The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

New SPLC Report: Nativists and the Environmental Movement

By Heidi Beirich on July 27, 2010 - 1:03 pm, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center has released a new report, “Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism and the Hypocrisy of Hate.” The report documents a sweeping, renewed attempt by anti-immigration activists to convince environmentalists that they, too, must oppose immigration if they are to save the environment from the ravages of a growing population.

Because such efforts typically have been organized by anti-immigration activists whose leading concern is not the environment — men and women who attempt to recruit conservationists and other “progressives” to their cause, sometimes even while simultaneously working with nakedly anti-environmental forces — this strategy has come to be known as “greenwashing.” The efforts are essentially cynical, aimed at deflecting charges of racism by cloaking anti-immigrant views in green.

This recent campaign is not the first. For years, nativists have been trying to manipulate environmentalists and, in 2004, anti-immigrant activists came close to achieving a majority on the Sierra Club’s board of directors, a catastrophe that would have drastically altered the mission of America’s largest environmental organization. The continued efforts reveal how persistent nativists are in trying to recruit environmentalists to their cause by blaming immigrants for a host of environmental ills.

  • Astro-Turf

    Stop tracking carbon over my nice clean Border you insensitive druglords… you…. No sign of intelligence here.

  • John

    Wow….I beleive the Native Americans and Mexicans from years ago can truly call themselves natives to North America. If hate group members don’t like it here…..why don’t they pack up and return to Europe? We need to understand that we are in a diverse environment and its only going to get better, so lets embrace all and unite together. If you can’t swallow that…go elsewhere.

  • Radical Agitprop

    Like any other animal under extremely harsh conditions that threaten survival, human birth rate naturally increases, to compensate for increased death rate.

    Rampant human population growth only becomes an issue when socio-economic balance has been disrupted, causing extreme poverty…usually as a result of of some form of imperialist colonialism.

    The only material and just solution is to restore socio-economic balance, NOT to kill off “excess” population.

    As education, health care, employment and per capita income increase, birth rate goes down.

    Concentrating on population control as an “issue” is ultimately a racist, classist, and reactionary response to the real problems that do ensue from over-population.

    We need social and economic justice, NOT draconian misanthropic measures to “reduce” population.

  • Kate De Braose

    Every nation has both welcomed and feared immigrants as useful workers and unwanted dependents and spoilers of “progress.”

    In that way they are like the single-family unit that is trying to decide whether another mouth (or a million) to feed, house and educate is a boon or a boondoggle.

    More problems are bound to arise when the existing family members feel they are being asked to share more of what they consider their own bounty with possible newcomers.

    For decisions like these, we certainly need more information about what possible sacrifices are going to be required of us, if only so that we can be better prepared. In the matter of having no possible legal route to immigration the US needs to offer something that will offset what the Mexican people have given up so that the businessmen can take advantages from the NAFTA.

  • beholder

    Deep Ecology,

    Not quite beyond my capability, no. But when you talk about women “controlling their fertility” I see the mindset of male domination. When you talk about “unliveable” third world cities where millions live and manage to be happy and fulfilled in spite of your prejudices, it shows not knowledge but stereotype. You are evidently someone who has learning and no knowledge, and little wisdom if you believe cracking down on immigrants to the US is going to solve the world’s problems.

    What you are seeing is the rooster coming home to roost. The US, and Western Europe in general, has marshalling up the resources with gunboat diplomacy, colonialism, and neo-colonialism for the better part of six centuries. Having obtained a kind of temporal apogee, the empire is now in decline. The reconquista is happening right under your nose and it is an affront to all your values.

    But the clearest definition of your view is that you are opposed to unauthorized immigration. In that, you see ecology as the answer. You care nothing for the ecology of the world. You care for the ecology of your pocketbook, your manicured lawn, your gated community, and the life behind your walls that is in rapid decline.

  • Deep Ecology


    Sigh…. Is a cogent, reasonably intelligent reply simply beyond your capability? Like so many of the freshman I see every fall, being overopinionated doesn’t cover up being underprepared. Knowledge is not your enemy.

  • beholder

    Deep Ecology, I will be frank.

    You are so fake you can no longer perceive how fake you really are.

  • Deep Ecology

    The late and great Dr. Garrett Hardin, ecologist, Professor of Human Ecology at UC Santa Barbara, and prolific science and public policy writer, speaks eloquently on the limits imposed by our environment: “The number of people we can have in the US is related to pollution and quality of life. Sprawl is a consequence of overpopulation. We cannot cure a shortage by increasing the supply-not when the population is growing. The only way to cure a shortage is by decreasing the supply. Stabilizing the population is one way of decreasing demand. Other ways are getting people to settle on a lower energy/food diet, etc. The point is: to decrease demand, you have to decrease the number of people demanding or decrease the demand per person. We MUST make every nation that demands sovereignty-and every nation does claim sovereignty-say as the price of that sovereignty, comes responsibility. You are responsible for taking care of your own people. Overpopulation can only be avoided if borders are secure. Otherwise poor and overpopulated nations will export their excess to richer and less populated nations. The myth of the limitless world is but one of the many myths that has grown up in the protective shadow of the insufficiently examined idea of progress”.

  • Deep Ecology

    For Beholder

    Not a nativist, but an academic and writer who specializes in soft science areas of geography and anthropology.

    No fake heartbreak either, man and his dominion over the natural world since the time of the transition from small hunter gatherer groups to sedentary agriculture, has been mining his environment unsustainably. The answer from the right, represented by the globalist/corporate/capitalist/statist is that growth and technological innovation will “grow” us out of our current predicament.

    The answer from the progressive left, is that the unequal distribution of wealth and lack of social justice is the main cause of man’s current predicament, and that if wealth could be more equally distributed, and we dedicated outselves to social justice, empowered women would control their fertility, and newly enfranchised formerly poor/dispossed people would adopt sustainable lifestyles.

    As a scientist, it’s our job to present empirical data to policy makers to help them make informed decisions. When we confuse moral decisions with scientific ones, then the debate ebbs and flows around how we would wish it to be versus recognizing the constraints that nature imposes upon all our actions.

    Deep ecology recognizes the failure of both the left and the right to address our current condition. We reject capitalism and its growth as necessary as unsustainable, and we reject the left’s focus on social justice and urban renewal as ignoring man’s role as part and parcel of nature, existing only within a broader web of life that is interdependent on one another.

    There are nativists and xenophobes who could care less about the environment, but see it as another lever to use in the debate to influence policy. To stereotype all ecologists and scientists howerver as secret racists with a hidden agenda blurs and distorts the debate. Moral handwringing and outrage does nothing to address the very real issues of environmental degradation brought about by too many people competing for finite resources.

  • beholder

    Well Deep Ecology, I sure don’t know about Doctor Blood Diamond as you say. But I do know something about Doctor Hunger. And he’s the one that says people going to migrate to the richest place on earth, collapse or no collapse. So instead of spreading your fake heartbreak here among the shrewd, why don’t you propose changes in US policy that would address the root cause of immigration, that is US corporate greed, rather than try to prop up your nativist agenda with something you think progressives will nibble at because of something you saw on the cover of Mother Jones? Maybe then we have something to talk about. But I don’t like Astroturf. Hell I don’t even like the Astros.

  • beholder

    “Turning the US and Europe into a mirror image of the ghastly environments and unliveable cities of the third world is not social justice, it is social suicide.”
    Deep Ecology said, on July 30th, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Unliveable cities of the third world?

    Why didn’t you tell me that before I spent the better part of my life living in them? Had I known how ghastly it was I never would have lived there so long!!!

    I just crack my sides!!!!

  • Deep Ecology

    For Beholder

    As some of the smartest political thinkers on the planet and highly self-critical, I’d think you’d have a well thought out, reasoned, science based response to those puerile environmental scientists, such as Dr. Diamond, who rank overpopulation and over exploitation of the environment as the primary mover for societal collapse.

    Other than hysterical ranting, no such hard hitting evidence seems to be forthcoming, saving the best for last?

  • beholder

    The latest comments are the most ridiculous screed of astroturf I have seen planted on this site for some time. It’s obvious that blog spies have decided to try to spread anti-immigrant misinformation to an audience here they assume will blindly follow any progressive banner. What they fail to realize is that they are revealing their stereotypes and sincerely think progressives will buy this bullshit simply because they looking at us from the outside and thinking, aha, that will work, let’s try greening them! It’s truly ridiculous and I don’t think this blog — which counts on some heavy hitting intellectuals as frequent commentators and is read by a highly educated audience — will do anything but blow up in their face for trying to manipulate social conscience without understanding that progressives are the smartest of any political thinkers and highly self critical, unlikely to fall for puerile arguments that have nothing to do with what we’re all about and instead reveal the ignorance of anti-progressives who think they can lurk among us with enviro-bait to hook us into believing for a minute that denying human and civil rights to immigrants equates to a better world.

    Go back to the Freeps, creeps.

  • Deep Ecology

    For Cheryl

    Linking concern with harmonizing our place in the ecosphere to bigotry and racism demonstrates either a denial of fundamental laws of science vis a vis their application to our the coming collapse of our resource base or just plain denial of the evidence clearly presented around us of an increasing population dependent on a finite resource base.

    Getting to “know someone” doesn’t in any way address our current crisis, we are mining finite resources in a growth cycle that will have an end, collapse and disaster on a societal scale. Please if your going to intelligently contribute to the discourse on solutions, educate yourself on the how and why societies collapse, start with Jared Diamond’s “Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”. In his analysis of societies that have failed and collapsed, he lists 8 factors:
    1. Deforestation and habitat destruction
    2. Soil problems, erosion, salinization, and fertility loss
    3. Water management and quality
    4. Overhunting
    5. Overfishing
    6. Introduced species and their effect on native flora/fauna
    7. Overpopulation (1 million plus new immigrants a year with very high reproductive rates)
    8. Increased per capita impact of people (immigrants from third world countries earn on average $700 per year, have a lower per capita impact on the environment due to lower resource utilization, come to the US and Europe and within a generation, earn $20k plus, drive multiple cars, use energy at first world rates, use water/food resources at first world rates and maintain third world reproductive rates with offspring doing the same thing mathematically).

    The solution is not for third world inhabitants to adopt wasteful, exploitative first world resource utilization. Its for us to implement a completing new cultural paradigm other than the current globalist/corporate/statist growth model.

    Environmentalism as racism is the newest and most wrongheaded thing I have heard as of late to justify our current human population growth rates. Dr. Jared Diamond, a Jewish intellectual and scientist would probably be surprised to learn his science and analysis of where we are headed is just a cover for his really being a bigot and a Nazi.

  • Terry Daler

    I think the point is that a people – any people – has a blood-tie to the ancestral land, and that comes complete with a duty of care for the land itself. On the other hand, the forces that coerce demographic replacement on peoples of European descent (power elitism, global capitalism and Jewish ethnic activism) do not care about the land at all. They care about global control, for which the dispossession and dissolution of Europeans is a pre-requisite. They are the ultimate racists, and it is anti-European racism, and nothing else, that one encounters with the SPLC.

  • John

    “Mr B.B ’s defense of the white supremacist Tanton reminds one of claims made by groups like Help Save Maryland that they are not a bunch of extremists with ties to hate groups. Selectively naming events from Tanton’s past in order to sanitize him of the stains of white supremacy is intellectually dishonest, and is like saying that Fred Phelps is a christian minister which proves his love for everyone.”

    I can’t understand why the white supremacists wouldn’t encourage immigration from all over the third world. How can you rule over, exploit discriminate against and oppress people if they’re half a world away from you?

  • Fred

    Mr B.B ‘s defense of the white supremacist Tanton reminds one of claims made by groups like Help Save Maryland that they are not a bunch of extremists with ties to hate groups. Selectively naming events from Tanton’s past in order to sanitize him of the stains of white supremacy is intellectually dishonest, and is like saying that Fred Phelps is a christian minister which proves his love for everyone.

  • Cheryl

    It looks like we’ve had more Astro-turf rolled out here than is needed for a few football fields.
    This worrying about immigration screwing up the environment is not a productive way to get anything done except excite the right wing fringe. If you want to fix the environment 1) Cap & Trade-it has created new jobs everywhere else it has been done. 2) Stop using oil for fuel-it needs to be saved for more important things like medical equipment. 3) Use much more solar and wind for electricity-we have companies right here in the US that produce things like solar windows, so no excuses about it looking unsightly. 4) Work on population levels on a global scale-we can start by getting rid of abstinence only sex ed and mandating the comprehensive kind (which has actually been proven to work). Oh yeah, the influence of religion would have to be diminished too since it has a lot to do with people having families that are too big (that includes white people folks) and we need to do more to get people educated-more education= more money, more money, so long as religion’s influence is diminished = fewer children.
    Immigration isn’t the problem. White flight is what causes urban sprawl, so we white folks just need to get over ourselves and learn to live and work together. My mother taught me the 2 most important rules in life 1) people are people no matter what. 2) start with what you have in common and work from there, because people are people no matter what. And my Mama didn’t mean race when she was talking about what “you” have in common-she was talking about all of the needs, hopes, fears, joys, sorrows and concerns-the things that make us human and thereby connect us to one another. So, no more grousing about immigration causing urban sprawl-that really is just plain racist. Anyone who is not willing to take the time to get to know someone just because they are different is either a really big chicken or a bigot.

  • elvisd

    I’m a Neo-Nazi trolling amongst Sierrans? Hmmm, I’m actually a lifetime member who teaches high school, speaks three languages, and spends much of his free time helping immigrant refugee students. But I’m against ILLEGAL immigration, so I must be a Nazi. Thanks for enlightening me on that SPLC.

  • Ralphie

    We live in a truly surreal world when people concerned about the negative environmental impact of immigration fueled population growth are portrayed as evil “nativists”..

    Many of us grew up in the 70’s when it was generally agreed by environmentalists that the US had enough people at 200 million and that we should stabilize population. A lot of us believed this and voluntarily limited our family size so that we wouldn’t add people to an already overpopulated country and world.

    The reality of the real world hasn’t changed since then. More people still require more water, energy, housing, schools, roads, farm land, cars, and a variety of other natural resources and other items. More of all these things mean more drilling, mining, air pollution, dams, development, ,etc. Most of these things have negative environmental impacts.

    While native born Americans have reduced their birth rates to replacement level, we have allowed an increasing number of immigrants into the country – responsible for about 80% of the population growth into the US since 1970.
    We now allow in about 1.5 million immigrants annually into the US – more then all other countries combined.

    It is obvious to just about anyone, that more people in the US results in more environmental impact. And Census figures make it clear that the population growth in the US has been and will continue to be driven by immigration, increasing the US population from 310 million today to around 450 million by 2050.

    The SPLC and the mainstream environmental organization may choose to ignore these facts and pretend that we can still have a healthy environment with plentiful supplies of water, energy, no more sprawl, less air and water pollution, less greenhouse gas emissions, plenty of food for all, abundant habitat for wildlife and plenty of biodiversity – with a skyrocketing population.

    So yes, demonize those terrible nativist environmentalists who still believe that the United States has enough people and that there is a connection between population growth and environmental degradation. Those that merely ask that we reduce immigration from 1.5 million people per year to the pre 1970 levels of 200,000 or so, which will allow the population of the US to stabilize.

    I ask, who really is doing the greenwashing here? Is it environmentalists concerned about immigration fueled population growth or is it the mainstream environmental organizations cowed by the prospect of being called nativists, xenophobes, hate groups, or racist by organizations like the SPLC and others pushing their mass immigration agenda?

  • Deep Ecology

    For Beholder

    So importing more pollution, urban sprawl, congestion, and ecological degradation to the US represents more “social good” than if we keep it limited to third world countries? Is that the story your going to tell your children and grandchildren?

    Turning the US and Europe into a mirror image of the ghastly environments and unliveable cities of the third world is not social justice, it is social suicide.

  • Deep Ecology

    People cynically use any forum they can to push agenda’s, and this example is no different. However, the question has to be asked an answered, can we continue to increase our population, expand infrastructure, add carbon increasing trans/energy, see the desert despoiled by both increasing border patrol activity and human traffic, and it NOT be detrimental to our efforts to harmonize human/environment cohabitation versus exploitation? We have a chance if we can get ahead of the growth/use curve to dramatically effect a turnaround in the global/corporate exploitation of the natural environment, how does millions of immigrants assist this effort?

  • beholder

    Az Enviro, I highly doubt that keeping people in poverty outside our borders (i.e. without basic santiation, habitation, food security or energy security) is going to provide greater social good than a lower carbon footprint.

    I have a feeling that Az Enviro is spreading astroturf.

  • beholder

    Tango4 said, on July 29th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Can you by any chance be speaking of anti-ILLEGAL immigration?

    No. I am speaking of immigration. The White Supremacist groups and immigration restrictionists in general want to see lower levels of all forms of immigration because they fear the loss of their ethnic majority in America. It’s not about who has a visa or not. It’s about people of different ethnicity coming to America at all.

  • AZ_Enviro

    I’m a long time dedicated environmentalist with no tolerance for racism or nativism. My church is one of the plaintiffs with the ACLU anti-SB1070 lawsuit. I’ve organized protests against the “Minutemen” that have invaded the desert I call home. I make substantial donations to many environmental organizations. I don’t want a militarized border, and I don’t want to deport migrant workers.

    But I cannot pretend that immigration is not hard on the environment. To stabilize CO2 at sustainable levels, we will need to either decrease the global per capita rate of consumption or decrease the global population.

    Unfortunately, as poor migrants from the 3rd world assimilate into America, their income rises from less than $750 to more than $20,000 per year, with a corresponding increase in their carbon footprint. This effect is amplified because recent migrants have a much higher birth rate than long time residents of the U.S..

    It’s not easy to reconcile with progressive values, but we can’t afford to postpone the discussion of immigration’s negative impact on the environment any longer.

  • Ed Weston

    I save most of my agueing for posts on Media Matters. They’re welcome to go over there for a good arguement Sam.
    Tongue in cheek there. I’ve found very few rightwingers actually working for a a real dialogue.
    The idea of racist policies somehow merging with envirenmentalism brings forth various images. Some pretty bad.
    Can they refrain for finding this problem is someone else’s fault and calling for serious violence against them?

  • Herbert E. Larson

    I can see it now the American version of Kristalnacht only it ill be the night of the fir shafts. The ultra anti-immigration like the Nazi’s will use anyone or group to fulfill their plans but when they are needed no more they will rid themselves of the defiants.


    I get the impression that more white supremacists comment on these stories, than any one else. This is not a complaint. It is simply an observation and should be taken in to account by any non-nazis that are reading the comments.

  • Tango4

    Can you by any chance be speaking of anti-ILLEGAL immigration?

  • beholder

    The kneejerk issue of immigration is fertile terrain for exploiting simple ignorance and fear.

    This blog has sucessfully linked the White Supremacists to the anti-immigration camp, who are welcomed if not eagerly recruited.

    Clearly however, we need to look at those politicians who stand to gain from this.

    Arizona’s anti-immigrant law has been exposed as the sham that it is: there is no hope of swaying a higher court to reverse yesterday’s district court ruling to enjoin the law on the eve of its implementation.

    And yet, Jan Brewer, who has taken money from White Supremacists to fund her legal defense. and who must know this strange and quixotic law will never stand in the higher courts, continues to urge her followers on.

    I wonder how the people of Arizona will feel about having their public monies squandered as it dawns on them they are being exploited by a power hungry governor who knows damn well there is no chance to win.

    It should become increasingly evident as the legal battle continues that pretending there is a hope of winning is a ruse to build national recognition and, one supposed, to gain higher office on the nativist plank.

    Any fool can see Jan Brewer is using the state’s legal fund as a free campaign chest at the expense of Arizona’s taxpayers.

  • D.S.

    WAKE UP to environmental destruction. The naivete of the SPLC on this matter is extremely disturbing.

    You’re not a communist if you support social security. Your not a racist if you’re concerned about overpopulation–as everyone who cares about the environment should be in our day and age. Six billion, seven billion, eight, . . . .

  • B.B.

    Because such efforts typically have been organized by anti-immigration activists whose leading concern is not the environment — men and women who attempt to recruit conservationists and other “progressives” to their cause, sometimes even while simultaneously working with nakedly anti-environmental forces

    So what? Restricting immigration is either good for the environment or it isn’t. The motivations of so-called “anti-immigration” activists won’t change the effects of immigration laws have on the environment. Co-operating with people who don’t share all your views is part and parcel of the political process, I believe they call it bipartisanship, and it is usually looked upon as a positive quality amongst political leaders.

    Your insinuations that John Tanton’s environmentalist justification for reducing immigration as just a post-hoc rationalization is transparently dishonest. Tanton has a long history as an advocate for environmental protection and population reduction that predates his founding of FAIR. In 1969 he started and chaired the population committee of his local Sierra Club chapter, he was an active member of Zero Population Growth, becoming its president in 1975 and he founded the Northern Michigan chapter of Planned Parenthood. He describes himself as a progressive and a harsh critic of neoclassical economists. His co-operation with right-wing conservatives on the immigration issue is just a matter of political realism.

  • daemonesslisa

    Nativists have latched onto the anti-globalization movement (i.e., World Bank protests) as well.

  • Difluoroethane

    Nattering Nabobs of Nativism.

  • The BarbaryFalcon

    I’m sorry, but I guess the two of the U.S national parks in Arizona becoming a no-go zone to Americans due to being converted into marijuana farms by the Mexican cartels isn’t something that environmentalists have to worry about.