Conservation Policies - Population - Sierra Club
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Sierra Club Conservation Policies

Population Policy

The following policies on population have been adopted by the Sierra Club Board of Directors:


The "population explosion" has severely disturbed the ecological relationships between human beings and the environment. It has caused an increasing scarcity of wilderness and wildlife and has impaired the beauty of whole regions, as well as reducing the standards and the quality of living. In recognition of the growing magnitude of this conservation issue, the Sierra Club supports a greatly increased program of education on the need for population control.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, March 13, 1965; amended July 8, 1995


The Sierra Club endorses the objectives of legislation to establish federal machinery to deal with the problems of rapid human population growth ...

Adopted by the Board of Directors, March 13, 1966


The Sierra Club urges the people of the United States to abandon population growth as a pattern and goal; to commit themselves to limit the total population of the United States in order to achieve balance between population and resources; and to achieve a stable population no later than the year 1990.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 3-4, 1969


  1. The Sierra Club urges that the United States and each of its individual states and lesser political entities abandon all policies, projects, or programs, including tax exemptions, designed to foster, subsidize or promote population growth.
  2. The Sierra Club urges that the United States and each of its individual states and lesser political entities actively promote educational processes aimed at stabilizing the population within the earliest possible time.
  3. The Sierra Club urges that the United States condition the granting of all economic foreign aid on the actual implementation of birth control programs in each of the foreign countries receiving such aid and that wherever possible economic foreign aid be given primarily for the purpose of funding such control programs and not for purposes which actually compete with the fundamental need to limit population growth.
  4. The Sierra Club urges that each of the individual states of the United States legalize abortion.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, September 20-11, 1969


The Sierra Club endorses [the following] resolution from the organization Zero Population Growth concerning measures to inhibit population growth. In essence, the resolution parallels an earlier Sierra Club statement of policy:

Whereas, every human being and every American, present and future, has a right to a world with a healthy environment, clean air and water, uncluttered land, adequate food, sufficient open space, natural beauty, wilderness and wildlife in variety and abundance, and an opportunity to gain an appreciation of the natural world and our place in it through firsthand experience, and

Whereas, population growth is directly involved in the pollution and degradation of our environment -- air, water and land -- and intensifies physical, psychological, social, political, and economic problems to the extent that the well-being of individuals, the stability of society, and our very survival are threatened, and

Whereas, human populations are making ever increasing demands upon irreplaceable natural materials and energy sources, and

Whereas, the protection of the quality of our environment is impossible in the face of the present rate of population growth, including that in the United States, despite the advanced state of technology and the growing affluence of some segments of human society,

Be it resolved by the undersigned organizations --

That we must find, encourage, and implement at the earliest possible time the necessary policies, attitudes, social standards, and actions that will, by voluntary and humane means consistent with human rights and individual conscience, bring about the stabilization of the population first of the United States and then of the world;

That pursuant to this goal, families should not have more than two natural children and adoption should be encouraged;

That state and federal laws should be changed to encourage small families and to discourage large families;

That laws, policies, and attitudes that foster population growth or big families, or that restrict abortion and contraception, or that attempt to constrict the roles of men and women, should be abandoned;

That comprehensive and realistic birth-control programs should be available to every member of our society;

That environmental, population, and sex education should be readily available;

That there should be increased research into the sociology of population stabilization and into the improvement of contraceptive technology;

That private and governmental departments, commissions, and committees should be created to deal effectively with the population problem; and

That the foreign policy of the United States should reflect the urgent realities of the population-environment crisis.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, June 4, 1970; amended July 8, 1995


World Population Year

The Sierra Club welcomes the deliberations of the World Population Year Conference to convene in Bucharest in August 1974, and urges participating nations to support an action plan designed to cope with problems related to population levels:

  1. The Sierra Club is concerned with the quality of life for all humanity. Further unrestricted population growth will have unavoidable adverse effects on present and future living standards and particularly will act to prevent improvements of standards of living and intensify conditions of overcrowding and hunger for millions in developing nations.
  2. Excessive population density intensifies every environmental problem associated with lack of adequate living space, lack of sufficient vital natural resources, and the disposition of wastes. These environmental problems include the poisoning of air, water and land resources; insufficient production of the food and energy necessary to sustain life; and increased susceptibility to disease arising from the debilitating effect of this pollution and resource exhaustion. The Earth's limited reserves of arable and habitable land, as well as mineral and energy resources, are already being so severely strained by the existing population that it is clear that increased population growth threatens our survival as a civilized species. Food and resource scarcity complicates the inequitable allocation of these resources, promotes competition for these resources, promotes competition between nations, and can lead to destructive economic and military conflict. Increased population density creates environmental problems that transcend national boundaries. Accordingly, regulation of population growth within nations is a proper subject for policy formulation and other action by the United Nations.
  3. Therefore, the Sierra Club resolves that:
    1. The aim of policies adopted by the United Nations Conference on Population should be that world population should be reduced to a level no greater than the carrying capacity of the Earth.
    2. All individuals should be assured the ability to control reproduction by the availability of information and facilities, where needed, for the whole range of reproductive control. Technical assistance should be available to nations requesting it from the United Nations.
    3. An intensive and broad-based educational program should be instituted, directed at persons in all countries, regardless of economic or educational level, designed to increase their awareness of the direct relationship between large family size and the adverse consequences of excessive population growth, and the material advantages to existing and future world populations of restraint on growth.
    4. A full discussion should be had of the issues of racial or national genocide. The Sierra Club believes that restraints on population growth are not incompatible with a rational worldwide control over the distribution and use of vital resources and that they do not constitute a threat of national or racial genocide. The Sierra Club recommends that all nations, including developed nations, help to formulate and participate in international programs designed to curb population growth.
    5. Population growth already overburdens parks, preserves, and other recreational facilities. The continued enjoyment of natural areas without irreparably impairing those areas depends on formulation of careful policies for population reduction and proper land use.
    6. The Sierra Club makes the following specific recommendations for action:
      1. The United Nations Conference on Population should urge that all national programs that provide incentives to large families (tax relief, financial assistance, etc.) be replaced with programs encouraging small families.
      2. Each nation should be urged to create a national population commission to formulate policy on population-growth restraint and implement any programs that may be developed.
      3. The United Nations or another appropriate international agency should expand and create a continuing program for the effective collection and dissemination of data on population-growth trends and densities, as well as the relation of such data to problems of resource allocation and conservation.
        They should develop and to the extent possible:
        (a) implement large-scale educational programs on the hazards of unrestrained growth and on the mechanisms of contraception and family planning;
        (b) conduct research on contraceptive techniques; and
        (c) train personnel to carry out the foregoing.
      4. Those countries with the available resources should be urged to contribute funds to defray the cost of population growth restraint programs initiated by less affluent nations and by international agencies.
      5. Achievement of these ends should be made a top priority for United Nations action at all levels, including formulation of concrete programs for national implementation and funding. If the above goals are immediately pursued on an international level, we believe that population reduction may be achieved by voluntary controls on reproduction.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 4-5, 1974; amended July 8, 1995


Population Stabilization

The Sierra Club reaffirms its dedication and its conviction that:

  1. All nations of the world, including developed nations, should formulate and participate in programs designed to curb their own population growth, and
  2. All developed nations, including the United States, being the countries with impact on the world environment disproportionate to their population sizes, have an obligation both to end their population growth as soon as feasible and to substantially reduce their consumption of this planet's non-renewable resources.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 6-7, 1978


U.S. Population Policy

The Sierra Club supports the development by the federal government of a population policy for the United States, as a means of articulating national goals and coordinating federal efforts to achieve those goals.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 6-7, 1978


U.S. Immigration Laws, Policies, and Practices

The Sierra Club urges Congress to conduct a thorough examination of U.S. immigration laws, policies, and practices. This analysis should include discussion of:

  1. The impact of immigration of different levels on population trends in the United States,
  2. The disproportionate burden on certain states, and
  3. The effect of immigration to the U.S. on population growth and environmental quality in this country.

Substantial international migration, whether legal or illegal, arises to a great extent from the growing desperation in many societies of the world. With world population increasing at more than 70 million per year, it is clear that international migration can make only an insignificant contribution to easing world population pressures. Currently, only the U.S., Canada, and Australia among all countries accept more than a handful of permanent immigrants. All regions of the world must reach a balance between their populations and resources. Developing countries need to enlarge opportunities for their own residents, thus increasing well-being, eventually lessening population growth rates, and reducing the pressures to emigrate. Developed nations must work towards greater conservation of resources as well as population stabilization in order to reduce impact on depletion of non-renewable resources, creation of pollution, and damage to ecosystems. This combination would remove the root causes of international migration, by providing more equitable opportunities for people throughout the world.

A major challenge facing the United States is to help influence the world in this direction. The U.S. foreign assistance program and other U.S. international activities can be major means to address such concerns.

Therefore, the Sierra Club urges continuing review of U.S. foreign policy and foreign assistance programs to ensure that their efforts enhance reduction in population growth rates, improve environmental protection, and further environmentally sound development in all countries of the world.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 6-7, 1978


Birth Control

The Sierra Club supports legislative efforts to expand birth control services and research.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 6-7, 1978



The Sierra Club, its entities, and those speaking in its name will take no position on immigration levels or on policies governing immigration into the United States. The Club remains committed to environmental rights and protections for all within our borders, without discrimination based on immigration status.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, February 24-25, 1996


The Sierra Club affirms the decision of the Board of Directors to take NO position on U.S. immigration levels and policies.

The Sierra Club can more effectively address the root causes of global population problems through its existing comprehensive approach:

  • The Sierra Club will build upon its effective efforts to champion the right of all families to maternal and reproductive health care, and the empowerment and equity of women.
  • The Sierra Club will continue to address the root causes of migration by encouraging sustainability, economic security, health and nutrition, human rights and environmentally responsible consumption.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, September 20-21, 1997; amended January 13, 1998; adopted by the membership in an election April 25, 1998

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