A while back in March when I wrote this post about my perspective on Covid, I had a guy really hating me online for my ‘eco-fascist’ views – that it was morally wrong to consider the deaths of the old and the weak as a silver lining. My main point was that it would have been far worse if a tiny genetic variant made the virus target infants and children. A point which I still stand by. He seemed very upset and despite my efforts to de-escalate, he was unable to hold an intelligent debate based on evidence and data. However, that label of eco-fascism somehow remained with me and I’ve often found myself self-reflecting on my views. ‘Am I an eco-fascist?’.
In order to discuss this subject, we need to define what that term ‘eco-facism’ exactly means. According to Wikipedia, it is a theoretical political model in which an authoritarian government would require individuals to sacrifice their own interests to the “organic whole of nature”. With origins traced to Nazism and the Unabomber, some promote the use of violent and genocidal tactics to end climate change. Others going as far as believing that Third World people should be permitted to starve to death.
‘Lifeboat Ethics‘ highlight this philosophy well. “What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and there is only one lifeboat? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides”
Since March, I’ve written a few more posts with ideas that border on this ideology but the devil is in the details since it is a very nuanced subject. For example, in ‘To Live With Nature’, I wrote about how from an AI’s perspective, it may see us as “advanced malignant cancer cells on Gaia- with an uncontrollable satiation for growth leading to the eventual demise of its host and of itself”. In my most recent two posts, I cite Bruce Damer’s perspective of this virus as a “self balancing homeostatic system gently nudging us towards slowing our consumption metabolism”.
Where Is The Line?
I feel that the label ‘eco-fascism’ seem to lump together various factors and blur the boundaries between ideas which should be clearly separated and defined.
Many of us hold a human centered perspective of us as being above the natural world – that we have transcended the laws that govern nature and that each human life is sacred above all other sentient living beings who call Earth their home. I hold a contrary view that see our species as equal to all living things, sharing the limited resources that the Earth provides. I go even further to suggest that we are intelligent, adaptive and capable enough to become the guardians and stewards of regeneration. (1, 2)
Many scientists and activists, including David Attenborough, consider over population as a key driver of the enormous environmental degradation we are seeing world wide. Do I promote a violent, genocidal method to cull the population? Absolutely not. Education and empowerment of girls appears to be the most effective and ethical method we have.
The only ray of hope I can see – and it’s not much – is that wherever women are put in control of their lives, both politically and socially, where medical facilities allow them to deal with birth control and where their husbands allow them to make those decisions, birth rate falls. Women don’t want to have 12 kids of whom nine will die.David Attenborough, The Independent, 2012
But if nature creates a viral pandemic that seem to target mostly the old and the weak, I can’t help but think, ‘what is it trying to do?’ What other examples do we see in the world that seem to correlate?
Damer gives an example from his childhood in Canada when a similar viral ‘combing’ happened to his local deer population “when there were no wolves in the area and we cut all the trees down. There was all these foraging and the deer population just exploded. But there was a disease that came through, a virus that came through, and there was a massive die off. I watched this as a kid. They reintroduced the wolves and asked hunters to hunt more deer to try to establish this homeostasis again.”
Cordyceps fungi, which parasitically invade the body of insects, have been known to control the population numbers. They may become more prevalent in larger, out of control population and kill off some percentage until it is at a number that the ecosystem can sustain. These self balancing systems within nature could be viewed as an immune response of mother Earth, firing T-cells equivalent to fight against invasive species that decreases bio-diversity and endangers the health of the eco systems.
Could my thoughts be labelled as eco-fascistic to observe that such pre-existing systems within nature might be at play? And to view our species as invasive, over populated and a highly destructive force? I don’t think these views alone will qualify me in the category of eco-fascism. It’s an objective analysis of what we are and how eco-systems behave based on evidence and echoed by numerous scientists (Update). However, when these views are used to justify ruthless genocidal acts between human to human, such as forced steralisation and mass extermination that it morphs into eco-fascism.
My view is that we are a cultural species that behaves according to the prevaling ‘myths’, or stories and narrative of the time. For example, a humanist dogma may tell me that my feelings and my fulfillment is a reliable foundation of ethics and decision making. These world views, or narratives that we tell ourselves, and frequently reinforced through advertising and propaganda, often dictate our thought patterns and actions. Yuval Noah Harari points out that humanist slogans and memes such as ‘Just Do It’ and ‘follow your heart’ are another form of myth which can be hijacked easily by corporations profiteering from over-consumption.
But it is precisely because we are a cultural species that I continue to hold hope. If we can present an alternative narrative that makes the old model obsolete, we can shift our collective actions swiftly and decisively. We are the most adaptive species on Earth by far and I’d like to think that we are intelligent enough, with enough reliable data available to shift our behaviour patterns to that which guarantees the long term survival of our species.
I promote peace and diplomatic solutions for blatantly obvious reasons but it is becoming harder and harder to see this pan out well in the long run. It’s difficult to see a path out from a future world where REAL eco-fascism becomes prevalent with ever scarcer resources, forcing people to sever the hands of others trying to grab onto the last remaining habitats. This will most likely happen in equatorial third world countries first but the ripple effect will soon reach the developed world.
In such a world, my first action would be to regeneratively increase my food production to support the incoming refugees. I will build cheap, hyper efficient and sustainable accommodation to house those that are displaced (fuck the council), and spearhead the cultural bridging within the community in which I reside. Check out my previous post on this subject.
However, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill to protect my family and friends from invading troops or violent thugs. Does this make me an eco-fascist? Apart from the past 70 years of relatively civilised world order (which is a blip in an evolutionary time scale), and since the dawn of civilization, most of human history has been fraught with never ending inter tribal war, enslavement, rape and pillaging. I’m not fear mongering here. Let’s not forget that our species are perfectly capable of descending back into such states of being under the right conditions and almost every indicator seems to point towards our world becoming more unequal, more violent and depleted of resources.
Do we have the collective will to change the course of history? Can we elect an empathetic, courageous leader who will listen to those that are wiser and navigate this treacherous times with grace, determination and urgency? Can each and every one of us change our consumption patterns to that which remains within the boundaries of nature? Can we rebuild our soils, replenish our aquifers, regenerate diversity and build resilience in our systems in time? Are we destined to self-terminate, or can we survive past the dramatic decline of the 21st Century Dark Ages? Perhaps even thrive? The choice is ultimately with each one of us.