The forces of fascism are busy these days trying to convince us of a deadly lie:
That it’s desirable, natural, or inevitable for great amounts of poor and nonwhite people to die off because of climate change. This lie enters the discourse in many forms, both obvious and not. But every time it appears, it has to be countered with the declaration that we must not write off any lives as disposable or doomed; we must work to save as many people as possible throughout the coming catastrophe.
The assertion to the contrary is based off of the same false claim that’s supported the centuries-old lie about world poverty being natural or inevitable: the claim that there aren’t enough resources to give everyone food, shelter and healthcare. Yet despite this claim being scientifically false, the traditional narrative about the supposed unavoidability of poverty is now transitioning into something even more cynical and dangerous.
This narrative often gets support from oversimplified or fatalistic claims about the amount of deaths that climate change will cause. This year, Extinction Rebellion’s Roger Hallam stated that “science predicts “that six billion people could experience “slaughter, death, and starvation” by 2100 because of climate change.
Not only did Hallam’s assertion lack confirmation from any actual scientific study, but his conclusion was reached by going out of his way to assume that agriculture and living conditions will be harmed enough for these many poor and nonwhite people to be killed. While Hallam was using this rhetoric to encourage society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he was promoting the idea that barring an arbitrarily defined amount of climate action, there will no longer be any question that billions will die.
These kinds of simplistic statements imply that it’s an either/or situation, that either the crisis will be roundly solved or most of the human race will be wiped out. In reality, the crisis has countless moving parts that can pretty much all be turned in a direction which saves human lives, even if the warming surpasses the levels that we’re hoping for. There will always be the potential to give more people access to food and water, build more and better shelter, and make more parts of the world free from war. While it’s not possible to prevent absolutely all of the deaths that will come from climate change, taking these actions can make a difference in whether or not vast amounts of deaths will be avoided.
The only obstacle to us taking these actions is capitalism. When profit is the motivating factor behind how the ruling institutions function, these institutions will treat the poorest and most vulnerable parts of the population as liabilities that can be sacrificed for the sake of profit. This has always been how capitalism has treated the poor, so during climate change-created crises the poor are the most forsaken. We’ve seen this during Hurricane Katrina, when those in the underclass of New Orleans were prioritized last; during the California fires of the last few years, where poverty has contributed to whether or not many people have been able to find safety; and most significantly in countries like Iraq and India, where growing water crises are endangering the poor amidst rising inequality.
When radical right-wing figures say that cracking down on immigration will be a necessary part of responding to climate change, they’re building on this capitalist mindset about it not being desirable to protect everyone. Jewish Currents reported last year that influential white nationalist Jared Taylor stated the following to them in an email:
“If continued global change makes the poor, non-white parts of the world even more unpleasant to live in than they are now, it will certainly drive more non-whites north. I make no apology for… urging white nations to muster the will to guard their borders and maintain white majorities.”
It’s a fine line between rationalizing the sacrifice of poor and nonwhite lives for the sake of capitalism, and believing that the solution to climate change is genocide. Functionally these two courses of action are barely different, and our society has long been pursuing the route of class-based climate sacrifice.
The mass detention and deportation of climate refugees from the developing world is an example of disaster capitalism; companies like Microsoft are making tens of millions of dollars from providing the technology to separate and lock up migrant families. The Israeli surveillance company Elbit has also been making a profit by installing automated watchtowers along the southern border, a project that Elbit ultimately aims to extend across the entire perimeter of the U.S.
As this dynamic of profit-based immigration policing expands America’s corporatized police state, exacerbates racial and religious tensions, and erodes liberties for American citizens, society itself is becoming one big sacrifice zone—one that the rich believe they’ll have the best chance at escaping.
Is it any wonder why right-wing libertarians and self-described “anarcho-capitalists” are becoming increasingly aligned with white nationalists? The ideology of profit is facilitating the xenophobic, racist goals of those who want to keep the immigrants out and create an ethnostate. As climate change becomes more openly accepted by the right in the coming years, the rhetoric of strengthened borders and “law and order” will take on an aspect that focuses on the deterioration of the environment, or that at least acknowledges it. This racist and authoritarian response to climate change is what those in the currently marginal “Green Nazi” movement hope for. And the fusion of their eco-fascist agenda with corporate power will make for a frighteningly dystopian scenario.
“When I was young I was a communist, then an anarchist and finally a libertarian before coming to be an eco-fascist,” claimed the pro-Trump white nationalist mass shooter Brenton Tarrant in the manifesto that he wrote before he 51 killed people this March in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“There is no Conservatism without nature [and] there is no nationalism without environmentalism, [since] the natural environment of our lands shaped us just as we shaped it.”
It’s my belief that eco-fascism can only be fought with eco-socialism. Like Venezuela’s Chavistas and Bolivia’s socialist president Evo Morales (recently deposed in a military coup, but perhaps soon to return), we must advance an anti-capitalist agenda that seeks to eliminate fossil fuels while providing safety and comfort to all people.
Carrying out this agenda of solidarity and humanitarianism will require us to dispel the big lie that the eco-fascists depend on: the lie that the most vulnerable victims of climate change can’t be saved. It’s our responsibility to work towards saving as many of Earth’s people as possible.
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