Sunday, November 21, 2021

Green Fascism?

 “When the Roman empire fell, it was largely as a result of uncontrolled immigration – the empire could no longer controls its borders, people came in from the east and all over the place,” Boris Johnson said in an interview on the eve of COP26.

Mixing ecological disaster with fears of rampant immigration is a narrative that has flourished in far-right fringe movements in Europe and the US and is now spilling into the discourse of mainstream politics, in many cases, echoing eco-fascist ideas that themselves are rooted in an earlier age of blood-and-soil nationalism.

In the US,  the Republican attorney general of Arizona has demanded the building of a border wall to prevent migrants coming from Mexico as these people “directly result in the release of pollutants, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”. 

In Spain, Santiago Abascal, leader of the populist Vox party, has called for a “patriotic” restoration of a “green Spain, clean and prosperous”.

 The far-right British National party has claimed to be the “only true green party” in the country due to its focus on migration. 

And in Germany, the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany has tweaked some of its earlier mockery of climate science with a platform that warns “harsh climatic conditions” in Africa and the Middle East will see a “gigantic mass migration towards European countries”, requiring toughened borders.

France’s National Front, once a bastion of derisive climate denial, has founded a green wing called New Ecology, with Marine Le Pen, president of the party, vowing to create the “world’s leading ecological civilization” 

“Environmentalism is the natural child of patriotism, because it’s the natural child of rootedness,” Le Pen said in 2019, adding that “if you’re a nomad, you’re not an environmentalist. Those who are nomadic … do not care about the environment; they have no homeland.” 

 Le Pen’s ally Hervé Juvin, a National Rally MEP, is seen as an influential figure on the European right in promoting what he calls “nationalistic green localism”.

The response to this trend on the right has led to what academics Joe Turner and Dan Bailey call “ecobordering”, where restrictions on immigration are seen as vital to protect the nativist stewardship of nature and where the ills of environmental destruction are laid upon those from developing countries.

Turner, an expert in politics and migration at the University of York, said the link between climate and migration is “an easy logic” for politicians such as Johnson as it plays into longstanding tropes on the right that overpopulation in poorer countries is a leading cause of environmental harm. More broadly, it is an attempt by the right to seize the initiative on environmental issues that have for so long been the preserve of center-left parties

“The far right in Europe has an anti-immigration platform, that’s their bread and butter, so you can see it as an electoral tactic to start talking about green politics,” Turner said, adding that migrants are being blamed in two ways – first, for moving to countries with higher emissions and then adding to those emissions, as rightwing figures in Arizona have claimed; and secondly for supposedly bringing destructive, polluting habits with them from their countries of origin. The far right depict migrants as being “essentially poor custodians of their own lands and then treating European nature badly as well”, Turner said. “So you get these headlines around asylum seekers eating swans, all these ridiculous scaremongering tactics. But they play into this idea that by stopping immigrants coming here, you are actually supporting a green project.”

A mixture of this Malthusian and ethno-nationalist thinking is being distilled into political campaigning, as in a political pamphlet described in Turner and Bailey’s research paper from SVP, the largest party in Switzerland’s federal assembly, which shows a city crowded by people and cars belching out pollution, with a tagline that translates to “stop massive immigration”. A separate campaign ad by SVP claims that 1 million migrants will result in thousands of miles of new roads and that “anyone who wants to protect the environment in Switzerland must fight against mass immigration”.

 In an analysis of 22 far-right parties in Europe, the academics found this thinking is rife among rightwing parties and “portrays effects as causes and further normalizes racist border practices and colonial amnesia within Europe”.

 According to a research paper co-authored by Fieschi, this has led to a situation where “detractors are taking up the language of freedom fighters”.

“We are seeing the growth of accusations of climate hysteria as a way for elites to exploit ordinary people,” Fieschi said. “The solutions that are talked about involve spending more money on deserving Americans and deserving Germans and so on, and less on refugees. It’s ‘yes, we will need to protect people, but let’s protect our people.’”

 Fieschi said the right’s interaction with climate is far more than just about borders – it is animating fears that personal freedoms are under attack from a cosseted, liberal elite.

“You see these quite obviously populist arguments in the US and Europe that a corrupt elite, the media and government have no idea what ordinary people’s lives are like as they impose these stringent climate policies,” said Fieschi.

“The right is reclaiming that older Malthusian population rhetoric and is using that as a cudgel in green terms rather than unpopular racist terms,” said Blair Taylor, program director at the Institute for Social Ecology, an educational and research body. “It’s weird that this has become a popular theme in the US west because the west is sparsely populated and that hasn’t slowed environmental destruction,” he added. “But this is about speaking to nativist fears, it isn’t about doing anything to solve the problem.”

Taylor further explained, “We will see weird theories that will spread blame in all the wrong directions,” Taylor said. “More walls, more borders, more exclusion – that’s most likely the way we are heading.”

Climate denial is waning on the right. What’s replacing it might be just as scary | Climate crisis | The Guardian

No comments: