Stand against the “Greening of Hate” for the Movement we Believe In

Wednesday, September 22, I attended a meeting at Hampshire College of Western Massachusetts environmental organizers hosted by the Center for New Community of Chicago.  Rebecca Poswolsky of CNC presented to the group about the rising trend of anti-immigration rhetoric being pushed into the environmental movement.  Videos and advertisements portrayed the messaging of anti-immigration groups vying for an environmental audience.

In one, a line of men in sweatshirts and jeans, baseball caps pulled down, snakes through desert brush in the hidden camera footage.  The voice-over in this Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) film describes the actions of the “illegal aliens,” “They walk, but some get tired.  A few sit and snack. Likely the snack packages will become litter… … more people, more paths, more trash.”

No one likes litter, especially those espousing to be environmentalists.  The narrative of this film is easy to follow.  Immigrants = trash = ruined wildlife = environmental disaster.

It’s a simple argument to pull apart; consumption levels of people in America are astronomically higher than those of our southern neighbors and historically the U.S. accounts for a disproportionate amount of carbon emissions.  Upon entering the U.S. one doesn’t immediately increase their consumption; factors of class and wealth are much better indicators of consumption.  Since the Environmental Justice movement took off in the early 1980s, more and more immigrants and people of color have contributed their voices and values to the fight for the environment and climate.  In short, immigrants aren’t the problem.

While easy to write-off as conservative propaganda, this film unfortunately represents a resurging trend: racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric posing as values of the environmental movement.  Let’s trace the connections from this film to the environmental movement.  CIS is funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which John Tanton, the originator of what the Center for New Community (CNC) calls the “John Tanton Network,” founded.  The Network is a web of inter-connected anti-immigration, pro-English, and nationalist groups that share funding and leadership.  Tanton works directly with the Weeden Foundation, a major environmental funder, has sat on Sierra Club committees, and calls himself, “a strong conservationist and leading advocate for the environment”.  Is this the leadership we want?

The good news is groups such as CNC are calling out this trend and asserting what it really means to be an environmentalist.  In a nation of immigrants, our generation is more open-minded than any to come before us on the issues of race, and immigration.  We will be alive in the year 2050, when it is projected there will be no clear ethnic or racial majority in the United States.  It’s up to us as young activists to call out this ruse when we see it and stand with our allies for immigration reform and environmental justice.

The voices of immigrants and people of color are absolutely essential if our generation is to achieve environmental and climate justice.  Messages of hate and racism have no place in our movement.  Communities are already fighting back against the false messages of Tanton and his cronies.  Check out this video that CNC put together, highlighting youth in the Bronx who took the fight right to the offices of the Weeden Foundation:

What can you do?

Sign the pledge created by CNC to end “the greening of hate” and embrace diversity in the environmental movement.

If you’re in DC, the first national conference on “Immigration, Conservation and the Environment,” is being hosted by a number of groups in the Tanton Network on Oct 5 at the National Press Club. If you’re interested in promoting a counter message contact Rebecca Poswolsky of CNC.

Get the conversation started in your groups!   We need to take a stance of inclusivity and diversity to build and expand the movement we urgently need.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Greenwashing Report.

7 Responses to “Stand against the “Greening of Hate” for the Movement we Believe In”


  1. 1 aaf Sep 25th, 2010 at 12:40 am

    great piece Martha!
    We should all be on the lookout for this garbage and fight it whenever we can!

  2. 2 Dave Gardner Sep 25th, 2010 at 9:50 am

    It’s not really that simple, Martha. We can and should ignore the racist elements of the debate. But there truly are many, many conservationists, environmentalists and humanitarians who believe our nation should stop exploiting illegal immigrants and work for what those immigrants truly want and what is in their best long-term interest.

    I hate to see good people like you fall for the smear campaign. We should be discussing the real issues rather than slinging mud. If someone truly has a case for high levels of immigration or legalization of illegal immigrants, they should make their case. When they resort to slinging mud about who has what motives and who is six degrees separated from someone who once made a racist remark, that would indicate they must not have a real case to make.

  3. 3 Ruby Sep 25th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Thanks for writing this post. i wasn’t very aware of this trend — scary!

  4. 4 perpetual population growth precludes sustainability Sep 26th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    No one should be blind to the economic and social inequity that occurs all over the planet – within our borders, at our borders, and within the borders of other countries. Migration tends to be a phenomenon associated with individual human beings pursuing upward mobility in terms of their personal welfare or that of their loved ones. While other factors may be in play to some small extent, the significant demand for migration into the United States speaks most clearly to an inequity of opportunity available inside our borders relative to what exists without.

    Obviously, the existence of the demand phenomena at the U.S. borders cannot be ignored or remain unexamined – but, neither can it stand as a rationale for ignoring the effects on U.S. domestic population if that demand is fully satisfied. A 2010 Gallop poll indicates that 156 million people would immigrate into the U.S. immediately if they had the ways and means, an increase to domestic population of 50%. In the absence of changes to the aggregate behavior of the U.S. populace (cetaris paribus), this would increase the harmful impact on the Earth’s environment emanating from the activities of the United States by 50%.

    This is not an argument belittling new Americans – whether immigrants or natural born — for assimilating to the ecologically devastating cultural norms of their homeland. It is, rather, a comment on the ecological impact population growth can and will have in a situation where the populace in question makes no changes to its aggregate behaviors.

  5. 5 cindee Sep 30th, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Does anyone know what is going on, The Center for New Community is not replying? I want to find out if they are doing anything against PFIR on Tuesday. I live close.

  6. 6 Deep Ecology Oct 18th, 2010 at 12:08 am

    11 million illegals do not of themselves constitute a “tipping” point. First world residents consume resources at a much higher rate than emerging or third world inhabitants. Our need to consume resources at an ever increasing rate is driven by our culture/economic system that demands expansive and continuing growth no matter what the consequences, be it harm to the biosphere or dislocation/destruction of indigenous peoples. That growth fuels continuing population growth, which leads to more resource exploitation, with an inevitable end state that can only be described as global systemic collapse of the entire world ecosystem. The culture of limitless growth, coupled with a globalist/corporate-state/capitalist system will collapse, our ecosystem is finite and measureable, thus making it inevitable. Xenophobes, nativists, and racists that use this argument to limit or stop immigration are right about the issue, but disingenuous about their real motives.

    Greenwashing xenophobia and racism harms the real scientific debate about carrying capacity and limited finite resources exploited by the “growth at any cost” Globalist/Corporate-State/Capitalist system. Deep Ecology addresses this problem in a multi-racial forum of international academics and scientists who are in broad agreement that our civilization and the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem are incompatible. Arguing in favor of growth, be it from increased fertility or immigration, ignores the inevitable consequences of that growth. Confusing social justice with the empirical limits imposed on our species by a finite environment confuses the issue. Nature doesn’t recognize morality, that is a human construct. Widespread collapse of our resource base will settle the social justice argument once and for all, and not in our favor.

  1. 1 “Stand against the “Greening of Hate” for the Movement we Believe In” « Climate Justice Links Trackback on Oct 4th, 2010 at 5:38 pm
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