Content warnings: discussions of genocide, gun violence/mass shootings, anti-Black violence, white supremacy, transphobia, antisemitism
As Earthworks staff we understand the terrifying reality of climate change and the need for urgent and decisive action. In the face of this emergency, we are incredibly concerned by the eco-fascist movement seizing the climate crisis as an opportunity to foment deeply racist and violent division.
As the climate crisis continues to devastate the world, predominantly white men on the far-right have embraced eco-fascism. As an ideology, eco-fascism promotes “authoritarian, hierarchical, and racist analyses and solutions to environmental problems.” Eco-fascists often blame environmental problems on “overpopulation, immigration, and over-industrialization,” advocating violence towards refugees, people of color, and other marginalized populations as an environmental solution. It has recently been gaining popularity in today’s far- and alt-right movements–and, more alarmingly, even in some leftist spaces–fomenting racial paranoia about who will have the resources needed to survive the climate crisis.
Eco-fascism dovetails neatly with the Great Replacement Theory, a Nazi-inspired conspiracy theory claiming that “white people are being stripped of their power through the demographic rise of communities of color, driven by immigration.” For example, the man who murdered 11 Jewish people in Pittsburgh chose to target the Tree of Life Synagogue because of their work with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and wrote that HIAS was “working to ‘bring invaders in that kill our people.’” The Great Replacement Theory has its roots in a related white supremacist conspiracy theory of “white genocide” which capitalizes on white people’s fears of becoming a minority population in a country built on the genocide of Indigenous peoples and the enslavement of African peoples.
A core tenet of any kind of fascism is the belief that hierarchies are morally correct and some peoples deserve rights while the rest of us should be prevented from acquiring them. That kind of belief both contributes to and stems from the idea that humans are superior to the “rest” of nature, hence why extractivism is such an important part of fascism, and why Indigenous peoples who steward the environment based on relations of kin and care present such a threat to fascism.
Although many people might assume eco-fascism only lives in the far-right fringes of the internet, it has become alarmingly mainstream in the past few years: Tucker Carlson, who had 2021’s most-watched cable news show, has mentioned the Great Replacement Theory on more than 400 of his shows, as have Lauren Ingram and Jeanine Pirro, and many prominent right-wing radio shows and podcasts. An increasing number of right-wing politicians who hold local, state, and federal office have also parroted Great Replacement talking points and/or avoided opportunities to condemn it. There is no telling how many people have been radicalized by this rhetoric just in the last few years.
The combination of legitimate concerns about the climate crisis with preexisting white supremacist views and a lack of functional gun control has resulted in tragic eco-fascist mass shootings, which by the very nature of eco-fascism target Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, especially immigrants and refugees, queer and trans folks, and non-Christians (and those percieved to belong to any of these groups).
The man who murdred 10 Black people grocery shopping in Buffalo, New York earlier this year “embraced” the label of eco-fascist; this isn’t the first time a mass shooting has happened explicitly in the name of that vile ideology: in 2019 22 Latinx people were murdered by a white man espousing similar talking points in El Paso, Texas, as were 51 praying Muslims in Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand. According to the Washington Post, the El Paso and Christchurch shooters shared similar views to the Tree of Life shooter, particularly “overpopulation and environmental degradation.”
Eco-fascism presents a tangible, present danger to almost every person on Earth, especially the communities most impacted by the climate crisis. Organizations active in the environmental and climate justice movements, like Earthworks, must do our part in acknowledging and raising awareness of these issues, rooting out eco-fascists among our circles and preventing any more from joining, and working in solidarity with those who strongly oppose ecofascism.
As organizations active in the climate and environmental justice movements, Earthworks and its peers must be vigilant about noticing and disavowing eco-fascism. Fascists are notorious for infiltrating progressive spaces, and we cannot ignore the rise of eco-facism and hope that it will not affect our work and partners. Instead we need to educate ourselves on the strategies used to infiltrate our movements and ensure we are not vulnerable to these tactics.
For decades, white nationalists like John Tanten and his allies at the hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) repeatedly attempted to take control of the Sierra Club in order to advance their anti-immigration ideologies. Last year, Deep Green Resistance (DGR), a “radical feminist organization” that “advocates for a world without industrial civilization” was criticized for transphobia even as they represented the People of Red Mountain, a coalition of Indigenous groups, against a potential lithium mine. Trans-exclusionary feminism is a documented gateway to other fascist views, and trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) have infiltrated the reproductive justice and queer liberation movements for years.
As the climate crisis worsens there will be less resources, including necessities like clean water and food. Eco-fascists in the Global North believe that only cisgender, heterosexual, abled, Christian white people (usually men) deserve these resources and the power to distribute them. Eco-fascism is not just related to but inextricably tied to every other system of oppression from cisheteropatriarchy to transphobia to ableism to classism to white supremacy and nationalism. Eco-facism does not just intersect with these systems of oppression but exists to preserve them and protect those who benefit from them in light of the uncertainty of climate catastrophe.
Earthworks commits to holding ourselves and other environmental organizations accountable to dismantling the more subtle forms of eco-fascist ideology that were espoused by early conservationists in the U.S., and that still inform conservation ideas and practice today. These include the racist Malthusian idea that the human population will reach a carrying capacity that the earth can’t sustain, which has been repeatedly debunked, but continues to be present in conservationist thinking. We must instead focus our attention on how extractive capitalism, with its tenets of wealth accumulation and hyper-consumption, is the main driver of the climate and biodiversity crises–not overall population growth in the Global South. As we campaign to protect important places from extraction we must be cognizant that the origin of national parks and protected areas lies in explicitly eugenicist and white supremacist ideology that violently displaced Indigenous peoples from the lands they stewarded since time immemorial. We commit to being in solidarity with Indigenous-led efforts for land return.
The following sentence is lifted from our previous blog on eco-fascism, and we feel it’s worth repeating: eco-fascism presents a tangible, present danger to almost every person on Earth, especially the communities most impacted by the climate crisis. Organizations active in the environmental and climate justice movements must do our part in rooting out eco-fascists among our circles and preventing any more from joining. The environmental movement must build solidarity across racial and social justice movements also confronting fascist ideologies, like those struggling for immigrant justice, Indigenous sovereignty, queer liberation, reproductive justice, and others. As fascist organizations look to build strength and numbers by connecting inter-related issues, we must also build mutually supportive relationships with those fighting for justice.