Sunday, July 27, 2008

Immigration, the Hidden Side of Population Growth

The United States, the world's third most populous country, is increasing its population at just under one percent per year, almost 3 million new Americans each year.
In Canada, with a similar population growth of just less than one percent, immigration plays an even bigger role, contributing 66% of total population growth.

This is robust growth, especially when compared to the birth dearth in western Europe and Japan, and not a good thing since (northern) North Americans are the most profligate consumers on the planet and we are already well past the Earth's carrying capacity.

About 35% of the US population growth is by immigration, with more than a million immigrants receiving permanent resident status annually (not to mention illegal immigrants).

Sadly, population (and immigration) are virtually never discussed in rational ways and certainly never by our policy makers. E-The Environmental Magazine broke this awkward silence with its May/June 2008 issue that tackles the issue head on and in depth. It states that immigration is an environmental concern because "America's rapid growth makes it nearly impossible to achieve sustainability."

Clearly, what is desperately needed is a national policy that assesses the big picture and integrates immigration, family planning, foreign-aid policies as well as including economic factors.

We need to start talking openly about immigration and how it fits into an overall population policy. What do you think? What kind of policies and practices would you like to see?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Babies - A Cool Way to Start People? A Guest Blog by GreenHearted

As someone who has no children of her own (although a beloved niece and two wonderful stepsons fill the void), I find myself feeling torn when friends and colleagues tell me they're expecting new additions to their family.

My first instinct, I admit, is complete joy for them. A sense of excitement about their new life adventure. I want to help find baby names for them. I look forward to touching mommy's tummy when she's seven or eight months along.
I know I'm going to want to spend time with the new little one's hand grasped around my finger -- basking in that newness and innocence. After all, as (Bill Cosby's) Fat Albert said, "Babies are a cool way to start people."

But as that initial blush of joy and excitement wears off, I start thinking other thoughts. Why would anyone want to bring a baby into this world, knowing the child's life is going to be carbon-constrained and climate-chaos-wracked? When that child is our age, there will be food and water shortages, and wars and conflicts everywhere because of those shortages.

Oh, let them feel their joy, I tell myself. Why wreck it for them now? Well, because that new (EuroAmerican) mouth to feed is going to take more than its share of resources and create more than its share of destruction. Why is my friend's baby, before it's even born, more privileged than babies in developing countries?

If I say something now, will it at least remind them not to go overboard with baby "things"? (As in, new baby = new consumer.)
If I say something now, will the parents help their new little one develop its innate love for the rest of nature (biophilia)? Will they say no to the TV shows, movies and computer games that disconnect North American children from their Mother Earth? Will they consider the health of the planet as they worry over their baby's health? Will they consider feeding their child an organic, locally grown low-on-the-food-chain diet so that what it eats doesn't eat away at its future? Will they think about the two billion people in the world without access to clean water as they're bathing their little one? Should I keep giving mini canoe paddles and Earth balls as baby gifts?

When my husband and I realized that we weren't going to have children together, he lovingly told me, "Now you can be the mother of all the children on Earth." I take my responsibility seriously. As a non-mother, I have far more time than mothers do to work on saving the future for the children — of all species.

So what should I say to my newly pregnant friends and co-workers — besides "Fiona's a nice name for a girl"?

Julie Johnston, GreenHeart Education

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Peaceful Eagles

Towering Douglas firs, gnarled Garry oaks and arbutus trees with textured reddish trunks rose from a rocky slope that bumped down to the sea. I was on a vigil, and one hundred yards away a mother eagle, perching high, shared my watch. The focus of our attention was a month-old eagle chick, the tenant of a nest atop a 60-foot Douglas fir at the edge of the water. I was spending a day at the nest, watching, photographing and learning. With no company, cell phone, iPod or other modern distractions, I had time aplenty to contemplate.

The patience of both mother and chick was impressive. She would perch sometimes for an hour or more at one spot before flying to another nearby high treetop where she would sit regally watching the sea, the passing boats and her chick; she had no compulsion to keep constantly busy. She didn't fuss nervously, make endless calls on a cell phone, visit malls or take Valium. She was comfortable with her vigil and being part of the natural world around her.

Nor was this eagle family consumed with the acquisition of material goods; the nest was not oversized and sprawling with dens, bars, pools, three-car garages. Nor was it full of the eagle equivalent of large-screen TVs, electric corkscrews and other ridiculous gadgets. Nor did I witness any battles to expand their territory or to overeat. Nor was the area teeming with an enormous population of eagles. In spite of being the mightiest birds in the air, they seem at peace with their existence and live in equilibrium within it.

I couldn't help but think how pathetic we humans are in comparison. Our society is not in equilibrium with the natural world. Instead we are looting it, while driven by greed, self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement. We are obsessed with overeating and the acquisition of consumer goods, and our population has far exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. Whereas we once lived by the laws of nature, now we defy them, violate them - and to what purpose?

As dusk fell, I wished that everyone could come and spend a day at this eagle nest. Perhaps it would help the human race to learn that we need to live in equilibrium with the natural world.

How can we reconnect with nature? How can we learn from the eagles? Let me know what you think. (Or what you feel.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The King Has No Clothing

Last year, Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," was shown at our community hall and was followed by a spirited discussion moderated by an intelligent environmental lawyer who is gaining a national reputation. The audience appeared deeply moved by the film and enthusiastically offered a variety of actions we could take as individuals and on a community basis to avoid the disaster that global warming threatens.

At one point, a 12-year-old boy stood up and said that human population seemed to be part of the problem and shouldn't we be doing something about that. The moderator quickly dismissed the boy, stating that new technologies and conservation were the solution, and moved on to another speaker.

The young boy was the only one in the audience to recognize that human population is the real problem behind global warming. But no one listened. I despair.