Anti-immigrant faction divides Sierra Club

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The oldest and largest environmental organization in the U.S., the Sierra Club, is at serious risk of takeover by anti-immigrant forces who view control of the border as the key to stopping ecological degradation.

In a field of contenders running for open seats on the organization’s governing board, five candidates are being promoted by eco-activist Paul Watson. All five are big proponents of “population control.” If at least three of them win, they will constitute a new majority on the board, joining Watson and a couple of like-minded colleagues already there.

And, if they gain control of the board, the anti-immigrant advocates will also gain control over the Sierra Club’s $95 million treasury, and will wield immense power in setting the group’s priorities.

Clearly, Sierra Club members would do well to check out Watson and his cohorts in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society before they cast their votes. Watson made his big splash on the Pacific Northwest scene in the fall of 1998, when the Makah Indians in Neah Bay, Washington were trying to exercise their sovereign treaty rights by hunting a whale for the first time in 70 years.

Watson whipped up a racist campaign against the Makahs, essentially scapegoating them for the whales’ tragic decline. With the support of 300 environmental and animal rights groups, Watson and the Sea Shepherd group spearheaded a malicious and dangerous war on the water, taunting and harassing Makah whalers, to thwart the hunt. Watson also allied with Jack Metcalf, a local rightwing politician notorious for his opposition to environmental protections and Native treaty rights.

The Freedom Socialist covered the fray. We pointed out that the claiming of gray whales by the Makahs has absolutely nothing in common with the fouling or overfishing of our world’s oceans by corporations like Exxon — and it behooves those who think of themselves as environmentalists to learn the difference.

The same holds true today. Immigrants, many of whom are forced to flee their homelands because of ecological devastation wrought by U.S. multinationals, are not to blame for U.S. environmental woes.

The health of the environmental movement depends on eco-activists being able to identify who does and does not deserve responsibility for the ill-health of the planet. In the elections for governing board, the Sierra Club’s 60,000 members have a great opportunity to send a loud message about this essential question — by giving Watson’s anti-immigrant buddies the boot.

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