Green Or Gone

Ecofascism: When Far-Right Ideology Fuses With Ecology

Some of the recent racist mass killers were also worried about the degradation of the environment. It's part of a old twisted ideology that mixes love of nature and xenophobia.

The environmental dictator?
The environmental dictator?
Stephane François*

PARIS — Patrick Crusius, who killed 20 people in El Paso, Texas last month, and Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, both justified their actions with a reference to ecology, with Tarrant going so far in his manifesto as to promote "ecofascism."

Still, neither invented extreme-right ecology, which has existed since the end of the 19th century, with a notable presence in Germany. Thus this form of ecology is older than National Socialism. Some Nazis, Adolf Hitler himself, the Minister of Agriculture and SS General Richard Walther Darré, or the regime's number two, Rudolf Hess, voiced concern about preserving nature.

Ecology only really became a major issue for the far right in the West in the early 2000s.

This form of ecology did not disappear with the end of Nazism, quite the contrary: The pastor Werner Georg Haverbeck and Renate Riemeck, medievalist and former secretary of the SS Johann von Leers, promoted it again in the 1970s. At the same time, in France, a former SS member, Robert Dun (real name Maurice Martin), was one of the pioneers of this form of ecology. In 1995, the old anti-Semitic activist and former collaborationist Henry Coston published an essay entitled No! Ecology Is Not Left-Wing.

We could multiply the French, European or even American examples. However, ecology only really became a major issue for the far right in the West in the early 2000s. For a long time, it was considered in these circles as an ideology of "leftists' or "hippies." Ecologists were sometimes referred to as "watermelons," meaning green on the outside and red on the inside.

However, environmentalist themes multiplied in the 1990s, when they merged with traditional extreme right-wing ideologies, including racism. This can be found in the writings of the killers in both El Paso and Christchurch. Each takes up the idea that ecology is above all an ecology of populations: Ethnic groups are perceived as specific entities claiming territories of their own, which themselves are derived from ecosystems. In this sense, their ecology is governed by a "mixophobia," a rejection of the Other, of the Stranger who must remain in his natural environment, in the same way that animal and plant species have their biotope.

Surveillance footage of El Paso shooter Patrick Crusius — Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This vision of ecology is often a cover for a segregationist system of thought, with any mixing or contact leading to a loss of difference. It includes an anti-immigration policy, with non-European immigrants having to return "home" to find "their roots' or, for the most racist of these ethnodifferentialists, their "natural environment." This population ecology, not surprisingly, includes the incompatibility of these different cultures.

This vision also promotes radical ecology and opposition to Speciesism​, which can also be found in other forms of ecology. Again, this is an old tradition of the far right. One of its theorists was the French neo-Nazi activist of Greek origin who converted to Hinduism Maximiani Portas, better known as Savitri Devi. An ardent defender of Nazism, she was also a radical environmental activist, publishing several books on the subject, including Impeachment of Man, which promotes Malthusianism and the reduction of the world population.

They share the same basic fear as ecologists in general: of the risk of the world as we know it disappearing.

While far-right ecology is almost always radical, both in its promotion of a deep ecology and in the promotion of a population ecology, it is rarely violent. Indeed, far-right militants have made little attempt to get closer to the "ecoterrorists," as we can see in the United States. In the 1990s, the French group Nouvelle Résistance tried to copy the methods of the American activists of Earth First and tried to take control of the French section of this movement, without much success, the latter being only slightly active. The violent militancy of the extreme right feeds mainly, not on ecology per se, but on the fear of the collapse of Western civilization as a result of the supposed grand remplacement (great replacement). In other words, taking (violent) action is not really about ecology but a consequence of the ideology of a supposed race war, and a question of protecting the "white race."

However, the far-right ecology is not cut off from other green trends. In the 1990s, activists from other extreme right-wing tendencies, including the New Right, became members of Antoine Waechter's Independent Ecological Movement (IEM). This was the case of identity activist Laurent Ozon in the 1990s and 2000s. Between 1994 and 2000, he hosted a review, Le Recours aux forêts, an expression of the Nouvelle écologie association, which saw the participation of several important figures from the ecologist movement. There were collaborations between the New Right and Edward "Teddy" Goldsmith, founder of the British magazine The Ecologist. Proponents of degrowth still regularly participate in New Right publications today.

But it is true that extreme right-wing ecologists share the same basic fear as ecologists in general, that of the risk of the world as we know it disappearing because of global warming. They also share the same rejection of the ideology of progress, of "technoscience" and of the hubris that is its corollary. They separate and oppose each other on the relationship to the Other, and more broadly on the relationship to minorities, defended by most ecologists and rejected by the extreme right in the name of their defining logic of identity.


*The author is a French historian, researcher and political scientist.

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com

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