The far right is increasingly embracing an extremist ideology known as “eco-fascism,” which seeks to co-opt legitimate environmental concerns and repurpose them to support white nationalism. The alleged shooters who carried out racist, xenophobic attacks in Buffalo, New York; El Paso, Texas; and Christchurch, New Zealand, all either identified as eco-fascists or espoused eco-fascist views, but these beliefs are also being spread by mainstream conservative media figures. Fox News and other right-wing outlets regularly put forward eco-fascistic arguments that either implicitly or explicitly adopt the racist “great replacement” theory, which holds that a cabal of elites is seeking to displace white people through increased immigration.
Eco-fascism holds that immigrants are to blame for a scarcity of resources and, therefore, must be prevented from entering the United States, Europe, or other countries coded as “the West.” “If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable,” the El Paso shooter allegedly wrote. That statement echoed the nativist and proto-eco-fascist Garrett Hardin’s argument that rich countries are like a “lifeboat” with limited social, economic, and natural resources – including food and housing stock – that needed to turn away immigrants, or else the “boat swamps, everyone drowns.”
In addition to this supposed competition for resources, eco-fascists hold racist beliefs about immigrants’ hygiene, respect for nature, and perceived higher birthrates. Historically, eco-fascism has held that the “purity” of a land’s natural resources should be reflected in racist ideas of a nation’s racial “purity,” most explicitly in the Nazi “emphasis on ‘blood and soil’” and “the need for a living space purified of alien and undesirable elements.” Just as the great replacement theory says that white people are being politically marginalized and subjugated, eco-fascists say they are being denied their rightful resources.
The ideas that immigrants are a “drain” on resources or present an environmental risk to the United States are not limited to explicit eco-fascists though. Both of those narratives are common on Fox News, including from the network’s top star Tucker Carlson. On April 25, after Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) blamed migrants for causing “environmental degradation” at the southern border, Carlson thanked him for mentioning the “effect on the physical landscape, on the land.” The host added, “Where is the Sierra Club, you know, as our country is being trampled?”
Carlson has discussed this theme repeatedly over the years. The Potomac River “has gotten dirtier and dirtier and dirtier and dirtier,” he said in a 2019 interview in The Atlantic. “I go down there and that litter is left almost exclusively by immigrants.” (The Potomac Conservancy condemned Carlson’s remarks, calling them “racist plain and simple.”)
“I actually hate litter which is one of the reasons I'm so against illegal immigration. It produces a huge amount of litter,” he said in August 2018.
That December, Carlson said that immigrants make “our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided.” He faced a significant backlash following those remarks, including from 26 companies which pulled advertisements from his show. But he doubled down on the comments just days later in a monologue that explicitly called increased immigration levels – not just the act of migrating – a threat to U.S. natural resources.
“Thanks to illegal immigration, huge swaths of the region are covered with garbage and waste that degrade the soil and kill wildlife,” he said. “Illegal immigration comes at a huge cost to our environment.”
“The left used to care about the environment – the land, the water, the animals,” he continued. “They understood that America is beautiful because it is open and uncrowded. Not so long ago, environmentalists opposed mass immigration. They knew what the costs were.”
Far-right website The Federalist wrote up that segment under the headline: “Tucker Carlson Is Absolutely Right: Illegal Immigration Is Destroying The Environment.”
One year earlier, far-right pundit Ann Coulter wrote an opinion piece for the Daily Caller titled “Choose Between A Green America And A Brown America,” criticizing the Sierra Club for adopting progressive immigration policies. In the piece, she made a racist reference to a “Mexican cultural trait of littering” and promoted “taking white Western European immigrants” over “Mass Third World immigration.”
The eco-fascistic right often couches its anti-immigrant conservationism in Malthusian anxieties about overpopulation. “A sensible environmentalism” would have to ask “is it good for us or the environment that the population grows artificially through the mass introduction of foreigners?” Christopher Roach wrote in a piece for American Greatness, a hotbed of far-right Trumpist nationalism. Roach also referenced “an immigration regime that transports billions from the fertile—though impoverished—Third World,” highlighting again the overlap between great replacement panic and eco-fascist narratives.
The far right’s demonization of immigrants as “dirty” or bad stewards of the environment goes hand-in-hand with the lie that they steal wealth from the United States, or otherwise don’t contribute their fair share.
“Our national wealth is up for grabs by whomever gets here first, and they are coming,” Carlson said on May 21, 2019. “The United States is being plundered.”
That segment was based on a report from an immigration restrictionist group that has deep ties to the far-right ecology movement, called the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The group seeks to drastically reduce the level of authorized immigration and stop all unauthorized border crossing, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has designated FAIR as an extremist group.
In a recent blog post, FAIR government relations manager Preston Huennekens argued that “any increase in our population is going to our tax natural resources” and that migration had negative environmental impacts “through the physical act of migrating itself,” including “border trash, smuggling trails destroying fauna, etc.”
The idea of scarcity is crucial to the racist appeal of eco-fascism, and Fox News regularly suggests that municipal and federal resources can’t accommodate increased migration.
“At a time when there were more than half a million Americans homeless living on the streets – a crushing number that our leaders ignore but that rises every single year – at that moment, Joe Biden is giving hotel rooms to illegal aliens,” Carlson declared. “It's hard to believe that's real. Oh, but it is real.”
Anchor Harris Faulkner played that clip on her March 23, 2021, show, to which Fox News’ Will Cain responded: “Welcoming in migrants from Central America, that's all fine and good but not if it’s coming at the expense of a limited amount of resources that we're depriving of Americans.” As Media Matters noted at the time, immigrants contribute more to governmental resources than they use.
In fact, Cain’s entire premise is wrong. The world has enough wealth and productive capacity to feed every human being. The United States could house every person living here, and the choice not to is due to a lack of political will, not limited environmental resources.
Nevertheless, over a 12-week period in 2021, Fox News repeated some version of Cain’s lie, fearmongering about immigrants taking resources from American citizens in at least 46 segments, according to a Media Matters study. The same research found that Fox News hosts demonized migrant children in 32 segments, accusing them of being a burden on the educational system, such as when Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on March 1, 2021, that migrant children who “don't speak English” were “taking time and energy away from your kids.”
Environmentalists have worked for decades to successfully expel any strains of eco-fascism from their movement. Now, right-wing media have openly adopted eco-fascistic rhetoric to conflate an ideology grounded in white supremacy with genuine environmental concerns, all in their crusade against immigration.
To paraphrase the Potomac Conservancy: These attacks are racist, plain and simple.