Paul Erlich’s 1968 book The Population Bomb helped establish overpopulation as an environmental issue. But the seed of legitimate concern it once raised has blossomed into something far more sinister: an excuse for the high energy consumers of industrialized countries to shift the blame for environmental destruction on to the low energy consumers of the developing world through an anti-immigrant agenda.
According to The Center for New Community (CNC) this is a purposeful trend propagated by anti-immigrant, nativist and white nationalist groups dating back to the 1960s. These groups have tried to influence big environmental organizations like the Sierra Club (so far unsuccessfully), as well as progressives, using targeted ad campaigns and websites.
While their perspective has shown up in some well-regarded venues, such as the pages of Yale research magazine YaleGlobal, they have also been tauted by extremists, such as the Discovery Channel gunman, whose eco-inflected written demands called for programs that “find solutions to stopping ALL immigration pollution and the anchor baby filth that follows that…”
CNC is raising awareness to this phenomenon and in the above video shows how one community organizing group in the Bronx recently held a protest outside the headquarters of the Weeden Foundation—one of the main anti-immigrant culprits trying to co-opt the environmental movement. The Bronx group made clear the irony at the heart of this issue, which is that immigrant groups typically come from cultures that live close to and value nature.
Anti-immigrant proponents actually argue that a reason to keep immigrants from entering the United States is that they pollute four-times less in their home country than they will here. Of course, such a statement is an obvious indictment of our way of living in this country. The job for environmentalists is to show how the problem is rooted in consumption not immigration and that no one group deserves more of the planet’s natural resources than another. They must share them, along with the responsibility of using them sustainably.