When Bigotry is Cloaked

By Keith Kloor | October 7, 2010 1:42 pm

I’ve previously discussed how some anti-immigrant factions use green rhetoric as a proxy in their endless quest to “stabilize” population growth in the U.S. Longtime environmental activists tend to wave off this unsavory element within their ranks, as if it was just a few cranks crashing their party. History suggests otherwise.

Now, via John Fleck, I see that anti-immigrant zealotry is raising its ugly head in a newly deceptive manner, this time cloaked under concerns for the West’s dwindling water supply. Here’s how it’s expressed through Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS)–and make sure you get your violin out (at my emphasis):

Many San Diego residents are frustrated, like environmentalist and CAPS board member Stuart Hurlbert. He’s seen his grass turn brown and his water bills triple. Most frustrating is his contention that San Diego city councils are not including population stabilization in the overall water solution. Hurlbert commented, “San Diego leaders keep talking about ways to tap more water, but they don’t talk about ways to stabilize demand for the water. We must stabilize population or water demand will continue to outpace any supply solution we develop.”

About that lawn…ah, forget it, let’s not talk about water-wasting, lifestyle choices. Let’s just get to my favorite part, which is Stuart’s solution to save his lawn (and all of San Diego) from turning brown.

In order to stabilize San Diego population, Hurlbert says mass immigration to California must be addressed. “Ninety seven percent of California’s population growth is due to immigration and births to immigrants. If we want to stabilize our population we must address the primary source of population growth. And that’s immigration.”

As Fleck observes:

when these folks express concerns about “immigrants”, they don’t seem to be talking about people moving in from Oregon.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: anti-immigrant, California, water
  • Jonathan Gilligan

    The solution to immigration driving population growth in California is very simple. People follow resources. If California would enforce a strict ban on “immigration” of natural resources (fossil fuels, timber, minerals, water, etc.), I’m sure the human immigration would slow to a trickle.

    But it’s unconscionable to open one’s doors to a huge stream of scarce natural resources and forbid people to follow.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Jonathan,

    Good point.

  • Roddy Campbell

    Population control AND immigration, a combo designer-designed to be indefensible, a combo that left, right, tea party, enviros, eco-fascists, voters, fall foul of again and again.

    Opposing other-cultural immigration is not indefensible, but say that’s what you’re doing. (I am writing from Laos, a country surrounded by more successful neighbours, whose only protection from Thai/Cambodian/Vietnamese/Chinese immigration appears to have been to remain poorer than all these countries as a disincentive, rather a scorched earth strategy).

    Proposing population control is indefensible in 95pc of cases I’ve seen. And it is mainly proposed by enviros, as a policy for other people to practice, and in utter ignorance of economic imperatives or any understanding of human nature.

    10:10 No Pressure arises from this same source.

    Greetings from Luang Prabang.

  • Bob Koss

    KK,

    You seem to think any mention of immigration limits must be due to bigotry. Evidently you weren’t capable of pointing to anything in the statement that actually demonstrated bigotry and had to call it “cloaked bigotry”.
    If you can’t point out anything in Hulbert’s statement that shows bigotry, I have to wonder if you are engaging in a smear job.
    Nice way to poison any possible rational discussion.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Bob (4):

    You’re putting words in my mouth. I’ve been very specific about the instances and groups who I believe have anti-immigrant tendencies.

    But as Randy notes in the first paragraph of his comment above, these tendencies are shared across the political and ideological spectrum.

    Lastly, I don’t think Hulbert or his outfit are capable of rational discussion. It’s an emotional appeal. Oh, and I think John Fleck got it exactly right here:

    “when these folks express concerns about ‘immigrants’, they don’t seem to be talking about people moving in from Oregon.”

  • Bob Koss

    KK, #5

    “You’re putting words in my mouth. I’ve been very specific about the instances and groups who I believe have anti-immigrant tendencies.”

    I comment on the impression you gave me and that constitutes putting words in your mouth? That seems like a stretch.

    Where else is “Californians for Population Stabilization” or Hurlbert to be found on your blog? I did a site search and couldn’t find it anywhere but this thread.

    No other references to Hurlbert or his group found on your blog leads me to think you know little about the group and that you’ve pre-judged them to fit your view. Why is assuming them “not capable of rational discussion” not itself irrational?

    I’m not familiar with John Fleck. I do agree with what you quoted from him. Hulbert doesn’t appear to be talking about people moving from Oregon to California. Probably because they aren’t immigrants.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/immigrant
    a : a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence

  • http:.//rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    See <a href=”http://rabett.blogspot.com/2010/10/population-and-climate-disruption.html”>Hans Rosling</a> on population growth to understand why this is a dwindling problem

  • Francis

    There are areas in California that are legitimately water short.  But San Diego is not one of them.  Not only do they have the Pacific Ocean on the doorstep available for desalination, they continue to get EPA waivers from building tertiary treatment of waste water.  Compare Orange County (just up the coast), which has built an enormous groundwater recharge system using treated wastewater.

    Politicians in (the very conservative) San Diego City and County are terrified of the phrase “toilet-to-tap”.  Politicians in  (the also very conservative) Orange County told their voters to grow up, that the alternative was a serious tax increase so as to dump clean water into the Pacific Ocean.

    So, yeah, it’s pretty easy to accuse CAPS of playing the race card.

  • http://www.inkstain.net/fleck/ John Fleck

    Bob Koss –
    My dictionary offers a different definition than yours – a person who moves from one region to another (Websters New World). But splitting hairs with dictionary definitions misses the point (or perhaps clarifies it?). If CAPS genuinely cares about water, and the increased demand caused by new people coming, then they would care equally about people from Oregon or Baja. Or Orange County, for that matter. That their argument targets a specific subset of new residents, rather than all new residents, suggests that they’re not really as worried about water as they let on.

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Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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