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New Report Exposes Nativists, Environmentalism & the Hypocrisy of Hate


Stephen Piggott • Jul 27, 2010

greenwashThe Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a new report today titled, Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism & the Hypocrisy of Hate.

The report details decades-old attempts by anti-immigrant groups - all part of the John Tanton Network - to lure environmentalists and environmental groups into adopting their anti-immigrant agenda.

The SPLC report comes less than a week after a report released by the Center for New Community showed how anti-immigrant forces have corrupted the dialogue on population and the environment, called Apply The Brakes: Anti-immigrant Co-optation of the Environmental Movement.

At the heart of both reports is the Tanton Network and its efforts to avoid accusations of racism by cloaking its anti-immigrant agenda in environmental groups that are deemed “progressive.” This strategy was instigated by John Tanton, a Michigan ophthalmologist who is widely considered to be the founder of the modern-day anti-immigrant movement. Tanton believed that once his organizations and individuals under his guidance were imbedded into progressive organizations like the Sierra Club, they could implement an anti-immigrant agenda without coming under attack.

Eric Ward of the Center for New Community told reporters today, “Racist and nativist arguments that blame immigrants for population problems should be rejected by environmental activists.”

SPLC’s in-depth and eye-opening report exposes the Tanton Network’s attempt to “greenwash” environmentalists, citing irrefutable evidence such as the Tanton Network’s attempt to take over the board of the Sierra Club and the creation of its “progressive” front group, Progressives for Immigration Reform. Heidi Beirich, the report’s author, uses the following example to describe the tactic of greenwashing:

Roy Beck is part of a sweeping, renewed attempt by immigration restrictionists in America 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.”

Roy Beck, referred to in the previous quote, is the founder and president of NumbersUSA, the grassroots organizing arm of the Tanton Network. Beck spoke at the 1997 Council of Conservative Citizens National Conference. The CofCC is a white supremacist organization derived from the old White Citizens Council of the 1950s.

Besides looking at the nativists who are attempting to greenwash environmentalists, the report also looks at the major foundations that are funding the greenwashers. Foundations such as Weeden and Colcom have been funding hate for years and many of them have strong ties to the Tanton Network. Don Weeden, of the Weeden Foundation sits on the board of Tanton group NumbersUSA, while his father Allen Weeden sits on the board of FAIR.

Beirich describes the Colcom Foundation as “a $400-million-plus entity founded in 1996 by Cordelia Scaife May of the far-right Scaife family. May is a close friend and long-time funder of John Tanton…And Colcom’s vice president is John Rohe, who worked for years at Tanton’s U.S. Inc. foundation and once wrote a fawning biography of Tanton and his wife. In 2008, Colcom gave four groups started by Tanton — FAIR, U.S. Inc., the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA — a total of nearly $8.5 million, part of it earmarked for work on the “impact of immigration” on the environment. In 2009, according to Colcom’s website, it also supported the newly established Progressives for Immigration Reform, now the leading greenwashing organization in the country.”

As long as the members of Tanton Network continue to espouse anti-immigrant rhetoric and continue to be friendly with white nationalists, civil rights organizations will continue to expose them for what they are. Environmentalists must stand up and reject all attempts by the Tanton Network to “greenwash” the environmental movement.

Mark Potok, editor of the report echoed this belief in a conference call introducing the report stating, “Real environmentalists out there need to understand who these people are and what they’re up to.”

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