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Eco-fascism: The ideology marrying environmentalism and white supremacy thriving online

The online movement has roots in neo-Nazism – and a violent edge worth taking seriously. 

“I believe that both the state and the state's citizens have the right to use all means necessary to save the environment, including murder and sabotage,” one user wrote. “Murder is okay in this case, as combating climate change is sure to save more lives than it could ever hypothetically destroy.”

“To be fair, the Third Reich was one of the earliest governments to make conservationism a major focus,” wrote another.

“What really pisses me off is how everyone associates deep ecology with Communism and far left ideologies, which are deeply rooted in industrialization. It was Nazi Germany that was environmentally aware not Soviet Russia, with the rabid industrialisation,” one said.  

In a brief, archived thread nine months ago on the Reddit forum r/DebateFascism lies this conversation that, to many, will seem like a bizarre niche within the online ideological movement of the alt-right. But in fact it was an early sign of a growing online community. Meet the eco-fascists: the nature-obsessed, anti-Semitic, white supremacists who argue that racial purity is the only way to save the planet.

Numerous eco-fascists refused to speak to the New Statesman, but Dan (a pseudonym) agreed to answer my questions via direct message. While he would not give any personal information, not even the country he resided in, and would only speak to me anonymously, he did provide insight into eco-fascist principles. Some of his messages have been edited for typos.

“[Eco-fascists] have put the wellbeing of our earth, nature and animal on the forefront of their ideology,” Dan says. “It’s someone who has also turned away from industrial and urbanite society, seeking a  more close  to earth way of life.”

That seemingly benign focus expresses itself as an ideology that embraces and combines modern-day neo-Nazism with environmentalism – and a belief that going back to ancient geographical roots is the answer to society’s biggest problems. Eco-fascists believe that living in the original regions a race is meant to have originated in and shunning multiculturalism is the only way to save the planet they prioritise above all else.

Although eco-fascism can manifest in different ways (just like any umbrella ideology), there are consistent sets of beliefs that crop up among eco-fascists. They include veganism, anti-multiculturalism, white nationalism, anti-single use plastic, anti-Semitism, and, almost always, a passionate interest in Norse mythology. Most Twitter profiles of self-defining eco-fascists are a bespoke cocktail of alt-right memes, pictures of forests and cabins, hatred towards Jews, and rants about animal rights. Between calls for a racial purity and plastic bans, most accounts have tweets or retweets honouring Thor, celebrating Tyr Day, or glorifying Sunna, the Norse Sun Goddess.  

Dan claims that the link to Norse mythology represents shared “aesthetics” between white eco-fascists and white Norse heroes, and that Norse mythology’s nature imagery and “forefather worship” suits the ideals of eco-fascists, who see themselves as fighting for the earth, as well as white supremacy.

There are a number of key characteristics within the eco-fascist community, from rhetoric to specific character usage, that make them easily identifiable on social media. Tree, earth, or mountain emojis are parked next to almost every eco-fascist’s Twitter name, often accompanied by a Norse/Proto-Germanic rune – most commonly Algiz, “ᛉ” or “ᛦ”, known as the “life” rune. Algiz was used in postwar Germany as a symbol of the neo-Nazi movement in place of the actual Nazi symbols that were banned. This was drawn from its use by Heinrich Himmler's SS. He intended it to be the logo for the notorious Lebensraum – the programme for a master race. The policy was used to justify the oppression, deportation and ultimately murder of Jews and Eastern Europeans in order to make room for those the Nazis identified as part of a German, “Aryan” race. Lebensraum was at the centre of Nazi Germany's ultimate aims.   

Eco-fascists claim the rune’s historical meaning and modern appropriation work as a perfect marriage of their beliefs; a respect for all “life” (nature, animals, and white people) as well as neo-Nazi principles. Eco-fascists will often share images of the rune online, in and amongst forest scenes or as a silhouette over rural images.

Another way to identify an eco-fascist is their tendency to use phrases associated with the Third Reich, but interspersed with references to the earth – such as the infamous “Blut und Boden” or “Blood and Soil”. The language captures the eco-fascist desire to have nations that are only full of people they claim are indigenous to that region (blood) and the demand for a geographically-bounded home that is preserved through environmentalist principles (soil).

“I would say that the Blood and Soil philosophy of Walther Darré is something we all share,” Dan says, referring to the Argentinian-born Nazi who was obsessed with the idea of a Nordic race and the ideological force behind Lebensraum. “There can be no folk without its lebensraum, just as there can't be any lebensraum without the folk.” 

“By the use of the word lebensraum I don't mean that we seek to conquest,” he says. “Only to maintain and care for the land passed on by our forefathers.”

Mentions of “forefathers” function as a dogwhistle for “whiteness” in eco-fascist discourse, often included alongside calls for “our race” to “reclaim our homeland”. It also functions as a call to end multiculturalism and deport those deemed not to have ancestral ties to that country (Dan refused to reveal which country he was from). 

Multiculturalism is, of course, a bête noire  for eco-fascists. Many argue, like the far-right generally, that opposing multiculturalism is a way to respect a specific heritage. But eco-fascists have a further preoccupation: multiculturalism (and in turn, overpopulation of certain “white” areas), they claim, is destroying the planet.

“Pride for one’s race, culture, and bioregion is a crucial part of eco-fascism,” Dan says. “Races with a culture of disrespect for the dignity of animals and nature are indeed viewed by most as inferior and vile. Who would be okay with such traits?” Dan does not elaborate on which races he was referring to, or how Western European abattoirs and chicken factory farms fitted into this viewpoint. 

“We want our homeland to ourselves,” he says.

Within the eco-fascist community, I noticed a hashtag being bandied around by a few accounts, #EFDS, that I couldn’t interpret. Dan explained that, “EFDS is the acronym for Ecofascist Death Squads. It's a meme – I guess you could call it - on the fact that the world is overpopulated. In the words of Pentti Linkola ‘The worst enemy of life is too much life: the excess of human life.’” Linkola, a Finnish ecologist, blames overpopulation for environmental degradation and is sceptical about democracy. 

This Malthusian take on the impact of population growth underpins almost the entirety of eco-fascism. Many eco-fascists are also eugenicists who believe that a culling of the population, and specific races within that population, is the only way to ensure that the planet survives. While not all eco-fascists go as far as supporting mass murder, most hold that immigration has caused overpopulation in their countries and insists that the only solution is to deport those they deem non-indigenous. 

“The multicultural experiments have swarmed, for instance, the European continent and boosted the population,” Dan claims. “It weighs down our society and forces it to mass produce more products and destroy nature to make way for new living areas. Not to mention the increase in waste such a population boost has brought.”

“The import of these non-Europeans have brought in people who do not share the same respect for nature and especially not animals. Nor do they have the connection to the soil that the natives have.”

Many of the issues that fascinate that alt-right as a whole make their way into eco-fascist discourse, but with an environmental spin. One story in particular that has piqued the interest of the community recently is the killing of Mollie Tibbetts, the 20-year-old murdered in the American state of Iowa while out for an evening jog in July 2018. The man charged with her murder, Cristhian Rivera, has pleaded not guilty and the trial is ongoing. However, the alt right has been preoccupied by the revelation that Rivera may be an illegal immigrant from Mexico, with even Donald Trump weighing in on Twitter, in a video commenting: “A person came in from Mexico illegally and killed her. We need the wall.”

“Mollie Tibbetts is yet another beautiful white woman who has fallen victim to multiculturalism and immigration. We should have a day of rememberance [sic] for every single one of our people that have been killed by diversity,” wrote one eco-fascist on Twitter. When Tibbetts’ father asked for race and immigration status to be left out of the conversation, another eco-fascist responded by tweeting a meme of a car hitting a fork in the road, the car labelled “Mr. Tibbetts” dramatically pivoting away from a sign reading “Murdered Daughter” and towards one reading “Tacos”. To eco-fascists, the murder of Mollie Tibbetts is not an isolated act of villainy, but confirmation that people leaving their own “racial nation” will lead to the downfall of white people – and that white people are necessary to protect the white-inhabited natural spaces they hold so dear (eco-facists have surprisingly little to say about the Native Americans displaced from the land that now makes up the US). 

While abhorrence for almost all non-white Western European cultures is crucial to eco-fascism, anti-Semitism is by far their preferred form of online racism. Many eco-fascists online constantly praise Adolf Hitler, claim white people have been forced into “semitic egalitarian slavery”, promote Holocaust denial, and proudly brandish images of themselves wearing swastikas. This is, of course, amongst mentions of “lebensraum”, “blood and soil”, and use of neo-Nazi runes.

The godmother of this strand of the alt right is arguably Danielle Savoy, whose Twitter account is popular with eco-facists, and has the Twitter bio: “Vegan in the Style of Savitri Devi #MakeEcologyDeepAgain #GreenWing”.

Savitri Devi, dubbed “Hitler’s Priestess” after Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s biography of the same name, was a disciple of Nazism, who believed that Hitler was an “avatar of God” sent down to Earth to save humanity (a reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu). She was a major proponent of deep ecology, the belief that all life has value in itself independent of its usefulness to humans, and became an active animal rights activist alongside her passionate Nazism. During World War II, she and her Indian husband gathered intelligence for the Nazi government in Calcutta. Despite her name, which was adopted in later life, Devi was a Greek-French-Italian European (she changed it after moving to India, in the belief that the country’s discriminatory caste system could keep Aryan purity alive).

The links between Devi’s views and eco-fascism are supported by the fact she’s enjoyed something of a renaissance amongst members of the alt-right in the last several years.

Although focussed on anti-Semitism, eco-facists express a broad range of other racist statements as well. They regularly post pictures of idyllic forest and valley scenes, calling on white people to flock there as a new “ethnostate”. A common practice is to refer to non-white people by the latin versions of animal names. For example, one term used to refer to black people is “Australopithecus” – the technical term for a two million year old, extinct ape.

More plainly, and more succinctly, some eco-fascists just post images, or quote tweet videos. of non-white races harming the environment or just living and existing in predominantly white countries, with simple phrases such as “kill them”.

While many active online communities exist to share gripes, many often don’t have any idea what the solution to their problems should be. Eco-fascism does not have that problem, but the solutions that extend from its ideological routes are chilling.

“If we keep on going like we are we will swallow all resources and seize all uninhabited land to make room for us,” Dan says. “The diminishing of the world population is the only thing that would guarantee the survival of our earth.”

“Human survival is tied to the survival of our earth. The sacrifice of a few so that life can prevail is what is needed.”

Underneath the pictures of idyllic country scapes and environmentally-friendly rhetoric, eco-fascists are pushing a murderous, racist ideology in the name of protecting the planet.

Sarah Manavis is the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer.