Earth Day Founder Warned Against Mass Immigration as ‘Tremendous Cost’ to Americans’ Quality of Life

Portrait of American politician US Senator Gaylord Nelson (1916 - 2005) as he poses in Roc
Janet Fries/Getty Images

The late Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), a fierce environmentalist and the founder of Earth Day, championed reducing overall immigration to the United States to protect America’s wildlife sanctuaries, farmland, and quality of life.

While a Senator, Nelson founded Earth Day on April 22, 1970, to advocate for the conservation of the environment in the United States. Today, Earth Day is celebrated across the globe.

Nelson, a left-wing Democrat who also served as governor of Wisconsin before being elected to the Senate, was a champion for eliminating illegal immigration to the United States as well as reducing legal immigration levels.

Current national immigration policy — where a million legal immigrants are added to the United States population annually, as well as hundreds of thousands, potentially millions, of illegal aliens — is driving about 80 percent of all population growth, according to the Census Bureau.

The latest Census Bureau estimates predict that without immigration reductions, the United States population will hit nearly 400 million by the year 2060 — an unprecedented level never seen before in American history.

“With twice the population, will there be any wilderness left? Any quiet place? Any habitat for songbirds? Waterfalls? Other wild creatures? Not much,” Nelson said at least two decades ago.

In his 2002 autobiography, Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise, Nelson warned that mass immigration to the United States would cripple quality of life for Americans and force the destruction of wildlife sanctuaries.

Nelson wrote:

In 2000 the US population topped 280 million. Not surprisingly, adding population hasn’t improved American society, the economy, or the environment. Yet we are headed at current growth rates, toward having well over 500 million people on the same land resource within the next seventy-five years and 1 billion people within the next century. Does anyone imagine we can grow like that without tremendous cost to the environment and our quality of life? [Emphasis added]

In order to bring a halt to exponential growth, the number of legal immigrants entering this country would have to match the number of emigrants leaving it – about 220,000 people per year. Yet, while federal actions have increased the immigration rate dramatically during the last four decades, any suggestion that the rate be decreased to some previously acceptable level is met with charges of “nativism,” “racism,” and the like. Unfortunately, such opposition has silenced much-needed discussion of the issue – recalling the smear tactics of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy. The first time around it was “soft on communism.” This time the charge is “racism,” because a significant number of immigrants are of Hispanic descent. Demagogic rhetoric of this sort has succeeded in silencing the environmental and academic communities and has tainted any discussion of population and immigration issues as “politically incorrect.” As frustrating as it is to see the president and members of Congress running for cover on such a monumental issue, it is nothing short of astonishing to see the great American free press, with its raft of syndicated columnists, frightened into silence by political correctness. [Emphasis added]

The issue is not racism, nativism, or any other “ism,” however. The real issue: numbers of people and the implications for freedom of choice and sustainability as our numbers continue to grow. Population stabilization will be a major determinant of our future, how we live and in what conditions; talk of it should not be muzzled by McCarthyism or any other demagogic contrivance. Rather, the issue must be brought forth and explored in public hearings and discussions precisely because it is a subject of great consequence.
[Emphasis added]

In a 2001 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nelson seemingly blasted left-wing politicians for claiming to care about the environment while ignoring the impact that mass immigration has on issues of sustainability.

“… in this country, it’s phony to say ‘I’m for the environment but not for limiting immigration.’ It’s just a fact that we can’t take all the people who want to come here,” Nelson said. “… the subject has been driven out of public discussion because everybody is afraid of being called racist if they say they want any limits on immigration.”

Indeed, discussion of sky-high immigration levels has been largely removed from the national environmental debate. Instead, environmentalists have embraced mass immigration.

The Sierra Club, for instance, once advocated for immigration reductions to stabilize population growth in the United States. As left-wing, high-dollar donors to the environmental group became increasingly favorable to mass immigration, so did the Sierra Club, which switched its position in the late 1990s.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at Follow him on Twitter here.


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