The suspected perpetrator of the deadly shooting in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday may have been the latest mass killer to be motivated by a growing fixation of rightwingers — environmental degradation and the impact of overpopulation.
An attack at a Tops supermarket in a predominantly Black community in Buffalo on Saturday left 10 people dead and three wounded. The suspect posted a manifesto online ahead of the shooting stating his desire to kill as many Black people as possible and outlining theories on the environment similar to those espoused by other recent mass murderers. Image by Andre Carrotflower.
The attack, which left 10 people shot dead and three wounded, has been described as a “hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism” by the FBI.
The 18-year-old suspect allegedly began firing his weapon in the car park of the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, before entering the store and continuing his murderous rampage inside, streaming the attack live online.
Authorities believe the killer chose the supermarket due to the surrounding area’s sizable Black community, with an 180-page manifesto believed to have been written and posted online by the suspect referencing his desire to “kill as many Blacks as possible” and his belief in the “great replacement theory,” which holds that white people are at risk of losing their status and traditional culture because of immigrants.
The manifesto, also, however, includes theories on the environment that are similar to screeds espoused by other recent mass murderers.
The Buffalo suspect calls himself an “eco-fascist” and blames migration for harm to the environment in the document posted online.
“For too long we have allowed the left to co-opt the environmentalist movement to serve their own needs,” the Buffalo manifesto states. “The left has controlled all discussion regarding environmental preservation whilst simultaneously presiding over the continued destruction of the natural environment itself through mass immigration and uncontrolled urbanization, whilst offering no true solution to either issue.”
This invocation of eco-fascism, or green racism, echoes that of a white nationalist who killed 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
“The invaders are the ones over-populating the world,” the Christchurch murderer wrote in his own manifesto. “Kill the invaders, kill the overpopulation and by doing so save the environment.”
Just a few months after the New Zealand attack, a gunman killed 23 people in El Paso, Texas, leaving behind a note that also blamed overpopulation for causing pollution. “If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable,” he wrote.
Studies have repeatedly shown that migration itself does not cause an increase in carbon emissions or other pollution — indeed, American-born people are far larger consumers of resources than new immigrants — and that voracious consumption, rather than population per se, is the primary driver of the climate and ecological crises that currently grip the world.
However, the latest shooting shows that a dangerously warped vision of environmentalism is now becoming an increasingly common animating force for rightwing extremists, according to Betsy Hartmann, an expert in the environment and migration at Hampshire College.
“It’s extremely frightening,” she said. “Eco-fascism has always been a part of white supremacy, even going back to Hitler, but it would seem to me in white supremacist circles it’s becoming a more accepted part of the ideology. It’s not an outlier any more.”
Hartmann said the rise of Donald Trump and Republicans’ embrace of anti-immigrant rhetoric is fueling the spread of so-called eco-fascism, as well as growing alarm, particularly among younger people, over the climate emergency.
“For younger people, the more apocalyptic images of climate change can fit into the white supremacist view of apocalypse, too,” she said.
“It’s scary how much this person is taking from the Christchurch and El Paso killings, how he’s inspired by those things. It shows how powerful this has become, given how explicit it is now.”
A recasting of environmental concern in a racist context has been embraced by several prominent figures in the US, such as the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has called immigrants “unclean” and a threat to America’s environment, and the Republican attorney general of Arizona, who has called for a border wall to be erected to avoid migrants not just arriving in the US via Mexico but allegedly worsening climate change.
Meanwhile, several rightwing political parties in Europe have resorted to what academics call “ecobordering,” where restrictions on immigration are touted as vital to protect the nativist stewardship of nature and where the ills of environmental destruction are laid upon those from developing countries, ignoring the far larger consumptive habits of wealthy nations and that impact on other countries, creating climate refugees.
In an analysis of 22 far-right parties in Europe, researchers found this thinking was rife and “portrays effects as causes and further normalizes racist border practices and colonial amnesia within Europe.”
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