Buffalo Suspect May Be Latest Mass Shooter Motivated by ‘Eco-Fascism’

Suspect allegedly calls himself an ‘eco-fascist’ and blames migration for harm to the environment in document posted online.

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.”

You Make Our Work Possible

You Make Our Work Possible

We are standing at a pivotal moment in history, one in which education and advocacy around the climate emergency, public health, racial injustice, and economic inequity is imperative. At Earth Island Journal, we have doubled down on our commitment to uplifting stories that often go unheard, to centering the voices of frontline communities, and to always speak truth to power. We are nonprofit publication. We don’t have a paywall because our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.

Get the Journal in your inbox.
Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

The Latest

Bill to Ban Wildlife Killing Contests on Public Lands Needs Support

The Prohibit Wildlife Killing Contests Act of 2022 would save thousands of animals from cruel bloodsport.

Camilla Fox and Michelle Lute of Project Coyote

Supreme Court Rules against EPA, Hobbles Government Power to Limit Emissions

Court sides with Republican states as ruling represents landmark moment in rightwing effort to dismantle ‘regulatory state.’

Oliver Milman The Guardian

Feeding Insects to Cattle Could Make Meat and Milk Production More Sustainable

Adding black soldier fly larvae to cattle feed can reduce the amount of methane cows produce, research shows.

Merritt Drewery

Avocado Farms Dry Up Water Resources in Mexico

Rich tradition of cultivating and collecting medicinal plants in Michoacán state is at risk as Indigenous community loses access to water.

Monica Pelliccia

Satellites Zoom in on Cities’ Hottest Neighborhoods

Local governments can use data to help combat the urban heat island effect.

Daniel P. Johnson

Maasai Leaders ​Arrested in Protests over​ ​Tanzanian Game Reserve

Dozens wounded in clashes with police over eviction from ancestral lands to make way for hunting and safaris.

Katie McQue and Mattha Busby The Guardian