The Greening of Hate

| March 31, 2003

Betsy Hartmann has been fighting against population control programs for 20 years from a feminist, pro-choice perspective, and hard-line conservatives disguised as environmentalist do-gooders have proven to be some of her most formidable enemies. ?I find that even well-educated and well-meaning acquaintances have alarming responses on population issues,? Hartmann, a feminist scholar, tells New Scientist magazine. ?They believe the poor create their own problems by breeding, and it absolves the rest of us from responsibility.? It?s no wonder that even self-described humanitarians have been duped into this line of thinking when you consider the sources of misinformation. Even the Sierra Club hosted a group that was trying to redirect the organization?s agenda toward immigration restriction and population reduction.

This brand of right-wing environmentalism is used to explain the relationship between population and resources both at home and abroad. Some leading environmentalists blamed the ?94 genocide in Rwanda on population density, land shortages, and poverty. ?The massacres started where population pressure was least. It was about state-instigated racism, not environmental degradation,? says Hartmann. ?It?s not that population is always irrelevant, it just gets overemphasized.? While some environmentalists like Virginia Abernethy of the Carrying Capacity Network have been lauded by many for their assertion that immigrants are to blame for overpopulating our country and destroying the environment, Hartmann derides their arguments as racist. The poor are not so much to blame as the government policies that rule their lives. Hartmann is especially worried about foundations that fund studies that try to link population and environmental issues to national security. ?This seemed like a dangerous mix,? says Hartmann, ?especially when it got tied up with the growing anti-immigrant movement in the U.S., and maybe now in Europe, too.?
?Nick Garafola

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