If you are a Republican these days, it is OK to admit that climate change is happening just as long as you put the blame where it belongs — on immigrants! You see, those people breathe and drive around and buy stuff. All that breathing, driving, and buying creates carbon emissions which in turn make the climate crisis worse. The solution is as plain as the nose on your face. Keep those damn immigrants out and everything will be fine!
That is the attitude of many around the world and their voices are getting stronger. In France, Marine Le Pen has promised to remake Europe into “the world’s first ecological civilization.” Le Pen, who is leading in the polls in France and could be that country’s next president, has railed against “nomadic” people who “do not care about the environment” because “they have no homeland.”
Fear of migrants knows no boundaries. In March of 2019, Australian Brenton Tarrant — a self described “eco-fascist” — slaughtered 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand after publishing a 74-page diatribe against immigrants. That rant inspired Patrick Crusius to drive 11 hours to a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where he gunned down 22 people, leaving another 26 injured. He published his own ravings online, saying “The environment is getting worse by the year. Most of y’all are just too stubborn to change your lifestyle. So the next logical step is to decrease the number of people in America using resources. If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable.”
Mark Brnovich, the attorney general of the great state of Arizona, knows a good thing when he sees one. He has embraced the language and spirit of Le Pen, Tarrant, and Crusius in a lawsuit filed recently in federal court designed to force the Biden administration to toughen its stance against immigrants. The suit presents the novel claim that immigrants cause pollution and not stopping them from entering the country violates the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws designed to protect the environment.
“Migrants (like everyone else) need housing, infrastructure, hospitals, and schools. They drive cars, purchase goods, and use public parks and other facilities,” the suit reads. “Their actions also directly result in the release of pollutants, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which directly affects air quality.”
Well, that certainly makes sense, doesn’t it? People exhale carbon dioxide when they breathe and carbon dioxide is the number one reason why the planet is overheating, so it stands to reason that if there were fewer people exhaling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, there would be less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and average global temperatures would go down, right?
John Hultgren, a professor of environmental politics at Bennington College tells the Huffington Post, “As it becomes more and more difficult to deny that climate change is real and human caused, the Republican Party is going to need new strategies, especially if they have any hope of attracting a younger generation. This is a potential strategy. It won’t do anything to help us mitigate or adapt to climate change, but it will give the thin veneer of an appearance that they care about climate change.”
Alexandra Stern, a historian at the University of Michigan, adds “It is shocking to see what was in the El Paso shooter’s manifesto described in more legalistic language in this suit by the Arizona attorney general. It’s leaning in toward eco-fascism.”
Old Whines In New Bottles
So where did these inhuman and inhumane ideas come from? Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review last year, Betsy Hartmann, a researcher at Hampshire College, identified the Tanton Network as one of the primary sources of such hateful ideas. John Tanton was an ophthalmologist from Michigan who believed “the root cause of environmental destruction is overpopulation by the wrong sorts of people,” and that “to protect both nature and the nation, one must preserve white supremacy by keeping immigrants out.” Although he died in 2019, his ideas live on in the network he founded. Betsy Hartmann says the Arizona lawsuit is in line with the beliefs of the Tanton network. “This is a blatant first act on the national stage of this legal strategy.”
The Center for Immigration Studies, which Tanton founded in 1985, agrees. It calls the lawsuit “an important stand for the American environment. Arizona is the first state to sue, but we can hope that it will not be the last,” wrote Julie Axelrod, the group’s litigation director and a former adviser to the EPA during the prior administration. “The environmental consequences of immigration have never been more apparent,” she says.
Axelrod first introduced the immigrant as climate threat strategy in a 2016 lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security, which she accused of violating “our nation’s preeminent environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act, by completely failing to perform environmental analysis of its legal immigration and amnesty policies, which have directly led to the entrance and permanent settlement of tens of millions of foreign nationals to the United States.”
What The Science Actually Says
As is typical of these right wing crazies, the science does not support their extreme positions. A 2011 study published in the journal Population Research and Policy Review analyzed federal pollution data in 183 different metropolitan areas and determined “that immigration does not contribute to local air pollution levels across any of the seven pollution measures examined.” A 2019 study in the Social Science Journal compared air quality data in counties populated by immigrants and native born citizens in a series of models and found “that native population is strongly associated with worse air quality, while foreign born population is associated with better air quality.”
A study published in the journal Population and Environment in January of this year looked at state data from 1997 to 2014 and concluded that “immigration may indeed yield environmental benefits and that environmental quality may represent an important factor or amenity influencing immigration flows.”
Ignorance Rampant On A Field Of Stupidity
During a recent appearance on Fox & Friends, attorney general Brnovich said he was simply using the same flexibly interpreted law “the left always uses to stop highway projects and airport reconstruction. We are saying that by stopping the wall construction, they’re violating NEPA because it’s allowing more and more people to come into this country — migrants — and that’s having a devastating impact on our environment. It’s also impacting the increased population, which will have all sorts of impacts down the road.” Deftness with the English language is not Brnovich’s strong suit.
Alexandra Stern of the University of Michigan sums the lawsuit up this way: “It’s not clear where this is going, but ultimately rhetoric that identifies certain groups of people as pollutants is dehumanizing, and dehumanization is a key component and often the first step toward greater violence toward those groups.”
Climate & Immigration
Climate change is already wreaking havoc on Central America. Powerful hurricanes coupled with widespread drought conditions have wiped out many farmers in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, resulting in a flow of migrants to the US southern border. The World Bank in 2018 projected that between 1.4 million and 2.1 million people in Central America and Mexico will be displaced from their homes by 2050 because of the ravages of a warming planet. That estimate is likely to be much too low.
Perhaps the eco-fascists, fueled by anti-immigrant hysteria, could enlist the help of the Air Force to strafe the bedraggled processions flowing north. The Navy could use its nuclear powered submarines to blow any small craft attempting to reach San Diego from the south out of the water. The vaunted border wall between Mexico and the US could be electrified with enough volts to turn anyone who tries to climb it into a quivering mass of human barbecue. That would teach those sub-human immigrants a lesson they will never forget!
How ironic is it that Mark Brnovich is the son of a single mother who fled Serbia to escape the scourge of communism, yet he has nothing but loathing for others in similar circumstances? He even identifies himself as a Christian who is a member of the Serbian Orthodox religion.
One thing is for certain. The views of the eco-fascists have everything to do with preserving white privilege and nothing to do with addressing climate change. This is all a cynical ploy designed to hang on to political power. If the world is to be populated with humans who loathe other humans, perhaps civilization is not worth preserving and we should just let the Earth overheat to the point where humans can no longer survive? Whatever species that supersedes us has got to be an improvement.
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