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Border Walls Gone Green

Nature and Anti-immigrant Politics in America

2015
Author:

John Hultgren

Border Walls Gone Green

Why anti-immigration environmentalists need to reconsider their motives

Border Walls Gone Green examines American debates over the environmental impacts of immigration, making the case that nature is increasingly deployed to subtly fortify territorial boundaries. John Hultgren finds that the well-intentioned efforts of environmentalists to “sustain” America are in fact reinforcing exclusionary forms of political community.

Strong, provocative, and insightful. . . John Hultgren advances the field theoretically through his critique and integration of competing perspectives on sovereignty in environmental politics.

John M. Meyer, author of Engaging the Everyday: Environmental Social Criticism and the Resonance Dilemma

How is it that self-identified environmental progressives in America can oppose liberalizing immigration policies? Environmentalism is generally assumed to be a commitment of the political left and restrictionism a commitment of the right. As John Hultgren shows, the reality is significantly more complicated. American environmentalists have supported immigration restrictions since the movement first began in the late 1800s, and anti-immigration arguments continue to attract vocal adherents among contemporary mainstream and radical “greens.”

Border Walls Gone Green seeks to explain these seemingly paradoxical commitments by examining what is actually going on in American debates over the environmental impacts of immigration. It makes the case that nature is increasingly being deployed as a form of “walling”—which enables restrictionists to subtly fortify territorial boundaries and identities without having to revert to cultural and racial logics that are unpalatable to the political left. From an environmental point of view, the location of borders makes little sense; the Mexican landscape near most border crossings looks exactly like the landscape on the American side. And the belief that immigrants are somehow using up the nation’s natural resources and thereby accelerating the degradation of the environment simply does not hold up to scrutiny. So, Hultgren finds, the well-intentioned efforts of environmentalists to “sustain” America are also sustaining the idea of the nation-state and in fact serving to reinforce exclusionary forms of political community.

How, then, should socially conscious environmentalists proceed? Hultgren demonstrates that close attention to the realities of transnational migration can lead to a different brand of socio-ecological activism—one that could be our only chance to effectively confront the powerful forces producing ecological devastation and social injustice.

Border Walls Gone Green

John Hultgren is a lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University.

Border Walls Gone Green

Strong, provocative, and insightful. . . John Hultgren advances the field theoretically through his critique and integration of competing perspectives on sovereignty in environmental politics.

John M. Meyer, author of Engaging the Everyday: Environmental Social Criticism and the Resonance Dilemma

The premise is interesting, and the book is well researched and written.

CHOICE

Highly recommended. Border Walls Gone Green deserves to be read and appreciated.

Environmental History

Raises stimulating and provocative questions about the links between nature and sovereignty, prompting the reader to think anew about the racialized logics and histories of American environmentalism. It provides us with intellectual resources to resist the post-election normalization of fascist, white-nationalist Trump and his restrictionist allies and nurtures our political imaginations to envision futures free from colonial, racial, and economic violences.

New Political Science, Anatoli Igantov

Border Walls Gone Green makes several important contributions to the literatures on sovereignty and environmentalism. It is based on careful research on several manifestations of environmental restrictionism, which has influenced immigration policies in the United States and which could shape future social organizing and public policy.

Perspectives on Politics, Maiah Jaskoski

This highly recommended book focuses on the nature of building US-Mexican border walls, the racism that has accompanied such policies, and the anti-immigration fervor that has followed within some environmental organizations. The term that John Hultgren relies on to discuss this issue is “environmental restrictionism,” and he discusses its efficacy very well in Border Walls Gone Green.

Environmental History, Sterling Evans

A valuable contribution to our understanding of the politics surrounding immigration, environmentalism, sovereignty, and their inter- section.

Perspective on Politics

Raises stimulating and provocative questions about the links between nature and sovereignty, prompting the reader to think anew about the racialized logics and histories of American environmentalism.

New Political Science

Border Walls Gone Green

Contents

Abbreviations
Introduction: Earth Day Exclusions
1. We Have Always Been Restrictionists
2. Naturalizing Nativism
3. The Challenge of Eco-Communitarian Restrictionism
4. Responding to Restrictionism
5. Toward an Environmental Political Theory of Migration
Conclusion: Tear Down Those Walls
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index