Our VoiceImmigration

Oil Spill Brings Out Best & Worst of Environmental Groups

Rebecca Poswolsky • May 07, 2010

An environmental disaster hit the Gulf coast on April 20, after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.  With 210,000 gallons of oil seeping into the Gulf of Mexico each day, the damage will be catastrophic. Thousands of birds, fish and shrimp have been removed, covered in oil. New Orleans can already smell the aftermath.  The Gulf can’t seem to catch a break with oil fumes choking its atmosphere. We are facing clean-ups, displaced communities, and families uprooted from their homes.

Disasters like these throw into stark relief the twisted analysis of anti-immigrant organizations like Negative Population Growth (NPG), a group that regularly blames environmental degradation on immigrants and people of color.

The real culprit to blame for the Gulf coast disaster is British Petroleum (BP).

NPG, financially supported by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), conveniently ignores blatant causes of environmental disasters (corporations) by producing data that unfairly blames those who are often the most severely impacted.

An example of this tactic is the recent paper published by NPG about the tragic earthquake in Haiti and the ravaged country’s population. In discussing plans to aid in Haiti’s reconstruction, the author states, “Haiti can never be self-sustaining without a huge reduction in population.”

Any discussion of “huge reduction in population” should raise red flags. How exactly is such a huge reduction achieved?

Legitimate organizations may talk of family planning to help improve the quality of life for residents in poor countries, but this is a completely different conversation from “huge” population reductions. It’s coded and dangerous rhetoric that is also employed by many other anti-immigrant groups that are more concerned with the number and racial composition of refugees, asylum-seekers, and immigrants coming into the US.

Groups like Negative Population Growth have one interest in the environment: to arouse an anti-immigrant base that attacks people of color through climate change, access to resources and destruction of our ecosystems. The group says as much on its website: “Only with a much smaller population can we protect our fragile ecosystems, conserve our finite resources, and ensure that future generations will inherit a clean and healthy environment where all Americans can enjoy a quality standard of living.”

Really, “only with a much smaller population can we protect our fragile ecosystems?” Call me crazy, but I think there might be a few other environmental threats to pay attention to.

If Negative Population Growth had a concern for the ecosystems affected by oil spills or other disasters, it would be holding companies like BP accountable. If an organization devotes itself to issues around preserving resources, one would think it would at least mention the disaster on its website, right? The only recent mention of “oil” on its website is promoting an article about oil supply shortages.

The spill is “really a river of oil flowing out of the bottom of the Gulf,” according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. While oil rapidly spreads into our water, creeps into the blood streams of our crucial fisheries and eventually to our shore line it is clear that the parties responsible for this have to do with a pattern of inefficient accountability measures.

Christian rightly points out in solidarity-us.org that “For those who live in South Louisiana and are flooded every time a major hurricane comes, sometimes every few years, it means a losing battle to hold on to land, community and ultimately culture. The oil companies have never been held accountable for their role in this other, slower disaster.”

The environmental movement is desperately scrambling to clean-up this mess, save fragile ecosystems and support communities. Why isn’t NPG?

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