Anglosphere Triangle – Immigration – Environment – Population Growth – Radical Right Libertarians

While the fossil fuel supported ZPG Zero Population Growth, with Malthusian and eugenics based arguments round the environment, population growth and immigration being mainstreamed, especially by the time of Trump, who were the prime movers of the past?

The following article and excerpts of Berger, looking through Focauldian prism, follows some of the history of this movement including now deceased John Tanton (‘the most influential unknown man in America’), Paul Ehrlich (The Population Bomb) et al. and organisations that emerged from ZPG including FAIR, CIS, US English, then IRLI and SLLI with their links to the Koch Network ‘bill mill’ ALEC, leading up to the Trump White House.

In addition to the broad and deep research in the article, due to a US focus, hence, missing Population Matters and Migration Watch in the UK and Sustainable Population Australia; all can be linked to ZPG, Ehrlich and Tanton; also used politically to attract or confuse centre left voters while delaying environmental constraints for fossil fuels.

Click through to read the full article including references.

Triangulation of Environmentalism, Population Growth, and Immigration in the U.S

Susan A. Berger in the Review of History and Political Science December 2016, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 1-17


This paper reconstructs the political and discursive formation that triangulated environmentalism, population control and immigration into a troubling Foucauldian knowledge-based discourse relying on nativism, racism, and misogyny. The phenomenon of the Donald J. Trump 2016 presidential candidacy has placed this narrative formation, and its accompanying biopolitics, center stage in American politics, but its immediate roots can be traced to the manipulation of fears over resource scarcity and population growth starting in the 1960s. As a result, John Tanton created a tight-knit group of organizations that intertwined philosophically and organizationally and depended on a biopolitics and a foundational narrative that looks to control the bodies of immigrant women. It is this movement that the Trump candidacy and discourse continue to depend upon today.

Political pundits identify the groundwork of Trump’s license as having been established by decades of “dog whistling” by the Republican Party and its Tea Party base in response to globalization’s dislocations and inequality along with the still operative and deeply institutionalized practices of white supremacy–in housing, employment, education, incarceration, and the economy.

One portion of this discursive genealogy can be traced through today’s movement in the United States to restrict immigration. It has its roots in a conservative environmentalism that explains environmental damage primarily as the result of over-population.  This often overlooked fact is important to remember because it signals a singular example of the development of a spurious knowledge-base constructed with an almost text-book-like precision along the lines of Foucauldian discursive formations.

His stand on immigration which is at the foundation of his thinking about “Making America Great Again,” can be traced in part to a branch of the environmentalist movement’s modern incarnation, which began with the publication of Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb by the Sierra Club in 1968.The book served as a rallying cry for conservationists who believed that if population was not rapidly reduced, the U.S. and world should expect environmental devastation, and as a result, rising insecurity and chaos. Along with too robust domestic birth rates, immigration was seen as another destabilize of the population balance. 

Background Preamble

The Contexts of the Tanton Factor After the publication of Erlich’s The Population Bomb Sierra Club members and other environmentally conscious individuals joined Ehrlich’s organization Zero Population Growth and also became active in Planned Parenthood. They worked to make contraception more available for women and encouraged Americans to rethink the timing, spacing, and numbers of pregnancies and children. Even before the publication of The Population Bomb, however, birth rates in the United States had begun to decrease…..  The dismantling of national origins quotas with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, not only opened the U.S. more fully to immigration from non-European countries, but it also ended a period of relatively low immigration that had begun in 1924(Gutiérrez 22).

After 1965, immigration from Mexico and other parts of Latin America increased, as did migrants from Asia and Africa, raising alarm from a growing number of immigration destructionists.  Wayne Lutton’s comments were not atypical in criticizing the 1965 immigration reforms for “result[ing] in a flood of Third World immigration, both legal and illegal. Today between 85 and 90 percent of legal immigration comes from the Third World. Those who cannot enter legally come in outside the law, reflecting the indisputable Third World disdain for the rule of law”.  While “Third World” immigrants were in general derided, it was immigrants from Latin America and especially those from Mexico that were labeled the most numerous and undesirable, becoming the face of the illegal for the growing restrictionist movement. Paul Ehrlich and his co-authors began their 1979 book, The Golden Door: International Migration, with words that capture well the growing preoccupation with the role Mexican immigration was perceived to be playing in leading to a crisis.

While the restrictions movement is by no means united, groups arising from the organizations established by John Tanton have in particular continually linked environmental devastation and resource burden to over population caused by immigration from developing nations. John Tanton, an ophthalmologist and conservationist in a small town in northern Michigan, was inspired by The Population Bomb, and ultimately helped to form and/or fund several of the founding organizations of the current restrictions movement including the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Immigration Reform Law Institute, Numbers USA, Pro-English, Project USA, The Social Contract Press, U.S. English, U.S. Immigration Reform PAC (USIRPAC), and US Inc. 

These organizations, along with other restrictionist organizations, support securing/closing the borders and increased deportations, and are against any immigration reform that would regularize immigrants currently in the U.S. But unlike some of their allies in Tea Party circles, groups that sprang up from the Tanton organizations also support family planning and women’s easy accessibility to contraception, abortion, and sterilization. The ways in which they have linked reducing population, immigration, and the fertility of immigrant and poor women, have led to criticisms of racism and nativism (Southern Poverty Law Center 2002).

The Strange Bedfellows of Environment, Population, and Immigration 

“Do I think our side will ultimately be successful? I, of course, don’t know – many other civilizations have gone through periods of decline. But at least we want to make the ennobling effort of trying to pull back from the brink. I hope you will join us in this.” John Tanton, Social Contract Journal 6:1(Fall 1995), 240 John Tanton has been key in building the institutional foundations of the current restrictionist movement. His importance to the movement lies in the number and strength of organizations he has helped to found, the many ways in which the organizations intertwine and support each other, and the success that his organizations have had in writing and successfully lobbying for altconservative legislation in the United States.

…..he and his wife helped in 1965 to found the Northern Michigan Planned Parenthood Federation and Tanton became the chairman of the Great Lakes Public Affairs Committee of Planned Parenthood.  After the publication of The Population Bomb in 1968, Tanton encouraged environmental organizations that he was involved in to adopt policies against population growth, becoming the chairman of the Sierra Club’s National Population Committee from 1969-1975.  He also joined Zero Population Growth (ZPG), an activist organization begun by Paul Ehrlich pressuring for a severe reduction in fertility to ward off impending environmental and food production disasters. By 1973, Tanton had become a member of ZPG’s National Executive Committee and from 1975-1977 served as the organization’s president. 

A full-time staffer was hired in 1977 by ZPG to focus on immigration restriction and the organization took a leading role in pressuring the government to pass reforms to drastically cut immigration. In a 1977 fundraising letter for ZPG, Paul Ehrlich praised the organization for helping to reduce the size of American families but called on activists to turn their focus to the next crisis. “Thanks in no small measure to ZPG’s educational efforts, America’s attitudes about family size began to change. The fertility rate has dropped and we have made important strides toward stabilizing our growth except for the massive hemorrhage of illegal aliens— which in 1976 account for an astonishing one-third of our population growth”. Thus for ZPG leaders, immigrants had become the key source of continued population growth in the United States. 

John Tanton and others in ZPG also pushed environmental organizations to take up the call to restrict immigration….. According to Elena Gutiérrez, the ZPG board realized that the organization could not be the forum for the advancement of national immigration reform and in the spring 1978 approved a proposal by Tanton to start a new organization whose primary goal would be to halt illegal and dramatically limit legal immigration. With this, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) was born and John Tanton started on his journey of building an organizational network of restrictionist groups. FAIR was the first building block of the current restrictionist movement. 

From the start, FAIR was an autonomous organization even though Tanton obtained start-up funds from ZPG. Tanton served as chairman of FAIR from 1979-1987, and continues today on the board of directors….. Dan Stein, earlier the executive director of the FAIR affiliate Immigration Reform Law Institute, has been president of FAIR since 1988. Today FAIR is one of the major players in the restrictionist movement.

After the formation of FAIR, John Tanton helped to build a fairly extensive network of related organizations. Their mutual self-authorization and its growing density are startlingly illustrative of the Foucauldian power/knowledge nexus. The organizations support each other philosophically, each tends to address a specific aspect of the larger narrative for restricting immigration, and key figures in the movement hold positions on a number of the organizations either simultaneously or consecutively. 

In 1982, Tanton founded U.S., Inc. as the fund-raising and charitable arm of his projects. The next year he joined with Senator Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa to start U.S. English to lobby against bilingual education and for the adoption of English as the official language. Over the next six years, states began to consider English-Only bills at least in part due to pressure from U.S. English. During the English-Only campaign in Arizona however, a memo written by Tanton to those who had attended his WITAN IV conference in 1986 was leaked to the press.  Causing a scandal that ultimately required Tanton to leave the organization.

Between 1985-1996, Tanton helped start four additional restrictionist groups that are pivotal to the advocacy network. In 1985, he and FAIR founded the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) as the independent research arm of the restrictionist movement. Like FAIR, CIS today has a high profile in Washington, D.C. Its primary goal is to produce and publish studies that provide data and support for arguments to restrict immigration. ….. CIS also holds conferences with the likes of Breitbart News and others on the alt-right, its leaders testify on Capitol Hill, and CIS directors are regularly interviewed on television and in the press. In 1989, Tanton and FAIR created the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), as the legal arm of FAIR to work with lawmakers to draft restrictionist legislation.

In a parallel round of an equally material discursive formation, in1990, Tanton established the Social Contract Press to publish a quarterly journal, The Social Contract, and to print other books and pamphlets in support of the cause. He remains at the helm of the press with Wayne Lutton, criticized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as having connections to racist organizations, as the editor of the journal. The press and journal have raised more than a few eyebrows with their publication choices including the reissuing of Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints and incendiary articles against Mexicans, immigrant women and of late Muslims. 

In 1996, Roy Beck, a former Washington editor of The Social Contract, founded Numbers USA with financial help from and initially under the guidance of Tanton’s U.S., Inc. Today, Numbers USA is independent of U.S., Inc. but shares office space with Pro English. The organization makes an economic argument against immigrants, maintaining that immigrants take American jobs and particularly the jobs of African American men. It has called for rethinking the U.S. policy of birth citizenship and consistently uses arguments that subtly drive an ethnic wedge into the working class.

The Social Contract Press also organizes a yearly Writer’s Workshop and invites promising young activists. Many supporters of the alt-right like Kris Kobach and Jason Richwine (of Heritage Foundation) have passed through the Workshop.  Organizational representatives also speak on university campuses and at a wide array of academic conferences to make connections with youth and social scientists. In addition, movement leaders have an extensive presence in the media and are often interviewed on national and local television and radio programs. Finally, restrictionist organizations appeal to the next generation—as well as their current supporters—with well-planned and executed paid media campaigns. 

QS: Reduce Births in Developing Nations=Reduced Immigration: 

Eugenics by any other Name.”I have no faith that this method would go forward without Dr. Kessel and me… We have made it live.”Stephen Mumford to Marie McCullough (Philadelphia Inquirer 2/28/2000). Along with the establishment of a politically powerful though dubious knowledge-base, the constellation of movements described above is also, inevitably, operational in exercising what Foucault termed bio power: the management and control of bodies.


The Narrative That Just Won’t End Today, Donald Trump’santi-immigration narrative and his movement “To Take America Back” resonate with the arguments made by John Tanton and other restriction it is starting in the 1970s. They argued then and now that population growth–led by immigrants from the global south–threatened American exceptionalism and were destroying American core values. According to Tanton, the solution is the management and control of immigrant bodies—physically excluding immigrants from the United States and reducing the birthrates of poor women from developing nations. 

Today, not so dissimilarly, presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump wants to build the wall to keep immigrants out and expel all so-called “illegals,” but he also supports Planned Parenthood and birth control, while excoriating “illegal aliens” giving birth to “anchor babies” on U.S. soil. The knowledge base and its narrative formations built by the Tanton network rely on the triggering of old narratives of fear of foreigners, class biases, misogyny, and American exceptionalism. In doing so, the network built up a knowledge base that blames immigrant bodies for threatening resources, jobs, culture, and the very “greatness” of the United States. The Trump campaign has been able to tap into these discourses, and their related organizational networks, to build support for his presidential bid. Ultimately, the restrictionist narrative tells a binary tale, one side (“us”) is moral and “great” and the other side (“them”) is composed of rapists, drug dealers, and criminals.


As we have seen, the philosophical basis of the restrictionist argument that blames population expansion–rather than socioeconomic structures—for environmental devastation, quite easily sets the stage for narratives that flirt, if not outright flaunt, nativist and racist ideologies, mobilizing a group of Americans dissatisfied with developments of the post-civil rights movement.

For more blogs and article about climate change, conservative, demography, environment, immigration, limits to growth, political strategy, population growth, populist politics, radical right libertarian and white nationalism   click through.

1 thought on “Anglosphere Triangle – Immigration – Environment – Population Growth – Radical Right Libertarians

  1. Pingback: Dumbing Down and Gaming of Anglosphere Media, Science, Society and Democracy | Education Training Society

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