By Furqan Mohamed
Editor - Paola Duran
At first glance, the term eco-fascism seems incredibly complicated, like something straight out of a political science textbook. But at this time in our current history, it is important to understand this term and its implications. The circumstance that COVID-19 has left us with is encouraging a lot of darker thoughts and feelings. With recent research explaining that the virus may be caused if not worsened by environmental degradation, and our politics already being concerned with climate change, it can be easy to fall prey to eco-fascism.
By now, you have probably seen images of clean parks, rivers, and streets followed by responses like "see, this is nature coming back to life!" or the more sinister "humans are the virus". This is not only over-simplifying our current situation but playing directly into the eco-fascist playbook. Eco-fascism relies heavily on the idea that the only way to preserve humanity and the environment is to forcefully and dramatically limit the human population, through eugenics and limiting the movement of people. It does no work to question the role companies or governments play in destroying the planet and instead decides to question people. Like traditional fascism, eco-fascism uses the notion of an "us versus them" to divide people. There are "good citizens" and then there are the "leeches", who stand in the way of a clean and habitable Earth. Also, like traditional fascism, eco-fascism is a nationalistic and racist endeavour. In the eco-fascist "us versus them" mentality, the "them" are often the poor, migrants, and refugees.
Eco-fascists subscribe to "lifeboat ethics", an idea popularized by fascist ecologist Pentti Linkola. Linkola has spread countless harmful ideas rooted in eugenics, classism, and ableism, all under the guise of "concern for the environment". He said "When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides." To compare the Earth to a lifeboat is to say there is not enough Earth to go around -- not enough space for everyone. We know this to be untrue, and the politics of scarcity -- insisting that there are not enough resources to go around, rather than recognize that a small handful of powerful elites hold the world's wealth in excess, leaving the majority to fight for crumbs -- is an entirely other article. But when Linkola says this, the hands that must be "severed" belong to already vulnerable people. Eco-fascists have more interest in population control than with actual sustainability. That's why fetishizing the result of social distancing is so dangerous.
Look, it is perfectly reasonable (and actually quite helpful) to understand that human actions, such as intensive farming and overconsumption can cause severe environmental problems. It is also important to highlight the fact that in order to improve environmental outcomes human beings will have to give up some space. Having fewer human constraints on the environment will ultimately be better for us all, but that analysis requires a lot of nuances. The human constraints are not necessarily basic human movement. We should not be in awe of seemingly cleaner public spaces and resort to joking about how "human beings are the real virus". Don't fall for this eco-fascist point, and don't succumb to lazy analysis about the human effects on the environment. Eco-fascists fail to reckon with the fact that before this stage of hyper-capitalism that we're living through, Indigenous peoples were already living in harmony with the environment (many remote communities still are!), and if we learn to fight over-consumption and corporate interests, perhaps we can too. Our issue should not be with people enjoying parks or visiting the beach, nor should it lie with migrants and refugees, but with major corporations’ profits taking precedence over public health and safety.
While in quarantine, scrolling through Twitter, and choosing to share certain posts on Instagram, resist the urge to parrot eco-fascist talking points and instead highlight what people are doing for each other in the spirit of community, instead of the division that eco-fascists want. Highlight mutual-aid funds, artists sharing their music, dance routines, activists distributing self-care advice, whatever beauty you can find that encourages solidarity. We are not really sure what the world will look like post-Coronavirus, but it will be different. Many of us will try to return to some level of normalcy, but hopefully, after much social-distancing, we'll come to understand our social responsibilities to each other more.