Sam Adler-Bell: Eco-fascism & The Roots of Conservationism In America


SAM ADLER-BELL: You know something that was really
interesting as I was researching this piece that I came across was like I
think that I think that you’re right that it’s important to acknowledge that
there have been and are ways of interacting with nature that are less
destructive and that those are often associated with sort of these indigenous
communities but I think it’s also Christian Parenti is good on this stuff
but it’s also true that like you know the Native Americans for example it’s
not that their mode of interacting with nature was to just
leave nature alone like you said there was agriculture but also they they
burned down like massive amounts of forest but in a way that was like
sustainable but it wasn’t like this idea of like we’ll just leave it alone
and we’ll you know that like the idea being that like humans are part of
nature in the way that deep ecologist say but they’re also environment makers environment effectors like we we have an effect on
the environment it’s just that the question is do we want that effect to be
exclusively destructive or not you know and I think that I think that we
probably won’t solve the ecological crisis by convincing not enough
people to like go develop some kind of concept of living with the land that is
you know anti-modern and I think like we have to probably accept that that part
of the solution is a different way of interacting with the land but not sort of this mythical return because I think even the mythical return
is often very susceptible to the fascist stuff too because you’re like you know
then you start like lifting up some kind of
ideal concept of the people of the Volk and that there’s some pure way
of living that’s been undermined and you know something that I reference in the
piece like these mass shooters who have referenced ecological themes in their
manifestos you know they talk about a return to some kind of pre-modern way of
living but the path to get there for them is to you know quote unquote kill
the invaders and kill you know the people who are over populating the world
who are for them people of color in the global south LBW: Yeah yeah there’s a lot of
threads there that I wanna I want to follow no it’s okay because I
have all these notes so we’re good I know what directions we should
go in and what we should flesh out here but I do want to address this idea
of the wilderness as being this untamed or seemingly it feels a
lot like a settler colonial of myth like this idea that there’s the wilderness we
have to conserve it and protect it you know you talk about the early I guess
ecological environmental movements the conservation movements that we see with
for instance you mention here I’ll just quote this from the article but in
the early 20th century Madison Grant a Manhattan lawyer joined the
conservationist efforts of Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir who had found
who had founded the Sierra Club in 1892 these men shared an affinity for
scientific racism Roosevelt praised Grants 1916 white supremacist tome The
Passing of the Great Race or the Racial Basis of European History as a quote
capital book end quote another fan Adolf Hitler wrote Grant a letter
calling the book his personal Bible I don’t think people understand this
connection between these efforts to conserve the natural world as we see in
the manifestation of national parks national monuments that
are protected federally John Muir Teddy Roosevelt of course are praised for
doing this not to say that there’s anything wrong
trying to conserve parts of the natural world don’t get me wrong but people don’t really understand that there is this deeply
racist sentiment at the root of that and that Hitler actually himself like you
said in this article was a fan of these movements in a sense a fan of
these ideas so where is that idea of a kind of eco-fascism how is that
presented in maybe the early days of conservation this fascistic idea
that we see within Roosevelt or John Muir or Grant as you mentioned here SAM ADLER-BELL: Yes
there’s a couple of things I mean for one wish it’s worth thinking about what
the nationalist purpose of conservation was and even the creation of the national parks for people like Madison Grant Teddy Roosevelt and
John Muir because obviously you know it’s good we’re glad we have national
parks but part of the purpose was this kind of idea of reaffirming the American
national identity through attachment to the wilderness of through attachment to
the land it’s the same thing I was describing about European fascists
so like the frontier figured as this place that’s untouched untouched by
civilization it’s not corrupted by you know industrialization
pending an accelerating industrialization and there was this
idea amongst these people that like modernity sort of robbed the American
man of his like vigor and independence and creativity and that needed to be
renewed through the frontier and through you know preserving this American
wilderness where basically men could go to to reconnect with this
vigorous American identity usually through violence like through bloodsport
but through hunting and in the case of the
actual creation of of the national parks as for the creation of the frontier
through the murder of indigenous populations so the National Park
conservationists movement in the same way that Richard Daré talked about the land needing to be that you know that blood and
soil meant that the that the National Socialists could take as much land in
the east as they needed in order to allow the the true Aryan people to
prosper and that’s basically the same thing that was very alive in the
conservationist discourse of the early 20th century and you know I
mean also very much endemic to that rhetoric is the idea that this land was
virgin that it was uninhabited which of course it wasn’t and I think I
quoted John Muir there was this he wrote in a 1901 collection of essays that was
meant to promote tourism to the national parks just sort of like as an aside he
said as to Indians most of them are dead or civilized into useless innocence so
like don’t worry about the Indians come to our national parks where American you
know völkisch American identity still resides there’s also sort of a
patriarchal element to this like modernity is feminizing and the
wilderness is a place to reconnect with like virile manhood yeah it’s all kind of
there in the mix

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