Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #629 It’s Not Easy Being Green, Part II: “Ecofascism”

Recorded March 16, 2008
MP3: Side 1 | Side 2

Supplementing information presented in FTR#628, the broadcast highlights the “green wing” of the German Nazi Party under Hitler, noting the movement’s pre-Nazi antecedents in German ecological thinking, as well as its influence on some elements of the contemporary green movement. Among the antecedents of Nazi green thinking were the Wandervogel, described by analysts as “right-wing hippies.” Their tenets closely anticipated many aspects of the contemporary ecological movement. Most of the Wandervogel became Nazis. Pre-Nazi ecological thinking in Germany was both mystical and nationalistic in nature, setting the stage for the Nazi “Greens.” Both Hitler and SS leader Heinrich Himmler espoused many aspects of contemporary green thinking, including the use of alternative fuels and organic farming. Among the philosophical trends that have contributed to ecofascism is anthroposophy, developed by Rudolph Steiner. Right-wing anthroposophy constitutes a major wing of the contemporary ecofascist movement, funded in part by German multinational corporations. [This program not be misunderstood as characterizing the green movement as fascist, nor should it be seen as mitigating the Nazi evil. Rather, “greens” should view this as a cautionary advisory, mandating a watchful eye for fascist infiltration or co-option of ecological causes and institutions].

Program Highlights Include: The powerful, ultra-right green organization the WSL and its influence in contemporary Germany; the role in the WSL of Werner Georg Haverbeck—a veteran of the Third Reich from its earliest days; ecofascist Rudolf Bahro’s significant influence on contemporary green thinking in Germany. Listeners are emphatically encouraged to purchase, read and assimilate Biehl and Staudenmaier’s vitally important book, “Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience”!

1. Supplementing information presented in FTR#628, the broadcast highlights the “green wing” of the German Nazi Party under Hitler, noting the movement’s pre-Nazi antecedents in German ecological thinking.
(Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience; by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier; AK Press [SC] 1995; Copyright 1995 by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier; ISBN 1-873176-73-2; pp. 4-12.)

2. Among the antecedents of Nazi green thinking were the Wandervogel. “ . . . The chief vehicle for carrying this ideological constellation to prominence was the youth movement, an amorphous phenomenon which played a decisive but highly ambivalent role in shaping German popular culture during the first three tumultuous decades of the century. Also known as the Wandervogel, (which translates roughly as ‘wandering free spirits’), the youth movement was a hodge-podge of countercultural elements, blending neo-Romanticism, Eastern philosophies, nature mysticism, hostility to reason, and a strong communal impulse in a confused but no lesss ardent search for authentic, non-alienated social relations. Their back-to-the-land emphasis spurred a passionate sensitivity to the natural world and the damage it suffered. They have been accurately characterized as ‘right-wing hippies,’ for although some sectors of the movement gravitated toward various forms of emancipatory politics (though usually shedding their environmental trappings in the process), most of the Wandervogel were eventually absorbed by the Nazis. This shift from nature worship to fuhrer worship is worth examining. . . .”
(Ibid.; pp. 9-10.)

3. More about the Weimar Republic’s philosophical antecedents of the “green wing” of the NSDAP: “ . . . Many of these projects were profoundly implicated in the ideology which culminated in the victory of ‘Blood and Soil.’ A 1923 recruitment pitch for a woodlands preservation outfit gives a sense of the environmental rhetoric of the time. ‘In every German breast the German forest quivers with its caverns and ravines, crags and boulders, waters and winds, legends and fairy tales, with its songs and its melodies, and awakens a powerful yearning and a longing for home; in all German souls the German forest lives and weaves with its depth and breadth, its stillness and strength, its might and dignity, its riches and its beauty—it is the source of German inwardness, of the German soul, of German freedom. Therefore protect and care for the German forest for the sake of the elders and the youth, and join the new German ‘League for the Preservation and Consecration of the German Forest.’”
(Ibid.; p. 13.)

4. Many staples of the green philosophy were adopted by the Nazi hierarchy. Note that this should NOT be misunderstood as qualifying the evil of the Nazi regime. For perspective on this consideration, see FTR#628. “ . . . Such musings, it must be stressed, were not mere rhetoric; they reflected firmly held beliefs and, indeed, practices at the very top of the Nazi hierarchy which are today conventionally associated with ecological attitudes. Hitler and Himmler were both strict vegetarians and animal lovers, attracted to nature mysticism and homeopathic cures, and staunchly opposed to vivisection and cruelty to animals. Himmler even established experimental organic farms to grow herbs for SS medicinal purposes. And Hitler at times, could sound like a veritable Green utopian, discussing authoritatively and in detail various renewable energy sources (including environmentally appropriate hydropower and producing natural gas from sludge) as alternatives to coal, and declaring ‘water, winds and tides’ as the energy path of the future. . . .”
(Ibid.; pp. 15-16.)

5. Among the philosophical trends that have contributed to ecofascism is anthroposophy, developed by Rudolph Steiner. Right-wing anthroposophy constitutes a major wing of the contemporary ecofascist movement. German multinational corporations fund anthroposophy. Note in this regard that, as discussed in FTR#305, all of the large German corporations are controlled by the Bormann capital network and the Underground Reich. Of particular significance in this regard is the Bertelsmann corporation, the largest English language publisher and the publisher for the SS in World War II. (For more about Bertelsmann see—among other programs—FTR#298.) “ . . . It should also be noted that anthroposophy is also well-funded by huge multinational corporations like Siemens and Bertelsmann. . . .”
(Ibid.; pp. 44-45.)

6. One of the proponents of fascist anthroposophy in the contemporary German green movement is Werner Georg Haverbeck of the WSL, a well-funded far right environmental organization. Haverbeck—like August Haussleiter discussed in FTR#628—is a veteran of the NSDAP, dating from its earliest days. “ . . . Haverbeck joined the SA in 1928 . . . . He survived the Rohm purge to help organize the Nuremberg Party Congress and join Hess’s staff. . . .” (Idem.)

7. Among the contemporary practitioners of Nazi-inspired ecofascism is Rudolf Bahro: “ . . . since the mid-1980’s, Bahro has been contributing to the development of a ‘spiritual fascism’ that has the effect of ‘rehabilitating National Socialism,’ openly calling for reclaiming the ‘positive’ side of the Nazi movement. Not only does Bahro appeal to a mystical Germanist spirituality like the volkisch ideologues of the 1920’s, he even sees the need for a ‘Green Adolf’ who will lead Germans out of their own ‘folk-depths’ and into ecological ‘salvation.’ . . .”
(Ibid.; pp. 48-50.)

8. More about Bahro’s efforts at rehabilitating the Third Reich: “ . . . Since the mid-1980’s, Bahro has been remarkably open about proclaiming his embrace of the spiritual content of fascism for the ‘salvation’ of nature and humanity. In The Logic of Salvation, he asks, ‘Is there really no thought more reprehensible than a new 1933’—that is, Hitler’s rise to state power. ‘But that is precisely what can save us! The ecology and peace movement is the first popular German movement since the Nazi movement. It must co-redeem [miterlosen] Hitler.’ Indeed, ‘the Nazi movement [was] among other things an early reading of the ecology movement.’ . . .”
(Ibid.; pp. 53-55.)


10 comments for “FTR #629 It’s Not Easy Being Green, Part II: “Ecofascism””

  1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/28/germany-far-right-green-movement

    German far-right extremists tap into green movement for support

    Support for ecological movement and conservation used to try to recruit a new generation of supporters

    Kate Connolly in Berlin
    guardian.co.uk, Saturday 28 April 2012 18.51 EDT

    German consumers are being warned that when they buy organic produce they may be supporting the far-right movement, following the revelation that rightwing extremists in Germany have embraced the ecological movement and are using it to tap into a new generation of supporters.

    Debunking the popular view that equates eco-friendliness with cuddly, left-leaning greens, rightwing extremists have even begun to publish their own conservation magazine, which is believed to have the backing of the far-right National Democratic party (NPD). Alongside gardening tips and reports on the dangers of genetically modified milk are articles riddled with rightwing ideology and racial slurs. Bavaria’s domestic intelligence agency has described the magazine, Umwelt und Aktiv (Environment and Active), as a “camouflage publication” for the NPD.

    “We have to get used to the fact that the term ‘bio’ [organic] does not automatically mean equality and human dignity,” said Gudrun Heinrich of the University of Rostock, who has just published a study on the topic called Brown Ecologists, a reference to the Nazi Brownshirts and their modern-day admirers.

    Hotbeds of far-right eco-warriors are to be found throughout Germany. In the Mecklenburg region in the north, they have been quietly settling in communities since the 1990s in an effort to reinvigorate the traditions of the Artaman League – a farming movement whose roots lie in the 19th century romantic ideal of “blood and soil” ruralism, which was adopted by the Nazis. Heinrich Himmler, the SS leader, was a member. “They propagate a way of living which involves humane raising of plants and animals, is both nationalistic and authoritarian, and in which there’s no place for pluralism and democracy,” said Heinrich, adding that the NPD is closely linked to the settlers, helping the party become “deeply rooted in these rural areas”.

    The settlers produce “German honey”, bake bread from homegrown wheat, produce fruit and vegetables for sale, and knit their own woollen sweaters. Observers have noted that the far-right farmers have been able to profit from the cheap and spacious swaths of land left by a population exodus from impoverished states in the former East Germany, such as Mecklenburg.

    Political scientists argue that the NPD is trying to wrest the ecological movement back from the left, particularly the German Greens, who rose to prominence in the 1980s to become Europe’s most successful ecological party.

    Hans-Günter Laimer, a farmer in Lower Bavaria who once ran for election for the NPD and is linked to Umwelt und Aktiv, questions why the left has been allowed to dominate the organic scene for so long. “What is the difference between my cucumbers and those of someone from the Green party?” he said.

    A representative of the Centre for Democratic Culture, in Roggentin in Mecklenburg, who did not wish to be identified for security reasons, recently told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper: “They want that people don’t think about politics when they hear the word NPD. They want as far as possible to build subtle bridges into the lives of other citizens … ecological topics are becoming increasingly important for rightwing extremists.”

    At the same time as it was butchering millions of people, the Nazi party supported animal rights and nature conservation. But it is disturbing for many Germans to think that while they support local producers and reject genetically modified food, pesticides and intensive livestock farming, there is now little – superficially at least – to distinguish a supposedly well-meaning, leftist Green from a far-right eco enthusiast.

    The department of rural enlightenment in the state of Rheinland Pfalz has even produced a brochure called Nature Conservation versus Rightwing Extremism, which aims to help organic farmers resist the infiltration of fascists into their ranks and to be able to respond to any far-righters they might encounter. Its author, historian Nils Franke, said: “Because of the success of the eco topic in the wider society, the NPD has a heightened interest in wanting to fly the flag with it.”

    Biopark, an organic cultivation organisation that vets its members before certifying them as organic farmers, said there was little it could do to exclude the rightwing extremist members it knew were in its ranks.

    “I don’t appreciate the ideology of these people and I can understand if people choose not to buy from us as a result, but I can’t vet them according to their political affiliations, only based on their cultivation methods,” said its manager, Delia Micklich.

    Posted by R. Wilson | April 29, 2012, 9:24 am
  2. @Robert Wilson–

    Again, good show! My rants a week or two ago notwithstanding, it is gratifying to see your important presence returning to spitfirelist.com.

    As discussed in numerous FTR’s about “volksgruppenrechte”–the rights of native peoples–the Greens have been part of the milieu that has been promoting Balkanization and secession as a way of “Reich-building.”

    The UNPO is an example of the kind of thing they’ve been promoting.

    When viewing the horrifying underpinnings of a minor deity like the Dalai Lama, it is daunting to contemplate if young folks can successfully avoid all the Nazi/fascist sand traps (“bunkers”?).

    Pirate Party, WikiLeaks, eco-fascism, and stances that are, in their foundation reasonable, such as opposition to excessive “anti-terrorism” legislation and the rights of minority peoples present a formidable minefield for the young to navigate.

    May have to give this article a FFT post in, and of, itself.

    Keep digging and thanks again!



    Posted by Dave Emory | April 29, 2012, 1:54 pm
  3. @Dave: I must admit that I was one of the younger truth-seekers who took the hard and bumpy road…..that is, I fell for a few of the traps to varying degrees.

    @R. Wilson: Unfortunately, the fringe right has been pulling similar shenanigans here in the U.S. for a very long time now. One must wonder if a conspiracy to discredit the efforts of honest & decent supporters and promoters of green living may be in play(and I wouldn’t be surprised if people like Hans-Gunter Laimer were indeed secretly trying to turn good people away from green living!), on top of the usual hijacking the bandwagon, as it were.

    Posted by Steven L. | April 29, 2012, 5:27 pm
  4. of cause Hitler was for some good things. do you think anyone would vote for him if he went around saying, ” hi, i am hitler. i want to start another world war and i want to kill all the jews. please vote for me.”

    Posted by David | May 9, 2012, 5:42 pm
  5. Mongolian neo-Nazi group now pushing ‘resource nationalism’
    By Reuters
    Tuesday, July 2, 2013 7:25 EDT


    By Carlos Barria

    ULAN BATOR (Reuters) – A Mongolian neo-Nazi group has rebranded itself as an environmentalist organization fighting pollution by foreign-owned mines, seeking legitimacy as it sends Swastika-wearing members to check mining permits.

    Tsagaan Khass, or White Swastika, has only 100-plus members but it is one of several groups with names like Dayar Mongol (Whole Mongolia), Gal Undesten (Fire Nation) and Khukh Mongol (Blue Mongolia), expanding a wave of resource nationalism as foreign firms seek to exploit the mineral wealth of the vast country, landlocked between Russia and China.

    From an office behind a lingerie store in the Mongolian capital, the shaven-headed, jackbooted Tsagaan Khass storm-troopers launch bizarre raids on mining projects, demanding paperwork or soil samples to be studied for contaminants.

    “Before we used to work in a harsh way, like breaking down doors, but now we have changed and we use other approaches, like demonstrations,” the group’s leader, Ariunbold Altankhuum, 40, told Reuters, speaking through a translator.

    On a patrol to a quarry in grasslands a dusty two-hour ride from the capital, members wore black SS-style Nazi uniforms complete with lightning flashes and replica Iron Crosses.

    They questioned a mine worker against the sound of machinery grinding stones about paper work, opting to return in a week when the owner had returned.

    “Today our main goal is to save nature. We are doing things to protect the environment,” Altankhuum said. “The development of mining is growing and has become an issue.”

    The group, founded in the 1990s, says it wants to halt pollution in the landlocked former Soviet satellite as foreign companies dig for gold, copper, coal and iron ore using cheap labor from neighboring China and nearby Southeast Asia. But a lot of the pollution is caused by local, illegal miners working individually.

    “We used to talk about fighting with foreigners, but some time ago we realized that is not efficient, so our purpose changed from fighting foreigners in the streets to fighting the mining companies,” Altankhuum said.

    Foreign-invested mining companies contacted by Reuters either were unavailable for comment or did not want to comment.

    Mongolians fear foreign workers are taking up scarce jobs in an economy where nearly 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the Asia Development Bank.

    “Mining is important because it’s 90 percent of our economy,” said political commentator Dambadarjaa Jargalsaikhan. “But the unequal channeling of this revenue, the inequality in this country, that’s the major issue.”

    Not helping the Tsagaan Khass environmental credentials among mainstream observers, apart from the uniforms, is Altankhuum’s reverence for Adolf Hitler.

    “The reason we chose this way is because what is happening here in Mongolia is like 1939, and Hitler’s movement transformed his country into a powerful country,” he said.


    Because of comments like that, some observers dismiss groups such as his as self-serving and irrelevant.

    “Mongolia’s neo-Nazis have been receiving too much attention from global media, and they’ve obviously been enjoying it,” said Tal Liron, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago who specializes in national identity. “They do not, however, represent Mongolians as a whole, any more than neo-Nazis in Britain represent the Brits.

    “…Mongolians are cosmopolitan, savvy and perfectly capable of adapting many foreign ideologies and fashions to their context. For example, they have since 1990 thoroughly and vibrantly embraced representative democracy, just as they embraced socialism before 1990. I think that’s the real story here: Mongolians are not and perhaps never were a remote, isolated people. And they’re also quite capable of understanding irony, especially in regards to their contemporary condition.”

    Resource nationalism has been a major election issue in Mongolia, where the largest foreign investment is the Oyu Tolgoi project, 66 percent owned by global miner Rio Tinto and the rest by the government.

    Oyu Tolgoi is expected to boost Mongolia’s economy by about a third by 2020. Annual output in its first decade is expected to average 330,000 tons of copper and 495,000 ounces of gold.

    But Rio has said since February it will not begin exports from the mine until it resolves disputes with Mongolia over royalties, costs, management fees and project financing.

    “They are saying they have signed contracts on it and are giving some percentage of that to the people,” Dorjgotov Purev-Ish, a 39-year-old manual laborer, told Reuters, describing government assurances of the advantages to flow from Oyu Tolgoi.

    “But our family hasn’t received any benefit.”

    Incumbent president Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who wants more controls on foreign mining investment, won a second term last week, riding concerns over the faltering economy and the growing role of foreign firms.

    Colonel Tumenjargal Sainjargal of the National Police Department said the right-wing phenomenon began 15 years ago when young people grew angry at the appearance of foreign languages on signs and made threats against business owners.

    “They said it was too much, that it looked like a Chinatown,” Sainjargal said.

    “There are complaints that some foreign-invested companies hire Mongolian employees and cheat them, use violence, over work them, or refuse to pay money owed to them. Afterwards, some of these Mongolians call the nationalist groups. There have been a few incidents with nationalists coming to companies for violent reasons to resolve the conflicts in their own way.”

    It seems unlikely Tsagaan Khass’s new green thinking will be enough to repair its reputation after accusations of violence, such as shaving the heads of women it claimed were prostitutes serving foreign customers.

    “We didn’t shave the heads of the women, we just cut their hair,” said Altankhuum. “But today we are changing. That was crude. That time has passed.”

    Posted by Swamp | July 2, 2013, 7:22 am
  6. Coming back to this one again…..btw, speaking of eco-fascism, and the people who foolishly push it, Dave, are you ever gonna take a look at climate change doomsayers?

    These people are a small group but they are quite vocal; they make a full-time career or sorts throwing out crazy B.S. predictions about “near term extinction” or inevitable societal collapse, etc., and some of them are QUITE nasty individuals.

    For a couple of the more well-known examples, I’ll post some links:


    Fearmongering and craziness ABOUNDS with these people. They may not ALL be conscious fascists, but there sure are a fair number who seem to be all too fanatical about their beliefs…..

    Posted by Steve L. | July 20, 2013, 6:41 pm
  7. @Steven L.: The most prominent climate change alarmist (that seems to consistently seems to do more harm than good) I can think of is James Lovelock. In addition arguing that nuclear power is the only green solution available to humanity, he also floated the idea that democracy might have to be suspended until humanity gets the climate under control. And then there’s his claims that we’re all doomed by 2040 and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Just last year, Lovelock did a big mea culpa and acknowledged that predicting that humanity would be almost entirely wiped out in a century was perhaps a smidge over the top. He then went on to question climate science in general, using some rather dubious arguments. He then came out in favor of fracking and now his latest pet topics are overpopulation and a new species arising on earth more capable than humans at living harmoniously (he’s previously argued that humans haven’t evolved the intelligence required to prevent climate change). Considering the damage folks like Lovelock have done to legitimate climate alarmism (which is entirely appropriate given the alarming data) and considering how important the topic of overpopulation is in general – especially in the countries near the equator that are most likely to be severely impacted by climate change – the prospect of Lovelock influencing the overpopulation debate doesn’t bode well. And the new species stuff is just a big red flag. You can see the “Eco-collapse for Evolution!” headlines coming. Ugh.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 21, 2013, 8:32 pm
  8. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/10312930/Germanys-Green-Party-leader-regrets-campaign-to-legalise-paedophilia.html

    Germany’s Green Party leader regrets campaign to ‘legalise paedophilia’
    The head of Germany’s Green Party has expressed regret about a two-decade-old political pamphlet containing calls to legalise some forms of pedophilia.

    By Jeevan Vasagar, in Berlin

    3:05PM BST 16 Sep 2013

    Jürgen Trittin was listed as “legally responsible” for a 1981 election pamphlet, which called for the decriminalisation of sex acts between adults and children “that occur without the use or threat of force.”

    Mr Trittin, the co-leader of the party and a former German environment minister, told a press conference in Berlin on Monday: “It was also my fault and my responsibility that these mistaken demands endured for so long.” He added: “This position is false, was false and lasted too long.”

    Asked how he viewed it then, Mr Trittin replied: “I saw it as problematic”.

    At the time the pamphlet was published, Mr Trittin was a grassroots activist for the Greens. In the mid-1980s he became a regional MP for the Greens in Lower Saxony. The demand for legalisation was withdrawn during the course of the 1980s after campaigning by women’s groups within the Green party.

    The revelation will be a further blow to the Green Party’s election hopes. Germany’s third biggest party has struggled throughout the election campaign with polls putting them as low as nine percent of the vote.

    The party’s support for making paedophilia legal only ended in 1990 but the past has haunted them throughout this election campaign.

    Mr Trittin argued at the press conference that the party’s view on paedophilia was shaped by the campaign against Paragraph 175, the provision of the German criminal code that made homosexuality illegal. This was abolished in 1994.

    He said: “In the founding phase of the Greens, gay and lesbian groups were campaigning to reverse discrimination of a kind you can hardly imagine today.

    “The impetus for liberalisation and decriminalisation overshot its target. And it overshot, because there was the fiction that – beyond violence and the abuse of a relationship of trust — there could be sexual relations between adults and children.”

    The Greens announced earlier this year that they would set up an inquiry into their links with paedophile groups, following a row over a Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s apparent endorsement of sex with children.

    The first report of the inquiry, published last month, concluded that the Greens “set barely any boundaries on sexual relations between teachers, carers and their charges — or between adults and children”.

    Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a student leader in the 1968 unrest in Paris, claimed in a 1975 book that he interacted sexually with children while working at a kindergarten. The remarks came to light again this year when he was awarded a prize by the Theodor Heuss Foundation, which honours West Germany’s first president.

    He subsequently insisted that he was not a paedophile and had made the remarks solely in order to shock “bourgeois” society.

    The Greens slipped to 8.6pc in regional elections in Bavaria on Sunday, a week ahead of Germany’s national elections on September 22. German chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative allies the Christian Social Union von 47.7pc of the vote, a swing of more than four percentage points from their 2008 result.

    Hermann Groehe, general secretary of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said: “This election gives us tailwind for the national election.” The liberal Free Democrats, who are in coalition with Mrs Merkel’s party nationally, won only 3.3 per cent of the vote in Bavaria, losing more than half their support and all their seats in the parliament in Munich. In national polls the Free Democrats hover around the 5pc threshold needed to keep their seats in the Bundestag.

    Germany’s main opposition party, the Social Democrats, finished a distant second in Bavaria with 20.6 per cent.

    Posted by Vanfield | September 17, 2013, 9:48 am
  9. And then there is this… Kevin
    Barrett is a typical Truther/Holocaust denier/piece of crap.
    Naturally, he is tight with Baraka. The site is anarchist,
    but they back up what they are saying with links that are


    “The U.S. Green Party is well-known to be a home for many
    antisemites and conspiracy theorists. In fact, this seems to
    be such an accepted fact in the party that it has nominated
    Amaju Baraka for vice president, even tho he has a very
    public history of working with Holocaust Denier Kevin
    Barrett. This includes being in an anthology Barrett edited,
    and appearing on his radio show.”

    Posted by CarobSteviaMatte | August 12, 2016, 8:23 am
  10. The Menace of Eco-Fascism
    by Matthew Phelan

    October 22, 2018


    We tend to assume that America’s environmental movement has clear analogues in other countries and cultures, but it might really be closer to an aberration. Forged in the crucible of Vietnam- and Civil Rights-era protest movements, and melding the traditions of Henry David Thoreau and Teddy Roosevelt with the ideals of the 1960s counterculture, American environmentalism bears little resemblance to some of its presumed allies abroad.

    Across Europe, for example, a longstanding cultural relationship between Nature and Nation permeates environmental debate with a nativist sentiment stronger than is typically visible in the United States. In Germany, beginning around the turn of the twentieth century, die Wandervögel (the hiking birds) began to coalesce around a disdain for modernity and a romantic conception of the nation’s Teutonic agrarian past. The Hitler Youth eventually appropriated a lot of the Wandervögel aesthetic—including its early use of the swastika and its militant Boy Scout look—and the movement’s ideological obsessions; the way it tied local ecology to ethnicity in a “Blood and Soil” mythology is still echoed today by many on the far right. (The German Green Party has been periodically plagued by this tension, sometimes leading to the creation of splinter groups such as the Unabhängige Ökologen Deutschlands, the Independent Environmentalists of Germany, whose platform pairs ecological goals with the protection of “cultural identity” and racial purity.)

    Russia today is seeing the rise of a similar eco-nationalist homesteading movement, sometimes dubbed “Ringing Cedars” after a series of fantasy novels by the Siberian author Vladimir Megre, whose mysticism and Old World nostalgia inspired readers to go “back to the land.” The catalyzing force of a popular fantasy series is oddly something that the Ringing Cedars communities share with the United Kingdom’s mid-century Green movement, which arose in tandem with a largely conservative longing for the English countryside, rekindled by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

    Anyone who has a passing familiarity with environmental activism knows this intuitively. Limited parochial concerns and self-interest motivate significant segments of nearly all local Green coalitions; there are always people who get the “act locally” part, but don’t particularly care to “think globally.” The trouble is that there is a significant risk that these tensions between the progressive-inclusive and the conservative-exclusive wings of environmentalism could finally rupture in the era that has brought us first Brexit and Trump, and more recently the neo-Nazi days of rage in Chemnitz and this past summer the white nationalist violence in that bastion of hippie-progressivism, downtown Portland, Oregon—this latter clash mere walking distance from an electric vehicle charging station, a yoga studio, and an estuary conservation nonprofit.

    We live in a multivalent political atmosphere, vertiginously complex despite the tired observation that public debate has become too polarized. The old ideological axis of left-right—which had managed to reflect political reality since the end of World War II—has broken apart, and new, improbable coalitions are forming, particularly around issues promoted as populist. Some of these unpredictable realignments have drawn a great deal of commentary and attention, but they have been little discussed as manifested within the environmental movement.

    “We have the potential to become nature’s steward or its destroyer,” Richard Spencer, the white supremacist organizer and coiner of the term “alt-right,” wrote in his August 11, 2017, manifesto inaugurating the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. “Putting aside contentious matters like global warming and resource depletion, European countries should invest in national parks, wilderness preserves, and wildlife refuges, as well as productive and sustainable farms and ranches. The natural world—and our experience of it—is an end in itself.”

    In that disturbing and carefully calibrated statement, Spencer clearly hoped to bridge the divide between those on the far right who believe that climate change is a hoax, that the environmental movement is a crypto-socialist bid for state intervention (effectively, the Koch-funded Tea Party line), and those who actually find the science undergirding environmental causes persuasive (even if they ultimately care more about intrusions into their own personal sphere, like GMO crops and fluoridated water, than international problems like rising sea levels and ocean acidification). Spencer’s goal here is to build a consensus on preserving the natural environment—for the privileged ownership, use, and pleasure of Western ethno-states.

    Albeit without the alt-right’s explicitly exclusionary, tribalist agenda, this romantic-reactionary tendency in environmentalism has fertile ground in US Green Party coalitions, if only because many pragmatic environmentalists have self-selected out of these marginalized third-party engagements. Concerted efforts by anti-Semitic authors David Pidcock, Michele Renouf, and Matthias Chang to insinuate their ideas into the Green Party’s defense of Palestinians, and its critique of international finance, plagued the campaign of Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney in 2008, and this example is not unique. In general, what has been left is an activist community that, while far from being a full-fledged “green–brown” alliance, is dangerously susceptible to eco-nationalist positions and premeditated infiltration by like-minds from the far right.

    Canada’s Green Party has also been forced to spend the past several years aggressively distancing itself from similar intrusions, among them its former federal candidate in Alberta, Monika Schaefer, who ran on the party line in 2006, 2008, and 2011, and now describes the Holocaust as the “biggest and most pernicious and persistent lie in all of history.” Schaefer is a former music teacher whose long gray hair is draped in two braids, one on each shoulder, like Willie Nelson’s. She was arrested in Germany this past January while attending the trial of a fellow Holocaust denier.

    More recently, here in the US, there’s the unlikely journey of Tea Party organizer Debbie Dooley, whose Green Tea Coalition has brought right-wing groups into close collaboration with liberal stalwarts like the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. Together, they have successfully lobbied for solar power subsidies in Georgia and Florida. As Dooley told The Guardian, “I believe being good stewards of the environment God gave us should not be a partisan issue.”

    The sheer novelty of Dooley’s existence has proven irresistible to journalists—netting her gawking profiles in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and on National Public Radio—but that coverage has tended to obscure her extremism. Alongside advocating for sustainable energy, Dooley’s other pet issues are opposing amnesty for undocumented immigrants and increasing border security. She endorsed Trump early in the Republican primary, writing a Breitbart News editorial in which she praised his strong belief in “American exceptionalism” and his willingness to “put American interests first.”

    Looking for a closer appraisal of Dooley, I reached out to the conservation chair for the Sierra Club’s Florida chapter, Tom Larson, who had spoken alongside her (and Al Gore) at a 2015 climate event in Miami. Larson had a strong sense that even more pernicious variations of the Dooley phenomenon had existed within the American environmental movement for decades.

    “Folks that were getting into anti-immigration issues fifteen years ago had some interest in trying to tap the Sierra Club’s concern about worldwide resources-use patterns,” Larson told me. “It was an interesting affair for a couple of years where they tried to get their people elected to the [Sierra Club’s nonprofit] corporate board… There was a nativist lurch at times that was hidden behind ‘population growth’ language.”

    Carl Pope, then the executive director of the Sierra Club, was careful not to say at the time that he believed all of these upstart candidates were necessarily racist. (One, in fact, was a former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation who had joined this anti-immigration push because he sincerely felt that the influx of migrant workers was undermining the livelihoods of working-class African-Americans.)

    Yet Pope reached for a graphic metaphor to describe the overall situation to reporters in 2004, saying that it was hard to separate a candidate’s personal views from his backers “if somebody who isn’t a Nazi is put on the ballot by the American Nazi Party.” This wasn’t mere mudslinging, unfortunately. One Sierra Club member, according to coverage in The New York Times, was found to be encouraging the readers of VDARE—an anti-immigrant site that promotes race science and is today squarely affiliated with the alt-right—to join the Sierra Club and vote for these outside candidates.

    John Tanton, a Sierra Club official from Michigan with extensive ties to white nationalists and eugenicists, had written up a secret memo planning the takeover years earlier, in 1986, as the Southern Poverty Law Center uncovered. (“The issues we’re touching on here must be broached by liberals,” Tanton’s memo reads, “conservatives simply cannot do it without tainting the whole subject.”)

    Tanton is in assisted living now, but the multimillion-dollar network of anti-immigration groups that he helped will into being, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies, has had an outsized influence within the Trump administration. Tanton’s philanthropic pitches to his network’s wealthiest benefactor, Mellon family heiress Cordelia Scaife May, were routinely packaged in their shared affinity for the American traditions of naturalism, transcendentalism, and conservation. A typical correspondence could see Tanton planning a trip for Scaife May on which she could admire both Arizona’s “acorn woodpeckers, and the half dozen species of humming birds” and later visit the state’s brave INS agents busy rounding up “the illegals.” (Perhaps running a similar gambit, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke spent some time in Austria in the late aughts running a birdwatching business near the Eastern Alps.)

    These intentionally subversive episodes are disturbing by themselves. But then there have also been some strange recurring bloopers in which environmental activists have haplessly stumbled into casual alliances with dangerous members of the far-right radical fringe. One example was longtime environmental activist and lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr.’s brief, baffling dalliance with President Trump last year over their mutual vaccine paranoia. There was the 2013 incident in which Australia’s Greens accidentally invited the nation’s leading Holocaust-denier, Frederick Töben, to a gala fundraising cruise. And the time that America’s 2016 Green Party VP candidate, Ajamu Baraka, accidentally allowed one of his political essays to be published in an anthology edited by September 11 conspiracy theorist and Holocaust “skeptic” Kevin Barrett (after Baraka had also appeared on Barrett’s radio program, twice).

    Both by happenstance and design, sadly, these intersections will continue. Indeed, they’re likely to occur more often as the right’s faux-populist critics of “globalism” come to realize the simple empirical fact that we live on an Earth ravaged by increasingly high-speed global commerce. During the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity in 2010, the UN published a report that tied the accelerating rate of species extinction to a variety of economic factors: urban sprawl, deforestation, overfishing, climate change, and the careless mixing of disparate ecosystems.

    That latter factor is of special rhetorical significance here. Global trade has allowed humanity to intermingle countless species—each evolved to unique regional circumstances, oceans apart—pitting these confused strangers together with alarming frequency and unpredictable results. Take, for example, the case of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a fungal passenger on South African clawed frogs that has come to decimate the populations of other frog species worldwide. In the 1930s and 1940s, this species of frog traveled the world rather innocently as a natural form of pregnancy test. (Hormones in a pregnant woman’s urine, it was discovered, were sufficiently potent to make the female clawed frogs ovulate.) Despite a purpose that sounds so wholesome and unobtrusive—a rare bit of folk medicine that doctors and homeopaths could agree on—it brought on a devastating extinction-level event in a way that no one could have anticipated.

    The world is full of stories like this, freak conflicts between raw biology and global trade: bird flu outbreaks that originated in the Dickensian conditions of industrial chicken farms; Burmese pythons, imported as exotic pets, suddenly escaping into the Florida Everglades to savagely disrupt the food web. Every academic journal article and government study on one of these incidents has the potential to be recast with a sickening xenophobic subtext, a gross reactionary gloss.

    And, to an extent, that’s already happening. Florida’s Burmese python problem appeared in a 2014 listicle posted to Alex Jones’s Infowars site designed to goad undecided readers into a life of doomsday prepping. (“The signs of collapse are all around us.”) He and his editorial team have woven these kinds of stories—“supercolony” infestations of fire ants from South America, Hawaiian American bees endangered by invasive plants, transgenic Kentucky bluegrass escaping as a superweed—into their brand’s rolling, improvised narrative of national degeneracy and impending apocalypse. It’s instructive to keep in mind that one of Jones’s most instantly recognizable and endlessly memed rants, the one about “chemicals in the water that turn the frickin’ frogs gay,” ultimately distills genuine concerns about pharmaceutical waste disrupting marine life into pure, reactionary sex panic.

    Jones’s moppety Sheffield protégé, Paul Joseph Watson (not yet banned from Twitter, with 923k followers and counting), has also proven to be an adroit repackager of nuanced ecological debates, transforming them into inflammatory clickbait for his audience of culture warriors. When a sociologist at the University of Westminster suggested that the Radio 4 panel show “Gardeners’ Question Time” had become a crypto-nationalist hotbed of seething racial resentments, Watson spun it to his audience as a left-authoritarian academic calling technical terms like “soil purity” and “invasive species” inherently racist. Earlier this year, he and Breitbart London manufactured a controversy over an off-handed comment made by an environmental reporter, Fred Pearce, who had said that the language used to describe these invasive species is “very xenophobic.” The barely veiled subtext in both instances is the idea that the self-described environmentalists on the left are so fundamentally enmeshed in their own multicultural delusions as to be wholly incapable of protecting the natural world. This tactic of termite punditry around the cleavages between environmentalists and the rest of the modern left probably isn’t going away—particularly since the alt-right has decided that it no longer wants to entrust protecting the fatherland to a bunch of dirty hippies.

    “In terms of the discourse about nations,” says Peter Paul Catterall, a professor at the University of Westminster who edits the historical journal National Identities, “people on the far-right tend to be primordialists; they tend to see the nation as a natural community rather than an imagined community.” (Here, again, the Wandervögel, who in their Teutonic mysticism saw an essential pure Germany stretching back into an idealized past, as opposed to the reality: a German nation-state that had only become formally assembled in 1871.)

    “And in that same way,” Catterall continues, “they’re hostile to the eruption into that community of species and influences from outside, which can undermine or affect the health of that community.”

    There’s a strain within environmentalism that shares this primordial outlook, holding fast to a belief in “climax” or “deep ecologies”—perfectly balanced states of nature that would be enduring and eternal were it not for the interference of man. The unresolved tension surrounding this concept has been a feature of ecological debates since at least the early twentieth century, when the English botanist Arthur Tansley sparred with American ecologist Frederic Clements over the latter’s view of the ecosystem as organism, striving for total symbiotic balance. Finally putting this to rest, with the help of decades of continuing research, will probably be an essential step toward saving the cause of environmentalism from one of its more dangerous foundational myths.

    But it will not fully eradicate the threat that some nascent form of right-wing nationalism might successfully co-opt the environmental movement, in whole or in part, in the near future. It isn’t inconceivable that a few Silicon Valley tech billionaires, alarmed by the specter of anthropogenic apocalypse (but uninterested in any egalitarian impingements on their capital flows), might cast their philanthropic largess behind ever more right-leaning and reactionary environmental groups.

    “There is an opportunity there,” Catterall says, “which the far-right parties have not yet spotted, and there is a risk that they could spot this, and they could use it very effectively because, after all, there is a lot of hostility to science—which goes far beyond the sort of small constituency that the far-right can normally trawl within. You can see these as being wedge issues that can give them a broader reach.”

    As former Trump strategist Steve Bannon told Real Time host Bill Maher last month, “Look in Italy right now… The Five-Star Movement is so Green they even want to do a bullet train, okay? They’re the populist movement and they’re even saying, ‘Hey we gotta stop the migrant issue,’ because they’re the ones that want to give a guaranteed income.” (Four of the five policy issues—or “stars”—around which the difficult-to-classify Five-Star Movement is organized are, in fact, essentially green concerns: public water access, sustainable transportation, sustainable development, and environmentalism. The fifth is a right to Internet access.)

    Much of what the German émigré critical theorist Theodor Adorno had to say about fascism and democracy in 1959 applies equally well to fascism and environmentalism today: the survival of these tendencies within environmentalism could be potentially more menacing than the survival of fascist tendencies against environmentalism. For most of our lives, we’ve lived with the persistent threat of extreme-right movements backed by capital invested in historical dead-ends such as fossil fuels and the freedom to pollute. But far-right movements backed by new sectors of the economy could threaten to be something far worse. They could be sustainable.

    Posted by Mother Muckraker | October 23, 2018, 2:03 pm

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