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The contradiction that is Farley Mowat

By Tim Murray - posted Wednesday, 17 June 2009

On Friday, September 7, 2007, the venerable Canadian environmental author Farley Mowat made a boldly generous but stunningly futile gesture. He donated 200 acres of his Cape Breton land to “Nova Scotia Nature Trust”.

He called on others in the province to follow his example so that good land wouldn’t fall into some developer’s clutches and be destroyed for profit “like every other part of the western world”.

But while Mowat’s motives are beyond dispute and his affinity for wildlife unquestioned, he continues to evidence no understanding of the root causes of biodiversity loss.


In North America it is runaway population growth, fuelled largely by mass immigration and coupled with excessive consumption that is crowding out wildlife habitat, wetlands and farmland.

The question to be put to the environmental movement is, can nature preserves, greenbelts and national parks permanently shield wildlife and flora from the developmental pressures issuing from this growth?

Ontario commentator Brishen Hoff answers with a categorical “no”. “History has proven that no lands are protected when the population surrounding them is growing. This applies to countries, national parks, islands, or whatever. Once growing populations that surround pristine areas reach a tipping point, the demand for the resources of the protected area will become so great that all safeguards, laws, or barricades will be obliterated and the resources will be exploited.”

That is why Albert Bartlett of the University of Colorado established as his Fundamental Law of Planning that a workable, durable local plan cannot be effected in a community until the regional population is stabilised.

Curiously, advocates of secure borders and more restrictive immigration have been reproached and ridiculed by soft greens and mainstream environmental NGOs for proposing the equivalent of an international “gated community” that couldn’t hope, they allege, to fend off the heavy global traffic of people in the real world.

Yet none of these critics will acknowledge that their little fortresses - their nature preserves, their greenbelts, their parks, their strict land-use zonings - have little hope of standing up to the pressure of the growing populations we have recently seen. Growth spilled out of the urban boundaries of Portland, Oregon - poster child of “smart growth” - into surrounding farmland. And with no let-up from immigration houses are being built on formerly sacrosanct British greenbelts, the “lungs” of Britain.


And as long as economic growth is God, conservation lands are not secure either. They can and have been withdrawn by legislation and executive order. At one time an Act of Congress removed 1,400 square kilometers of the original Yosemite National Park for timber and mineral production.

Hoff explains that designating more land as protected does not lessen the appetite of a growing population for timber, minerals and fresh water. So while there is more “protected land” today than there was 50 years ago, there is also less wild habitat and biodiversity.

“Wildlife habitat will continue to be lost as natural capital is relocated from the economy of nature to the human economy”, until the economy shifts to a kind of steady-state model, writes Professor Brian Czech of Virginia Polytechnic Institute. But such a model implies population stability, something Canada will never enjoy with a 1.08 per cent growth rate from the import of a quarter million immigrants each year. This population growth will degrade “protected” lands through air pollution, litter, trespassing, hunting, groundwater contamination, alien species introductions and easements for growing infrastructure, as Hoff enumerates the incursions.

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About the Author

Tim Murray blogs at (We) Can Do Better. He is Director of Immigration Watch Canada, and Vice President Biodiversity First Canada which he co-founded. Tim is a member of Sustainable Population Australia, the Population Institute of Canada and Optimum Population Trust UK. His personal blog is at

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