Today’s Opinion: OverpopulationPOSTED: 05/31/11 12:00 PM
Switzerland, the country of the famous army knife, swatch, Roger Federer and the referendum, has to deal with an unexpected initiative from an unexpected corner in the next year-and-half. The environmental movement Ecopop wants a referendum that binds the growth of the Swiss population to a maximum of 0.2 percent per year. Ecopop sees this as the only way to safeguard the country’s natural resources.
Ecopop claims to be one of the few environmental organizations that tackle not only overconsumption, but also overpopulation. Ecopop wants for instance to use 10 percent of Switzerland’s development aid budget for discouraging people in developing countries to create large families.
Here is the ugly side of Ecopop: it claims that 80 percent of the country’s population growth is due to immigration. Ooops, that’s a touchy subject, even in Switzerland. The Swiss are not as bad as Austria, where several municipalities still keep Adolf Hitler as an honorary citizen in their records, but the move by Ecopop feels like an initiative that will not get broad political support. Only extreme right parties have embraced the idea.
Compare this to the policy in the Netherlands, where a recent advice of the Council for Social Development points the country towards a positive migration policy. Instead of being an immigration country against its will, the Netherlands ought to embrace immigration as a constructive component of its national policy.
In St. Maarten these are also issues our decision makers need to start thinking about. So far, we have been re-acting instead of acting. We have let the number of undocumented residents run so far out of hand, that there was a need for the Brooks Towers Accord. We all know the results of that project. Even though the architects of this plan went to work with the best of intentions in mind, the fact remains that all undocumented residents who arrived after 2005 in St. Maarten will have to leave. But nobody has come up with a sensible idea yet about how this part of the plan will be executed without turning the friendly Island into a police state with immigration officers lurking behind every tree and lamp post.
There is also no plan for preventing that more undocumented migrants enter the territory. And if there is a plan, there must be at least serious doubts about its practicality. All this has to do with St. Maarten’s overall negative attitude towards immigration. We do not embrace immigrants, on the contrary. We moan and whine about the burden they put on our community without ever wondering whether at least part of these immigrants also deliver a positive contribution to our economy and to our society.
By acting so defensively towards immigration we are missing opportunities to enrich our society. That’s also the effect Ecopop’s referendum will have on the Swiss society. However, there is at this moment no solid indication in which direction the result of such a referendum will be headed. In a country that allows assisted suicide by non-physicians and by doing so is generating revenue from a morbid category of medical tourism, anything seems to be possible.