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Examining the "right-wing Green" critique of current-day America (Part Three)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted December 14, 2015

Based on a draft of a presentation for the 2013 Conference of the Polish Association for American Studies (PAAS) (Eating America: Crisis, Sustenance, Sustainability) (Wroclaw, Poland: University of Wroclaw, Department of English Studies), October 23-October 25, 2013. The paper was accepted for publication in The Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 8 (2014), but additional work on the paper, necessary for publication there, was not completed because of unforeseen personal circumstances.

The right-wing Greens are strongly critical of high immigration policies. They stress the totally unprecedented largeness of the immigration numbers today. The proposed so-called comprehensive immigration reform that failed to be passed by the U.S. Congress (and which President Obama has now largely carried out by Executive Order) they call a massive amnesty coupled with an immigration "surge", which they do not hesitate to label as "nation-breaking" in its consequences. They estimate that it will rather quickly bring at least 30 million people into America as citizens (the illegal immigrants and their direct offspring). They also argue that the introduction of mass immigration after the 1960s, has made the titanic effort of integrating American blacks all the more difficult. They also spend a lot of time analyzing the possible consequences of massive population increases on what remains of the American wilderness.

The Sierra Club, one of the leading ecological organizations in America, was not excessively hostile to arguments about restricting immigration in earlier decades. But as a result of a maneuver in the mid-1990s, where they were essentially offered a huge donation (over 100 million dollars) on the expectation that they would stop talking about the immigration issue, they have dropped the subject entirely from their agenda. David Gelbaum, the donor, was quoted as saying: "I did tell Carl Pope in 1994 or 1995 that if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me." (Kenneth R. Weiss. "The Man Behind the Land." Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2004). Carl Pope was an executive of the Sierra Club at that time. Also, various "alternative", "reform" candidates in the Sierra Club executive elections – who said they would be willing to consider immigration matters – have not fared well in recent years.

Unlike much of the U.S. right, right-wing Greens do not hesitate in supporting the continuation of family planning policies in Third World countries, and have not been opposed to the legalization of abortion and contraception in U.S. society.  Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb (1968) is still sometimes cited by them as evocative of fears of out-of-control population growth, especially in regard to the situation in some Third World countries. They certainly take notice of the disparate population growth rates between most of the Western world (with rapidly aging populations), and most of the Third World (where most of population is very young). Insofar as most Western societies are unwilling to maintain important distinctions between citizens and non-citizens, and unwilling to properly secure their borders, the danger may become that virtually the whole world will eventually be characterized by overpopulated urbanized areas with stressed infrastructure and dwindling nature.

What the right-wing Greens have most in common with most Green thought is their well-considered critique of the current-day belief in a "perpetual growth" economy. They argue that "perpetual growth" is in fact a belief -- that cannot be sustained over the long term. They frequently point toward what would be the apocalyptic effect on the environment, of extending the typical U.S. lifestyle across the planet. Extrapolating the possible ecological consequences of a compounding GDP increase (which is largely coterminous with ever-increasing consumption and resource-use patterns) over a period of a few hundred years is frightening. The maintenance of what are (by any historical measure) the comparatively very high living standards of a Western welfare-state can probably only occur with the intensifying despoliation of the natural environment; or with net negative population growth.

The right-wing Greens discuss a lot about various resource shortages (food, water, etc.) and in particular, the so-called peak oil theory. Among the more mainstream works concerned with resource collapse is James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (2006).

The right-wing Greens certainly uphold the notion that persons should live, as far as possible, frugal, economically modest, and abstemious lives. They believe that, even as ever-greater wealth is generated today, American society loses many of its earlier good habits that would allow it to utilize and carefully conserve that wealth toward ensuring a long-term, sustainable existence. They see great waste at most levels of American society, extending from the grotesque lifestyles of many entertainment and sports celebrities, to the very comfortable lives of the managerial corporate and administrative elites, even to the careless resource-use habits of some welfare-recipients.

They argue that, in fact, it happens in practice, that older, lower-middle-class and working-class people live the most abstemious, self-sacrificing, "conservationist" types of existence. It is argued that the so-called "bourgeois bohemians" or "bobo's" (this term coined by prominent commentator David Brooks), who claim to be "progressive" and environmentally-sensitive, usually have far more conspicuous consumption habits. The right-wing Greens are willing to call out those self-described environmentalist activists who actually live lives of great luxury, and in fact consume far more than those in the lower-middle and working-classes, who are today expected to make the environmental sacrifices.

To be continued. ESR

(An earlier version of this essay has appeared at Quarterly Review (UK) (April 22, 2015).)

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.





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