How Mass Shooting, Ecofascism and Climate Change Are Tied Together

People attend a vigil across the street from Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue and Riley Street on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Buffalo, NY. The supermarket was the scene of the fatal shooting of 10 people at a grocery store in the historic Buffalo neighborhood. Credit: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Two recent mass shootings in communities of color renew fears among environmental groups and climate activists that more and more youth are adopting racist right-wing ideologies to explain the worsening climate crisis and justify extreme violence.

On Tuesday, a gunman broke into an elementary school in the predominantly Latino city of Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and 2 adults in the worst school-related mass shooting since the one at Sandy Hook Elementary. Less than two weeks earlier, a shooter targeted black shoppers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people and wounding three others.

While the motivation behind shooter Uvalde, who was killed by police at the scene, remains unclear, shooter Buffalo posted a manifesto online full of racist underpinnings. That includes the mention of “ecofascism,” a theory that blames immigrants—especially immigrants of color—for causing overpopulation and environmental degradation in Western countries.

“For too long we have allowed the left to co-opt the environmental movement to meet their own needs,” 18-year-old Payton Gendron, the alleged shooter in Buffalo, wrote in the 180-page document. “The left has taken control of all discussions on environmental preservation while simultaneously leading the continued destruction of the natural environment itself through mass immigration and uncontrolled urbanization.”

Climate activists, many who have tracked the proliferation of ecofascism among far-right groups, say the Buffalo shooting is just the latest in what appears to be a growing movement in the United States and Europe. In fact, Gendron draws a lot of language in his manifesto from past shooter screeds.

In 2019, a gunman broke into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 Muslim worshipers. Later that year, another man entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and shot 46 people, killing 23—most of them Latinos. Both shooters, who are also young white men like Gendron, cite ecofascism to justify their actions.

Once relegated to the fringes of society, ecofascism has found its way into mainstream discourse in recent years. Its origins are, in many ways, traced back to the Tanton network, a collection of more than a dozen anti-immigration groups founded or funded by John Tanton, a wealthy ophthalmologist from Michigan. Tanton, who was once the leader of the Sierra Club, believes that the root cause of environmental destruction is overpopulation by the “wrong” people.

Tanton died in 2019, but his legacy lives on through others. In 2019, Tucker Carlson, a conservative scholar for Fox News, touched on the concept of ecofascism in the air with members of the Heartland Institute, a far-right think tank that has long perpetuated climate change misinformation. “Isn’t crowding your country the fastest way to destroy it, pollute it, make it a place you don’t want to live in?” Carlson pondered in the interview.

In 2021, Arizona Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that the Biden administration’s immigration policies harmed his state’s environment by allowing immigrants to “drive cars, buy goods, and use public parks and other facilities,” resulting in ” the release of pollutants, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”.

And a growing number of scholars say eco-fascist ideas are now swirling in far-right circles as a way to tackle climate change while also advocating anti-immigration policies. The groups “always twist” climate research “to support some rhetoric that we certainly don’t support,” Jenny Rowland-Shea, deputy director of Public Lands at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, told the Christian Science Monitor. His own research was used to “criticize immigrants and people of color and say they are responsible” for environmental damage, he said.

While far-right groups blame immigrants for their environmental problems, research has long shown that it is actually the world’s richest people who are contributing the most to the climate crisis.

A 2020 report by Oxfam found that from 1990 to 2015—the period when humans doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—the richest 1 percent of the world’s population accounted for more than twice as much carbon emissions as the poorest half of Earth’s population. population.

However, the continued emergence of ecofascism is particularly worrying given that hurricanes, droughts and other consequences of worsening climate change have displaced more people from their homes and sent refugees to neighboring countries. At the US-Mexico border, climate change is contributing to the backlog of immigration cases reaching a record high, ICN’s Aydali Campa reported last week.

“It’s reaching a point where, around the world, we are seeing the impacts of climate change overriding the ability of many people to adapt,” said Rebecca Carter, managing director of climate resilience practices at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based non-profit global research institute. “Whether it’s because they don’t have access to what they need, or because the situation is so severe that there are no solutions to the challenges they face.”

That’s it for this week’s Climate Today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

Today’s indicator

2080

That’s the year scientists originally anticipated to see the kind of intense winter storms they’re now witnessing in the Southern Hemisphere, a new study finds. The findings mark another grim milestone for researchers, who say the reality of climate change is much worse than expected.

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