Scottish Dawn members in Wishaw

Far right groups are exploiting concern over the environment

Green groups and an anti-racism organisation have warned that far right activists are trying to exploit people’s concern over the environment as a recruiting tool.

They say there’s been a “worrying growth” in eco-fascism with Hope not hate warning the far right is “latching onto green issues to provide a softer face in order to inveigle their way into mainstream politics”.

Several organisations spoke to The Ferret following a row in the wake of the Holyrood election. The Scottish Greens accused another political party with links to the far right, of “masquerading as greens” and potentially costing them two seats in the Scottish Parliament.

Hope not hate, which campaigns against fascism, warns there are wider issues beyond the Holyrood row. Its recent report – From Climate Denial to Blood and Soil – charted a “worrying growth of ‘green’ nationalism within the UK’s far right including groups active in Scotland.

Hope not hate cited the “overtly fascistic Patriotic Alternative (PA)” which promotes “The Great British Clean-Up!” litter picking campaign to push its agenda”.

PA is actively recruiting in Scotland. Its supporters – some of whom promoted neo-Nazi views – have been involved in the ‘clean-up’ campaign and were pictured picking up litter in Glasgow. The banned neo-Nazi terror group Scottish Dawn – exposed by The Ferret in 2017 – also tried to recruit young people in Scotland for litter picking. 

PA has drawn a false comparison between the problems caused by non-native invasive species on native fauna and flora in the UK, and the supposed similar effect on ‘native’ British people from immigration and acceptance of refugees. 

As public concern over the looming ecological catastrophe builds, the radical and far right in the UK, as elsewhere, are seeking to rebrand themselves with a green tinge

David Lawrence, Hope not hate researcher

The red squirrel, which has declined in the UK in part due to the introduction of its American grey cousin, has apparently become a British far right mascot, for PA and other groups, said Hope not hate.

Local Matters (LM), a group in England whose propaganda encouraged the home-growing of vegetables, was also cited by Hope not hate. LM has “railed against global corporations” for greenhouse gas emissions, among other environmental concerns.

“Beneath this inoffensive green sheen, however, lies something nastier,” Hope not hate said. “LM is spearheaded by former members of Generation Identity, a European far right network that promotes ‘identitarianism’, a form of racial segregation.”

LM blames overpopulation for the UK’s environmental decline and proposes that immigration is stopped completely.

“As public concern over the looming ecological catastrophe builds, the radical and far right in the UK, as elsewhere, are seeking to rebrand themselves with a green tinge,” says Hope not hate’s David Lawrence, who authored the report.

Eco-fascism is a longstanding political ideology. The Nazi slogan “blood and soil” was coined by an ecological thinker, Richard Walter Darré, who meant it to capture a mystical link between race and a particular territory.

Far-right environmentalist ideas are now seeping into electoral politics. In France, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant National Rally party has ditched its denial of human-driven climate change in favour of a carefully branded “patriotic ecology.” 

In 2019, eco-fascism came to widespread public attention following the mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas. Both gunmen had written manifestos in which they described themselves as eco-fascists.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, expressed concern and said: “It is abhorrent that far right fascists would try to exploit people’s concern about our environment as a recruiting tool. The climate crisis is a racist crisis with people from lower-income countries feeling the impacts of changing climate first and the hardest.

“Tackling climate change in a just way means dismantling the same systems of power and exploitation that maintain racism, patriarchy and inequality,” he added.

Dixon’s concerns were echoed by Shaun Spiers, executive director of the Green Alliance, an environmental think tank. Spiers said it is “very worrying” that environmental messages are being co-opted by far right groups. 

“As we have seen over the past year, one of the most important things now is for all sectors to understand all forms of prejudice better and become more representative and inclusive,” he added.

“This is no different for the environment sector. Green Alliance, in common with other green groups, is working hard to address this as it is essential to our ability to succeed in achieving a fair low carbon transition for all of society.”

It is abhorrent that far right fascists would try to exploit people’s concern about our environment as a recruiting tool.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland

The Woodland Trust commented on PA’s false claim about non-native invasive species and immigration. The Trust’s spokesman George Anderson said there is “no legitimate comparison between human affairs and the protection of plants and animals that have evolved to live in specific locations”. 

He added: “‘Native’ and ‘non-native’ are accepted concepts in ecology but conservationists favouring native species is not equivalent to judging people by ethnicity or skin colour.

Andreson continued: “It is in our nature to travel and explore which is why we inhabit the whole planet. Intervening in the movement of people is politics not ecology, and we should be wary of anyone seeking to make political points by misusing these ecological terms.”

Regarding far right groups adopting the red squirrel as a mascot, he said: “In the case of squirrels, we favour native red squirrels over non-native grey squirrels. But these are two different species, which happen to have colours in their names. They are not equivalent to different colours of people. People are a single species.”

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