Eco-fascism: The greenwashing of the far right | Environment | All topics from climate change to conservation | DW

At least three far-right massacres in recent years have allegedly been perpetrated by people who identify as eco-fascists.

The accused murderer of 10 black people at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket on Saturday intertwined anti-Semitic conspiracy theories with a form of natural conservation. In a 180-page racist rant, the 18-year-old linked mass migration to the degradation of the natural environment as justification for the murder.

The alleged perpetrator appears to share many of the views of the young men who in 2019 carried out racist massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Christchurch, New Zealand. Indeed, the alleged Buffalo killer appears to have copied large sections of his Christchurch killer cope.

The Christchurch killer, who shot 51 people at two mosques, described himself as an “ethno-nationalist eco-fascist” and called for “ethnic autonomy” as well as “the preservation of nature and the natural order”. In his rant, the Australian linked climate change to non-European overpopulation, which is one of the central ideas of ecofascism.

The Buffalo shooter appears to have plagiarized passages from the Christchurch killer’s screed

What is an eco-fascist?

“The simplest definition would be (someone with) a fascist politics or a fascist worldview that invokes environmental concerns or environmental rhetoric to justify the hateful and extreme elements of their ideology,” Cassidy Thomas told DW.

Thomas is a doctoral candidate at Syracuse University in upstate New York and studies the intersection of right-wing extremism with environmental politics.

Thomas says regular fascists are populist ultranationalists who invoke a narrative of civilizational crisis, decline and rebirth along cultural and nationalist lines. Eco-fascists see climate change or ecological disruption as the civilizational threat within this equation.

Eco-fascists are bound by racist theories and believe that degradation of the natural environment leads to degradation of their culture and people, Thomas added.

They are often radicalized online, as the latest alleged shooter claims, and many believe that white people, as well as the environment, are threatened by non-white overpopulation. They often call for a halt to immigration or the eradication of non-white populations.

“What they envision is the dissolution of mixed liberal democratic states or these very liberal, pluralistic democratic states, and the replacement of that political formation with smaller, ethnically defined and ecological states,” Thomas said.

Their overly simplistic theories ignore the complex realities of climate change and ecological damage, and ignore the fact that the global North is responsible for most of the emissions that have caused global warming, for example.

Why are people attracted to eco-fascism?

Far-right ideologies such as eco-fascism appeal to young people who have grown up with climate change but find that governments have failed to properly address the crisis.

“Unfortunately, as climate change has gotten worse over the past 30 years and is harder to ignore or question – even by the most far-right or conservative elements of the political scene – you start to see individuals who have an incredibly nihilistic outlook and an incredibly bleak view of the future of the world,” Thomas said.

Eco-fascist narratives give believers a “sense of purpose” and a “call to action,” Thomas added.

“And that’s why these eco-fascist narratives that are being cultivated in these online subcultures are so dangerous.”

Such theories are often propagated on fringe sites such as 4chan, 8chan and the now defunct Iron March forum, as well as more mainstream platforms such as Twitter.

After each of the previous killings, researchers found a spike in eco-fascist interest in fringe online communities as well as online search traffic.

Eco-fascism in politics?

Right-wing populists have traditionally embraced climate change denial, but increasingly see the potential to capitalize on climate change concerns.

Marine Le Pen

Frenchwoman Marine Le Pen has invoked ecology in her nationalist campaigns

In a notorious example, the attorney general for the U.S. state of Arizona, having previously misrepresented climate science, cited environmental protections when he sued the Biden administration for relaxing climate change laws. ‘immigration. He claimed that Latin American migrants would consume resources, cause emissions and pollute the environment if they were not kept apart by a wall with Mexico.

In Europe, Marine Le Pen invoked climate change and environmental protection in its nationalist campaigns, while the youth wing of Germany’s far-right, climate-skeptical AfD party has called on the party to embrace climate change as an effective recruiting tool.

As a Canadian author and climate activist Naomi Klein told the HuffPost“There’s a rage out there that’s going to go somewhere, and we have demagogues who are adept at directing that rage against the most vulnerable among us while protecting the most powerful and guilty.”

Nazi origins of eco-fascism

Although made up of various strands of far-right theories, much eco-fascist ideology has its roots in early Nazi movements and the Fascist Party in Italy.

“In Germany, they would use these environmental talking points to partly justify some of their key initiatives like Lebensraum,” Thomas said. Lebensraum was the Nazi settlers’ colonialist concept of creating a “living space” for Germans.

An Apple tree

The ‘heritage’ appeal of organic products has attracted nationalist communities

“They saw the presence of these non-German peoples as a threat to both the integrity of German culture and the German environment.”

This ideology led to the Reichsnaturschutzgesetz of 1935, the first German conservation laws, as well as a push for organic farming.

Elements of the far-right scene in Germany and across Europe are still championing environmental causes and things like organic farming. In Germany, environmental groups risk being infiltrated by right-wing extremists.

Thomas said there are similarities in the drivers of eco-fascism today. in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, people saw that capitalism and industrialism led to rapid urbanization and environmental degradation, as well as the displacement of rural populations.

And in the United States, far-right figures have increasingly invoked environmental concerns to justify their beliefs, including white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. Ahead of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, he included a large section on conservation in his online screed.

Previously, he had said that “population control and reduction” was the “obvious solution to the ravages of climate change”.

Environmentalists reject far-right ideology

Crowds of people on a street

Overconsumption is a major driver of emissions

The mainstream environmental movement, which has largely embraced social justice, has repeatedly dismissed eco-fascists, saying the ideology whitewashes hate and focuses more on white supremacy than environmental protection.

They also say that the main culprits of ecological destruction are the wealthy Western nations, not the peoples the eco-fascists seek to destroy. United Nations analysis has shown that increasing wealth, not population growth, is a much larger driver of resource usage.

According to the IPCC, the the effect of population growth is overshadowed by the increase in emissions per person. People in the world’s richest countries emit 50 times more than those in the poorest countries, despite much slower population growth.

Environmentalists instead call for a decoupling of population growth from resource use and emissions by reorganizing economies and adopting sustainable practices.

Edited by: Jennifer Collins