In a new report, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes the rejuvenated efforts of anti-immigrant groups to repackage themselves as environmentalists who are trying to save the United States from the supposed ecological ills of “over-population.” According to the report, entitled Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism & the Hypocrisy of Hate, the two-faced nature of these efforts is “astounding” given the dismal environmental records of the organizations and political candidates to whom nativist groups tend to contribute funds. Moreover, this “green-washing” of the nativist agenda also amounts to a white-washing of the anti-immigrant movement’s white-nationalist roots.

As the SPLC report describes:

In the last few years, right-wing groups have paid to run expensive advertisements in liberal publications that explicitly call on environmentalists and other ‘progressives’ to join their anti-immigration cause. They’ve created an organization called Progressives for Immigration Reform that purports to represent liberals who believe immigration must be radically curtailed in order to preserve the American environment. They’ve constructed websites accusing immigrants of being responsible for urban sprawl, traffic congestion, overconsumption and a host of other environmental evils.

Yet these sorts of arguments, the SPLC report notes, “have in the last 15 years been
rejected by the mainstream of the environmental movement as far too simplistic … most conservationists have come to believe that many of the world’s most intractable environmental problems, including global warming, can only be solved by dealing with them on a worldwide, not a nation-by-nation, basis.” Furthermore, the anti-immigrant groups engaged in the green-washing of their ideologies belong to the national network created by John Tanton, who has long been “far more concerned with the impact of Latino and other non-white immigration on a ‘European-American’ culture than on conservation.”

The SPLC report echoes the findings of another recent report from the Center for New Community (CNC), which explores “how anti-immigrant forces have corrupted the dialogue on population and the environment.” In that report, Apply the Brakes: A Report on Anti-immigrant Co-optation and the Environmental Movement, CNC points out that “anti-immigrant activists belonging to the neo-Malthusian tradition claim that populations are constrained by the carrying capacity of the environment, and that population growth causes environmental degradation.” Within this narrow and inaccurate worldview, “people become pollutants, with all the racial overtones of such a social construction.”

Both the SPLC and CNC reports lay bear the ugly historical roots and flawed intellectual underpinnings of these faux environmentalists. The environmental rhetoric being spouted by anti-immigrant activists is nothing more than window dressing designed to lend a green tinge to an anti-immigrant ideology. As the SPLC report points out, “the greenwashers are wolves in sheep’s clothing, right-wing nativists who are doing their best to seduce the mainstream environmental movement in a bid for legitimacy and more followers.” This is a siren’s call that serious environmentalists should resist.

Photo by mugley.