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How “eco-fascists” are using environmentalism to promote white nationalism

a picture of a smoky forest with charred trees
"There's a longer history of parts of the environmental movement in the United States and beyond being tinged with xenophobia and racism."

When you think about the modern environmentalist movement, you probably picture progressive supporters with liberal political views. 

But in a piece recently published in The Conversation, University of Michigan Professor Alexandra Minna Stern notes that more and more white nationalists are latching onto environmental concerns and calling themselves "eco-fascists.”

Stern says that the term “eco-fascist” has been used as an insult to describe right-wing political leaders who reject climate change science, and also to accuse liberals of wanting to force eco-friendly lifestyles on the public.

But Stern focuses on the subset of white nationalists who have actively chosen to label themselves “eco-fascism.” They use it to describe an ideology that blends racism and xenophobia with environmental issues.

Census projections suggest that white people will become a minority alongside other ethnic groups in the United States by 2045. Stern says that eco-fascists are concerned about the way that the changing climate will impact those demographics. 

“What they see is a future where... climate change is happening and it is producing more refugees, more [displaced] people, and that is going to — in their eyes — disrupt the racial order further and potentially jeopardize white minorities, or what is becoming a white minority in the United States," Stern said. 

Users aligning themselves with eco-fascism can be found on platforms like Reddit, 4chan, 8chan, and even Twitter. Both the accused Christchurch shooter and the alleged shooter in El Paso described themselves as eco-fascists in manifestos they published online before those attacks.

Stern notes that eco-fascist ideology may not have been the primary driving force behind those mass shootings, but she says that those beliefs are “part of the package” that motivated those shooters to carry out racially-motivated acts of violence. 

“What is on the fringe can certainly move to the center, and we need to be very concerned about that and concerned about the way in which media ecosystems — particularly social media — allows that to happen,” Stern said.

Alexandra Minna Stern will be speaking about her new book, “Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right is Warping the American Imagination,” on Monday, September 16 at 7:00 PM at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas.

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