The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness
The Climate 202

Suspect in Buffalo rampage cited 'ecofascism' to justify actions

The Climate 202

Placeholder while article actions load

Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! As a New Hampshire native, Maxine was distressed to learn that climate change is threatening maple syrup season. But first:

Suspect in Buffalo rampage cited 'ecofascism' to justify actions

Before 10 people died in a shooting at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday, the alleged gunman wrote a screed citing “ecofascism,” an ideology that blames environmental problems on immigration and overpopulation.

“I would prefer to call myself a populist,” 18-year-old Payton Gendron wrote. “But you can call me an ethno-nationalist eco-fascist national socialist if you want, I wouldn’t disagree with you.”

The 180-page document, which The Climate 202 is not publishing because it could inspire further violence, scapegoats immigrants and minorities for environmental issues such as air pollution, plastic waste and climate change.

This idea is related to the racist “great replacement” theory, which posits that White people are being intentionally replaced by non-White people. It has roots in the Nazi emphasis on “blood and soil” and the need for a purified “fatherland.” 

The theory has gained currency in recent years among white supremacists as well as some prominent conservative politicians and pundits. It has also prompted internal reckonings at environmental groups, which have grappled with their own stances on immigration and overpopulation.

The screed, which apparently played a role in the attack at a supermarket in a predominantly Black area of Buffalo, repeatedly uses pro-environment arguments to defend anti-immigrant views.

“For too long we have allowed the left to co-opt the environmentalist movement to serve their own needs,” it says. “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.”

These words were difficult to read for Peter Staudenmaier, an associate professor of history at Marquette University and co-author of the book “Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience.”

For people who care about the environment and are not far-right mass murderers, it's very tough for us to come to terms with, Staudenmaier told The Climate 202.

'Copycat attack’

Before dozens of people were slain in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso in 2019, the accused gunmen also invoked ecofascism to explain their actions, The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach reported at the time.

  • Brenton H. Tarrant identified as an “eco-fascist” and railed about immigrants' birthrates. The New Zealand attack toll included 51 Muslim worshipers at a pair of mosques.
  • Patrick Crusius wrote that “if we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable.” In El Paso, the attack targeted Hispanics at a Walmart and left 23 people dead.

Twenty-eight percent of the Buffalo screed — including much of the language about ecofascism — was plagiarized from the Christchurch shooter's words, according to an analysis conducted by the Khalifa Ihler Institute, a Sweden-based think tank that seeks to combat extremism.

“You could call it a copycat attack,” Cassidy Thomas, a doctoral student at Syracuse University who studies the intersection of right-wing extremism and environmental politics, told The Climate 202. “It's clear that these individuals shared many of the same concerns about overpopulation and environmental degradation.”

Rhetoric on the right

Prominent conservative politicians and pundits have used similar rhetoric without formally ascribing to an ecofascist movement.

  • On a trip to Texas last year, House Republicans decried trash that was ostensibly left by undocumented immigrants from Mexico, with Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) warning of an “environmental crisis at our southern border.”
  • Tucker Carlson, the most-watched host on Fox News, falsely claimed in a 2019 interview with the Atlantic that immigrants were polluting the Potomac in Washington.
  • Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) filed a lawsuit last year that argued the Biden administration had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to study how more immigration could cause more planet-warming pollution. An Arizona federal court last month granted in part the Biden administration's motion to dismiss the suit.

Katie Conner, a spokeswoman for Brnovich, said in an email to The Climate 202: “General Brnovich is a first-generation American and a strong supporter of legal immigration, but it is intellectually inconsistent and frankly, disingenuous, for anyone claiming to care about the condition of our environment to censor or disregard the damage that is occurring to our Sonoran desert ecosystem as a direct result of President Biden’s continued promotion of lawlessness and chaos at our nation’s southern border.”

One green group's reckoning

The Sierra Club, one of the nation's oldest environmental groups, faced bitter internal fights over immigration in the 1990s and early 2000s.

  • In 1996, the club sought to distance itself from John Tanton, an anti-immigrant activist and president of the group Zero Population Growth.
  • In 2004, former Colorado governor Richard Lamm led a failed effort to elect immigration restrictionists to the Sierra Club board of directors.

More recently, the group has focused instead on the harmful environmental effects of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border through its Borderlands initiative.

“The Sierra Club is much more focused today on the true drivers of climate change: fossil fuel companies, utilities and all the people actually pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” Alex Amend, a former Sierra Club employee who now researches far-right environmentalism, told The Climate 202.

On the Hill

Exclusive: Environmental groups call on House to pass fuel price-gouging bill

Fifteen environmental groups are calling on the House to pass the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, which would empower President Biden to issue an emergency declaration barring “excessive” or “exploitative” gasoline and home energy prices, according to a letter shared exclusively with The Climate 202.

“This legislation takes important action to protect families struggling with high gas and home heating fuel prices while Big Oil rakes in sky-high profits,” the groups wrote in the letter sent to House offices on Tuesday morning. “The oil and gas industry is profiteering off [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”

The national average for regular gas hit another record of $4.48 a gallon on Monday, according to AAA. The groups signing the letter included the League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, and Climate Power.

While Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said the House will vote on the legislation this week, Democrats on the House Rules Committee were forced to pull the measure from consideration on Monday due to a lack of votes in the full chamber.

The committee could try again as soon as Tuesday, although the bill is unlikely to garner much Republican support. GOP leaders on Monday sent a whip notice to members urging them to vote against the measure, calling it an “attempt to distract and shift blame” to energy companies.

Sens. Manchin and Murkowski press Biden administration on critical minerals

Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Monday expressed concern that the Biden administration has delayed implementation of the critical mineral provisions in the Energy Act of 2020 and the bipartisan infrastructure law.

“The [administration] must prioritize these initiatives and ensure crucial deadlines are met,” the lawmakers wrote in letters to Cabinet officials. “Without this effort we will remain vulnerable due to our lack of domestic production and processing of critical minerals, including rare earth elements.”

The letters were sent to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the missives.

Pressure points

Cutting air pollution from fossil fuels would save 50,000 lives a year, study says

Eliminating air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels would prevent more than 50,000 premature deaths and produce more than $600 billion annually in health benefits across the United States, according to a study published in the journal GeoHealth, The Post's Steven Mufson reports.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, highlights the considerable benefits of curbing fine particulates, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides produced by electricity generation, transportation, industrial activities, and building functions such as heating and cooking.

“Our work provides a sense of the scale of the air quality health benefits that could accompany deep decarbonization of the U.S. energy system,” said Nicholas A. Mailloux, lead author of the study and a graduate student at the Nelson Institute. “Shifting to clean energy sources can provide enormous benefit for public health in the near term while mitigating climate change in the longer term.”

International climate

Bloomberg pledges $242 million to spur clean energy transition in 10 countries

Former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Tuesday announced a $242 million investment to accelerate the clean energy transition in 10 developing countries at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in Kigali, Rwanda.

Bloomberg Philanthropies will develop programs and partnerships in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam. The philanthropic organization has already unveiled energy transition efforts in seven other countries and the European Union.

At the COP26 climate summit in Scotland last fall, Bloomberg pledged to help shutter or cancel one-quarter of the world's coal plant capacity. The latest announcement comes ahead of the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, where developing countries are expected to ask wealthy nations for long-overdue funding to help them cope with the effects of global warming.

“We’ve already helped close more than two-thirds of U.S coal plants, and more than half of Europe’s, faster than almost anyone thought was possible, while also reaping economic benefits," Bloomberg said in a statement. “We have to spread that success around the world, especially in developing countries that have contributed the least to the climate crisis but are facing the most severe effects.”

In the atmosphere


We are also skeptical. 😹

Thanks for reading!