Our VoiceImmigration

Panel Symposium: Population Growth and Immigration: Myths, Facts, and Everything in Between


Imagine 2050 Staff • Mar 18, 2011

On Tuesday, March 1, the Program on Sustainable Communities at Northern Arizona University, (NAU),  and the Center for New Community co-sponsored a panel discussion titled, “Population Growth and Immigration: Myths, Facts, and Everything in Between.”  Panelists included Kooros Mahmoudi from the Department of Sociology at NAU, Klee Benally from Indigenous Action Media and Save the Peaks Coalition, Nia Robinson from Sister Song based in Atlanta, Georgia and Rebecca Poswolsky from the Center for New Community based in Chicago.   The panel was moderated by Luis Fernandez, the Interim Director Master of Arts in Sustainable Communities at NAU.

Over 60 people attended this panel discussion to address important environmental issues, including the link between population control and anti-immigration issues.   The panel began with an overview of population statistics from Kooros Mahmoudi in which the very notion of the “I=PAT” formula came into question.  The I=PAT formula is used by people who study population statistics and stands for Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology or I=PAT for short.  Mahmoudi spoke about the leveling off of the world population in numbers, rather than the perhaps common notion that the world’s population will only continuously rise.  He also took on the very notion of carrying capacity.

Klee Benally addressed the issue of population growth myths and facts from a media justice framework.  He used a short advertisement from Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) to show ways in which the anti-immigrant movement has used media to link debates around population to solutions around closing the border in order to curve climate change.  Benally cautions us to look at the framework of media, as a tool, and the ways groups like CAPS use powerful messaging to promote bigoted underpinnings.

Nia Robinson gave a history of forced sterilization programs in the U.S.  Robinson, coming from North Carolina, showed clips from “Against their Will” which provides multimedia interviews from women who share their stories about North Carolina’s eugenics forced sterilization programs.  Robinson detailed the significance of the U.S. historically having had 33 states with forced sterilization programs.  Robinson spoke about these programs and the history of women’s reproductive justice in the south.

Rebecca Poswolsky gave an overview of the anti-immigrant movement’s attempts to use population stabilization as a way to lure environmentalists into a dialogue with bigoted groups.  Poswolsky showed films by NumbersUSA and Center for Immigration Studies in order to showcase such examples.

The question and answer section was dynamic and audience participation sparked intense dialogue around the role of race in America, the anti-immigrant movement in trying to use “environmental” messaging around population as a framework to curve climate change and what to do about it.  It was energetic and certainly opened up a space to discuss what inclusive dialogue might look like for environmentalists and the multiple disciplines that want to take on this intersection.

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