Vote down a hijacking

As all good environmentalists know, the Sierra Club is far from perfect. In recent years, it has seemed too ready to compromise and often unwilling to challenge the Bush administration on its appalling environmental policies. Still, the club is the most respected and effective environmental organization in the country, and that’s something worth fighting for.

That’s why Sierra Club members—and everyone who cares about the environment—should oppose the current attempt to hijack the club to further a right-wing, anti-immigration agenda. At stake is nothing less than the fate of the 750,000-member organization—and the credibility of the American environmental movement.

This year’s elections for the club’s board of directors have taken an ominous turn, as three candidates advocating strict controls on U.S. immigration seek to bring an anti-immigrant majority to the board and use the club’s $81 million annual budget and considerable political clout to convince Americans that the only way to achieve environmental preservation is to close the borders. These candidates—Frank Morris, David Pimentel and Richard Lamm—are new members who joined expressly for this purpose, and they have the links to a frightening array of anti-immigration activists and groups, many of whom espouse a frankly racist position: the idea that America must stem nonwhite immigration to preserve its cultural heritage.

“Without a doubt, the Sierra Club is the subject of a hostile takeover attempt by forces allied with … a variety of right-wing extremists,” declared a recent assessment by the anti-racist Southern Poverty Law Center. “They hope to use the credibility of the club as a cover to advance their own extremist views.”

To be sure, population control is a reasonable goal and one that environmentalists should support as part of a comprehensive set of policies aimed toward a more responsible stewardship of natural resources. And there are many who question the “right-wing extremist” charge as applied to the “coup” candidates. But to twist the ideals of population control into anti-immigrant rhetoric ignores one of the fundamental lessons of environmentalism: that we all share one ecosystem, regardless of national boundaries.

Putting a stop to U.S. immigration wouldn’t save the Earth—or even our small corner of it. It wouldn’t address our over-consumption of such a disproportionate share of the world’s resources, the problems of suburban sprawl or America’s contribution to global warming. It merely would make immigrants—who generally consume far less than the average American does—the scapegoats for environmental degradation. Worse, it could discredit the environmental movement by proving how easily its flagship organization could be held hostage to a small group of well-backed demagogues.

Don’t let it happen. As the Sierra Club’s elections move forward in coming weeks, we urge Sacramento’s many club members to preserve the club’s integrity. Keep a lookout for the mail-in ballot and vote down this attempted coup.