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19.5.06

Anti-Immigration = Ecological Imperialism

It's not entirely surprising that some people would try to link restrictions on immigration to environmentalism, as both viewpoints are manifestations of Egalitarianism (in the Cultural Theory sense). The basic argument goes like this: if someone migrates from Mexico to the USA, their standard of living increases. Higher standards of living have higher environmental impacts. Therefore affluent countries like the United States should restrict immigration from countries with a lower per-capita environmental impact.

The problem with this as a policy stance is that it's another form of ecological imperialism. The term ecological imperialism was first coined to describe the deforestation debate, in which Northern countries, having gotten rich off destroying their forests, turned around and demanded that Southern countries clamp down on their own deforestation lest the whole world's ecology be upset. Ecological imperialism essentially says "we made a mess, so you have to stay clean for both of us."

In the immigration case, restrictionist environmentalists are essentially saying to would-be immigrants "you have to stay poor for the good of the planet." It puts the burden of making sacrifices on someone else, specifically on one of the least powerful groups in our society. In so doing, it only defers the problem of making the transition to a sustainable society for the people who are already here -- people who will, in the meantime, get to enjoy the affluence their environmentally damaging way of life has bought. The only long-term solution is sustainable development in both the US and Mexico -- after which immigration won't be a problem.

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