Minnesotans For Sustainability©


Sustainable:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.




Dear fellow member
Redirecting Club Priorities
Population Growth - Responsibilities
Population Growth - International View
Population Growth - Economic Factors
Population Growth - Sprawl
Population Growth - U.S. Policy & NOPC
Concluding Remarks

April 18, 1997


Adam Werbach, President, Sierra Club
Letters the Editor, Sierra Magazine, Chapters
Board of Directors & Candidates
Environmental Justice Committee
Members of the Sierra Club

Re.: Environmental Justice Committee vs. a U.S. population policy and National Optimum Population Commission (NOPC)

Dear fellow member,

The first challenge undertaken by the Sierra Club’s founder, John Muir, was to prevent reducing the size of Yosemite National Park. Symptomatic of our burgeoning population in March, 1997, Park administrators instituted a new management policy that reduces by half the number of visitors at any one time; as they said, Yosemite park is overpopulated. Were the Environmental Justice Committee (EJC or "justice committee") in control in 1892, not only would this wonderful National Park be smaller, but would not be a priority for the Sierra Club.

The "justice committee" raises several important issues; however, if the reorientation of the Sierra Club were successful, it would imply not only the loss of Yosemite, but the demise of the Club as we know it, and the death knell of so many of our present and past hard fought environmental victories.

This letter is intended as a follow up to the earlier letters written by Mr. Boyd Wilcox, founder and President of the National Optimum Population Commission (NOPC), and Mr. Ted Toal, a Sierra Club member and supporter of NOPC. The statements written by the EJC Chair, Kirstin Dohrer regarding the establishment of a U.S. population policy and NOPC and the article in the March/April 1997 Sierra magazine authored by Tracy Baxter do not adequately describe nor convincingly define the role of a "justice committee" in achieving Sierra Club objectives. Briefly stated, the overriding policy of EJC advocates is to abrogate well-established Sierra Club national responsibilities and national objectives for local social concerns. Consistent with their goal re-ordering is another theme —under the banner of "environmental justice," their emphasis and controlling goal is an egalitarian international redistribution of the wealth of the developed nations, specifically, the U.S. and Canada.

Although their intentions are perhaps praiseworthy, the aggressive manner in which they present their case distracts from a reasoned evaluation. The EJC appears to lead with their hearts and with presumed good intentions, while using means incompatible with their goals. It is evident from their statements that the EJC creates issues where none exists, that facts are selective, often incidental, attacks areas in which they have inadequate or no knowledge, and misrepresent information and history according to their notions of accuracy.

This letter briefly describes the principal policies and goals of the Environmental Justice Committee as reflected in the writings of Ms. Dohrer and Ms. Baxter, discusses the question of where a "justice committee" is consistent with Sierra Club objectives, the consequences of remaking Sierra Club environmental objectives, and the social and economic strategies they use to implement those policies. Because the Environmental Justice Committee dwells on economic/social issues related to population growth, this letter will elaborate (somewhat) on the relationship between population growth and industrialization. Their antagonism toward the establishment of a U.S. population policy and NOPC will be seen as an example of fundamental themes threading through the committee and of their implementation policy.

Redirecting Club Priorities

A chief concern of mine is that because many Club members (as am I) are genuinely concerned about our environment and people, it would be relatively easy to form coalitions to convert the Club into something very different, a local based social justice organization.

Changing focus from national issues, e.g., Utah 5.7, or EPA standards, to redevelopment affecting some local low income housing, for example, would prove disastrous for the environment and the Sierra Club. Although these issues are important, this reorientation indicates that Club national funds and national resources will be redirected to these local concerns. In this way Club resources would be inappropriately and haphazardly utilized with decreasing effect. The resources that are ordinarily applied to save a forest or a habitat for an endangered species, for example, will be reduced. Furthermore, this plan, as these dialogues indicate, would split the membership and produce internal conflicts. The Club’s major objectives will not be achieved and losing the nation’s largest environmental advocate, the national environmental movement will flounder.

I do not contend that the "justice committee" has a mischievous intention, only that its goals and that of the Sierra Club are not always consistent. No matter how compassionate their intentions, their central policies are more appropriate for another organization —the Urban League or the NAACP for example. In this way they would lend additional strength to related social organizations while maintaining the integrity and credibility of the Sierra Club in its efforts to protect the national environment.

ZPG, Inc. is an example of an environmental organization losing focus. There was a time, not so long ago, when ZPG was constantly in the news. It was the acknowledged leader in the population/environmental field, energizing the movement, keeping the issue before the public, breaking new ground, and providing a constant stream of information and support to the public, legislators, and members. Where are they now? They have lost their focus, and with it their integrity and creditability, their reason for existing. They reduced or ceased being a strong advocate for a variety of population related items. An unbelievable, but true, example is that ZPG changed to a non-policy on the leading cause of U.S. population growth, immigration. In addition, their reluctance to establish or help to endorse the establishment of a U.S. population policy is most confusing. Because of these ill-considered policy changes, ZPG has become the eunuch of the population movement. The Christian Coalition could not have implemented a more successful strategy to neutralize an adversary. Are the same techniques being applied to the Sierra Club? Is this the fate of the Sierra Club?

On page 2, I introduced the EJC strategy to develop coalitions to achieve the goals of redirecting the Sierra Club. Let’s continue this theme. In his 1992 Centennial Address, Michael Fischer, then Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said that the Sierra Club’s central goal for the next 100 years is to have a "friendly takeover of the Sierra Club by people of color." He states his reason, as clearly as Ms. Kirstin and Ms. Baxter —that poor people of color (defined as Blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians) suffer disproportionately due to local economic and associated environmental problems. Mr. Fischer described a strategy to implement this plan: provide money grants to outreach programs and to have every chapter "establish coalitions and networks with local advocacy groups for people of color." It appears that the overriding goal of the "justice committee" is to form separate culture and ethnic coalitions, to form unique blocks of political power within the Club to assist in achieving their narrow "justice" goals.

Not only is this environmentally counter productive, as mentioned earlier, but creates severe social friction by pitting different socio-economic and cultural groups against one-another. They inadvertently encourage a salad-bowl rather than a melting-pot America. The formation of the EJC and the 1996 Sierra Club immigration policy revision are obvious examples that the Fischer plan has been implemented.

Another more substantial factor is that social justice, as they define it, does not apply to poor whites. As is well known, there are far more poor whites than poor "people of color" yet they are practically ignored. Mr. Fischer, Ms. Kirstin, Ms. Baxter, and the entire Environmental Justice committee in their writings exclude interest in the large number of poor whites in our society. Suspiciously, there must be more at work here than "social justice." I suggest that the "justice committee" representatives and supporters look into a mirror to see if the person they see is not the same person they write about.

It gets worse. Ms. Baxter, Sierra magazine writer, clearly believes that John Muir and friends, the founders of the Sierra Club, were racist and discriminated. She says in the recent Sierra magazine, and it appears to be the position of the "Environmental Justice Committee," that Club racism continues to this day. In their words, "[the Club has the] same biases found in larger society... when discrimination was the norm... socially privileged, …all-white green movement..., war against environmental racism..." This is a powerful, but carefully worded allegation that all members of the Sierra Club (and, I guess, anyone who doesn't support their position) are racist. The EJC policies and practices should deeply trouble all Sierra Club members (and everyone in this country). One obvious reason it should trouble the membership is that the charge of "racism" is patently untrue —our Club is open to everyone and "people of color" are members, indeed, their numbers are growing. This erroneous, mean spirited, preposterous assertion should alarm and cause all members to reflect on the continued existence of these committees.

On behalf of all members of the Sierra Club, in order to clear the good name of John Muir and the Sierra Club, I demand a written apology to all members from the Environmental Justice Committee representatives, the Chair, Kirstin Dohrer; writer Tracy Baxter; newsletter writer, Julie Beezley; and finally, the editors of Sierra magazine. Appropriately, the apology should be in the next Sierra magazine and in every chapter newspaper and chapter newsletter throughout the world.

Population Growth - Responsibilities

An important feature of the "justice committee" is its reluctance to discuss the responsibility of non-Western nations and organizations to provide remedies for their own problems. The reason for this is that the "justice committee" believes the world is victimized by the Western nations and the West, ergo, must be forgiven on "social justice" terms. Although that position demeans the people of the world, it is a policy consistent with their one-world open border position.

Contrary to their beliefs, the other nations and organizations of the world are not the uninformed, inept, weaklings the "justice committee" argues. If they are "victims," it is much their own design, due to government, social, religious, and cultural policies of their choosing. The "social justice committee’s" plan of avoiding responsibility for foreign nations own economic and social policies leading to overpopulation, only worsens the situation. In addition, this action reduces the perception of the necessity for comprehensive family planning programs. In transferring responsibility and attention to the developed nations, it may also give the less developed nations the false sense that they can avoid implementing the required internal social and economic programs to correct their own social and economic problems (and address resource constraints). With compounding population growth, misguided social justice procrastination produces catastrophic consequences to those they intend to assist.

The ‘justice committee" continues the "victimized" theme in using the notion of "blame." Ms. Kirstin takes (and Ms. Baxter’s article is steeped with) the position of blaming environmentalists and their economic systems, especially in the West, for the plight of many local problems and the world situation. This is reflected in the repeated calls to markedly reduce U.S. (and Canadian, and the West) consumption habits and the importation of "carrying capacity." With a blaming mentality, they often combine reasonable proposals (examine U.S. consumption) with problematic ones. For example, the destruction of the Brazilian rain forests is being accomplished solely by the government of Brazil and the West need not share responsibility. Because a less developed nation is prone to depend upon exporting for income, when the U.S. (or Canada or the West) reduces its level of consumption (i.e., reduce imports), it requires a short term transition period for the U.S., however, spells economic disaster for the exporting country and its people. In as much as a "system" is part of the problem, it must also be an instrumental player in the remedy. In as much as their positions are incorrect, blaming avoids the issue and only annoys and alienates those who support their goals. This misguided EJC policy produces a circular and ever downward spiraling level of misery.

Population Growth - International View

From the one-world and "victimization" themes, the "justice committee" calls for the internationalization of solutions, or in Ms. Kirstin’s words, "uniting (with foreign nations/organizations) for global stewardship." Although the world population dilemma requires international approaches, the focus of U.S. population policies is the responsibility of the United States. Their notion, in other words, is the one-world, open borders concept that many in this, or any other developed country, would disagree.

EJC Chair Kirstin also says (more reproaching!) that there must be, "enforceable limits on [U.S.] consumption" and resources supplied from other countries. The question must be asked, "who sets and enforces these limits?" In short the "justice committee" advocates a foreign nation or organization establishing domestic U.S. economic and social policies —one that satisfies their economic and social criteria!

They don’t identify this foreign organization. The Sierra Club member probably understands by this time, that using the term "environmental" or ‘justice" in their name, is by design, a spin-doctor’s crafted transparent attempt to solicit support from an innocent unknowing membership. It should be obvious their goals are often incompatible with those of the Sierra Club and the United States of America (and the Dominion of Canada). Certainly, the general membership welcomes the Board of Directors to examine the "justice committee’s" advocacy of a foreign nation or organization establishing domestic U.S. economic and social policies.

I am certainly not suggesting that the developed nations have always played a virtuous role; they certainly could do much more (especially the U.S. Congress in the last decade or more). Corporations, for example, could have broadened their narrowly focused self serving, but traditional role as well. The unambiguous fact is that the governments and people of foreign nations have generally seen our actions in their best self-interests. The U.S., Canada, and most of the Western countries desire to assist the less fortunate; but those less fortunate people, nations, and organizations should demonstrate that they assume a significant share of the responsibility for dealing with their own environmental, social, economic, and population difficulties. The responsibility for dealing with social, economic and population dilemmas vest with each individual nation.

I am saying that their slippery slope rhetoric lacks any definite proposals for decreasing consumption, resource depletion, discussion of sustainability, nor plans to implement such proposals. They simply have not undertaken an analysis and evaluation of their positions, preferring to cloak their agenda in fuzzy language, pseudo-science, and social demagoguery.

Population Growth - Economic Factors

Contrary to what the "justice committee" would have us believe, poverty and population growth is a complex issue that requires much more than bringing down the life style of the West. The EJC believes that income redistribution and increasing industrialization are sufficient to achieve an appropriate population. It is not. Their policy is not only based on a false economic premise, but by reducing the wherewithal of the developed nations, doubtlessly reduces the ability of those nations to assist the less developed nations, meanwhile forcing the disadvantaged in developed nations to endure the burden.

Americans, Canadians, and the Western societies will, once they realize what is occurring (which they are only beginning to understand), vigorously resist any decline in their life style in order to accommodate large numbers of people in population surplus countries. We should keep in mind that the U.S. middle class has seen little, if any, improvement in their standard of living in over two decades and that the poor are more numerous. It is not coincidence that the U.S. has had very high immigration rates over this same period. The U.S. economy and labor force can absorb only so many people nor benefit our increasing disadvantaged without suffering economic imbalances.

The EJC states that on the one hand, they want to increase the economic of well being of Blacks while on the other hand, welcoming international policies that most directly sets Blacks (and other disadvantaged Americans) at a competitive disadvantage. The implementation of their policies for reducing U.S. average (not total) consumption and the U.S. standard of living, while increasing international income redistribution is now well underway —due to high U.S. immigration! Another example of this (unnoticed) transfer is seen in the failure of our international trade agreements, i.e., NAFTA, to specify a US$ exchange rate. Not only is a social and environmental time bomb being set, but because of increasing financial debt to finance this unwanted population growth, a serious financial crisis as well.

Unfortunately, it is the least advantaged of U.S. society suffers the brunt of this international social policy while the environment and issues of sustainability are relegated to the sidelines. The reason this socially, economically, and environmentally damaging practice has gone on for over two decades is that it is the poorer of society (those the "social justice committee" proclaim to help), the least noticed and hidden from view that bear the assault. As the economy progressively deteriorates and reaches further into the middle classes, the protest, as we have seen around the world, will escalate, perhaps to the point of anarchy.

This is a serious moral conundrum for the "social justice committee": sacrifice the disadvantaged in the developed nations in order to benefit the surplus populations in the less developed nations. Thus far, the poor in the developed nations have lost.

In my view, there are two items to consider. The first point is that even under perfect income distribution formulae population growth would be a compelling situation to remedy. The second, and hidden argument, underlying many of the "justice committee’s" economic and social positions is based on the old "demographic transition theory." In their zeal the "economic growth solves" overpopulation proponents attempt to show that the average number of children declines with increasing industrialization. According to this idea, population growth and associated environmental and economic inequities will spontaneously, if not miraculously, be resolved. What accuracy it may have, requires 2-3 generations of time and 1-2 more doublings of population (which clearly exceeds any ecological or economic support limits).

It is only the pro-population-growth clan of Julian Simon types that hold fast to this nonsense. As demonstrated by many authors, it is wishful economics and social policy. However, please note that even Julian Simon acknowledges that population growth is not necessary for economic growth and the largest socialist/communist nation, China, has recognized the utter failure of the "more people" solves problems approach. Studies prove that, absent other necessary social and cultural changes, industrialization trends toward reducing fertility are unsupported. As Dr. Joel Cohen has stated, undetermined social and cultural factors are more important. Dr. Virginia Abernethy is less charitable, saying this automatic transition is "not real, but imagined," but still the "favorite of politicians" —and the Environmental Justice Committee! Examples are geographically very close— note Mexico and Utah, and more distant, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Kuwait.

The "social justice committee" uses this argument because it is consistent with their one-world open border notion. More significantly, the reason is that it absolves the Committee from suggesting any action nor assuming any responsibility for stopping the population juggernaut.

Economists state that population growth and higher productivity are two important factors in growing an economy. They assume population growth is most beneficial, while frequently disregarding that there can be a growing economy as a result of improving productivity even if population growth is stable or in decline. (In addition, most economists have short time horizons and have difficulty dealing with such notions as resource limits, pollution, and closed systems). It is the economic factor of higher productivity that encourages hope for a pleasant and sustainable standard of living while at the same time addressing the social concerns that so preoccupies the "justice committee."

If the "justice" kinsmen understood this other economic blueprint, they would be at the front lines championing the establishment of a U.S. (and world) population policy and NOPC.

Despite what the Environmental Justice Committee might try to say, a compelling argument supporting a U.S. population policy and NOPC is that the road to population stabilization is the road to a more equitable distribution of income. Income inequalities are fueled by population growth and the widening gaps between the better off and the less well off has population growth at its root. The reason for this is because population growth requires ever increasing amounts of resources, money and investment in additional facilities and infrastructure to accommodate a growing population (especially the large number of dependent children). It also results in a diminishing democratic process, government by special interests, and the large corporations becoming larger and absorbing, in the absolute and relative sense, increasing amounts of productive capacity and income. One of the cardinal benefits of a population policy is that capital and other resources will be invested in assets to improve the quality of lives. Not only is sustainability an important measure of a population policy, so is equity.

If one accepts the "justice committee’s" social and economic arguments, prepare for a markedly lower Western and world standard of living, a U.S. population of 600 million, a Canadian population of 80 million, a world population of ..? 20 billion, and wholesale environmental havoc and human suffering on an unprecedented scale. Population growth can only be arrested when every nation and every couple has the determination to reduce family size to one or two children and the availability of a full range of family planning services in order to do so.

Population Growth - Sprawl

The Club’s intensive efforts to control "sprawl" are consistent with the "justice committee’s" anti-population policy agenda. To control "sprawl" the Sierra Club (and EJC) offers an illusion, a Band-Aid of Sardine-can towns composed of high density high raise apartments —in order to provide for additional people. They obscure and avoid the causative factors in "sprawl" —the Sierra Club refuses to relate population growth with development.

In this regard, the Sierra Club appears to be walking in the shadow of ZPG. The Club’s revised 1996 immigration policy and the subsequent unbelievable gag order to enforce it should be seen as a mischievous example of this ill-conceived policy.

Although the Club admonishes it in others, this is simply the Club’s version of business as usual —hypocritically enlisting social and economic powerhouses in short term plans, while masking numerous negative and long term ecological and economic consequences. Moreover, in using a variety of euphemistic terms such as "habitat loss" the attempt is repeatedly made to sever the link with population growth. The position of the "environmental justice committee" and oftentimes the Sierra Club, is the old "Ostrich Ploy" (thanks, Dr. Parsons!). To paraphrase Mr. Barnum, "you can’t fool all the Club members all the time!"

Population Growth - U.S. Policy & NOPC

Mr. Boyd Wilcox, founder of NOPC and Mr. Ted Toal, a Sierra Club member from California, have provided thoughtful and reasoned written responses to Ms. Dohrer’s statements concerning the establishment of a U.S. population policy and NOPC. Because of the similarity of the issues raised in her article, their responses apply equally to Ms. Baxter’s Sierra magazine commentary. (It is certainly appropriate that both responses be included as a LTE in the next Sierra magazine issue.)

In summary, Mr. Wilcox said, in a rather kindly manner (as did Mr. Toal), that the writer (Ms. Dohrer) demonstrated a lack of accurate information and included several misconceptions regarding a population policy or a study commission. He also says there is more common ground than not and that the establishment of a population policy and NOPC actually serves to discover issues of sustainability; or as Mr. Wilcox states, "doing NOPC does not preclude doing these other things." Mr. Ted Toal echoes those comments. Moreover, he says (as Mr. Wilcox believes), "everything is interconnected" and that, "NOPC can only further the cause of reducing poverty." In the view of many, the "justice committee" is in denial, denying the overwhelming role of population growth in any number of environmental, social, and economic areas. In contrast, those supporting a population policy and NOPC recognize the inclusive nature of our population dilemma.

Concluding Remarks

The reader can surely see how important it is for the Sierra Club to re-establish its former well considered policy (and the U.S. to establish) of advocating stopping population growth as quickly as practicable. (The reader should recall that all other developed nations are growing very slowly or not all.) It is imperative the Environmental Justice Committee accept and advocate this position, because only by stopping our population growth will pollution and resource utilization be reduced, income inequalities addressed, and the ability to assist and facilitate change in other nations be possible. As Mr. Wilcox and Mr. Toal point out, the development of a U.S. population policy and NOPC can only assist in discovering these genuine issues and help resolve and provide promising answers and thoughtful policies for dealing with them. In many respects, especially population growth policies, the U.S. and Canada must become a model for other nations to imitate.

Many of the position and supporting arguments made by the Environmental Justice Committee are similar to those made by other groups for many years. They were not, however wrapped in an environmental blanket. Although very appealing to the hearts of the membership, "social justice" policies, as now formulated are very destructive to the objectives of the Sierra Club.

The reason for the "justice committee’s" antagonism is now entirely clear. The Environmental Justice Committee attacks the establishment of a population policy and NOPC because they have a different agenda.

It is apparent that the material written by the "justice committee" is very craftily prepared. The Environmental Justice Committee uses disinformation and feigns ignorance, information not used in error, but designed to support their limited agenda. The strategy of the "justice committee" is to first instill confusion of Club objectives, assign guilt to a vulnerable membership, and steer the Club toward their social focus and away from support for our national environment. Information is what the "justice committee" most fears. They fully understand that in establishing a U.S. population policy organization and a study commission, such as NOPC, the American public's understanding of these issues will be enhanced and facilitate the search for truth. Evidently, information and truth is anathema to their agenda. The outcome of a population policy and a NOPC Commission will be that the American citizen will have a strong voice in determining the future for themselves, their children and future generations.

I suggest the reader now reread the statements made by Ms. Dohrer and the replies prepared by Mr. Boyd Wilcox and Mr. Ted Toal.


Dell Erickson
Member in Minneapolis

cc. Mr. Boyd Wilcox, Founder, NOPC
Mr. Ted Toal, Sierra Club member, Nevada City, Calif.
ZPG, Inc.


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