Recently, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has been making the point that illegal immigration affects the environment in ways that environmentalists traditionally characterize as bad.
The examples he gives—a Government Accountability Office report identifying extensive environmental damage and endangered species “takings” caused by aliens crossing the border illegally, and quotes from the mayor of Tijuana discussing the mountains of trash the aliens leave everywhere—aren’t being covered by the leftist mainstream media. Instead, Carlson is being predictably and tediously trashed as a racist by “progressives” who never address the specific examples he gives.
They instead focus on how essential immigrants are for propping up (for the time being) the Ponzi scheme that is the welfare state and the positive effects immigrants have on the economy. It’s an intriguing flip from conventional wisdom: The left doesn’t want to talk about environmental problems that are tied directly to a specific policy that a majority of Americans want changed.
Progressives dodging the issue doesn’t mean Carlson is wrong, of course, but in my view he’s not going quite far enough. Illegal immigration does affect the environment negatively, but so does all mass immigration.
Long ago, when I was in the Environmental Science program at Portland (OR) State University (PSU), hardly a bastion of right-wing extremism, it was a foregone conclusion that human population growth necessarily leads to environmental degradation. In the same way that ecology grew out of the realization that the Venn diagram of biology and geology overlap – living things affect the non-living environment and vice versa – PSU’s environmental science program grew out of the realization that humans affect the environment differently in both kind and scale than any other species. Graduates of the policy track of the program were basically ecologists who were also reasonably fluent in economics, philosophy, political science, and domestic and international law.
We all knew that population growth leads to environmental degradation, and there was no scandal on the left in pointing out the obvious. You could see it anywhere you looked, from vanishing old-growth forests to aquifer depletion. Then as now, it’s all happening because population growth drives urbanization, development, and the demand for limited resources. Population growth is why, as the old Joni Mitchell song says, we pave over paradise and put up parking lots.
You can make the case that population growth isn’t all environmental gloom and doom. Granted, engineers have advanced pollution prevention technology such that urban air and water quality have actually improved since the 1970s in spite of the population growing by 50 percent. But the environment is a fabulously complicated thing, and cleaner urban air and water aren’t the only factors worth considering.
Endangered species are discussed extensively in the GAO report Carlson mentioned, but unlike urban blight that can be redeveloped into vibrant social and economic zones, once endangered species have gone extinct, they’re gone. This used to matter to liberals. In fact, it mattered so much that they joined conservatives in passing the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits the government from doing things that “take” listed species.
Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in recent years is that the environmental left is completely powerless against the open borders faction. In the left’s intersectionality contest between environmental quality and newcomers whose votes can be bought with “free” government cheese, the environmental side loses. Nobody wants to be called a racist, so they shut up rather than honestly talking about valid, fact-based concerns that have absolutely nothing to do with race.
I’ve written elsewhere on this, in a piece titled, “Mass Immigration or Endangered Species … Pick One,” focusing on the Rusty Patch species of bumble bee that the Fish and Wildlife Service says is unavoidably going extinct due to environmental degradation and habitat loss. The point I’m making doesn’t hinge on where you stand on environmental protection or the wisdom of the Endangered Species Act.
The maps showing the historic and current range of the bee and the Census Bureau maps of population in 1980 versus 2010 make it clear where that environmental degradation and habitat loss is coming from. It’s coming from development that results from population growth, almost all of which is the result of legal and illegal immigration.
Immigration policy has for decades plainly violated the Endangered Species Act. Here’s a portion of the report Carlson cites:
Illegal border activity on federal lands not only threatens people, but endangered species and the land itself. Illegal aliens and smugglers have destroyed cactus and other sensitive vegetation that can take decades to recover, including habitat for endangered species.
The Rusty Patch bumble bee is but one example. But the GAO report Carlson cites discusses the findings of government study after government study that names endangered species takings and other environmental damage as specifically caused by the flood of illegal aliens crossing the border.
The fundamental idea Carlson is articulating isn’t wrong; the facts are clearly on his side. If he’s a racist for accurately summarizing a GAO report and repeating what the mayor of Tijuana said, then the word racist has been worn out to the point of meaning nothing.
The law clearly prohibits the government from doing things that “take” endangered species. So the open borders left has employed its favorite “Rule of Law“: 1) If the facts are against you, argue the law. 2) If the law is against you, argue the facts. 3) If the facts and the law are against you, yell like hell.
The latter strategy is working to some degree, since some advertisers are, for now, moving their dollars elsewhere. But they should be careful: the phrase “get woke, go broke” came into being because institutions that adopt radical, politically correct positions as a matter of corporate policy frequently suffer catastrophic loss of customer revenue (e.g., University of Missouri, Annapurna Pictures, etc.).
Society is not well served when policy decisions are driven by emotional venting by a small minority trying to drown out inconvenient facts. If we’re going to create rational, logical policies, we need to be able to have honest discussions that look at all of the various factors.
We should be talking about how immigrants affect the economy, wages, welfare programs, education, traffic, energy consumption, and, yes, the environment, including endangered species, plastic and other garbage disposal, and carbon emissions. We need to follow Carlson’s lead and stop being cowed into silence by a minority of open borders radicals whose primary argument consists of screeching “RACIST!”