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On March 15, 2019, an Australian neo-Nazi in Christchurch, New Zealand, began a livestream in a mosque parking lot. What followed were some of the most horrific images ever recorded.
The video, which would be shared en masse by keyboard Nazis across the globe, showed a 28-year-old armed to the teeth killing 51 people. Less than five months later, a 21-year-old Texan gunned down 23 people in an El Paso Walmart.
The two gunmen were examples of many terrible things: Lone-wolf terrorists killing on behalf of their race, the international spread of extreme-right ideology, the gamification of right-wing terrorism, and the use of livestreaming murder as a propaganda tool.
They were also examples of the relationship between environmentalism and fascist ideology: Both of the shooters left manifestos online meant specifically for propaganda and to inspire other shooters; both manifestos cited the environment as a contributing factor to their shooting spree.
“I am an ethno-nationalist eco-fascist,” the Christchurch shooter wrote in his manifesto. “Ethnic autonomy for all peoples with a focus on the preservation of nature, and the natural order.”
Extreme-right ideologies are an obvious and growing threat. Eco-fascism—broadly, the desire for a totalitarian regime to force sacrifices from (usually minority) populations to protect the environment—is a subsidiary of that threat. While it’s not a particularly popular movement, people shouldn’t overlook it, said Alex Amend, who recently wrote an in-depth article on the modern state of eco-fascism for the research group Political Research Associates.
“Eco-fascism has an explanation for why somebody like (the Christchurch shooter) should go and kill immigrants because they are a threat (in their mind) to both the white body politic and the white homeland,” Amend told VICE News. “So it’s already proven to be deadly. It’s going to be deadly still.”
In encrypted and now leaked chats, neo-Nazis and other adherents of the far-right routinely discuss the environment and how it plays into their plans.
“As climate change is causing more environmental distress and anxiety,” said Alexander Reid Ross, a scholar who studies fascist movements, “ecology (is) playing a bigger role in fascist ideology across the board.”
Much like the term “alt-right,” eco-fascism has lost some of its meaning in recent years, having been thrown around so much that it’s become a pejorative.
“An eco-fascist might focus on ecological politics, so-called overpopulation, and maybe some deep ecology and the rejection of human rights, whereas there would be other fascists who might focus more on worker planks of the white working class,” said Reid Ross.
Amend described an eco-fascist as a fascist that has “a conception of white identity that is basically one and the same, or is directly tied to, what they view as the historical landscape that’s important to that identity.”