John Leo
Dick Lamm, public policy gadfly and former Democratic governor of Colorado, is being denounced these days as a right-wing extremist, a neo-Nazi and a racist. "In all my years of public life, nobody has ever talked that way about me," he said. His offense is that he is one of three men running for the Sierra Club board of directors on a platform of limiting immigration to protect the environment. In response, the leadership of the club and its allies have been playing the race card with berserk ferocity. Among the charges are "environmental racism," and the "greening of hate," which presumably means that the three represent dark forces gussied up in environmental green. These arguments assume that any urge to cap or slow immigration is a form of anti-Latino or anti-Asian bigotry. "It's hate," the Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope said of the splinter group endorsing the insurgent candidates. He also said the group, Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization, is profoundly infected by "a virus."

The candidates tarred by these charges are:

* Lamm, who was widely seen as an ally of the civil rights movement during his term as governor, and who helped organize an NAACP chapter when he was at Berkeley. He is chairman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) board of advisers.

* Frank Morris, retired U.S. foreign service officer and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

* David Pimentel, a Cornell professor of entomology who has been studying the impact of population growth on the earth's carrying capacity.

The background of the dispute is that the Sierra Club does not want to make the obvious move for an environmental organization in an era of mass migration -- calling for limits on immigration to relieve pressures on the ecosystem. Thirty years ago the Sierra Club committed itself to "stabilization of the population, first of the United States and then of the world." In those days, stabilization in the U.S. meant urging native-born Americans to have fewer children. By 1996, when stabilization meant doing something about mass migration, legal and illegal, the Sierra Club backed away from stabilization and adopted a policy of neutrality on immigration.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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