“Great Replacement” and “eco-fascism”: who benefits from the new far-right theories?

This article was initially published in Greek, in the Internationalist Standpoint affiliate in Greece, Xekinima, on August 11, 2023

…the only thing scarier than a far-right, racist movement that denies the reality of climate change is a far-right, racist movement that doesn’t deny the reality of climate change…”

The above words from Naomi Klein in an interview in 2019 are a succinct description of the danger posed by the current of ‘eco-fascism’ that has been growing globally in recent years, leaving behind the more ‘traditional’ far-right climate change deniers.

Its proponents claim that the climate crisis and general environmental degradation are the result of the large increase in human population – especially non-white population – and migration flows.

This theory is related to, and in many ways identical with, the ‘Great Replacement’ theory, according to which some sinister corridors of power have planned to reduce the white population in the developed world and gradually replace it with immigrant populations from African, Asian and South American countries.

According to right-wing conspiracy theorists, this will lead to cultural change in their countries, while at the same time placing an environmental burden on them, as the large immigrant populations will pollute and consume the natural resources that are supposed to be reserved for whites.

“Love” the environment, hate the people

In the United States, among the extreme right-wing and neo-fascist organisations that have developed in recent years, those with references to “ecofascism” stand out.

Many of these groups, but also individual supporters of these ideas, are not content with denouncing the massive influx of immigrants from the South to North America, but carry out violent attacks such as the one in a department store in Texas in 2019, which left 23 dead, or the one in a supermarket in the city of Buffalo in 2022, which left ten dead.

In the first case, the attacker tried to explain his motives by writing that the attack was a

“a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”

and that

“if we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable”.

The motives of the perpetrator of the second attack, who called himself an ecofascist and wrote, among other things, that he wanted to kill as many black people as possible, were similar.

Apart from the USA, ‘ecofascism’ is also developing in areas of the world that one would hardly imagine. In 2019, another ‘ecofascist’ attacked two Muslim mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people. The perpetrator of the racist mass murder cited, among other things, the need to “preserve nature” and the “natural order”.

Ideologically, many of them are fans of Madison Grant, author of ‘The Passing of the Great Race, or the Racial Basis of European History’, whom Hitler himself admired.

Grant was an American conservationist who, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, created large parks and wildlife refuges in the USA, while at the same time playing a role in efforts to limit immigration from southern Europe. At the same time he was talking about the threat of extinction of the “nordic race “ , whose biological traits, in his view, should prevail as more ‘noble’.

Environmental crimes, greed and wars

Today, proponents of the same ideas are trying to convince us that by slowing down migratory flows from the ‘global south’, the developed world will be able to keep its own lands clean and unaffected by environmental degradation.

Not only is this claim utter nonsense, since the environment is a single entity and there is no way to destroy one area while leaving another unaffected, but it also encapsulates the arrogance and conceit with which the West has treated the developing world for centuries.

The Amazon rainforest and similar ecosystems in Southeast Asia have been massively destroyed in recent decades. The main reason was the need for the agribusiness  to acquire new land for fodder crops and livestock farms that correspond to the dead-end food model built by the profit system.

These disasters will be suffered by the inhabitants of Brazil and neighboring countries, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc., while the food that is produced in the lands that were once rainforests will be mainly destined for consumers in the developed world (this is not the fault of individual consumers, of course), and the profits will go to a handful of companies that control the world’s food supply.

Nigeria has been for decades paying the price of extended pollution in the Niger Delta, which has become a giant oil spill, with the Dutch multinational Shell as the main culprit.

A number of East African countries, as well as Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, and many others., are threatened by new disastrous oil and gas drilling  projects and pipelines. Much of these resources are destined for the Western market and will of course be exploited by companies such as Total, Exxonmobil, BP, CNOOC and others.

As for the waste produced by the developed world, it is rarely kept on its own soil, since it usually is shipped elsewhere for a meagre return. For several decades, the US and Europe have been exporting their waste (mostly plastic) to countries in South America and Southeast Asia. Indeed, these countries are often blamed for polluting the oceans with plastic waste to a far greater extent than they deserve, as they are the recipients but not the producers of much of this waste.

Meanwhile, military activities around the world account for 5.5% of total emissions, excluding those produced on active war fronts. So, the favorite activities of nationalists and right-wing extremists, hugely contribute to climate change.

Add to this the world’s war zones and the situation becomes even more dramatic. The war in Ukraine alone is estimated to have generated 120 million tons of greenhouse gases in its first year, including emissions directly caused by the fighting itself (vehicle traffic, fires, etc.), but also by the need to rebuild damaged infrastructure and, of course, the massive return to fossil fuels, especially coal (essentially a consequence of the West’s attempt to wean itself off Russian gas).

Who gains?

The only ones who benefit from the extreme right’s theories that the populations of developing countries, and especially migrants, are responsible for the destruction of the environment, are those who are actually destroying it: the big energy, mining, food, technology and war industries. They are the ones who control the production and wealth of the planet. While some of the poor blame some of the even poorer, the profit system depletes the earth’s natural resources, pollutes and deregulates the climate. As for the extreme right, despite its patriotic and anti-systemic claims, it has one thing in common throughout the world: it exists to serve capitalism’s rooted interests.

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