"There is a danger of “apocalypticism,”
September 14, 2019 8:47 PM   Subscribe

said Jon Christensen, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who has written extensively on the use and misuse of dystopian environmental scenarios. It’s important, he said, to provide people with potential solutions and reasons to be hopeful: “There’s definitely a danger of people taking dire measures when they feel there’s no way out of it.”"

In Two mass killings a world apart share a common theme: ‘ecofascism’ (WaPo) (reprint), Joel Achenbach writes, "The two mass shootings appear to be extreme examples of ecofascism - what Hampshire College professor emeriti Betsy Hartmann calls "the greening of hate.""

In 'Bees, not refugees': the environmentalist roots of anti-immigrant bigotry (Guardian), Susie Cagle explores "‘eco-xenophobia’ – part of a tradition that dates to America’s first conservationists," noting:
[Betsy Hartmann, Hampshire College professor emerita of development studies and author of The America Syndrome: Apocalypse, War and Our Call to Greatness] warns that proclamations of looming dystopia in the form of a mass climate-caused global refugee crisis put well-intentioned environmentalists on some shared ground with fear-mongering nativists, even as they’re attempting to convey a useful urgency about the future of the planet and the disproportionate impacts of climate crisis on the developing world.

“Not to say there won’t be climate-related migration, but I think that portrayal of migrants as climate change refugees, especially these mass movements of people, feeds into the anti-immigrant environmental worldview,” said Hartmann. “Alarmist hyperbole and stereotypes around climate conflict and even climate mass refugee dislocation is based on kind of old, racially and colonially charged stereotypes of poor people of color being more prone to violence in times of scarcity.”

A worsening climate crisis could easily become a cudgel for anti-immigration activists looking to use ecological preservation as an excuse to close borders, a means of gesturing toward doing something about climate crisis that aligns with the right’s other political goals.

“As it becomes more difficult for Republicans to deny that climate change is a thing, this is a really likely next move for the right in climate politics,” said [John Hultgren, a Bennington College environmental politics professor and author of Border Walls Gone Green: Nature and Anti-immigrant Politics in America].
In the October 2018 article The Menace of Eco-Fascism (NYR Daily, via SPLC), Matthew Phelan writes:
The world is full of stories like this, freak conflicts between raw biology and global trade: bird flu outbreaks that originated in the Dickensian conditions of industrial chicken farms; Burmese pythons, imported as exotic pets, suddenly escaping into the Florida Everglades to savagely disrupt the food web. Every academic journal article and government study on one of these incidents has the potential to be recast with a sickening xenophobic subtext, a gross reactionary gloss.
And, to an extent, that’s already happening. Florida’s Burmese python problem appeared in a 2014 listicle posted to Alex Jones’s Infowars site designed to goad undecided readers into a life of doomsday prepping. (“The signs of collapse are all around us.”) He and his editorial team have woven these kinds of stories—“supercolony” infestations of fire ants from South America, Hawaiian American bees endangered by invasive plants, transgenic Kentucky bluegrass escaping as a superweed—into their brand’s rolling, improvised narrative of national degeneracy and impending apocalypse. It’s instructive to keep in mind that one of Jones’s most instantly recognizable and endlessly memed rants, the one about “chemicals in the water that turn the frickin’ frogs gay,” ultimately distills genuine concerns about pharmaceutical waste disrupting marine life into pure, reactionary sex panic. [Ed. - Infowars links removed]
On July 1, 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center published Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism and the Hypocrisy of Hate, a report that describes "how right-wing nativists are targeting the mainstream environmental movement with advertisements, websites and even a newly formed "progressive" organization that purports to represent liberals who believe immigration must be radically curtailed to preserve the environment," with sections that include The Foundations: Funding the Greenwashers ("The most important may be the Colcom Foundation, a $400-million-plus entity founded in 1996 by Cordelia Scaife May of the far-right Scaife family") and The Greening of Hate: An Environmentalist's Essay by Betsy Hartmann.

Related: Naomi Klein: 'We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism' (Natalie Hanman, Guardian Interview)
Why are you publishing this book now?
I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.
Previously: In many ways, Trump's presidency is the culmination of Mrs. May’s vision

Previouslier: The El Paso Shooting and the Gamification of Terror
posted by katra (43 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can’t help but feel that the traction that this admonishing take on the global groundswell of climate activism is currently getting, is disingenuous at best, and insinuatingly instrumental at worst. Yes, you know who was also vegetarian? But to use a kind of tone-policing (protesting too loud, are they?) in order to shift this other onus onto the shoulders of climate protesters - as though they weren’t putting climate justice front and center of their framing of the issue - feels like something of a distraction.
posted by progosk at 10:13 PM on September 14, 2019 [29 favorites]


I'm reading the articles more as an analysis of how genocidal movements are capitalizing on the climate crisis to promote their cause while actively denying the climate science. It's also a warning, backed with evidence, of a variety of attempts to co-opt actual environmental justice movements. It does appear that the onus is on activists to confront a complex political reality that includes a dense thicket of coordinated and well-funded propaganda campaigns that need to be taken into account when communicating and developing policies that protect human rights.
posted by katra at 11:09 PM on September 14, 2019 [26 favorites]


“Not to say there won’t be climate-related migration, but I think that portrayal of migrants as climate change refugees, especially these mass movements of people, feeds into the anti-immigrant environmental worldview,”

There's an argument that the Syrian migrant crisis had climate as a large causal factor (indirectly, via political instability, local unrest and then war). This relatively sudden and dramatic migrant crisis was covered very heavily in the UK press in 2015 or so, including a migrant camp in Calais and the numbers of people attempting to cross the UK border illegally from there, as well as large caravans of people migrating across Europe. I don't know that it's a coincidence that not long after this, migration issues were a key factor in the Brexit vote, itself a cause of ongoing political instability in the UK.

I think that a dangerous increased right wing outrage over migration is an almost inevitable consequence of an increase in climate related migration, particularly if sudden climate events cause migration to occur rapidly in large numbers. But I can't see how "not talking about it" is going to improve the situation.

I always wondered just how much of our foreign aid budget (food to countries with drought problems) was intended to reduce climate related migration in our direction and the attendant effects on political stability in the UK.
posted by quacks like a duck at 1:59 AM on September 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


There is a certain nativism to much of the extreme green wing in the UK - witness the more extreme climate change protestors here in the UK constantly taking about or planning to shut down airports, never motorways (while road transport is 72% of EU CO2 emissions, the remaining 28% being split between sea and air travel). There's often a radical localism that is indeed very compatible with a racist, anti immigration viewpoint.

Climate change is a hugely important issue. It shouldn't be ceded to racists and nativists.
posted by Dysk at 2:30 AM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


The Jokela school shooting in Finland in 2007 could be labelled "eco-fascist" as well, given the perpetrator's mentioning of "the Unabomber"/Ted Kaczynski in his manifesto and admiration of Pentti Linkola. I've noticed a lot of pearl clutching about [48]chan's admiration of Kaczynski and what a scary and dangerous thinker he is in mainstream media coverage as well.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 2:56 AM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


Climate-triggered migrations have been predicted from the earliest years of global warming reports, and Nativist reactions to such migrations are inevitable. That some environmentalists have adopted Nativist messages reflects badly on them, but does not invalidate the larger message that Climate Change has to be addressed immediately. Deal with fascists as fascists; that they may be environmentalists should not be allowed to become the focus. Likewise, enviroterrorism is not a new thing, and that has mostly not become a smear of the environmental movement.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:00 AM on September 15, 2019 [16 favorites]


Because I live in the state immediately north of Florida, when I teach climate change in environmental science and biology classes, I think it is helpful to remind folks 1) not all climate migrations are going to cross international borders, and 2) they are going to happen and we need to be prepared, and by "prepared" I mean planning for how to welcome and settle displaced people, not imprison and oppress them.

My hope is that more folks will be like my neighbors in Clarkston, GA, who have had their doors and arms wide open to refugees for decades, which has led to an even broader welcome to all kinds of migrants. Similarly, every time Florida has a mass hurricane evacuation, we see all kinds of welcome to evacuees here in Georgia, from free camping at state parks to free admission at attractions to entertain bored kids and worried adults. May the future be modeled on the best among us, not the worst.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:29 AM on September 15, 2019 [43 favorites]


Hartmann, who has tracked ecofascism for more than two decades, echoes that warning, saying environmentalists “need to steer away from this apocalyptic discourse because it too easily plays into the hands of apocalyptic white nationalism.”

This makes sense to me; people who are looking for apocalyptic scenarios are going to find the climate dystopian fantasies particularly compelling.

But over and above that (since those white nationalists and other terrible people are going to be terrible with or without climate dystopias; the blame for their terribleness does not belong to climate apocalypts), I think that the "OMG we are all fucked" dystopian tone in a lot of climate change discussion (including on this site, frequently) is counterproductive and unhelpful, as well as likely untrue, given how complex change will be and all the unknowns about how people will eventually respond.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:05 AM on September 15, 2019 [8 favorites]


Non-dystopian We’re F*cked.
posted by progosk at 6:32 AM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


Also: seems weird to posit unknown unknowns as somehow comforting; scientists on the forefront of climate research not only would dispute how much is really “unknown”, as well as what the effect of facing the knowns actually is: The terrible truth of climate change.
posted by progosk at 6:42 AM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


Well. We watched First Reformed last night. A beautiful and frightening film on just this topic directed by Paul Schrader starring Ethan Hawke.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:05 AM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


Isn't it difficult to know how much of this "eco fascist" stuff is earnest instead of tongue-in-cheek, anyway? It seems hastily tacked on to the concerns about being ethnically "outnumbered".
posted by Selena777 at 7:22 AM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


The future will be ecosocialism or ecofascism. You won't get ecosocialism without acknowledging the immediate mortal crisis, but you'll sure get ecofascism that way.

There is a certain nativism to much of the extreme green wing in the UK - witness the more extreme climate change protestors here in the UK constantly taking about or planning to shut down airports

Targeting airports targets the rich and the privileged: in other words those who have the power to do something, anything. Threatened strikes of air-travel-related personnel last year led to the immediate end of the US government shutdown for a reason.
posted by Rust Moranis at 7:42 AM on September 15, 2019 [13 favorites]


It seems hastily tacked on to the concerns about being ethnically "outnumbered".

From the WaPo article:
The alleged gunmen in El Paso and Christchurch did not emerge from the green movement. The documents attributed to them are primarily focused on race, cultural identity, immigration and the fear of a "great replacement" of whites by people of other races. The "eco" part of the equation is arguably an add-on.

But these accused killers did not come up with their hateful ideologies in a vacuum. They have tapped into ideas about nature that are in broad circulation among white nationalists. Before the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in 2017, for example, white nationalist leader Richard Spencer published a manifesto that had a plank on protecting nature.

Ecofascism has deep roots. There is a strong element of it in the Nazi emphasis on "blood and soil," and the fatherland, and the need for a living space purified of alien and undesirable elements.
And it is also part of the propaganda being pushed out by the Trump administration, e.g. Eco-fascism is undergoing a revival in the fetid culture of the extreme right (Jason Wilson, Guardian Opinion)
In his shoddy manifesto, the accused shooter in Christchurch identified as an “eco-fascist”. Over the weekend Kellyanne Conway seized on the term – which is unfamiliar to many – to lump him in with so-called “eco-terrorists”, saying “He’s not a conservative. He’s not a Nazi.” No doubt she was banking on common understandings of contemporary environmentalism to draw a link to the political left. [...]

But eco-fascism is a longstanding political ideology that is currently undergoing a revival in the fetid culture of the contemporary extremist right. In general, unlike many on the political right, eco-fascists concede the reality of looming ecological catastrophe. But the “solutions” they propose are frankly genocidal. [...] This line of thought can ultimately be traced back to figures such as Thomas Malthus, who at the end of the 18th century claimed that population growth was outstripping the capacity for food production, and advocated population control as a solution.

Nothwithstanding the bad-faith “Hitler was a vegetarian” smears of conservatives, a strain of ecological thought was present in Nazism.
posted by katra at 7:48 AM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


But I can't see how "not talking about it" is going to improve the situation.

it's how we talk about it that seems to be the issue as Jonathon Frantzen's recent New Yorker editorial (and its fallout) makes clear. If all you've got is despair, maybe you should put down yrrr proverbial megaphone and go for a walk, because all you're doing is frightening the children and telling me and very many others something we already know (ie: shit is serious and it has been for a while and if we don't do something about it, we're all gonna die). Or what Gwynne Dyer has to say here:

Jonathan Franzen has finally seen the light. Unfortunately, it has blinded him.

As for the environmentalist types gone xenophobic (to put it charitably), that's also not news in my neighborhood. Some of the very first deeply committed green-types I ever encountered (in-laws going back to the 1980s) had an anti-foreigner streak that they only bothered to hide until about half-way through the first drink. It was ugly but there it was in plain sight.

The future will be ecosocialism or ecofascism.

Or not. Because where I'm sitting, it still hasn't happened yet. Or as a stoned guy once said, "The future depends on what we do now, and then whatever we do next."

One thing I do think it would be helpful for us to get our heads around is that climate change has always been a reality. Even before we humans got out of control and started turning up the temperature (We Are Turning Up The Temperature!), the geological record tells us that such changes ended up happening anyway due to other factors. What's different now (beyond the FACT that our actions are a major factor in the changes that aren't coming, they're already on us) is that we could be at a phase of our evolution as a species where we can be players in how these changes play out. Call it climate management, I guess. This is also something that's not coming, it's already here -- it's what all of this climate science is in aid of, I believe. That is, educating us of not just the reality of the peril, but the moves we can make to mitigate the peril.

That's where my lack of despair (I wouldn't call it hope) lies.
posted by philip-random at 8:32 AM on September 15, 2019 [14 favorites]


There's a car in my neighborhood with Infowars and "Save the Bees" bumper stickers right next to each other, and I've been puzzled about them every time I've walked past. I guess this explains it. Here all this time I've been trying to use that car as a reminder to myself that everyone contains multitudes, but apparently it really is hate turtles all the way down. Damnit.

Every time I think shit is as bad as it could be, something comes along to remind me it's actually worse than I realized. Fuck anybody who would leverage a true global crisis as fuel for their abhorrent tribalism.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:54 AM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


I remember when the once-respected Sierra Club got taken over by the ecofascist types, with their "omg they're BREEDING!" rhetoric. That's what happens when you talk about "ZOMG overcrowding! We need to control population!" rather than "women's rights, including family planning" - neo-fascists and racists and sexists start to really like the cut of your jib, and there goes your reputation as a decent environmental organization.

This sort of attitude, I have notice, crops up a lot in NIMBY circles. "There are too many people - they should just go live somewhere else! Fuck off, WE'RE full!"

And there is a deep, wide streak of sexism in the ecofascists as well: Consumerism is women's fault because women be shopping and buying too many shoes and spoiling their children! Women have cats and small yappy dogs which are useless and frivolous! Women think with their wombs and pop out children like Pez dispensers! One can really understand how The Handmaid's Tale was able to combine extreme right-wing totalitarianism with concern for the environment (electric cars and so forth). In the book, Offred notes that stores catering to men still stood in Cambridge; only the stores that sold women's clothing, makeup, and "vanities" were shut down.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:22 AM on September 15, 2019 [10 favorites]


There are too many people

I mean, there are probably too many people, I just don't trust any existing human or government to decide which ones are extra, or who shouldn't have babies.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:36 AM on September 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


In a world of climate change with severe impacts, political dialog and decisions surely will not be on 2019's terms whether mainstream or extremist. The premises of Trump v. Warren or Tory vs. Labour do not include food insecurity of a sort not experienced in the past 100 years in first world countries or millions of low-lying homes and businesses lost ... and how people will be addressing those things really can't be predicted.
posted by MattD at 9:50 AM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


how people will be addressing those things really can't be predicted.

Some thinkers are trying: Political Scenarios for Climate Disaster.
posted by progosk at 9:57 AM on September 15, 2019


'Americans are waking up': two thirds say climate crisis must be addressed (Guardian) Major CBS News poll released as part of Covering Climate Now, a collaboration of more than 250 news outlets around the world to strengthen coverage of the climate story
“Americans are finally beginning waking up to the existential threat that the climate emergency poses to our society,” said Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Climate Mobilization Project. “This is huge progress for our movement – and it’s young people that have been primarily responsible for that.”

But while nearly all of those questioned accept that the climate is changing, there appears to be lingering confusion over why and scientists’ confidence over the causes. There is a consensus among climate scientists that the world is heating up due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels for electricity generation and transportation, as well as cutting down forests. However, just 44% of poll respondents said human activity was a major contributor to climate change. More than a quarter said our impact was minor or nonexistent. [...]

“This remains a vitally important misunderstanding – if you believe global warming is just a natural cycle, you’re unlikely to support policies intended to reduce carbon pollution, like regulations and taxes,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which has made similar findings in its own, long-running polling. [...]

Similar to previous polls, the CBS research finds sharp ideological differences in attitudes to the climate crisis. While nearly seven in 10 Democratic voters understand that humans significantly influence the climate and 80% want immediate action, just 20% of Republicans think humans are a primary cause and barely a quarter want rapid action. On the science, nearly three-quarters of Democrats said almost all experts agree that humans are driving climate change, with just 29% of Republicans saying the same.
posted by katra at 10:12 AM on September 15, 2019


> I remember when the once-respected Sierra Club got taken over by the ecofascist types, with their "omg they're BREEDING!" rhetoric. That's what happens when you talk about "ZOMG overcrowding! We need to control population!" rather than "women's rights, including family planning" - neo-fascists and racists and sexists start to really like the cut of your jib, and there goes your reputation as a decent environmental organization.

fwiw the sierra club did manage to fight off the wave of attacks by nativist neonazis back in the 90s and early 2000s, but that fight has left deep scars on the organization that persist to this day. parts of the sierra club — in fact, the parts most directly devoted to fighting carbon emissions — have a strong environmental justice focus, but other parts are still, well, stupid, and stupid in a way that would make them susceptible to another assault by ecofascist entryists.

and further though: their "gender program" — a rebadged version of the old population control program — somehow still exists. it's way troubling that they haven't yet burned that with fire.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:18 AM on September 15, 2019 [10 favorites]


Progosk - that piece never considers that First World Countries will be experiencing any privation from climate change that would affect their political processes, and that the First World's choices will remain what they are today: how much of their capitalist plenty they should forgo in the form of nationalization of assets, voluntary emissions reductions, immigrant admissions, etc., to mitigate impacts upon third world countries. To believe that is (strangely) to believe that climate change basically won't touch the First World countries directly.
posted by MattD at 10:36 AM on September 15, 2019


One message is that climate and environment and even bees are valued by many different groups. I am surprised to have anything in common with white supremacists other than skin color, but it does feel like a sign that people may not be beyond redemption. People don't have to fit demographic expectations. My asshole, conservative ex-boss drove a Prius because it's a nice car and he saved on gas. If someone can care about how their behavior affects the next generations, that's a good thing.

Overpopulation contributes to Climate Change. But some immigrants will choose to have fewer children if their children have a chance to live, and if they don't need workers in the family. In industrialized nations with child labor laws, kids are expensive. Population concern doesn't have to equal anti-immigration. The immigrant families I see are no less consumerist, they just don't have much disposable income.

Climate despair is a real thing. When I succumb, I visit Paul Hawken's Drawdown Project. There are ways to address the Climate Crisis, and we are already terribly late. This is the single-issue that I will vote on, and I was never a single-issue voter before now.
posted by theora55 at 10:45 AM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


I remember when the once-respected Sierra Club got taken over by the ecofascist types

Doesn't e.g. opposition to immigration pretty much go all the way back in their history? I mean I know there were fights about that part in the 90s and 00s but I thought the result was they ended up mostly dropping it from the platform. Anyway, hopefully not the way they're going lately.
posted by atoxyl at 10:49 AM on September 15, 2019


fwiw the sierra club did manage to fight off the wave of attacks by nativist neonazis back in the 90s and early 2000s, but that fight has left deep scars on the organization that persist to this day

I'm not going to link to any of it, but it's depressing to read that history from the other side; there are multiple articles from far-right think tanks lamenting how the Sierra Club was "hijacked by open border radicals" or became "obsessed" with immigration and "retreated" from immigration and population control. A good history can be found at grist or Colorlines if anyone wants to see more on that.

To the ecofascism skeptics, I think it's important not to see environmentalism as monolithic. Going all the way back roots of the US environmental movement we had the split between the conservationists and the preservationists, those who wanted to protect nature for man's enjoyment versus those who wanted to protect nature from man's enjoyment. While there was plenty of "normal" American racism within the preservationists, for example John Muir's feelings on Native Americans, the conservationists were largely eugenicists informed by a virulent xenophobia. But eugenics fell out of fashion in the US (thanks, Hitler!) and later the environmental movement was embraced by the '60's counter-culture and now we tend to think, incorrectly, of environmentalism as a purely lefty preoccupation.

For example, here's the WSJ dismissing John Tanton as "left-wing tree hugger"; "he wasn’t a right-wing conservative" they say of the architect of Trump's immigration policies because he was once a Sierra Club member.

The Guardian's 'Bees, not refugees' shows how the right wing is trying to have it both ways. They are simultaneously saying that because Hitler was a vegetarian every environmentalist is a bad person, meanwhile they are reappropriating environmental rhetoric to advocate for racist and fascist policies because those arguments are successful and have gained traction with the public. Climate anxiety and climate despair can be used to trigger just and equitable climate policies as well as ethnic cleansing.

Charles Wohlforth in Orion Magainze, Conservation and Eugenics is somewhat dated but he examines how just solutions to climate change can only be adopted by being aware of the connections between racism and environmentalism. In a nutshell:
Understanding the history of racism in the conservation movement is important, not to assign blame, but to diagnose our unhealthy relationships with each other and with nature, learn from our mistakes, and begin cooperating in the ways that we must in order to reverse our destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems.
See also Brentin Mock in Outside: The Green Movement Is Talking About Racism? It's About Time.

And some bonus reading, Adam Serwer reviews a Madison Grant biography in The Atlantic, White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots: A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his “bible,” and the man who wrote it:
That nations make decisions about appropriate levels of immigration is not inherently evil or fascist. Nor does the return of Grantian ideas to mainstream political discourse signal an inevitable march to Holocaust-level crimes against humanity. But to recognize the homegrown historical antecedents of today’s rhetoric is to call attention to certain disturbing assumptions that have come to define the current immigration debate in America—in particular, that intrinsic human worth is rooted in national origin, and that a certain ethnic group has a legitimate claim to permanent political hegemony in the United States. The most benignly intentioned mainstream-media coverage of demographic change in the U.S. has a tendency to portray as justified the fear and anger of white Americans who believe their political power is threatened by immigration—as though the political views of today’s newcomers were determined by genetic inheritance rather than persuasion.

The danger of Grantism, and its implications for both America and the world, is very real. External forces have rarely been the gravest threat to the social order and political foundations of the United States. Rather, the source of greatest danger has been those who would choose white purity over a diverse democracy. When Americans abandon their commitment to pluralism, the world notices, and catastrophe follows.
posted by peeedro at 10:53 AM on September 15, 2019 [6 favorites]


how people will be addressing those things really can't be predicted.

Although if precedent is any indication, "poorly" is probably a safe bet.

I think this is a really interesting problem, and I've definitely run into versions of enviro-nationalism online, although never really in person.

it does feel like a sign that people may not be beyond redemption.
When I'm feeling optimistic about this I agree. Conservation and conservatism have a complex history to say the least, especially in the Anglophone world, but the common US reactionary position that environmental consciousness is liberal propaganda is clearly not the way things have to be.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:06 AM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I worry about the metaphorical parallels between ecological concerns over invasive plants and anti-immigration sentiments, even though I obviously don’t think that pulling out garlic mustard and turning away refugees are at all comparable.
posted by rivenwanderer at 11:10 AM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Climate despair is a wonderful tool to distract people from actually coming up with real-world solutions. I remember a recent thread on climate change that got sidetracked simply because of one guy's insistance that the only solution was to build sealed dome cities for the elite, to preserve some remnant of our civilization. It was silly, but people do think that.
posted by happyroach at 12:24 PM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


This sui generis philosophy video on Climate Despair is worth watching with respect to several points that have come up here.
posted by progosk at 12:32 PM on September 15, 2019


Anti-migrant sentiment couched as “no room” is a staple of anti-housing rhetoric at the local level. We have people in Seattle who will say it will destroy the local environment to allow more housing everywhere, worry that apartments in the small portion of the city where we allow them are “too expensive”, believe that you can’t raise a family in an apartment ... and also “support” immigrants including our sanctuary city policy.

It’s not eco-fascism in the sense the first article is talking about, but self-describing environmentalists exist who also oppose perfectly reasonable housing measures because of supposed environmental impact. It’s not far from there to opposing immigration generally. After all, there’s “no room”.
posted by R343L at 12:35 PM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


which like the task before us as ecosocialists is to first convince the world that there is plenty of room for most people from everywhere, but that there’s no room whatsoever for the rich. and then we have to show ways for people to act on their convictions.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:48 PM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


yeah, give the rich their domed cities and then maybe lock the door behind them, lose the key.
posted by philip-random at 1:06 PM on September 15, 2019


The comments here along the lines of "if you are feeling despair just be quiet so you don't depress others or dissuade them from action" are inappropriate and unhelpful in their own way.

A clear-eyed understanding of what exactly is likely to happen, and at what pace, is essential. As is dealing with everyone's emotions, which vary from person to person.

If one person's despair (and thus belief that dramatic action may not be enough to save more than a few humans) is enough to dissuade someone else who thinks differently, that's still not a reason to bully the most pessimistic into silence.
posted by PhineasGage at 1:28 PM on September 15, 2019 [7 favorites]


Anti-migrant sentiment couched as “no room” is a staple of anti-housing rhetoric at the local level. We have people in Seattle who will say it will destroy the local environment to allow more housing everywhere, worry that apartments in the small portion of the city where we allow them are “too expensive”, believe that you can’t raise a family in an apartment ... and also “support” immigrants including our sanctuary city policy.

That's Bay Area liberal NIMBYism in a hard little nutshell. Berkeley, for instance, was one of the first sanctuary cities in the United States, but its NIMBYism is off the charts. We love refugees, but we don't want them putting down roots here - we'll shelter them on the way to somewhere else like Stockton!

So many people in the Bay Area want to preserve their communities in amber, but of course, they're good liberals who vote Democratic...And of course it's not just refugees, but their own children and grandchildren who can't afford to live here, who suffer. And much of this does occur under the guise of "concern about the environment" - open space, pollution, species diversity, and so on.

There is an undercurrent of misanthropy in a lot of environmental rhetoric. "Humans are a cancer on the planet," "it would be better if we all died off" I hear a lot. I think that this feeds into eco-fascism, where the "cancer on the planet" is not me and mine, but those OTHER, DIFFERENT people. And once you've started thinking of people (in general, not individual bad actors) in terms of cancer or invasive species, eliminationist rhetoric can't be far behind.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:37 PM on September 15, 2019 [11 favorites]


Isn’t the danger of apocalypticism rooted in the danger of apocalypse? It’s a bit hard to separate cause and effect there.
posted by notoriety public at 2:02 PM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


I feel like apocalyptacism has become a bit of a purity test for some in the climate movement, and it pisses me off that if you advocate for the very real concept that all action to reduce GHG emissions can improve outcomes you're treated like someone who is an idiot.
posted by chiquitita at 3:15 PM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


...one guy's insistance that the only solution was to build sealed dome cities for the elite, to preserve some remnant of our civilization. It was silly, but people do think that.

Well, hi.

I was going to sit this thread out, but since I've been mentioned specifically, I thought I'd state my position instead of having people misrepresent it.

I think we're more vulnerable to the changes we're making to our atmosphere than we have anticipated. I think our species is going to get progressively less healthy until we're unable to reproduce without shelter from the atmosphere.

Whether this happens in ten, fifty or a hundred years, well, we don't know, because we haven't done the relatively simple lab rat experiments which give us an idea of how mammals will survive the conditions we're expecting to see. So that's what I'm agitating for; multi-generational lab rat experiments which will demonstrate that we either will or won't have a habitable planet in a century or two. Because that seems pretty vital.

If those results come back the way I think they will, and our plans to stop climate change fail, our only hope for survival as a species will be in habitats capable of regulating the atmosphere we breathe.

Now, why do I think our plans to stop climate change will fail?

Well, for one thing we have to figure out how to suck forty billion tons of carbon a year out of the atmosphere, using an energy source that doesn't contribute carbon to the atmosphere. We have to re-forest half the planet. We have to figure out how to de-acidify the oceans, and then do that. We have to figure out a new way of farming that doesn't destroy soil or use fossil fuels, and then convert all of our agriculture over to that. And we have to do all of that as the conditions in which we're working are deteriorating.

But what really makes me think that if we want to save anyone we'll need to get them into bunkers, is that all of these plans call for a level of global cooperation that's simply unprecedented. It's the Prisoner's Dilemma writ large, it's the Jevons paradox on a grand scale; if a major nation or two decide they're not going to collaborate on the carbon tax or the reforestation effort, that gives them a major advantage, both militarily and economically. And most of these programs require nations to accede to global control over taxes, emissions, and land use, which nations are historically loath to give up. As evidenced by the global multi-billion dollar public relations campaign designed to deny climate change altogether.

When you say that we all need to come together or this will never work, that makes me think that we need to plan for this not working. Political will is a nifty euphemism, but it conceals the enormous amount of change necessary to the structure of global politics, which rarely goes unopposed, and usually involves wars, which we can't afford at this point from a carbon budget standpoint.

And when I see public relations hit pieces telling those of us who doubt these plans to shut up or we're creating Nazis and endangering the whole thing, well, I think these plans are pretty freaking fragile and we should consider what we'll do if they fail.

When it comes to the survival of the only sentient life in the known universe, I'm big on backup plans. We're planning on colonizing Mars; why wouldn't we use that technology to keep ourselves alive on our own planet if it comes to that?

And the reason I'm talking about it is that I don't want just the wealthy and powerful to survive. The better prepared we are for the worst case scenario, the more people can make it through should that occur.
posted by MrVisible at 3:26 PM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


I have yet to hear in any of the presidential debates or in the mainstream news the truly terrible effects of two degrees of climate warming: an unleashing of disease, the death of marine life, possible end of farmed food, massive displacement of people, etc. I have yet to simply hear it said out loud clearly and dispassionately.

Moreover, whenever I discuss the future impact of global warming I find that multiple times in the conversation I need to remind people of points discussed earlier. There is a tendency in almost all of these conversations for one to almost immediately forget or ignore the disastrous scenarios mentioned just minutes ago.

I'm guilty of this kind of denial myself, and find it natural. It's not an easy thing to get one's head around. But that means we need to constantly remind ourselves of the reality, not refuse to discuss it. Global warming is cancer with a middling chance for survival provided the patient can make some drastic lifestyle changes and adhere to a rigorous treatment regimen. You can't do that if you're ignoring the facts of the case.
posted by xammerboy at 4:24 PM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


But that means we need to constantly remind ourselves of the reality, not refuse to discuss it. Global warming is cancer with a middling chance for survival provided the patient can make some drastic lifestyle changes and adhere to a rigorous treatment regimen. You can't do that if you're ignoring the facts of the case.

I really don't believe that this is a call to ignore the facts - it's actually the opposite, because the denial of the science is at the heart of the nativist movements; it's the only way that their policies make sense, because they keep the focus on things that serve their agenda, like hardening borders, instead of the drastic global policy changes recommended by scientists that have to happen to protect human rights.

And I don't think this is a distraction. I think the actual distraction is the xenophobia and the racism, and the articles and SPLC report and Naomi Klein's book are trying to warn environmental justice activists about a longstanding problem that has been undermining progress on real action in response to the climate crisis.

There is a lot covered in this FPP, and it is in part intended to be a continuation of a discussion that started in the El Paso FPP, about how political affiliations can get manipulated, particularly by the Trump administration and others seeking to deflect blame for their encouragement of apocalyptic fantasizing. If there's any tone adjustment needed for environmental justice activists, it would be to get louder, and much more loud about the commitment to human rights.
posted by katra at 5:44 PM on September 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


All good points Katra. I agree that nativists want hijack the global warming discussion to their own ends, so we need to be careful about how we speak about the crisis. Mass migration and other tropes feed into race war and other apocalyptic fantasies that fuel a xenophobia that's counterproductive to addressing the problems. I guess the question is how do we make the general populace aware of the real dangers and consequences of the crisis without fanning those flames.
posted by xammerboy at 9:22 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think keeping focused on antiracist action is a priority. And I think Naomi Klein makes an important point about how interconnected climate change is to everything else - as an example, when Biden disqualifies himself in the recent debate by showing ignorance, contrived or otherwise, of institutionalized racism, we have to speak up about that, and condemn it. Because these issues are all connected, and we don't have time to waste on world leaders who won't acknowledge the basics of the challenges confronting our planet.
posted by katra at 10:07 PM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


Not much new here, but talks about how in choosing how to define climate problems white nationalists make some "solutions" seem more favorable: White Nationalists Latch On To Climate Change For Mass Migration Hysteria.
posted by peeedro at 3:49 PM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


« Older Attaching Doll Hair   |   Answering mathowie's question about the real life... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments