In this new episode of Spoken Earth, Adam Weymouth speaks with Professor Peter Staudenmaier, about the historical overlap between environmentalism and far right thought, and the growing trends of ecofascism today.
“That version of humanity is to blame, humanity is the cause of whatever ills have befallen the natural world, that notion, that temptation, has been there all along.”
In 2019, two mass shootings dominated headlines: the murder of 23 people in El Paso, Texas, and the murder of 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand. Beyond the barbarity, there was something else that linked these two events: both killers identified with eco-fascist thought. In his lengthy manifesto, the Christchurch shooter wrote “there is no nationalism without environmentalism.”
I came across Peter Staudenmaier’s work while researching the term ecofascism last year, a term that on the face of it appeared to be an oxymoron. He shows that there is a vein of fascist thought that has run through the environmental movement since its very inceptions in the nineteenth century.
Madison Grant, the prominent US conservationist, who was instrumental in the creation of the first national parks, wrote a book called The Passing of the Great Race which Hitler described as his “bible.” And the Nazi party itself had strong tents of environmentalism. Peter begins his book Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience with the following quote, written in 1934, from a professor of botany, Ernst Lehmann:
“We recognize that separating humanity from nature, from the whole of life, leads to humankind’s own destruction and to the death of nations. Only through a reintegration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. That is the fundamental point of the biological tasks of our age.
Humankind alone is no longer the focus of thought, but rather life as a whole … This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of National Socialist thought.”
In this wide ranging discussion, Peter takes me through his vital research into a history that has all too often been left unacknowledged by mainstream environmental circles. He shows how fascism has found a comfortable bedfellow with environmentalism in the past, and we discuss how, in the face of the current environmental crisis, the connections between green and far right thought are stirring once again.
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Art by Oreofe Morakinyo.