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Al Bartlett’s prescience on how immigration makes America less sustainable.

author Published by Henry Barbaro

Is it rationale to have national policies that lead the U.S. to be simultaneously exporting jobs and importing people?

Al Bartlett was born on March 21, 1923, and was an amazing physicist and professor at CU-Boulder.  Bartlett truly thought outside the box, and held strong philosophical and scientific perspectives on the consequences of accelerating population growth in America.

In “Thoughts on Immigration into the United States,”  Bartlett makes it clear that “sustainability” and “population growth” are in direct conflict with one another: 

“It does not matter that politicians, who love to be on both sides of issues, frequently say that population growth and sustainability (saving the environment) are compatible. In general, they are not. Contrary to what the politicians preach, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. A great contemporary tragedy is the fact that many politicians fail to recognize that the term “Sustainable Growth” is an oxymoron.”

Bartlett points out that immigration, both legal and illegal, is the largest component of population growth in the U.S., and that continued immigration is the largest threat to sustainability of the United States. “Indeed, members of the two political parties vie with each other to see which party can produce legislation that will let in the largest annual flow of legal immigrants,” he writes.

This is not simply unsustainable, it’s anti-sustainable.”

Do you agree? Say so here!

According to Bartlett, the tragedy of our current immigration is similar to the tragedy of slavery in our nation’s early history: 

“Two hundred years ago the “civilized” world incorporated slavery into an economy that quickly became dependent on slaves “to do the work that Americans would not do.” Economics was used as a justification for slavery…The business community wants a large supply of low-cost labor and a larger population of consumers.  It is time to rearrange things so that the work of the U.S. can be performed by U.S. citizens.”  Think about this – “Is it rational to have national policies that lead the U.S. to be simultaneously exporting jobs and importing people?

What are the costs to the society of continuing unsustainable population growth?

Bartlett’s paper concludes by recommending that we set an example for the world and stop our own population growth here in the U.S.  This will require zero net immigration (America already has a below-replacement fertility rate). “When we do this, we will be on the moral high ground from which we can urge other countries to follow our example and stop their population growth.”

In light of the widespread degradation and depletion of natural resources (e.g., water for drinking and irrigation, fertile soils/farmland, wilderness, rare species habitat), it’s clear that our nation needs to slow down population growth, specifically from immigration.  Historically high rates of legal immigration are now being eclipsed by illegal immigration, with roughly 3 million illegal border crossers and visa overstayers per year.  

Al Bartlett was a prescient person, and has given all of us clear advice on how Americans can achieve resource sustainability and become true stewards of their future.  He predicted that, otherwise, America will face escalating resource scarcities (e.g., drinking water, fossil fuels, biodiversity).  For America to take steps toward stabilization, we must drastically reduce today’s unprecedented immigration rates.

On September 7, 2013, Al Bartlett died at 90 years old.  A life well-lived.

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