Updated July 13, 2021

Ninety years have passed since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and once again, untrammeled financial speculation has rendered the financial system insolvent. The panic-stricken oligarchs who dominate that system are once again trying to preserve their position by transferring wealth from the poor to the rich, using the mechanism of radical austerity, or in other words, fascism. It’s not easy to get the public to accept the kind of suffering that this will entail. Although we are seeing an increase in racism and xenophobia, which played a big role in marketing the fascism of the 1930s, it is unlikely that they will rely on those means again, because the public remembers and will repudiate them. This time, there is a more modern and “woke” ideology available, which the population is less likely to recognize as a threat: ecofascism.

People have been taught for years that heating your home or driving a car is probably doing irreparable harm to Mother Earth. TIME magazine asserts that air conditioning may be a greater threat than nuclear war. And new hazards are coming to light. Today, with over 800 million human beings classified as malnourished by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the leading think tank of the British Empire is calling for a dramatic reduction of food production and consumption in the name of saving the planet. Not to be outdone, NPR warns that a major cause of climate change may be… health care.

Austerity means a reduction in personal incomes and consumption, plus a transfer of funds away from infrastructure and the social safety net, in order to massively bail out the financial sector. This leads to collapsing levels of nutrition, health care, hygiene, and sanitation. This is turn causes an increase in the death rate, most notably by facilitating the spread of pandemic disease.

Ecofascists will argue that an increase in the death rate is either a) a good thing, because it reduces the number of humans, which they feel is excessively high, or b) an unavoidable consequence of climate change, which can only be overcome with reduced energy consumption, i.e. more austerity. But in any event, austerity is always their preferred remedy, because human consumption beyond the most minimal survival levels is regarded as harmful and an affront to Nature. People who embrace this doctrine won’t put up much of a fight as the 1% steadily bleeds them dry.

Contemporary ecofascism takes two principal forms:

First, there is an overt variety, which explicitly calls for population reduction in order to deal with a purported threat of overpopulation. This includes an oligarchical elite who are considered to be either above reproach, or regarded as quaint, lovable eccentrics like the Royal Consort Prince Philip. Such people are given to candid statements about “culling the herd,” which cannot be dismissed as idle talk or hyperbole, since these people have influence over institutions such as the World Bank, which can dictate policy to the developing nations. There is also a grassroots expression of this faction, which is sometimes called “deep ecology”: this includes some of the mass shooters who issued Malthusian manifestos in which they announced their intention to reduce world population by simply shooting people, including Brenton Tarrant in Christchurch, New Zealand, Patrick Crusius in El Paso, Texas (who tellingly titled his manifesto “An Inconvenient Truth”), and Anders Breivik in Norway.

A second, more covert form of ecofascism is what might be called the “passive-aggressive” variety. Proponents of this outlook may express their sincere regret that much of the world suffers under living standards that make them vulnerable to famine and epidemics, but they will throw up their hands and say that nothing can be done without causing an unacceptable threat to the environment, typically because all forms of economic development entail some increase in carbon dioxide emissions, which have recently been redefined as a form of air pollution. President Barack Obama famously told a gathering of students in South Africa that if Africans attempt to achieve the same standard of living as the nations of the North, “the planet will boil over.”

The more dishonest proponents of this passive-aggressive ecofascism will insist that all problems of underdevelopment can be solved simply by carpeting the world with windmills and solar panels (AKA the “Green New Deal”). But the so-called “renewable” technologies turn out to produce just as much CO2 as other technologies which are far more viable and efficient. And the people who insist that this should be done invariably have a surreptitious, unspoken subtext, which is that their approach requires radical reductions in energy consumption, which effectively rule out any hope for the roughly 800 million people on the planet who are presently malnourished. These more dishonest proponents will also reject out of hand the one energy source which is both uniquely safe and also emits no CO2: nuclear energy.

Now, a brief word about Michael Moore’s film, “Planet of the Humans” (it has been intermittently available for free on YouTube.) Moore does a nifty job of debunking the popular mythology about “renewable energy,” and has sent many leading ecofascists into high dudgeon, including explicit calls for censorship. However, in the final analysis, Moore does not occupy the moral high ground; he concludes that all energy sources are bad (having pointedly ignored nuclear energy in the film), and suggests that the only answer is a Malthusian hecatomb.

The origins of ecofascism, like so many other popular ideologies, may be found in economic policy. The leaders of the largest and most successful empire in world history, the British Empire, were faced with the problem of preventing the development of their colonies, which they wished to keep in a weak, dependent status. I think it is likely that that they conducted in-depth studies of the relationship of population density to economic development, concluding that a nation must have a certain minimum density of people per square mile in order to have the diversification of skills required to make the transition to a self-sufficient, industrial economy — and they resolved to keep their colonies below that threshold. But the way they presented this policy to world opinion was cloaked in the argument that population growth threatened to deplete the world’s resources, an argument made famous in 1798 by Parson Thomas Malthus.

The idea that we are rapidly depleting the earth’s supply of natural resouces is an endlessly repeated propaganda line. It is important to bear in mind that most things which today are considered “natural resources” were considered useless, one or two centuries ago. Scientific discoveries were made that transformed them into valuable economic inputs. Humanity has continued to make such discoveries throughout its history, which why humans are constantly changing their relationship to nature, and constantly re-defining what we consider to be natural resources. It is also why humans have not become extinct.

In the late 1800s, the British supplemented their “overpopulation” propaganda with a new wrinkle, what became known as the “eugenics movement”. This enabled them to be selective as to which parts of the population would be considered “surplus”, because it posited a hierarchy of races, with the darker-skinned races being at the bottom of the hierarchy, to no one’s surprise. This movement spread to the United States, and particularly to California, where laws were passed that required the sterilization of people who were regarded as defective, including the deaf (deafness was suspected of being hereditary), the homeless (also hereditary, apparently), and women who were considered to be oversexed. Hitler was very impressed by the American measures, and imported them to Germany once he took power in the 1930s. Conservationist groups such as the Sierra Club were fully on board with eugenics. However, after the Second World War, the association of eugenics with the Nazi atrocities gave it a certain notoriety, and Eugenics Society leader Julian Huxley suggested that it were better to avoid using the term “eugenics” and go back to concentrating on the “overpopulation” argument.

There were other “green” aspects to the fascist movements of the 1930s. For example, a predecessor group to the Nazis was the Wandervogel, which according to Wikipedia was “the name adopted by a popular movement of German youth groups from 1896 to 1933, who protested against industrialization by going to hike in the country and commune with nature in the woods. Drawing influence from medieval wandering scholars, their ethos was to revive old Teutonic values, with a strong emphasis on German nationalism.” Many Wandervogel groupings were absorbed into the Nazi movement, which embraced “animal rights” and passed strict laws to protect animals, even as they were planning the elimination of large numbers of human beings.

The hippie movement of the 1960s revived this “back to nature” perspective, with a romanticized notion of the Middle Ages as a groovy utopia (overlooking certain problems such as serfdom, terrible hygiene, and occasional epidemics.) This popular fantasy found expression in the inappropriately named “Renaissance Faires” and a revived interest in Pagan forms of religious practice. A devastating commentary on this tendency appeared in form of the 1973 film, “The Wicker Man.”

The growth of the hippie movement coincided with the growth of the protest movement against the Vietnam War. This protest movement was annoying to the political establishment, since they intended to use the Vietnam War as a template for many, many future wars, and they preferred that the citizenry not make a fuss about it. But then in 1970 a man named Robert O. Anderson stepped in. Anderson was the founder and CEO of Atlantic Richfield, which would change its name to ARCO and become the 6th largest oil company in the U.S. Anderson put together the funding for the original Earth Day in 1970, and donated $200,000 to help launch the Friends of the Earth. This was a turning point for the hippies — anti-war protests were on the way out, as environmentalism became the new “cool” movement. Today, in 2021, the German Green Party has emerged as a leading voice for a more bellicose foreign policy.

Meanwhile, there was a lot of activity at the think tanks which formulate strategy for the oligarchy. A watershed moment was the 1975 conference in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, entitled “The Atmosphere: Endangered and Endangering.” The conference was the brainchild of Margaret Mead, who saw the need for a scientific rationale that could be used to justify efforts to halt economic development all over the planet, especially in the erstwhile colonies. She called upon the participants to “start building a system of artificial but effective warnings,” imbued with “plausibility”, but most importantly, “as free as possible from internal disagreements that can be exploited by political interests.” Although there were to be many conflicting prophecies about “global warming” and “global cooling” over the years before the all-encompassing term “climate change” was arrived at, the need for an enforceable “scientific consensus” was recognized 45 years ago.

The validity of the thesis of Anthropogenic Global Warming, i.e. that global warming is caused by human activity, is not something I intend to address in this article. Suffice it to say that proponents of this theory act like they actually suspect that the theory is wrong, but they want to convince us that it is correct. That would be the only basis for suppressing debate and insisting on an enforced “consensus”, using the emotionally loaded, quasi-religious word “deniers” to stigmatize any and all skeptics.

If human-generated CO2 is indeed leading us toward a climate apocalypse, then it is obviously a matter of the greatest urgency that we massively expand nuclear energy, which produces negligible C02 and has a safety record that is more than twice as good, in terms of deaths per unit of energy produced, as that of solar or wind energy. The fact that most “Greens” still vociferously oppose it leads one to question what the actual motive might be.

The opposition to nuclear energy is quite consistent with the historic agenda of the oligarchs and their retinue of strategists and advisers such as Margaret Mead. Back in the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with electricity were recognized as a harbinger of a potentially revolutionary new technology, and oligarchs are not fond of revolutions. Franklin came under attack in the form of a Gothic novel by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, entitled Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, in which an evil scientist uses electricity to create a dangerous monster.

Unlike the fantasies of the “low-tech medieval village utopia” crowd — which have produced some spectacular failures when attempts were made to put them into practice — the oligarchs have a well-thought-out basis for regarding the feudal system as a Golden Age. As prominent spokesmen such as Al Gore and Prince Charles have made clear, it is not necessary to give up one’s heated pool and private jet in order to advocate a low-technology world. For them, the attraction of the Middle Ages was that society was socially static: if you were born into the nobility, you would stay there, and the peasants would stay peasants, generation after generation. For an oligarch, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Contrary to the way the low-tech economy is marketed, there is nothing “sustainable” about it. It represents an attempt to run the world economy at below the minimum necessary levels of energy inputs required to sustain the existing population. To borrow a term from the environmentalist lexicon, it means the deliberate lowering of the “carrying capacity” of the planet. Contrary to popular belief, “carrying capacity” is not determined by the availability of natural resources in a given geographic region. It is determined by the quality of human intervention, such as infrastructure and technology. This is why nations such as Singapore or South Korea, which have very high population densities, are not impoverished and starving. But if a society makes a decision to regress technologically and allows its infrastructure to deteriorate, it invites disaster. It beckons to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse: famine, war, and pandemic disease.

The intellectuals who serve the oligarchy are not oblivious to this fact. They consider it to be an acceptable risk. And such is their devotion to this system that they will give their lives for it, if necessary. After all, what educated person has not read Edgar Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death?

Marisol is an arts aficionado and a social media habitué.