As we are thrown deeper and deeper into a global climate crisis, discussions on solutions have become part of the mainstream media and talking points for political and economic figures. One idea that has risen is ‘Ecofascism’. Defined by environmental historian Michael E. Zimmerman as “a totalitarian government that requires individuals to sacrifice their interests to the well-being of the ‘land’, understood as the splendid web of life, or the organic whole of nature, including peoples and their states,” this idea is cited frequently by extremists.
A popular depiction of ecofascism can be seen with the Marvel character, Thanos. When he vows to wipe out half of all life forms in the universe, he addresses it as the “tragedy of the commons”, a dilemma in which individuals will eventually over consume public resources to the point of collapse in its entirety. Garrett Hardin, the man who popularised this, also promoted an idea called ‘lifeboat ethics’; essentially saying that, since global resources are finite, the rich should throw the poor overboard and keep their boat afloat. A strain of eco-fascism was also found in Nazi ideology. As one of the most explicit modern accounts of eco-fascism, Richard Walter Darre coined the Nazi slogan “blood and soil”, meaning to capture a mystical link with their homeland, making it their duty to take care of the land.
Ecofascism poses a real threat even today. Two mass killings, taken place on opposite sides of the world, were both motivated with eco-fascist tendencies. The 2019 El Paso shooting was an act of domestic terrorism; the hate crime was described as the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history. The perpetrator cited his hatred of immigrants, overpopulation, and environmental degradation as a motivator behind his fury in an online post. The Christchurch shooter in New Zealand, who targeted Muslims and killed 51 people in 2019, had declared himself an eco-fascist and blamed high immigrant birth rates.
Ecofascism blames environmental degradation on overpopulation, immigration, and over industrialisation. However, the global south not only consumes less than the global north, they also do not get to keep what they produce due to borders and colonial powers. Although it is true that the global population is rising, it is rising at a slower rate than people might think.
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While there is no doubt that we are exploiting our environment, not everyone is equally accountable. Carbon emissions produced by the richest 1% of the planet is more than double the emissions of the poorest half. Although the wealthy minority is fuelling the climate crisis, marginalised communities suffer disproportionately, and eco-fascists place the blame almost entirely on poor people (particularly of colour).
“The key thing to understand is that ecofascism is more an expression of white supremacy than it is an expression of environmentalism,” as stated by Michelle Chan, vice president of Friends of the Earth.
By looking at the experiences of black, brown, and other marginalised communities away from a white supremacy, we can move the climate movement away from a Eurocentric, colonial lens.
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