Buffalo Shooting Draws Attention to "Ecofascism"

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tags: far right, Ecofascism

The ideology of "ecofascism" — which combines far-right authoritarian politics with environmental concerns or climate issues — represents an increasingly common thread in incidents of massive right-wing violence. As Alex Amend, a researcher on the far right, noted in a 2020 report in The Public Eye, there has been a "murderous daisy chain" of mass killings linked to both replacement theory and ecofascism, starting in 2011 with the massacre of 77 people in Norway by a man who blamed socialists for enabling "'third-world' overpopulation that was threatening to overtake Europe" and who called for "radical policies" to reduce the global population to less than 3 billion people. 

These days, says Joseph Henderson, an environmental social scientist at Paul Smith's College in northern New York, that sort of sentiment is showing up not just in the screeds left behind by mass killers, but also in classrooms and in some mainstream environmentalist rhetoric. As a specialist in ecofascism as well as the anthropology of environmental education, Henderson says he's "deeply worried that we're starting to see fascist responses to climate change." He spoke with Salon this week. 

How did you start researching this issue? 

A couple of years ago I had a student, a young white man, who wrote a paper about how the solution to climate change is essentially genocide: that we need to secure the homeland for whites who have to have access to resources. I had never seen that argument before. And one of the fundamental questions I ask as an anthropologist who studies learning is: What's the ecosystem that produces something like that? Where was he getting these ideas?

I started meeting with him weekly and trying to understand him. He was a member of one of the groups on the ground in Charlottesville, Virginia [during the deadly 2017 "Unite the Right" rally]. He was an alienated young white man in search of meaning, with untreated mental health issues in an area where mental health care is scarce. And he would sit online and get drunk and watch really horrific videos on 4chan and 8chan, mass shooting videos. I have no training in de-radicalization, but I was trying to help him see that he was being taken advantage of, that there were people preying upon him. 

From that, I started reading about ecofascism and how environmental studies itself is rooted in and perpetuates some of these things. Reading the Buffalo shooter's manifesto, it's disjointed and all over the place, like these things usually are, but the personality type strikes me as very similar.

On a more basic level, what is ecofascism? 

It's an appropriation of nature for reactionary political purposes. It's related to ethnonationalism and authoritarianism because it's about the construction of the nation state as a geographic area. So it makes nation-state claims to nature. If you think about the Charlottesville guys, they were chanting "blood and soil." There's a long history of this: the Nazis had a land ethic related to this. But there's this conception of natural purity and racial purity, or gender purity or ethnic purity, that goes along with that. For me, it's fundamentally about who gets to claim land and for what reasons.

Read entire article at Salon

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