Ecofascism is Not the Cure

While the environmental benefits of the Covid-19 crisis may be viewed as a “silver lining,” it is dangerous to prescribe the loss of human lives as a cure to the climate crisis.

Gianna Lum
May 17, 2020

C+S 2020 students are blogging about topics that interest them for Applications in Climate and Society, a core spring class.

I first learned about ecofascism when I saw an Instagram post by the climate activist group, Extinction Rebellion. It warned the public that there were groups posing as them to push ecofascist ideologies. The video was released at the start of the coronavirus pandemic as social media messages claiming “humans are the virus” began to spread, a hallmark of ecofascism.

Covid-19 is a disease brought on by a coronavirus that has infected more than 2 million people worldwide. It has also caused global economic activity to wane and carbon emissions and air pollution to drop. New York City has seen a 35 percent decrease in traffic and a 5-10 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. While these environmental benefits may be viewed as a “silver lining,” it is dangerous to prescribe the loss of human lives as a cure to the climate crisis. If ecofascist rhetoric becomes more widespread, we go down a slippery slope towards eugenics, anti-immigration policies, and violence.

The roots of ecofascism date back to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s 1921 “Fascism and the Land” article. By 1930, Mussolini’s “land improvement” campaign announced that they were “witnessing a return to 'Mother Earth'” with more productive agricultural land for the empire. Mussolini reclaimed the land of the former Roman Empire by invading countries in Europe and Africa, executing political adversaries and murdering hundreds of thousands of people. In Germany, Hitler was influenced by Mussolini’s fascism to justify an innate connection between a superior Aryan race and the purest of land. As a result, 400,000 people with disabilities and minorities were sterilized before World War II, and as many as 17 million people were killed in the name of eugenics by the end of the war.

Modern ecofascist beliefs have adapted fascist ideology while putting a greater emphasis on protecting the environment for an exclusive group of people. American biologist Paul Ehrlich recommended sterilization of the poor, and ecologist Garrett Hardin lobbied against food aid during famines in order to protect the planet from “overpopulation.” The gunmen involved with the 2019 shootings in Churchchrist, New Zealand and El Paso, Texas both claimed that climate change was a motivator to murder minorities and immigrants. Ecofascist rhetoric exposes the most vulnerable people on our planet to hatred, discrimination and even death.

Nobody needs to be fearing for their life more during a pandemic. Minorities and the poor are already disproportionately affected by both the climate crisis and covid-19. They should not be targeted even further as the pandemic worsens economic inequities. In light of the coronavirus crisis, climate activist groups are making commitments to protect humanity, not just the planet. The Sunrise Movement is conducting virtual trainings led by people of color to inform everyone about how these communities are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus and climate crises. Attendees of these trainings are empowered with information to contact their politicians to support a People’s Bailout and Green New Deal, solutions aimed at ensuring a sustainable, just world.

Ironically, the word “fascism” is derived from the Italian term “fasci,” which means a bundle of sticks and signifies unity. There is power in unity, and this unity must be used for good, not evil during this time of social distancing. Unity for fascists meant homogeneity, but today we need to put diverse skills to work. If we work together in our remote corners of the world, we have the power to rise above hatred and push for policies to protect those who are most vulnerable and marginalized.

Humans are not the virus. We are part of the planet and part of the solution to address both the coronavirus crisis and the climate crisis.