Two mass murders a world apart share a common theme: 'ecofascism'
by Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, August 18, 2019 (excerpts)
… Before the slaughter of dozens of people in Christchurch, New Zealand and El Paso, Texas this year, the accused gunmen took pains to explain their fury, including their hatred of immigrants. The statements that authorities think the men posted online share another obsession: overpopulation and environmental degradation.
The alleged Christchurch shooter, who is charged with targeting Muslims and killing 51 people in March, declared himself an "eco-fascist" and railed about immigrants' birthrates. The statement linked to the El Paso shooter, who is charged with killing 22 people in a shopping area earlier this month, bemoans water pollution, plastic waste and an American consumer culture that is "creating a massive burden for future generations." …
Many white supremacists have latched onto environmental themes, drawing connections between the protection of nature and racial exclusion. These ideas have shown themselves to be particularly dangerous when adopted by unstable individuals prone to violence and convinced they must take drastic actions to stave off catastrophe.
The alleged El Paso shooter's document is full of existential despair: "My whole life I have been preparing for a future that currently doesn't exist."….
There is a danger of "apocalypticism," said Jon Christensen, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who has written extensively on the use and misuse of dystopian environmental scenarios.
It's important, he said, to provide people with potential solutions and reasons to be hopeful: "There's definitely a danger of people taking dire measures when they feel there's no way out of it."
Hartmann, who has tracked ecofascism for more than two decades, echoes that warning, saying environmentalists "need to steer away from this apocalyptic discourse because it too easily plays into the hands of apocalyptic white nationalism."…
these accused killers did not come up with their hateful ideologies in a vacuum. They have tapped into ideas about nature that are in broad circulation among white nationalists. Before the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in 2017, for example, white nationalist leader Richard Spencer published a manifesto that had a plank on protecting nature.
Ecofascism has deep roots. There is a strong element of it in the Nazi emphasis on "blood and soil," and the fatherland, and the need for a living space purified of alien and undesirable elements.
Meanwhile, leaders of mainstream environmental groups are quick to acknowledge their movement has an imperfect history when it comes to race, immigrationand inclusiveness. Some early conservationists embraced the eugenics movement that saw "social Darwinism" as a way of improving the human race by limiting the birthrates of people considered inferior.
"There's this idea coming out of the eugenics movement that nature, purity, conservation, were linked to purity of the race," said Hartmann, the author of "The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and our Call to Greatness."
Conservationists have a long history of wrestling with questions about immigration and population growth. Some of those on the environmental left have seen the explosion in the human population - which is nearing 8 billion and has more than doubled in the past half-century - as a primary driver of the environmental crisis. That argument has then been adopted by racists.
The alleged Christchurch shooter began his online screed by writing, "It's the birthrates. It's the birthrates. It's the birthrates," and then warned of the "invasion" by immigrants who will "replace the White people who have failed to reproduce."
The document believed posted by the alleged El Paso shooter cites birthrates among the "invaders" trying to enter the U.S., and asserts, "If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable."…
This line of thought is dismaying to Paul Ehrlich, 87, a professor emeritus at Stanford University whose (totally debunked) 1968 bestseller, “The Population Bomb,” proved hugely influential.
“They often cite me, even though
I’ve spent my life trying to fight racism (insert excuse here),” Ehrlich said.
John Holdren, a Harvard professor who co-authored articles with Ehrlich and later served eight years as President Obama's science adviser, said the environmental movement grappled decades ago with the perceived racist undertones of the emphasis on population growth.
"A lot of people felt they were getting burned by talking about population growth and its adverse impact," Holdren said. As a result, he said, the movement's leaders began focusing on the education and empowerment of women, which has led to falling birthrates around the world as women take control of their reproductive lives….
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