Our VoiceImmigration

New film uses anti-immigrant arguments to make a case for limiting growth

Rebecca Poswolsky • Feb 03, 2011

A new documentary film on overpopulation is set to be released in 2011. GrowthBusters bills itself as a film about creating a sustainable civilization by paving the path for a post-growth future.

The film’s creator, Dave Gardner, states that it is about limits to growth, water shortages, hunger, peak oil resources and species extinction. However, he focuses on growth with a specific agenda in mind by taking anti-immigrant positions on overpopulation and promoting theories that blames immigrants for “growth.”

For that reason the film is just the latest attempt to green bigotry and lure environmentalists to neo-Malthusian theories.

Many other anti-immigrant activists belonging to the neo-Malthusian tradition claim that populations are constrained by the carrying capacity of the environment, and that population growth causes environmental degradation. They argue that immigrants contribute to the degradation of the environment through urban sprawl, congestion, pollution, waste generation, water consumption, land conversion, depletion of natural resources, and biodiversity loss, and have gone so far as to create a formula (change in pollution multiplied by change in population) to demonstrate these relationships.

GrowthBusters’ website links to a host of anti-immigrant groups for information about overpopulation.  Among the links are several Tanton Network groups.  White nationalist John Tanton, the architect of the modern day anti-immigrant movement, has helped channel environmental concerns into bigotry and racism.

Tanton launched Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and U.S. Inc. 30 years ago.  From there, he has seeded most of today’s anti-immigration groups, including Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

One of the recommended essays to which GrowthBusters directs viewers is, “Mass immigration is increasing America’s Ecological Footprint (EF), pushing our country deeper into ecological deficit.” The essay blames immigrants for environmental degradation, “Rapid population growth, driven primarily by a persistently high immigration rate, is aggravating this country’s ecological deficit.”

The essay is written by an advisory board member of PFIR, Leon Kolankiewicz, and appears on the website of Tanton affiliated organization Progressives for Immigration Reform.

Leon Kolankiewicz is also the co-creator of the Sprawl City website, senior writing fellow and advisory board member of anti-immigrant group Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), writer for CIS, and former member of Carrying Capacity Network. The Carrying Capacity Network’s president, Virginia Abernethy, is a self-described white separatist.

While GrowthBusters claims to simply focus on “limits to growth/” its website links to anti-immigrant Tanton groups like PFIR, NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies.   GrowthBusters also links to the Carrying Capacity Network and many others that provide insight into the real motives behind the creation of this film.

According to GrowthBusters, “This non-profit film project and global movement question our global faith, the worship of growth everlasting, and begin to explore life after growth.”

The question here is not about growth.  Filmmaker Dave Gardner might attempt to lure environmentalists into viewing this film based on the notion of limits to growth.  But beneath the surface lays a deeper history and an anti-immigrant agenda that needs to be uncovered.  Environmentalists must take a stand against the GrowthBusters film and its attempt to link “limits to growth” to restricting immigration to the U.S.

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