Immigration and the Environment

I know it’s not a question, but I was looking to start a discussion. What, if any, ties do you see between environmental issues and immigration?



  1. 0 Votes

    One could argue, at the risk of sounding xenophobic, that immigration has a detrimental effect on developed countries whose populations are already at or above their region’s carrying capacity.  An influx in population entails continued population growth from offspring and subsequent generations of immigrants who join their families, etc. The U.S. population is projected to grow by another 100 million people who will immigrate in the next half-century. 

    Another negative impact can be construed on the point that many immigrants come to developed countries, such as the U.S., and as they assimiliate (or adjust to the new culture), their consumption patterns change.  “The act of border crossing enables them to make lifestyle changes that adversely affect the environment; by becoming Americans they adopt the consumption and pollution patterns of the world’s most environmentally destructive lifestyle.”

    Undeniably, unsustainable population growth is detrimental to the environment.  In the U.S., for every person added to the population, an acre of farmland or natural habitat is lost to urbanization. One million acres are lost per year (of the 470 million acres of arable land left in the country) to industrial expansion and urbanization.

  2. 0 Votes

    I don’t think that there many instances where humans have immigrated somewhere (anywhere) and it resulted in being a positive for the existing environment.  I agree with the post above in terms of growing populations having a negative effect in regards to land use, but it’s also an overall resource depletion.  There are peoples that have done very well surviving in the same place for many, many years, but it is by having a small population that does not deplete their resources, a lifestyle that does not allow for over-consumption because it would have a serious and quick negative feedback.  They have learned that in order to continue in the manner in which they grew up, they have to protect the resources they have or suffer the consequences.  I think environmental education should be required in all schools.  Not to save the earth, it will recover just fine, but to save ourselves 🙂

  3. mle
    0 Votes

    Interesting question and one I need to think about more.  Here are a few of my first thoughts.

    If you believe that environmentalism is a rich man’s cause —i.e., people searching for their next meal aren’t going to care if it is served in Styrofoam or biodegradable plastic— then people bettering their lives, whether by immigrating or another way, could eventually lead to more environmentalists. 

    Additionally, I much prefer that forests are logged for timber in the US than in the rainforest.  The US has better regulations and enforcement of sustainable practices, so in the long run cutting our timber is better environmentally.  Someone immigrating to the US could potentially see the use of sustainable practices and take them back to their country.

    Along this same vein, when I was in Spain it was fascinating to me how much the Spaniards envied our Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, etc.  Learning from various countries/cultures can help the environment (although I realize that isn’t exactly immigration).

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