This secularist favors curbing immigration to check population growth

This secularist favors curbing immigration to check population growth April 28, 2019

It may seem counterintuitive to American secularists who loathe President Trump’s seemingly racist, obstructive immigration policies, but some of them apparently also want fewer incoming aliens.

population growth immigration secularism
Part of huge Paris crowd after a Muse concert, 2007. (James Cridland, Flikr, CC BY 2.0)

That’s the considered if controversial opinion of Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine, a proponent of population decrease (and of cutting U.S. immigration to help achieve it). He explains his hypothesis at length in his latest op-ed on population-growth worries, “Good New Misunderstood.”

7.5 billion humans

Flynn warns global population now surpasses 7.5 billion people, and it would take an estimated 2.5 Earths to support such a crowd indefinitely — if it stopped expanding today. He quoted Global Footprint Network conclusions noted in a 2017 report, “What’s the Ideal Number of Humans on Earth?”

A 1994 study by the authors of The Population Bomb (Paul and Anne Ehrlich, 1968)), a best-selling, influential book when first published, determined that at most our planet is able to sustainably support barely 2 billion inhabitants. Titled “Optimum Human Population Size,” the study, also co-authored by Gretchen C. Daily, was published in the journal Population and Environment.

“Clearly,” Flynn warns, “if we want humanity to continue at a reasonable level of comfort, we will need to reduce human numbers to between a third and a quarter of their current levels.”

So, secular Americans, who tend toward the left of the political spectrum, are in a quandary. They recoil, horrified, from the President’s white supremacist, xenophobic immigration policies. But they also want to check U.S. population growth that promises to increase fossil-fuel use and, thus, exacerbate global warming and its potentially catastrophic impacts on the planet.

Worse? Our ‘carbon footprint’

Yet, as bad as exponentially relentless population growth is, Flynn points out, the “key reason overpopulation matters” in the U.S., in particular, is that consume the most natural resources and has the largest “carbon footprint” in the world per capita. The Oxford Dictionary defines “carbon footprint” as “the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.”

China is the planet’s largest polluter only because it has such an enormous population. Yet, it only has a per capita carbon footprint of 7.54 metric tons, compared to 16.4 metric tons for each American. Therefore, immigration will only increase the U.S. population, each immigrant will likely eventually overuse resources and generate carbon pollutants as much as other Americans.

Of course, reducing population, although its benefits may seem a no-brainer in some respects, also poses unintended consequences. For example, Japan is now experiencing the downside of sharp population-growth decline, where senior citizens comprise an oversized demographic.

“If retirees outnumber the employed,” Flynn explains, “who will pay to care for them all, much less keep the rest of society humming along?”

Whither firefighters, cops, etc.?

The U.S. state of Maine is currently beset by a similar disproportion of aged citizens and “suffers from acute shortages of police officers, firefighters, town managers, school superintendents and teachers,” Flynn wrote, quoting a 2018 New York Times piece by Sabrina Tavernise, “Growth Rate in Population is at Lowest Since 1937.”

But, for Flynn, the gains of smaller populations outweight the drawbacks, even if pushing for that seems anathema to secularists in their battle against nativist, alien-loathing segments of American society led by a supremacist president.

“I suggest it’s time for secular humanists and other concerned with humanity’s long-term welfare to reopen the discussion on immigration reduction — not out of racism or xenophobia, which we deplore, but out of simple recognition that immigration from whatever source counteracts a desirable reduction in U.S. population that might otherwise already be underway.”

Nothing is ever easy, it seems, especially when you need it to be.


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