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The Weird Intersection Between Environmentalism and Anti-Immigrant Politics


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At Public Books, environmental humanities scholar Christopher Schaberg revisits a 2015 book that was startlingly prescient about the strange politics of the Trump era: Border Walls Gone Green: Nature and Anti-immigrant Politics in America by John Hultgren. The book explores how certain visions of “nature” and “wilderness” in US history and culture have been surprisingly compatible with right-wing closed-border politics. Today, notes Schaberg, when immigration and environmental concerns are both in the headlines, this strange political alliance is more prominent than ever. Here’s an excerpt:

Hultgren’s book is broadly about the subtle maneuvers that come to align certain pro-environment philosophies with anti-immigration groups. In short, Border Walls Gone Green shows how left- and right-leaning political positions commingle and converge at this awkward (and often obscured) juncture. It can sound deceptively like common sense to argue for immigration control on the basis of lower impact on the land and less demand on natural resources; however, these premises and correlations turn out to be far more nuanced—and even plain wrong, in most cases.

Drawing from on-the-ground case studies, political ads, ideas of wilderness, popular articles, and personally conducted interviews, Hultgren methodically develops an inquiry that is at once theoretically nimble and narratively gripping. For readers interested in migration, borders, political theory, and ecology, Hultgren’s analysis serves as an incisive, careful model for how to untangle the disparate and unexpected threads that are so often knotted around these topics.

Image via Public Books.