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An earlier version of this article was included in the NELLCO Legal Scholarship Repository, Roger Williams University School of Law Faculty Papers: Goldstein, Jared A., "Aliens in the Garden" (2008). Roger Williams University School of Law Faculty Papers. Paper 18.


This Article examines environmental rhetoric and argues that a nationalist conception of nature has long distorted environmental policies. Environmental discourse frequently seeks to explain the natural world by reference to the world of nations, a phenomenon that can be characterized as the “nationalization of nature.” A contemporary example of the nationalization of nature is the rhetoric of “invasive species,” which depicts harmful foreign plants and animals in ways that bear an uncanny resemblance to the demonization of foreigners by opponents of immigration. A typical newspaper article about invasive species, bearing the headline “Eeeeek! The eels are coming!,” warned about an influx of “Asian swamp eels” and described them as “slimy, beady-eyed immigrants.” The nationalization of nature is a longstanding trope in American environmental discourse, as policies toward native and foreign plants and animals have long served as surrogates for addressing questions of national identity. Conceiving of environmental problems through the lens of nationalism, however, distorts environmental policies by projecting onto nature unrelated anxieties about national security and national identity.