Green Bigotry

There’s a good post up at Grist on the latent anti-immigrant sentiment within the larger environmental community. Anyone who is familiar with the green bigotry on this issue has probably bumped up against what the writer describes here:

So after I began working in the environmental community, I was disturbed to find that when friends and respected colleagues talked about immigration and the environment, it was often (albeit unintentionally) from an anti-immigrant perspective.

Most of those in green circles who know better prefer not to talk about this so openly; it’s uncomfortable, like the racist relative at Thanksgiving that the family tries to ignore. Of course, when the racist isn’t publicly called out by embarrassed family members, they are tacitly enabling his behavior.

Worse yet is the less overt racist attitude that underlies cultural attitudes towards people of color and illegal immigrants, which many try to gloss over.  (I just think my son should marry his own kind, and a common refrain heard with respect to illegal immigrants: I believe in the law.) So we have lots of environmentalists who have been hoodwinked (or are just winking at) what the Grist writer correctly calls the

large anti-immigrant organizations “greenwashing” —using environmental messaging to cloak anti-immigrant sentiments. Publicly, the mainstream environmental community has largely remained silent on immigration issues (with the exception of a couple of contentious debates in 2004 and 2005 that sprang up around Sierra Club board elections). In this silence, anti-immigrant groups have co-opted the green messaging and started gaining public support from those who generally ascribe to environmental values. These groups suggest that limiting immigration would be a good way to slow the population growth of the U.S. — and without any prominent environmental voices countering them, they’ve had plenty of room to make the case that immigration is a main driver of environmental degradation.

What I wonder: do prominent environmental voices stay silent because they too are anti-immigrant, or is that they just don’t want to offend or take on a substantial segment of their base?

10 Responses to “Green Bigotry”

  1. Steve Bloom says:

    No, it’s a crappy, poorly-reasoned post, Keith.  You really can’t tell the difference?

    First she implies that her personal experience of being raised as an environmentalist by immigrant parents is somehow representative.  Data to back that up?  Even if true, what does it say about her family’s environmental footprint relative to what it would have been had they remained in India?  

    Then she blows it by making this ridiculous assertion:

    “Second, most environmental protections are funded by tax dollars, and immigrants contribute a lot of those dollars.  The 14 percent of U.S. residents who are foreign-born and the additional U.S. citizens who live in mixed-status families foster environmental protection every day, by paying their taxes and contributing to economic growth that generates still more tax revenue.”

    So, to paraphrase Hemingway, the rich are just like you and I, only they’re more green?

    The fact is that more Americans, whether native-born or immigrant, equals excessive consumption.  Given that, I’m perfectly comfortable with people wanting to reduce immigration so long as they’re just as strongly in favor of reducing the native birth rate.

    As for what Big Green groups are or aren’t saying on this subject, I would think that having recently spent time on the national staff of one of those organizations you’d be far better qualified than your readers to explain their views.

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    I was on the editorial staff of Audubon magazine, which is far different from being on the staff of the national organization.

    But given your long-time role in the Sierra Club, I can understand why you feel the way you do.

  3. bigcitylib says:

    I suppose most environmentalists have remained silent because hardly anyone has heard of these groups.  FWIW I’ve neverheard that argument made by anyone, let alone anyone that matters.

    There is also the issue of: is this a real enviro group or some kind of right wing astroturf thingy.  I note that Victor David Hanson, who is usually going on about the global warming hoax and etc., is on the membership list.  That is suggestive.

  4. bigcitylib says:

    …Davis Hanson, sorry.

  5. Keith Kloor says:


    You’re not familiar with the environmentalist history on this topic, are you? You don’t know what Brower, Foreman, Abbey, et al have said? Check back for a post tomorrow, as I think it’ time we took a stroll down memory lane.

    Meanwhile, go over to that Grist post and scan the comment thread. That should tell you something.

  6. bigcitylib says:

    The Grist post has been hijacked by whackjobs, probably sent over en masse from somewhere when they saw the topic. 

    Brower’s case is interesting, and something I was not aware of.  It would be illuminating to compare what he said to what he is being reported to have said on some very, very far right websites (the one article that keeps getting repeated about him online appears at Immigration Watch Canada, which I believe has white nationalist links up here).

    In any case, if extreme right groups are making a foray into the environmental forums, then that is worth keeping an eye out for.  It is not something I have noted much of in Canada, and I am fairly familiar with how that kind of politics works up here.  Further, there is nothing in the young lady’s comments that suggest such groups are having much of an impact down South of the 49th, but I am willing to be enlightened.  And you sound like you think a large part of the enviro base are in fact white nationalists, which I can assure you is not the case.

    Finally, I still think the most interesting thing about that California group is V.D. Hanson’s membership.  By day he denies, by night he uses AGW to trash immigrants for a fringe right group.  Might be a story in that.

  7. Steve Bloom says:

    bcl, Keith has posted on this stuff before and not had much of interest to say.  As I implied above, what he thinks about this stuff is the standard line of crap he got imprinted with as a Big Green staffer.

    Grist threads in general have been infested by wingnuts for some years now, so I don’t think there’s much special going on with this one.

  8. Keith Kloor says:

    When you say Grist threads have been infected by wingnuts for years, do you mean enviro wingnuts or some other type of wingnut?

  9. […] many population ideologues–what I call “green bigotry”– is what I discussed here in reference to the Grist post. I’m guessing it’s a hold-over from the […]

  10. […] previously discussed how some anti-immigrant factions use green rhetoric as a proxy in their endless quest to […]

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