The Opposite of a Gun is Life Itself

Gun culture, White supremacy, and ecofascism have no place in today’s environmental movement.

Like all of you, I’ve been struggling to make sense of the horror upon horror that has visited us over the past two weeks. We barely had the time to mourn the 10 victims of the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, before yet another gunman went on the rampage in Uvalde, Texas, brutally murdering 19 little children and 2 teachers. Mass shootings have become so regular in this country that we can’t even call these incidents “unimaginable horrors.”

We have too long been living in a nation where it is dangerous for us to do even the most ordinary, everyday things — for our kids to go to school, for our elderly to go grocery shopping, for LGBTQI persons to go dancing, for people to go work at an office.

We have too long been living in a nation where it is dangerous for us to do even the most ordinary, everyday things. Photo by Korean Resource Center 민족학교 / Flickr.

Through the fog of grief and rage and feelings of helplessness that we are all mired in right now, one thing stands clear — we have to insist on commonsense gun ownership regulations. As poet Brendan Constantine portrays so eloquently, painfully — the opposite of a gun is LIFE in all its messiness and glory.

We can’t rest, we can’t give up until those regulations are put in place. Otherwise, we are all complicit.

“The Greening of Hate”

Summer 2022 Letter from the Editor. Written on May 17, 2022, three days after the Buffalo shootings.

I had been avoiding reading details about the 18-year-old gunman’s recent rampage in Buffalo, New York that cut short 10 Black lives. I didn’t want to revisit that corrosive pain that lies at the core of this nation. I didn’t want to feel, yet again, that tight ball of anger, hurt, and hopelessness that squeezes the breath out of you when you’re confronted with yet another racially motivated killing.

But avoidance is a luxury not only I, but the environmental movement as well, simply can’t afford. Nor is it morally tenable. Because our movement’s history has been part of the soil in which seeds of this shooter’s hatred have sprouted and thrived.

In his raging, 180-page manifesto, posted online before he went about his premeditated killing, the White shooter called himself an “ecofascist,” blaming “overpopulation” of non-Whites and immigration as drivers of environmental degradation and climate change. “Green nationalism,” he claimed, “is the only true nationalism.”

As many have pointed out, his screed is terrifyingly similar to manifestos put out by perpetrators of at least two other racially motivated mass shootings that took place in 2019 — an attack against Latinos at a Walmart in El Paso that left 22 dead, and a shooting at mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand where the shooter targeted and killed 51 Muslims.

The connections are hard to ignore. Over the past two decades or so, environmental degradation and overpopulation have become growing obsessions among right-wing extremists and White supremacists, a development that Betsy Hartmann, professor emerita of development studies at Hampshire College, pointed out way back in 2003. She called it “the greening of hate.”

This ideology, Hartmann noted, is rooted in ideas around population control promoted by many early American conservationists who “were eugenicists who believed in maintaining the purity of both nature and the gene pool.” These ideas — which shifted much of the blame for our environmental ills from “overconsumption of the rich and corporate plundering of the planet’s resources” to “the proverbial dark-skinned Other” — have since been debunked many times over, but they continue to gain traction among extremist right-wing factions, with tragic results.

To its credit, much of the environmental movement has been working hard to exorcise its racism-tinged past. Over the 11 years that I have been at the Journal, I’ve been heartened to see the movement begin to embrace the fight for environmental justice and strive to make space at the table for those who bear the worst brunt of capitalism’s impact on the planet. Given that, it’s especially heartbreaking to see our efforts to highlight the serious threat climate chaos, pollution, and biodiversity loss pose to all life being coopted by extremists with violent, xenophobic agendas.

Which is why I say that looking away when heinous acts like these take place isn’t okay. Staying silent isn’t okay either. We have to make it clear that ecofascism and White supremacy and gun culture have no place in today’s environmental movement.

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