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.

17 responses

  1. Strictly speaking, these guys are correct. People do increase their carbon footprints (and other environmental externalities) if they “Americanize” their habits. But this seems like a pretty thinly veiled batch of xenophobic nonsense to me… if they were calling for massive economic investment in Mexico or something I might feel better…

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  3. Every person driving one car is the cause of climate change. Husband and wife can drive a single car. It will consume less fuel and there will be less carbon footprint. Too many luxuries are to be blamed.

  4. If the problem that CAP accuratelky identifies is “immigrants, legal and illegal, increase their carbon footprint four-fold when they move to the US and “Americanize” their consumption habits”, then it would stand to reason that CAP wants all Americans to “Guatalmalaize” or “Mixicanize” their consumption habits, right?

  5. Your article’s headline, “California Group Blames Immigrants for Climate Change,” is erroneous. The group, and its ads, simply point out that immigrants who come to America increase their carbon emissions. What is wrong with stating that fact?

    Population growth is the main environmental problem. As Gaylord Nelson stated, ‘In this country, it’s phony to say “I’m for the environment but not for limiting immigration.”‘

    1. Exactly right. Of course anyone who advocates enforcing the immigration laws are labeled a racist, xenophobe or worse. Population growth is the one aspect of the immigration topic that no one wants to address. How many people should the state of California and the nation as a whole have? I would suggest that those of you who are really interested in environment, instead of snarking a flippant comment above actually do a bit of research.
      Currently there is a water crisis in much of the Southern USA. Farm land in California (the bread basket of the country)is disappearing to development.
      It takes 12 acres of undeveloped land to be developed for every new added person to this country. That includes legal , native born or illegal. Some 90+ percent of population growth in this country is due to immigrants and their subsequent children. The USA is like a life boat, it can be filled to over capacity and capsize. You cannot save the world by allowing everyone who wants to come here to do so.I won’t go into the costs, because that is an entirely different subject. But every adult in this country needs to ask themselves, “what kind of country do we want to leave for our grandchildren?” Do we want a stable population, where everyone will have the same access to clean water, food and housing? Do we want to be like many of the over populated countries of the world, where a large segment of society are fighting for the scraps?

      1. I understand that we have to look realistically at population issues. However, consumption and ecological footprint has a far greater impact than
        actual population. Those seemingly overpopulated countries ‘fighting for scraps’ have a far smaller ecological footprint than we do here in the minority world. And they are not fighting for scraps due to overpopulation, they are fighting for scraps due to much more complicated global economic and social issues such as dis allocation of their natural resources, dumping of subsidized food onto their local markets, and recovery from the moral devastation of colonizations and now, neo-capitalism.

      2. Totally agree with this comment.

        I lived in Mexico for several years.

        A very prevalent idea in Mexico is to be a “MAN” you have to have tons of kids. There is not a thought of how I am going to take care of the children. It is have 3 children with one woman abandon her and 2 with another abandon her and 3 with another, etc.

        Obviously not everyone is like that but it does show you the overwhelming influence of the idea.

        I told several people in Mexico that I planned to adopt children with my wife rather than procreate our own.
        This was to people with a high levels of education. Doctors, lawyer etc.

        Well I was greeted with shock and awe. How could you do that. You have to have children with your blood. You mean you are not going to have any children of your own. Not even just one or 2 of them.

        The men(generally) in the Mexican culture, and I THINK in most Latin America, are very womanizing and do bring that here to the USA. Some immigrant groups here come here and do not want to assimilate, they keep certain ideas which CAN be bad.

        They keep the idea of having tons of kids, but like the idea of consuming more.

        This will be a great influence in the future.

        Obviously consumption is a problem. but having families with 10 children definitely does not help anything.

        I know many families in Mexico with 8,9, or more children. My wife(Mexican) was one of 9. I actually knew a business man that had it was either 31 or 32 children between 6 women.
        As the woman ages he trade in for the newer models which would give him more children.
        To this business mans credit he does financially support all his kids(very uncommon in Mexico).

        If you do not agree with my assessment I urge you to research it first before just blindly dismissing. Because you do not believe it does not make it untrue.

        The idea of leaving you mark on society is one thing but doing it by leaving a mountain of children is not the way to do things.

    2. I hear what you’re saying, and I thought about that title, whether it was accurate or not, and concluded it was. The thrust of the CAP campaign is to link immigration/immigrants with climate change. If they just mentioned overpopulation, fine, but they don’t. The group’s agenda is anti-immigration (or anti-immigrant, depending on how you look at it). That fundamental attitude colors everything they say. I have a hard time believing CAP really cares that much about climate change. If they did, they might spend more time figuring out how to de-Americanize America’s carbon footprint, and less time blaming immigrants from poor countries (which are rapidly catching up to us, consumption-wise anyway) for our pollution.

      1. So you are attacking the group for working on one source of increasing GHGs because it’s not working on all sources of increasing GHGs?

        That’s like attacking a group trying to prevent deforestation because it’s not working to prevent coal plants. Makes a lot of sense.

  6. I completely agree that immigrants increase their carbon print and cause global warming.

    For a Start, why don’t every body pack their bags and leave for Europe, Africa, Asia or wherever they and their ancestors came from.

    Leave America for “The Americans”!!

  7. what climate problem?

    San Francisco has a climate problem. They buy their electricity from PG&E, which is forced by California law to buy their electricity from windmill merchants.

    Here in Sacramento we don’t have a climate problem. It’s always hot, and we already own an air conditioner, which is powered by a municipal utility.
    We aren’t constrained by witch doctors or other such superstitious beliefs.
    We voted against applying Gore type energy restrictions to government utilities with Prop 7, and our energy czar is currently filing lawsuit against the windmill merchants for cheating the public with dishonest bid rigging.

    Funny thing about the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,(that’s the one we never got a say in), the politicians wrote it with a loophole exempting government run energy companies.
    A more trusting soul might think “eh just an oversite. A political snaffu.”

    The less gullible recognize this pretty much makes it the kill private electric in California act, or the screw the energy consuming citizens of San Francisco act.

    Wow. Why would the SF pols do that to their constiuents? I mean taking your vote for granted like that. Forcing you to pay exorbitant rates charged by predatory extortionists like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Stanley Morgan. It’s like they don’t care about you at all.

    In the next election were you planning to vote democrat again, or are you voting socialist party this time?


  8. I receive the emails and notifications from CAPS. I’ve noticed nothing Racist about the organization.

    Sad that if you see benefits by reducing immigration your called a “racist”, regardless of reason. Name calling…just sad.

    In conclusion, the comments on this webpage are base and degenerate.

    Immigrants would likely be superior to many of my fellow “native” born, particularly the ones that commented below and the author.

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