The ongoing environmental crisis has prompted various groups, organizations, and political parties to develop new strategies for addressing this global challenge. In this context, eco-populist actors, organizations, and parties are playing a key role in challenging the current exploitative capitalist system. However, it is important to note that eco-populist movements can differ significantly from one another. This article aims to distinguish between two contemporary but distinct movements: eco-populism and eco-fascism. To accomplish this, the terms “populism” and “eco-populism” will be conceptualized and analyzed, and the ideological deviations that eco-populism has undergone will be explained. The article will then provide brief case studies that showcase both eco-populist and eco-fascist events. By examining these examples, we will strive to identify the main similarities and differences between these two movements. Our conclusion will be that, despite sharing some features, eco-fascist movements tend to be more violent and nativist than eco-populist movements.
By Iván Escobar Fernández & Heidi Hart
Although some extremist Populist Radical Right Parties are still reluctant to acknowledge the evident effects of climate change and the urgent need to take necessary actions (see Spanish Populist Radical Right Party VOX), there is quite a consensus among climate researchers, environmental scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists on the causes that have driven us to this climate crisis. Among the main reasons that can explain climate change, there is no doubt that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and massive extraction and exploitation of natural resources have contributed the most to the ongoing crisis (see IPCC, 2022). However, the impacts of climate change differ from region to region, thus making individuals more vulnerable according to their nationality, social class, proximity and dependency on natural areas (see Thornton et al., 2014). Considering these factors, it can be concluded that Indigenous communities are among the most endangered groups due to climate change. This vulnerability has led to the emergence of popular movements that oppose extractive industries and their consequent exploitation of the resources found in natural areas, thus fueling violence and concern all over the globe (see Torres-Wong, 2019).
In the beginning, these movements were somehow marginal and unknown by the rest of the world and their demands were far from being considered by policymakers; however, as climate change impacts have become more tangible, these groups and movements have enjoyed more recognition, and their demands are currently being heard and considered, for example during the Alternative COP 26 in Glasgow and COP 27 in Egypt. Today, though the approaches and strategies may differ, it is difficult to find a political party that has not included climate change mitigation and adaptation in its agenda. However, although “green policies” have become an integral area of most political parties and social movements, different approaches and schools of eco-political thought have emerged in response to the current situation. These include Eco-Rousseauians, who believe that GHGs emissions must be curbed by the purchase of carbon credits from the underdeveloped world and call for the immediate and voluntary halt to the exploitation of natural resources and the protection of ecosystems of the world; Eco-Hobbesians, who defend that climate change can only be overcome by the imposition of global sanctions and mutual coercion mechanisms; Eco-Smithians, think that climate change will be solved by human inventiveness and see it as an opportunity for designing, producing, and selling new products that will boost private gain Eco-Calvinists, who opt for using resource-efficiency techniques to solve the climate crisis; Eco-Christians, who firmly believe that only a coalition with evangelicals would ensure God’s creation; and Eco-Populism, which is worth a more thorough explanation due to its complexity (Yanarella, 2015).
This article aims to analyze the rise of eco-populism across the world and to identify its main features, motivations and goals. Furthermore, this article will also aim to make a distinction between eco-populism and an appearance similar movement that has been coined under the name of eco-fascism. To do so, we will first conceptualize what we understand as populism and eco-populism and will point out some deviations the latter has undergone in recent years. The following section will showcase four different case studies that will aim at helping us identify some common and distinctive features between eco-populists and eco-fascists. Lastly, our findings will be discussed and contrasted with the existing literature.