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Leader of Sierra Club Takeover Effort Resurfaces With New Anti-Immigrant Warning

By Larry Keller on August 10, 2009 - 4:01 pm, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

Since his efforts to take over the board of directors of the Sierra Club with anti-immigration activists failed in 2004, UCLA professor Ben Zuckerman seems to have refocused his energies on his academic specialty, the planet and the stars. But there he was last week on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” warning about the perils of immigration. “The mainstream environmental movement has entirely dropped the ball on this issue,” Zuckerman said in a brief interview for a story about an Oregon State University report showing that having fewer children produces fewer carbon emissions. Books that tell what steps to take to ensure a greener future “don’t even mention population,” Zuckerman complained.

A physics and astronomy professor, Zuckerman was a leader of a Sierra Club takeover effort that began in the 1990s aimed at making the venerable environmental organization adopt an anti-immigration platform. Back in 1986, anti-immigration poobah John Tanton wrote then-secret memos naming the Sierra Club as a potential target for immigration activists. “[T]he issues we’re touching on here must be broached by liberals,” Tanton wrote, because conservatives would be labeled as racists. Ten years later, Zuckerman and others formed Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization – SUSPS – to lobby the Sierra Club to support immigration restrictions.

In 1998, SUSPS spearheaded a ballot proposition committing the Sierra Club to supporting immigration restrictions. Club members voted it down, 60% to 40%. But Zuckerman was elected to the club’s board of directors in 2002, and two SUSPS-supported candidates joined him the next year. SUSPS then backed a slate of five more candidates for the board, and a rival group within the organization formed in opposition to them. Meanwhile, Zuckerman described an Intelligence Report story documenting Tanton’s connections to racist hate groups as “pure, unadulterated trash” and defended Tanton as “a great environmentalist.” In an effort to block the anti-immigrant slate of candidates, SPLC co-founder Morris Dees announced his candidacy for the board. He did so, he said, not to gain a seat on the board, but to warn Sierra Club members via his candidate’s statement that a “hostile takeover of the Club by radical anti-immigrant activists is in the making.” The takeover attempt failed.

Zuckerman, no longer on the Sierra Club board, has remained active in anti-immigration groups while maintaining a lower profile. For example, he’s one of a dozen people on a statistical oversight committee at NumbersUSA, which started out as a program of U.S. Inc., a Tanton foundation that financed nativist groups.

The timing of Zuckerman’s latest immigrant harangue was ironic. Two days after he appeared on Dobbs’ show, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that birth rates fell in the United States last year for the first time since 2001. And the U.S. Census Bureau projects a steady slowing of U.S. population growth, with the growth rate sinking to the lowest levels in U.S. history from 2030 to 2050. That isn’t likely to assuage nativist groups, however. The census experts foresee the Hispanic-origin population accounting for 45 percent of the nation’s growth from 2010 to 2030, and 60 percent of the overall growth from 2030 to 2050.

  • SM

    Yes, I do believe that illegal immigrants are being made scapegoats. I can see how many Hispanics just like black and white people in this country think they have a right to reproduce at will. I do not believe that anyone has the right to reproduce at will unless they are going to support their own families themselves without stressing others’ resources. It must take the wind out of nativists’ sails to learn that the birth rates fell in the United States last year for the first time since 2001.

  • JL

    Nazis and the anti-immigrant/anti-immigration reform movement do have a lot in common.

    Nazism and environmentalism also have a lot in common. Nazis had by far the most progressive environmental protection laws in the world. Madison Grant, the greatest of American nature preservationists, was a big racist, and Hitler said that Grant’s book “The Passing of the Great Race” was his Bible.

    Animal rights movement and Nazism also have a lot in common. Remember that Nazis banned vivisection, and implemented many other far-reaching animal protection policies.

    Nazis were also the first to prove the link between smoking and lung cancer, and had the most progressive anti-smoking laws in the world.

    Does this mean that today’s environmentalists, animal rights people, and anti-smoking activists are somehow connected to Nazism? Of course not. They are no more Nazi than immigration restrictionists.

    Immigration restriction and environmentalism seem to me to be closely connected. When an immigrant from a poor country comes to America, their carbon footprint multiplies overnight, to say nothing of other environmental effects of tens of millions of new inhabitants. It is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be 9.4 billion people in the world, and 440 million in the US. If this population explosion is not fought, all the efforts of the environmentalists will be in vain.

  • dave

    The American Indian learned the hard way what happens when immigration runs amok

  • dave

    the real goal: Mega-corporations want to erase the borders, and create coarsened, homogenized workforce lacking national identity.

  • dave

    I advocate for a rational immigration policy, and I want the laws of the land upheld.

    Advocates for amnesty for those who broke the law to come here….these advocates have several motives- they want more voters for their candidates. Many of them dislike US American civilization, and think an broad infusion of Latinism will improve it. Some believe that since we are an immigrant nation, we are hyporites for opposing mass immigration…

    Let them come here- in an orderly fashion… let them assimilate to a certain degree- most illegals have zero intention of becomeing “Americanized.”…Most illegals cannot even read and write spanish- they are largely illiterate in the spanish language. I know- I worked with these people extensively. You can put a copy of the Bill of Rights in their house, and 20 years can go by, and they will never read it. They are here to get ahead in a material way- this is justified…im sorry for their plight south of the border…but relocating ten or thirty million people from one country to another country in about fifteen not rational, as systems need time to adjust. Let them come, but in a orderly manner. Let the fragile ecosystems breathe free. Stop illegal immigration, and curb ALL migration into stressed areas.

    And I cant stand it when people think im a Republican. The vast majority of Republicans suck.

    (Im a big fan of Michael Harrington, Noam Chomsky, Tony Benn, and Gore Vidal)

  • dave

    Adding just one person to an ecologically fragile zone is bad. a person flushes toilets, drinks water, cooks with water, and bathes with water. A person usually drives car- whether its a 8 mpg or a 40mpg….both still harm ecosystems.

  • dave

    yes beholder- that was part of my point

  • dave

    illegal immigration is just part of the ecological mess which involves regional overpopulation. Just one person moving to an area where water is scarce can put a strain upon that area..So a million newcomers in just one year… can wipe out fragile ecosystems very easily. Our national and state parks along the border areas are becoming trash piles, the trash is being put there by illegals…whereas 25 years ago, the parks were clean.

  • Mark

    Nazis and the anti-immigrant/anti-immigration reform movement do have a lot in common.

  • Snorlax

    I’m not Snotlax anymore. Good thing I found a box of Kleenex.

  • Snotlax

    Illegal immigrants are scapegoats.

    We’re blaming these poor working people for the economy, crime, disease, and now the environment.

    Scapegoating is what the Nazis did. Scapegoating is WRONG.

    It is my belief that when ordinary, powerless working people are blamed for big things like the environment or economy that are beyond their control, this scapegoating is being deliberately started by evil people who DO have power over the big things.

    These evill ones can always get stupid dupes to spread their hate speech and scapegoating. Those dupes are callled Republicans.

  • Deborah de Santos

    What the . . . ? How does immigration affect the environment? I don’t see a whole heck of a lot of immigrants driving gas hogs. The ones I know all walk with a pretty light foot step on this planet.

    If water resources for the Southwest are stretched to the breaking point – maybe they need to put a ban on people from the East moving out there to retire – just sayin . . .

  • beholder


    Sounds like it might be a good idea to move out of the desert, doncha think?

  • dave

    Water resources for the American southwest are stretched to the breaking point. Rapidly adding several million more people to the region could spell disaster. Vegas and LA are overpopulated areas already…Lake Mead is drying up…

  • beholder

    I get it.

    That 8-mile a gallon Ford Expedition with the Bush-Cheney bumper sticker holds an environmentalist.