California Group Blames Immigrants for Climate Change

A California anti-immigration group has created a multimedia ad campaign blaming immigrants for climate change and environmental degradation in California. Californians for Population Stabilization, or CAP, argues that immigrants, legal and illegal, increase their carbon footprint four-fold when they move to the US and “Americanize” their consumption habits, thus exacerbating climate problems.

Listen to the radio ad here.

According to CAP President Diane Hull, “Californians [have] made significant progress in energy conservation over the last couple of decades. However, the progress has been mitigated by massive population growth over the same period, driven by immigration and births to immigrants.” Hull continues:

“People meeting in Copenhagen this December need to publicly recognize that if global population growth does not slow, the world’s laudable conservation efforts will be overwhelmed just like our experience in California. The subject of mass population growth needs to be approached with sensitivity but we’ve got to get it on the agenda.”

Frankenstein Message

The CAP campaign creates what many would see as a bridge between far-right racist anti-immigrant protesters and the environmental movement, and it is not the first time. In 2007 the group ran a similar radio ad calling the connection between immigrant-driven population increases and environmental degradation an “inconvenient truth,” language repeated in this campaign.

With Copenhagen coming up, and a recent rash of studies in the US and UK announcing the fairly obvious finding that more people = more pollution, it is not surprising CAP decided to revisit its earlier argument.

Let’s Be Reasonable…

CAP however is very careful to distance itself from blatantly racist or xenophobic language. In fact, one of the most noticeable aspects of the current campaign is its consciously “reasonable” tone, absent the angry fear-mongering associated with anti-immigration groups.

In the TV ad, a Zac Efron lookalike acknowledges that it may “sound crazy” to link immigrants with global warming, but then goes on to say immigrants will “drive a population increase equal to the entire American West in just 30 years,” and concludes that “we’ve got some tough choices to make.”

The friendly tone reflects a change in tactics for these groups, who have long been equated with racist movements in the US. In a discussion forum on the CAP website, one poster urges CAP members to take a stand against Riverside County Neo-nazis, who are also anti-immigrant “as part of their white power agenda.” Continues the poster: “We should be active in making it clear that we promote a multi-racial America, that we believe that all races are equal, and that having a national policy of population stabilization will benefit Americans of all races.”

The fact that the group has to actively distance itself from neo-Nazis gives some indication of just how far it has to go, however.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.