Will climate change spur more right-wing extremism? The answer suggests yes:
There’s debate over whether it’s fair to consider ‘ecofascism’ a thing. A climate journalist once rejected the use of the term in a conversation with me — arguing (if my recollection serves me right) that climate change provided a mere excuse for pre-existing extremist beliefs.
What seems clear, though, is that climate stress can spark action by people inclined to do fascist stuff. The Bundy-affiliated extremists’ demands for water as farmers in the Klamath River basin face a growing season with no ability to irrigate is just one example; this 2020 incident across the border in Oregon, detailed in The Guardian, is another:
As Oregon battles more than a dozen wildfires and rumors about looters and arsonists flare, the appearance of armed civilian checkpoints has sparked a fierce debate about vigilante activity. … Residents of the unincorporated town of Corbett in Multnomah County met with law enforcement officials on Saturday evening, after several people complained of being subjected to illegal roadblocks the previous night. … Civilian residents, some heavily armed, set up at least two roadblocks with cars and household chairs, according to residents and recordings obtained by the Guardian. Drivers who were stopped said they were asked to identify themselves and their connection to the town and claimed that on at least two occasions, police were on the scene and did not intervene in the illegal traffic stops.
Such beliefs can fuel — or at least provide a notional pretext for — deadly violence. The manifestos of shooters in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas, both alluded to fears about overpopulation and ecological collapse:
The alleged Christchurch shooter, who is charged with targeting Muslims and killing 51 people in March, declared himself an “eco-fascist” and railed about immigrants’ birthrates. The statement linked to the El Paso shooter, who is charged with killing 22 people in a shopping area this month, bemoans water pollution, plastic waste and an American consumer culture that is “creating a massive burden for future generations.”
Turning back to the tensions in the Klamath River basin, an irony of that situation is that fears of ecological collapse among tribal residents of the area are a big factor in the federal decision to conserve water. The collision of the right-wing politics of local farmers with the concerns of indigenous peoples is a potential harbinger of future fights over natural resources. The Counter:“There’s a lot of reasons why the Klamath is the hotbed that it is,” said Brian Chaffin, associate professor of water policy at the University of Montana, who has conducted research on water governance in the Klamath River Basin. “There’s a background of conservative politics that places priority on private property rights-based solutions, on top of a simmering racism that has constrained tribal interests for over a hundred years, on top of a legitimate fear that there will not be enough water to sustain the level of agriculture that has more recently been there.”
This confluence is now forcing stakeholders to view the fight for water as a sort of zero-sum game. And conditions like severe drought, which are only expected to become increasingly frequent as the climate crisis is exacerbated, suggest that the pressure might not let up any time soon.
And of course there’s the personal excitement that my beloved Oregon has become Ground Zero for this stuff in the U.S., with counties voting to join Idaho(!!!) and the Bundys actively seeking to step into the long-simmering Klamath River situation for Malheur 2: Fascist Boogaloo.