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Argument with a socialist zealot

I had quite the educational experience on Tuesday night (18 Dec 07). The phone rang at 8:30 pm and the call display read "Ontario". Who would be phoning me from Ontario at one half hour past 11 pm? Probably one of those persistent telemarketers. Yet it could be pertaining to a personal or environmental matter. Better take a chance.

"Hello, Mr. Murray? I am calling on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada."

Immediately I cut her off and launched into a rant that was broken only two minutes later by her strident objections. Everything I said flowed without a break from my lips as I knew all the statistics by heart:

"The New Democratic Party, is that the party that favours 1% plus immigration for this country when there is clear evidence that population growth drives GHG emissions, when biodiversity in urban Canada is being destroyed by immigrant-driven growth , the party that pretends that something called smart growth will defend wildlife and farmland and somehow stop people from generating waste and pollution.?"

"Wait, she interjected with sublimated anger, "you can't blame immigrants for these things ..."

"You can blame population growth which is driven by immigration" and before she could get a word in edge-wise, I fired my three favourite correlations at her. "Did you know that since 1990 Australia's population grew by 30% and its GHG grew by 30%, that between 1970 and 2004 America's population and GHG emissions both grew by an identical 43% and that between 1990 and 2006 Canada grew by 19% and its GHG was up by 24%?"

In an argument I heard last spring on the Internet, when a critic stated that a typical immigrant arriving at Pearson International consumed much less than the typical Canadian, this socialist lady, carrying an Indo-Canadian accent, vociferously denied that immigrants were doing anything to impact our environment negatively. "I don't see a problem with taking more", she said.

She went on to say that claiming that population growth caused GHG emissions was simplistic and flawed. "Otherwise, why hasn't India more GHG emissions than us. You have got to be more holistic in your thinking."

It was at that point I realized that I had taken the wrong tact in this debate. I should have begun my rant with an attack on economic growth, not population. So I had to make amends.

"You are right. We have to take a holistic approach. But the NDP, the Greens and the Sierra Club aren't taking it. Our focus should be the damage that Economic Growth is causing the environment. But realize that economic growth is a function of population level and per capita consumption. If all you want to do is tell Canadians to reduce consumption, as do the Greens and the environmentalists, then we are going to have reduce to unbearably Spartan levels if you allow population to climb. If I freeze population, but permit Canadians to merrily consume at even greater amounts, then population will have to be reduced further."

"So are you saying no more Economic growth?."she asked.

"The planet is saying that and I am joining the chorus."

"No one can get elected on that platform, besides, (and this is the classic cliché) we can have economic growth and a clean environment too. We couldn't promote our Climate Change strategy if people thought we were against economic growth."

"Do you know there was a British study revealed on the 4th of this month that said that if we don't stop Economic Growth, we're finished, because we'll pass the 2 degree rise in global temperature threshold."

"Oh, they have been saying things like that for years. They said they would never be able to feed the world and they were proven wrong."

"Actually, just wait a while, and you will see what happens to modern agriculture without oil. Some say one-third of us will die."

"You haven't thought of technology."

At that I interjected, not that old song. Renewables are a joke. Maybe 3% of our needs so far. But if I am wrong on that, google "Jevons Paradox". Technological efficiences just promote more consumption, and more births too.

"So who are you going to vote for then?" she challenged. "The Conservatives? They are worse than us surely."

"I don't know that they are", I replied. " Premier Calvert left office with GHG emissions 60% higher than when he came in. I think a write-in ballot would be a good choice."

At that she announced that it was midnight and she must sign off. My opinions, as filtered by the interviewer, would be relayed to someone higher up the chain of pre-fabricated thought.

My conclusion? Again, if immigration is to be discussed, it must be discussed within the context of population stabilization. But the latter in turn should be discussed within the framework of a steady state economy. Immigration/population growth waves a lot of red flags and before a dialogue can get untracked the debate spirals into emotional outbursts. I think Neil Dawe has been right about this one from Day 1.

Secondly, I doubt that much is to be gained from debating Socialists or Greens on population issues. Their minds are set in concrete and are unable to break free and think outside their tight box. We have to target people who don't think in clichés.

Tim Murray
Quadra Island, BC
18 December 2007