of our current demographic trajectory and of the negative environmental effects of U.S. population growth, nationally and globally (note: this policy brief is an abridged version of a longer academic article with the same title, attached below).