White Supremacy Goes Green Why is the far right suddenly paying attention to climate change?

Of note:

As an environmental journalist, I’ve been covering the frightening acceleration of climate change for more than a decade. As a person who believes in the tenets of liberal democracy, I’ve watched the rise of white-supremacist, anti-immigrant and nationalistic ideologies with similar dread over the past few years.

But I always thought of those two trends — looming ecological dangers and the gathering strength of the far right — as unrelated, parallel crises in a turbulent time. Only recently have I begun to understand that they are deeply interconnected, an ugly pairing of forces drawing power from each other.

From France to Washington to New Zealand, angry voices on the hard right — nationalists, populists and others beyond conventional conservatism — are picking up old environmental tropes and adapting them to a moment charged with fears for the future. In doing so, they are giving potent new framing to a set of issues more typically associated with the left. Often, they emphasize what they see as the deep ties between a nation’s land and its people to exclude those they believe do not belong. Some twist scientific terms such as “invasive species” — foreign plants or animals that spread unchecked in a new ecosystem — to target immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities. And here’s what really frightens me: This dynamic is likely to intensify as climate change creates new stresses that could pit nations and groups against one another.

Although the pressures of a warming planet are new, the deployment of environmental language for racist, nativist and nationalistic ends has a long, dark history. Before environmentalism became a mainstream and progressive cause in the 1970s, many American conservationists were also white supremacists, who argued that those they saw as outsiders threatened the nation’s landscape or lacked the values to care for it properly. Such thinking was common in Europe, too. The Nazis embraced notions of a symbiotic connection between the German homeland and its people.

It is not hard to see why such ideas are making a comeback. As the relentlessness of environmental calamity — epic fires and floods, escalating extinctions, warming oceans — becomes impossible to ignore, the right needs a way to talk about it. Nationalistic framings fit comfortably with a worldview many already hold. And for the so-called alt right, they offer the bonus of a cudgel for bashing establishment conservatives as beholden to globalist, corporate interests.

Some radicals are drawn to apocalyptic climate scenarios, seeing openings for authoritarianism or a complete societal breakdown. “They want to accelerate it,” said Blair Taylor, program director at the Institute for Social Ecology, a left-wing educational center, who has studied such groups. “So after the downfall they can set up their fascist ethno-states, they can be the Übermensch.” Violent actors are grabbing hold of such ideas. The killers accused of targeting Muslims and Mexican immigrants last year in New Zealand and Texas posted online manifestoes weaving white supremacy with environmental statements.

The Australian man who allegedly murdered 51 people at two Christchurch mosques called himself an “ethnonationalist eco-fascist” and wrote that “continued immigration into Europe is environmental warfare.” The suspect in the El Paso shooting that killed 22 — modern America’s deadliest attack targeting Latinos — ranted about plastic waste and overconsumption. “If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable,” he concluded.

If there’s one thing Americans have learned in the Trump era, it is that toxic ideas can move between the fringes and the political realm with stunning speed. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Rally — now the country’s main opposition party — has incorporated worries about the natural world into the party’s anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideology. She espouses an ideal of the French citizen as “someone rooted, someone who wants to live on their land and to pass it on to their children.” By contrast, she says,those who are “nomadic … do not care about the environment. They have no homeland.”

“Borders are the environment’s greatest ally,” said Jordan Bardella, the party spokesman and a member of the European Parliament. In Hungary, the far-right party Our Homeland accused Ukraine of poisoning Hungarians by dumping waste in the Tisa River. Extremist Polish groups hurl similar charges at Germany.

As climate change reshapes our world, we face a future filled with new pressures and constraints on resources, including arable land, food and water. Droughts, floods and storms are likely to push millions from their homes, some toward the relative safety and security of Europe, Australia and the United States.

The upsurge of anti-Asian discrimination that has followed in the wake of fears about the coronavirus offers a glimpse of the ugly sentiments such external pressures can unleash. Without giving it much thought, I used to accept the framing of environmental problems as shared concerns we would have to work together to solve. Now I can see there is another path too, one in which dark forces wield real dangers as weapons to tear us apart, and scarcity fuels conflict, brutality and racism. Our future in a hotter world of rising seas and more powerful storms already felt terrifying. Unless we come together — and fast — behind serious action to check the existential danger of climate change, it could be darker still.

Source: White Supremacy Goes Green

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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