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Over the past few years, the French far-right party National Rally (Rassemblement national, formerly Front National) has incorporated an ecological component into its program (mainly protection of fauna, flora, and landscapes).[1] This move has taken place within the broader context of various far-right and national-populist European parties’ discovery of ecology since the early 2010s. Indeed, contrary to what is frequently assumed, ecological concerns are not important only for leftist movements, but are also present at the radical right end of the political spectrum, although obviously underpinned by different theoretical presumptions.

The European far right actually has quite a longstanding interest in ecology, which it understands through the prism of racist theories according to which each ethnic group must protect its natural territory in order to survive and thrive. This “Identitarian ecology” has been present in some far-right fringe movements since as early as the 1970s and became more prominent in the 1980s thanks to the New Right. However, it is only more recently that it has been able to penetrate concrete electoral programs and become part of the portfolio of narratives that the European far right has developed to attract new voters and integrate into more mainstream politics. This Identitarian ecology is articulated around key far-right philosophical principles such as a nostalgia for pre-Enlightenment closed communities, authoritarianism, neopaganism, mixophobia, and the cult of the local territory as the only genuine anchor of humankind—reformulated under the notion of “bioregionalism.”

Prehistory of Identitarian Ecology

Ecology in the sense of the study of natural life—which should be dissociated from environmentalism, the type of political activism that pushes for regulating human impact on the environment—has a long history connected to far-right thought.

A radical interpretation of the Darwinian theory of evolution and its application to human beings—in the form of nations that fought to be the strongest—developed at the end of the 19th century. It inspired German Geopolitik with its vision of a nation intimately linked to a territory. In the 1920s and 1930s, this nationalist relationship to nature became a key element of the German Conservative Revolution and of its Völkisch current. Presented by George L. Mosse as an “attitude to life”[2] based on national mysticism, ecological thinking was promoted by Völkischer theorists such as Richard Walther Darré (1895-1953) and Ludwig Klages (1872-1956).[3] According to them, the fight for a land was a means of revitalizing an Indo-Germanic race animated by a Nordic spirit of land conquest (Blutt) and a devotion to its exploitation (Boden).[4] This narrative was instrumentalized by the Nazi regime to legitimize the conquests of the East within the framework of the colonization of Lebensraum (“vital space” for the Aryan race).

Today’s Identitarian ecology has updated some of these themes to try to fit the current environmental concerns of European populations.

Nostalgia for Pre-Enlightenment Closed Communities

Conservative and reactionary ideologies have been structured largely around the rejection of Enlightenment and its notion of an equal human being with universal rights. Far-right theoreticians are thus particularly critical of any theory of progress, associating progressivism with rationalism and technicism, which they accuse of destroying the holistic link between humankind and nature. For Identitarian ecology, the defense of “wilderness”—that is, nature free from any human action—is rooted in this anti-Enlightenment tradition. Territory being understood as the meta-identity of the nation, only by protecting the environment can the ethnic group be assured that it develops sustainably. Thus, ecology must protect not only rare plants, endangered animals, and natural monuments, but also local customs and national traditions, as well as the very purity of the nation, which would be under threat from the homogenizing trend of globalization.

The far-right essayist Charles Champetier, close to Alain de Benoist, the founding father of the French New Right, summed up this phenomenon as follows:

Whether we think, for example, of the virtues of natural life celebrated in the face of the vices of urban life, the idea of nature conceived as a harmonious order, the refusal of progress to react aesthetically against the ugliness of industrial society, the metaphor of the organic as opposed to the mechanical or of the living as opposed to the abstract, the praise of rootedness and small communities. Consequently, the Earth appears here as the primordial giver of the nourishing and ordering element of a traditional mode of civilization that the industrial revolution will not cease to transform into a lost world for which the Romantic was the first to be nostalgic.[5]

As we see from this excerpt, Identitarian ecology supports the notion of a “primitive primordialism.” The conservation of the nation is possible only through the conservation of its natural environment: only pristine nature unsullied by the excesses of humankind can respect regional and cultural peculiarities. Identitarian ecology thus proposes to restore the natural rhythms and ways of life of pre-modern agrarian cultures—which are seen as the guardians of the original authenticity of humankind—through a mythical return to nature.[6] Among far-right radical ecologists, many are supporters of the theory of downshifting (including the concept of “happy sobriety”): reducing standards of living to accommodate a better quality of life.

Parallel to its dream of closed communities, Identitarian ecology rejects any gender transformations. According to its militants, one should protect the genetic pool of the nation (leading them to condemn abortion as well as assisted reproduction) and respect the inherent sexual bi-morphism of the human species (prompting them to reject homosexuality, gay parenting, sex changes, etc.) This far-right anti-biotechnology condemns the commodification of embryos, the utero trade, euthanasia, sexual anaplasia, etc., both as soulless techniques and as lawless practices.

An Authoritarian Temptation

While mainstream environmentalism is associated with cultural liberalism and decentralization, Identitarian Ecology seeks to influence everything that is likely to enhance the “biotic value” of the European peoples by promoting a new form of authoritarian organization that is sometimes called eco-fascism.

The ecological far right shares the view of the Finnish writer, polemist, and deep ecologist Pentti Linkola (1932-2020), who proclaimed that parliamentary democracy is “a suicidal form of government”[7] due to the constant lack of effective political decisions on environmental issues. The aversion of right-wing extremists to parliamentary democracy makes it easy for them to take up this critique, which helps them justify their pleas for a dictatorship in which social, political, economic, and cultural structures would be aligned with the objectives of deep ecology—preventing any non-vital human interference with natural ecosystems.

As a holistic social order reminiscent of fascist societies and their eugenics, combining a mystical orientation toward nature with quasi-military discipline, the eco-fascism advocated by the far right proposes a revolution in environmental risk management through a system where the state regime is controlled by bodies organized on the holistic basis of nature. It is no longer the elites who will come to the rescue of the homeland, but the nation itself. Guided mainly by a metaphysical vision of the environment,[8] this fascist ecology is supposed to put an end to globalization by restoring the primary nation, giving back its link with natural territory, organizing it on a respected hierarchy inspired by natural order, and by renewing its spirituality

A Search for a Non-Christian Spiritual Ecology

For the supporters of this far-right ecology, the anthropocentrism defended by the three Abrahamic religions is in complete opposition to the natural world. To develop a “biophily”[9]—a love of life—therefore means reconnecting with pre-Abrahamic religions, i.e., with paganism. The political reading of this religious reconversion is transparent: monotheist religions are indirectly denounced for being inspired by Judaism and for having universalistic objectives, and should therefore be rejected in favor of ethnic religions.

Here, too, far-right ecology clearly dissociates itself from leftist environmentalism, which is largely—though not entirely—secular. For Identitarian ecology, only (reconstructed) paganisms allow for an aesthetic and a spirituality that integrates the beauties of nature and their teachings. As stated by Alain De Benoist, “ecology is obviously very close to paganism because of its global approach to environmental problems, the importance it gives to the relationship between man and the world, and of course its criticism of the devastation of the Earth due to the effect of the obsession with productivity, the ideology of progress and the technical boarding-up.”[10]

This anti-Christian dimension forms a major point of convergence between deep ecology and ethnonationalism. By conquering and appropriating new virgin territories over the course of history, these theorists argue,[11] Christianity not only supported imperialistic aims but also destroyed indigenous beliefs and trivialized the cosmos and our position in it. As a result, Christianity is accused of having prevented the birth of an ecological consciousness.

Christian cultural heritage is not the neo-pagans’ only target. Judaism is also stigmatized. Indeed, the externalization to the Jews of responsibility for environmental degradation is an extension of the criticism of Christian anthropocentrism levied by proponents of deep ecology. In preferring “heaven and earth” to a specific term designating nature, the Old Testament, Identitarian ecologists claim, denies nature—and even calls directly for its destruction by proclaiming in Genesis the supremacy of man over nature. The U.S. medievalist Lynn White Jr., a notorious reference for far-right deep ecology, elaborated on this idea in his pamphlet The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis:

Christianity has inherited from Judaism not only the concept of linear, non-repeating time, but also an impressive narrative of the creation of the world… God designed all this explicitly for the benefit of man and to enable him to rule his law […]. Not only does Christianity, in absolute opposition to ancient paganism as well as to the religions of Asia […], establish a dualism between man and nature, but it also insists on the fact that the exploitation of nature by man for his own ends is the result of God’s will.[12]

According to far-right authors such as Julius Evola, Alain De Benoist, and Guillaume Faye—all three of whom are popular in neopagan political circles—the re-establishment of a holistic polytheism, in opposition to monotheism, would establish a new natural order inspired by the virgin purity of the ancient peoples who fought for their own survival and that of their environment. Monotheism, they claim, formed a first globalism dangerous to the “sustainability of the environment but also of blood.”[13] This pagan vision of ecology has been largely defended by the Terre et Peuple movement created by former GRECE member Pierre Vial.

A Rejection of the Other

Far-right thinkers understand ecology in its Identitarian formulation: ethnic groups need to have territories and take good care of them in order to survive as “species.” This ecology therefore revolves around mixophobia: immigration is seen as driving both cultural and ethnic destabilization and environmental disturbance.[14] According to the Identitarian ecologists, ecology should aim to preserve ethnic diversity by keeping different races in their natural environment, just as the diversity of animals is protected by living in their natural habitat.

This vision is rooted in the notion of differentialism as theorized by Claude Lévi-Strauss during a famous UNESCO conference in 1971, but infused with polemical content. Lévi-Strauss emphasized that narrowmindedness and hostility to the Other are part of the human experience and that, as a form of xenophobia, they protect societies from standardization—or the end of all differences. Consequently, though not of his own volition, Lévi-Strauss inspired the radical ethno-differentialism that appeared in the second half of the 1970s within the French New Right. Since then, classical racism has moved toward radical ethno-differentialism—that is, a mixophobic racism.

This new formulation of racism postulates the incompatibility of cultures. Far-right militants have thus switched from the biological field to the cultural one: the immigrant is no longer rejected on racial grounds, but on civilizational grounds (the so-called incompatibility of Islamic culture with European culture). Ethno-differentialism opposes cultural assimilation, defined as the loss of a particular identity in order to blend into another or broader identity, and often believes that humankind has a multiracial origin (as opposed to the theory of one unique cradle). The claimed right to be different thus evolves into a communitarian or segregationist system, and leads to anti-immigration policies compelling non-European immigrants to “go back home” and return “to their roots.” In the eyes of the most racist militants, immigrants should return to their “natural environment.”

Bioregionalism

In Identitarian ecology’s interpretation of current environmental concerns, the preservation of the biosphere or of nature more generally would entail the establishment of closed regions so that humanity could not upset biodiversity by interfering with it. Unlike the “eco-region,” which designates a geographical space described in strictly biological terms, independent of any human presence, the notion of bioregion offers both environmental and ethnic references. It is a cultural differentiation that links cultures and nature. In addition to a new hierarchy of the national space, bioregionalism introduces the notion of “re-rooting” human beings into their land by creating an eco-compatible way of life that ensures the sustainability of the common ethnic legacy. The far-right nostalgia for “territory of the soul” or an “ancestral home”[15] is indeed focused on the local level, which would be the central driver of existence of the ethnic group and the latter’s only defense against the storm of a homogenizing globalization.

Conclusion

Animated by the dream of a sovereign nation that has returned to its ethnic fundamentals, contemporary far-right ecology espouses a vision of nature that goes beyond mere environmental issues. Marked by a quasi-religious mysticism, cultural reactionarism, and a racist conception of humankind, Identitarian ecology offers an alternative narrative on the need to protect the environment. This unexpected encounter between two divergent philosophical agendas—deep ecology and post-fascist metapolitical thinking—has been transformed today into a new outreach tool that helps far-right parties speak to broader audiences. By praising the local, the defense of regional particularities, and the protection of the natural environment, they hope to encroach on an ideological territory that has long been associated with leftist movements.


[1] Rassemblement national, “Pour une Europe des Nations: Manifeste pour une nouvelle coopération en Europe ‘L’Alliance Européenne des Nations,’” https://rassemblementnational.fr/telecharger/publications/Manifeste.pdf, accessed January 27, 2021.

[2] Goerge L. Mosse, Nazi Culture (New York: Schocken Books, 1990).

[3] Ludwig Klages, The Biocentric Worldview (London: Arktos, 2013).

[4] Johan Chapoutot, “La charrue et l’épée. Paysan-soldat, esclavage et colonisation nazie à l’Est (1941-1945),” Hypothèses 2007/1 (10): 261-270.

[5] Charles Champetier, “La droite et l’écologie,” in Aux sources de la droite. Pour en finir avec les clichés, ed. Arnaud Guyot-Jeannin (Lausanne: L’Âge d’Homme, 2000), 56.

[6] Anna Bramwell, Blood and Soil: Walter Darré and Hitler’s Green Party (Kensal Press, 1985).

[7]  Linkola Pentti, Can Life Prevail ? (London: Arktos, 2011), 159.

[8] Rober Pois, La religion de la nature et le National-Socialisme (Paris: Cerf, 1993).

[9] Arne Naess, Une écosophie pour la vie: introduction à l’écologie profonde (Paris: Broché, 2017).

[10] “Comment peut-on être païen? Entretien avec Alain de Benoist,” Élément 89 (juillet 1997): 13.

[11] Stéphane François, Le Retour de Pan. Panthéisme, néo-paganisme et antichristianisme dans l’écologie radicale (Milan: Archè, 2016).

[12] Lynn White Jr., “Les racines de notre crise écologique,” Krisis 15 (septembre 1993): 66-67.

[13] Stéphane François, “Quand l’extrême droite radicale pense une écologie radicale,” Temps Presents, February 18, 2020, https://tempspresents.com/2020/02/18/quand-lextreme-droite-radicale-pense-une-ecologie-radicale/, accessed January 27, 2021.

[14] Stéphane François, L’écologie politique: une vision du monde réactionnaire? (Paris: CERF Éditions, 2012).

[15] Giovanni Monastra and Phillipe Baillet, Piété pour le Cosmos (Saint-Genis-Laval: Akribea, 2017).

Stéphane François and Adrien Nonjon

Stéphane François and Adrien Nonjon

Stéphane François, Université de Mons, GSRL (EPHE/CNRS/PSL) Adrien Nonjon, National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations, Paris