An alternative to the new wave of ecofascism
By liberating humanity from the compulsion to consume, climate catastrophe can be averted without recourse to authoritarianism
It is time to acknowledge that mainstream environmentalism has failed to prevent climate catastrophe. Its refusal to call for an immediate consumption reduction has backfired and its demise has opened the way for a wave of fascist environmentalists who reject democratic freedom.
One well-known example of the authoritarian turn in environmentalism is James Lovelock, the first scientist to discover the presence of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. Earlier this year he told the Guardian that democracies are incapable of adequately addressing climate change. "I have a feeling," Lovelock said, "that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while." His words may be disturbing, but other ecologists have gone much further.
Take for example Pentti Linkola, a Finnish fisherman and ecological philosopher. Whereas Lovelock puts his faith in advanced technology, Linkola proposes a turn to fascistic primitivism. Their only point of agreement is on the need to suspend democracy. Linkola has built an environmentalist following by calling for an authoritarian, ecological regime that ruthlessly suppresses consumers. Largely unknown outside of Finland until the first English translation of his work was published last year, Linkola represents environmentalism pushed to its totalitarian extreme. "An ecocatastrophe is taking place on earth," he writes concluding several pages later that "discipline, prohibition, enforcement and oppression" are the only solution.
Linkola has a cunning ability to blend reasonable ecological precepts with shocking authoritarian solutions. His bold political programme includes ending the freedom to procreate, abolishing fossil fuels, revoking all international trade agreements, banning air traffic, demolishing the suburbs, and reforesting parking lots. As for those "most responsible for the present economic growth and competition", Linkola explains that they will be sent to the mountains for "re-education" in eco-gulags: "the sole glimmer of hope," he declares, "lies in a centralised government and the tireless control of citizens."
Environmentalism is currently marketed as a luxury brand for guilty consumers. The prevailing assumption is that a fundamental lifestyle change is unnecessary: being green means paying extra for organic produce and driving a hybrid. The incumbent political regime remains in power and the same corporations provide new "green" goods; the underlying consumerist ideology is unquestioned. This brand of environmentalism only emboldens ecofascists who rightly claim that shopping green can never stop the ecological crisis. And yet, ecofascists are wrong to suggest that the suspension of democracy is the only alternative.
Humanity can avert climate catastrophe without accepting ecological tyranny. However, this will take an immediate, drastic reduction of our consumption. This requires the trust that the majority of people would voluntarily reduce their standard of living once the forces that induce consumerism are overcome.
The future of environmentalism is in liberating humanity from the compulsion to consume. Rampant, earth-destroying consumption is the norm in the west largely because our imaginations are pillaged by any corporation with an advertising budget. From birth, we are assaulted by thousands of commercial messages each day whose single mantra is "buy". Silencing this refrain is the revolutionary alternative to ecological fascism. It is a revolution which is already budding and is marked by three synergetic campaigns: the criminalisation of advertising, the revocation of corporate power and the downshifting of the global economy.
In São Paulo, the seventh largest city in the world, outdoor advertising has been banned. Meanwhile, artists in New York City and Toronto are launching blitzkrieg attacks on billboards, replacing commercials with art. Their efforts have put one visual polluter out of business. Grassroots organisers in the US are pushing for an amendment to the constitution that will end corporate personhood while others are fighting to revive the possibility of death penalties for corporations. The second international conference on degrowth economics met recently in Barcelona. In Ithaca, New York a local, time-based currency is thriving. Buy Nothing Day campaign is celebrated in dozens of nations and now Adbusters is upping the ante with a call for seven days of carnivalesque rebellion against consumerism this November. And, most important of all, across the world everyday people are silently, unceremoniously and intentionally spending less and living more.
Authoritarian environmentalists fail to imagine a world without advertising, so they dream of putting democracy "on hold". In Linkola's dystopian vision, the resources of the state are mobilised to clamp down on individual liberty. But there is no need to suspend democracy if it is returned to the people. Democratic, anti-fascist environmentalism means marshalling the strength of humanity to suppress corporations. Only by silencing the consumerist forces will both climate catastrophe and ecological tyranny be averted. Yes, western consumption will be substantially reduced. But it will be done voluntarily and joyously.
Pďż˝evzato z The Guardian