Saturday, August 17, 2019

Eco-Fascism's Revival

This blog has previously condemned those in the environmentalist movement who have promoted the proposition that climate change is somehow driven by too many people and we have criticised them for inadvertently endorsing a racist eugenic programme. This was not the blog engaging in hyperbole.

This article in the Guardian offers some substance to the blog's attitude which is worth quoting extracts from.

...We’re seeing the far right really take up ecological arguments again,” said John Hultgren, a Bennington College environmental politics professor and author of Border Walls Gone Green: Nature and Anti-immigrant Politics in America. “The rise of eco-fascism, I think, is very real...”

...Anti-immigrant ideology has been part and parcel of the whole of American conservationism since the first national park was founded, in part to protect wild yet white-owned nature from Mexicans and Native Americans. National purity and natural purity were inextricably linked. The current rise of eco-minded white supremacy follows a direct line from the powerful attorney, conservationist and eugenicist Madison Granta friend of trees, Teddy Roosevelt, and the colonial superiority of white land stewardship...”

...Environmentalists were hardcore eugenicists. They were as committed to racial thinking as they were to protecting the great redwoods in California,” said Heidi Beirich, intelligence project director at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

That eco-xenophobia resurfaced in the 1970s as overpopulation and resource depletion was deemed the pre-eminent challenge facing the planet at the dawn of the anthropocene.
Published in 1968, The Population Bomb, by the Stanford University biology professor Paul Ehrlich, predicted that overpopulation would fuel worldwide famine and global upheaval. Much of what Ehrlich predicted did not come to pass, but the book proved hugely influential in the nascent environmental movement. Global population growth was soon conflated with US immigration growth, and both were blamed for the coming collapse of Spaceship Earth. This argument inspired generations of eco-nativists, and the most influential anti-immigration advocacy network currently operating in the US...”

...In 1979, Tanton, a local Sierra Club official, founded the “centrist/liberal” Federation for American Immigration Reform (Fair) to further advance the overpopulation-as-environmental-degradation cause. He went on to co-found the Center for Immigration Studies. Tanton, who warned of a “Latin onslaught” that would degrade America’s culture and lands, is widely regarded as the founder of the modern immigration reform movement.

While Tanton was establishing his right-leaning network of anti-immigration organizations, new ecologists on the left were coming to the same conclusions he did about the answer to growing environmental crisis. “Deep ecologists” in the 1980s and 1990s argued that humans were just one of many species, and often an invasive and destructive one. Activist David Orton argued that limiting immigration “from a maintenance of biodiversity perspective … has nothing to do with fascists”. The deep ecologist Dave Foreman was a co-founder of the radical wilderness collective Earth First! before the group forced him and his increasingly anti-immigration ideology out...”

...By the late 90s, the anti-immigration issue reached a fever pitch within the US environmental movement. The Sierra Club had grown exponentially in the preceding decades, and “population control” had been part of its core platform...anti-immigration groups associated with Tanton didn’t give up on attempting to influence eco-minded progressives. They ran ads linking overpopulation and climate crisis in mainstream newspapers and progressive magazines, from the New York Times to the Nation...”

...immigration control as climate control is a similar pseudoscience. By stopping immigration from countries with low per capita emissions to wealthier nations with high per capita emissions, this thinking goes, total environmental impact will be limited, as will further damage to US wildlands and biodiversity: fewer people means less sprawl and less resource use. There is little actual science to bolster immigration control for ecological purposes. While there is evidence that population and economic growth in total increases global emissions, recent studies show no correlation between US immigrant communities and pollution.
Whether eco-nativists are using these arguments to greenwash racism, or they truly believe limiting immigration is the best way to pull the planet back from the brink, the results are the same. “You can be a genuine environmentalist and a genuine xenophobe – the two often do converge,” said Hultgren...”

...Limiting immigration has certainly proven more politically palatable than regulating fossil fuel companies and corporate polluters under the current administration...The eco-xenophobic rhetoric that Tanton and his supporters have traded in has proliferated across the right, straddling both arguments about population growth and outright racist beliefs that Latino immigrants, in particular, destroy nature. Long before he became the father of the Proud Boys, the Vice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes espoused the ecological virtues of population and immigration control. In a 2003 Vice Guide to Happiness, McInnes offered some cause for optimism under President George W Bush: “Immigration is getting handled, which is helping the environmental problems overpopulation has caused.”...”

Richard Spencer’s “meta-political manifesto for the Alt-Right” advocated for a kind of conservationism in the white nationalist tradition. Right wing pundit Ann Coulter claimed Americans will have to choose between a “greening or browning” of America. Fox News host Tucker Carlson opined on air about the ecological impact of immigrants: “I actually hate litter, which is one of the reasons I’m so against illegal immigration.”
What’s on the rise is white supremacy in general, but this is a pretty staple part of that ideology,” said Beirich. “When people hear [the Nazi nationalist slogan] ‘blood and soil’, they think of the blood, but the soil part mattered.”

But SOYMB notes the good news.

...In 2013, the Sierra Club and the environmental activist group threw their support behind immigration. Earth First! has gone a step further, calling national borders “scar[s] on the earth”.
The entire earth is a closed system, and the idea that people crossing borders is going to have a major impact on any individual environment is absurd,” said Veery Marten, an Earth First! Journal collective member. “The culprits of this white supremacist violence citing alleged environmental interests are almost always middle class white men who are not lowering their own carbon footprint. It’s not really about consumption, it’s about who’s allowed to consume and gate-keeping these resources...Mainstream environmentalists and the broader left may no longer espouse the benefits of limiting immigration, but many do warn of an impending global refugee crisis worsened by climate change that will in turn pressure societies unable or unwilling to grapple with an influx of new residents...”

...”I think that portrayal of migrants as climate change refugees, especially these mass movements of people, feeds into the anti-immigrant environmental worldview,” said Hartmann. “Alarmist hyperbole and stereotypes around climate conflict and even climate mass refugee dislocation is based on kind of old, racially and colonially charged stereotypes of poor people of color being more prone to violence in times of scarcity.”

A worsening climate crisis could easily become a cudgel for anti-immigration activists looking to use ecological preservation as an excuse to close borders, a means of gesturing toward doing something about climate crisis that aligns with the right’s other political goals..."

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