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Solnit writes: "It was a shocking pairing and also a perfectly coherent one, a clash of opposing ideologies. Behind the urgency of climate action is the understanding that everything is connected; behind white supremacy is an ideology of separation."

Flowers are placed on the front steps of the Wellington Masjid mosque, after a shooting incident at two mosques in Christchurch. (photo: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
Flowers are placed on the front steps of the Wellington Masjid mosque, after a shooting incident at two mosques in Christchurch. (photo: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

Why You'll Never Meet a White Supremacist Who Cares About Climate Change

By Rebecca Solnit, Guardian UK

24 March 19

Behind the urgency of climate action is the understanding that everything is connected; behind white supremacy is an ideology of separation

s the news of the Christchurch mosque massacre broke and I scoured the news, I came across a map showing that the Friday morning climate strike in Christchurch was close to the bloodbath. I felt terrible for the young people who showed up with hope and idealism, wondered whether the killer or killers chose this particular day to undermine the impact of this global climate action. It was a shocking pairing and also a perfectly coherent one, a clash of opposing ideologies. Behind the urgency of climate action is the understanding that everything is connected; behind white supremacy is an ideology of separation.

Of separation as the idea that human beings are divided into races, and those in one race have nothing in common with those in others. Of separation as the idea that though white people have overrun the globe, nonwhite people should stay out of Europe, North America, and now even New Zealand and Australia, two places where white settlers came relatively recently to already inhabited places – as a fantasy of resegregating the world. Of a lot of ideas and ideals of masculinity taken to a monstrous extreme – as ideas of disconnection, of taking matters into your own hands, of feeling no empathy and exhibiting no kindness, of asserting yourself as having the right to dominate others even unto death. And of course, of guns as the symbols and instruments of this self-definition.

Climate change is based on science. But if you delve into it deeply enough it is a kind of mysticism without mystification, a recognition of the beautiful interconnection of all life and the systems – weather, water, soil, seasons, ocean pH – on which that life depends. It acknowledges that everything is connected, that to dig up the carbon that plants so helpfully sequestered in the ground over eons and burn it so that returns to the sky as carbon dioxide changes the climate, and that this changed climate isn’t just warmer, it’s more chaotic, in ways that break these elegant patterns and relationships. That chaos is a kind of violence – the violence of hurricanes, wildfires, new temperature extremes, broken weather patterns, droughts, extinctions, famines. Which is why climate action has been and must be nonviolent. It is a movement to protect life.

That includes human life whether it’s the people of Central America impacted by failed harvests or of the Gulf Coast by hurricanes or the Arctic and their traditional relationships to seals, caribou and other species in crisis from climate change or the people of California, like the 82 killed in the inferno that in one day destroyed the town of Paradise last year. And it includes all life, because human beings are not separate from the fate of insects, of birds, of the life in the sea, of the forests that sequester carbon, of the diseases that will thrive on a warmer planet. I know a lot of climate activists, and I know what motivates them: it’s love. For the whole planet, for the most vulnerable people on it, for the idea of a livable future.

It’s no accident that climate denial is integral to rightwing thinking, that Republicans in the US have been freaking out about the Green New Deal, that maximizing fossil fuel development and profit seems to be a cornerstone of their libertarian-capitalist ideology. To acknowledge that everything is connected is to acknowledge that our actions have consequences and therefore responsibilities they are unwilling to shoulder. Also that the solutions to climate change require cooperative work at all levels from local energy transition to national policies that stop subsidizing fossil fuels to international agreements to set emissions goals.

In contrast, so much of rightwing ideology now is about a libertarian machismo in the “I can do anything I want” vein. It’s the pro-gun myth that we can each protect ourselves with a weapon when in reality we’re all safer with them out of our societies. It’s the idea that we can deregulate the hell out of everything and everyone can just look out for themselves whether it’s food safety or infrastructure safety or air and water quality. To kill someone you have to feel separate from them, and some violence – lynching, rape – ritualizes this separateness. Violence too comes out of a sort of entitlement: I have the right to hurt you, to determine your fate, to end your life. I am more important than you. It seems like, among other things a miserable mindset, one that aggrandizes your ego but withers your soul.

To oppose it means in part standing up for those under attack – black churchgoers in Charleston, Jews in Pittsburgh, Muslims in Christchurch, among them. But it also means being the opposite of their ideals and their actions. It means generosity, respect, inclusion, nonviolence.

I asked Hoda Baraka, who is both Muslim and’s global communications director, how it all looked to her in the wake of the climate strike and the massacre, and she said “In a world being driven by fear, we are constantly being pitted against the very things that make this world livable. Whether it’s people being pitted against each other, even though there is no life without human connection, love and empathy. Or fear pitting us against the very planet that sustains us, even though there is no life on a dead planet. This is why fighting against climate change is the equivalent of fighting against hatred. A world that thrives is one where both people and planet are seen for their inextricable value and connectedness.”

Our work as climate activists arises from the recognition that acts have consequences, and consequences come with responsibilities, and we are responsible for the fate of this earth, for all living things now and in the future we are choosing with our actions– or inactions – in the present. But also from the recognition that ecological connectedness contains a deep beauty tantamount to love. Our goal as climate activists is to protect life. Those children and youth standing up for the future in Christchurch and in more than 1,700 other cities around the world were already the answer we needed.

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+16 # margpark 2019-03-24 18:42
And for sure the Right Wing has been telling the public to fear since 9/11 if not before. People in my neighborhood, (and it is a pleasant, relatively crime free neighborhood) are scared of any stranger they see on the street. Whereas liberal old me keeps telling them not to fear everyone they see.
-10 # 2019-03-24 19:42
The recent mass murderer who killed over four dozen Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand recent was overt white supremacist but he was also an ardent believer in climate change. In his manifesto he ranted about climate change and informed his readers that immigration and climate change are the same issue because the environment is being destroyed by over-population.

It is spectacularly ignorant that Solnit could claim that white nationalism and climate change advocacy could not co-exist in one person when the very person she was writing about was both a white nationalist and climate change advocate.

Inconvenient facts are always rejected by ideologues like Solnit.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+1 # economagic 2019-03-25 15:30
Lee, I[ll give you a "somewhat factual" on the basis of his confused statement, "Why focus on immigration and birth rates when climate change is such a huge issue? . . . Because they are the same issue." They aren't, but it is mass ecocide that worries him and all of these issues are related.

You lose a point for calling him a climate change advocate. In standard English a "climate change advocate" would be a person who advocates or advocates for climate change, which Tarrant is not. Instead he is simply a person who recognizes that climate change is actually occurring and is a threat.

As for "inconvenient facts," it's Solnit one*, Nason--uh, I lost count several years ago.

0 # Depressionborn 2019-03-28 10:07
sorry, econ. but facts do matter.

NASA is reporting that the sun is entering one of the deepest Solar Minima of the Space Age; and Earth’s atmosphere is responding in kind.

So, start pumping out that CO2, everyone. We’re going to need all the greenhouse gases we can get.

“We see a cooling trend,” said Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Center. “High above Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy. If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold.”
-1 # economagic 2019-03-28 17:47
Depression, I don't know where you learned to do research (as for a high school class report report, not original research leading to new knowledge), but you should demand your money back.

First, NASA is not making the claim: One person working at NASA is.

Second, Mlynczak's claim is not about conditions at the surface of the earth (global warming) but at the very top of the fifteen miles or so of the atmosphere. Conditions in that layer have almost nothing to do with conditions at the surface. Look it up.

Third, the sunspot cycle and its effects have been well studied for centuries, the greenhouse effect for more than a century, both intensively for decades now, and both are well understood. The effect of greenhouse gasses on surface temperature is much greater than that of the sunspot cycle. Whether there is any causal connection between even the 80-year Maunder Minimum (sunspot activity) and the "Little Ice Age" that lasted 3-5 centuries is not known.

Fourth, a single claim by a single person does not disprove decades of evidence and analysis by thousands of qualified people. It is not even relevant.

Here is a debunk of Mlynczak's claim from actual scientists, including the story of the claim by a NON-scientist that went viral among the crackpots:

You really shouldn't hold forth on subjects of which you have zero knowledge.
0 # Depressionborn 2019-03-29 08:48
Sorry, it is getting colder econ. Has been for a while. Lots of proof for it. You could look it up but you won't. Why not?, a need to save the planet too much for your intellect?
800,000 years of ice core data more than hints at 15,000 years of getting colder is due. Sunspots are way down; glaciers are growing, (all heat energy except nuc is from the Sun.)
So bring warm clothes, we, mankind, will survive. We will need lots of CO2
+3 # sinclairnoe 2019-03-25 16:19
"...overt white supremacist but he was also an ardent believer in climate change."

Not exactly.

Apparently the shooter conflated climate change with immigration, blaming non-white, non-Europeans for destroying the environment through overpopulation.

The shooter also wrote in the manifesto: "Kill the invaders, kill the overpopulation, and by doing so, save the environment.”

“I am an Ethno-nationali st Eco-fascist,” he writes. “Ethnic autonomy for all peoples with a focus on the preservation of nature, and the natural order.”

This does not make the shooter a climate change advocate - rather, it proves Solnit's thesis, and disproves Inason's spurious claims.
+3 # economagic 2019-03-26 18:25
If you dig far enough in the web sites that want you to believe the shooter was a good guy and a victim you will find the quote I post above. I found no evidence that he mentioned climate change anywhere else, and as you say that one mention doesn't make him a "climate change advocate," much less someone who understands climate change and advocates decisive action to deal with it.

But since I perennially belittle Ms. Nason for her ignorance, ideology, and "inconvenient facts" (that aren't), I generously gave her half a thumb. She never responds to anyone else's comment; it's always hit and run.
0 # 2019-03-26 20:30

This author's thesis is basically that white nationalism is completely incompatible with being concerned about climate change, or, for that matter the environment in general. She says no one could be both. But this mass murderer, the very one she discusses, held the very same two views that Ms. Solnit claims are incompatible. If I said it badly, I apologize. But Ms. Solnit remains spectacularly wrong about her thesis.

As to your second complaint, I actually do respond to lots of other folks' comments but I can't blame you for noting that I am usually "hit and run." When I've finished reading any article, I file it and almost never go back to see what others had to say. Since RSN does not notify me when someone responds to my comments, I generally do not see them. Sometimes I do make exceptions, as I have in this case, since I was curious if anyone could justify Solnit. In my opinion, you did not.

In future, if you want to send me copies of your comments, I will respond without fail: will work.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+1 # economagic 2019-03-27 13:57
"But this mass murderer, the very one she discusses, held the very same two views that Ms. Solnit claims are incompatible."

Lee, with all due respect I think you are misunderstandin g BOTH Ms. Solnit's point AND Mr. Tarrant's.

Here is the web site from which I lifted the quote in my initial reply to you:

Several other sites repeat that same quote. None of them provide any evidence to support your claim that Tarrant is an "ARDENT BELIEVER in climate change," or that he is particularly "concerned about" it except insofar as he mistakenly calls it "the same issue" as overpopulation. Both are threats to HUMANKIND, but Mr. Tarrant sees both merely as threats to WHITE PEOPLE.

Ms. Solnit did not say that no white supremacist ACKNOWLEDGES climate change, but that no such person "CARES ABOUT" climate change, spelling out in detail what she means by it: its connection with every aspect of all life on planet Eaarth (McKibben)--so implicitly taking action to limit it--while white supremacy is explicitly a denial of the rights of some non-white people to live.

You may see these distinctions as subtle or even irrelevant. They are not. It is such simplistic thinking, driven apparently by an ideology of separation, that is the root of my objections to many of your comments on RSN.
+13 # Wise woman 2019-03-24 20:18
And the children will work to save themselves from the actions of the adults who are the million pound elephant in the room. Their very lives are at stake and we simply have no right to kill them or any other species that humans are dependent upon in the web of life on planet earth. These separatists are driven, stupid, greedy, primarily male nationalists who, in their compulsive needs to own, control and take everything, will go down like everyone else. That's the stupid part that they're too dumb to recognize.
+2 # ddd-rrr 2019-03-27 06:13
I "love you", #Wise woman, for the clarity and wisdom of your comments!
[And, I'm an "antique" gay male...!;-]
+13 # Doralice 2019-03-25 09:13
Great Article! This connection to all of life is wisdom we remember in our cells. May we find ways to invite those who fear and hate into contact with the rest of life on earth! Angela Davis has said incarceration must end as a punishment because confinement is torture, as banishment from contact with others is deadening and causes mental emotional and physical withering. We create anti-life people with racism, gender inequality, school segregation, cages called playpens for children, and ultimately they turn on us. Becoming anti-racist, inclusive people is as vital to survival as stopping climate change from drowning us. Thank you, Rebecca!
+5 # lorenbliss 2019-03-25 20:03
This is a superb essay by a superb writer, never mind I occasionally disagree with her conclusions.

On this -- on "the understanding that everything is connected" -- she gives vital public voice to what we on the Gaian/Socialist Left have been saying at least since the 1960s and what our pre-Christian ancestors, First Nations or European, knew in their hearts as the ultimate truth of life as children of our Mother Earth.

Nor should "children" be taken as belittlement: one of the most powerful tribes of my ancestral Britain proudly called themselves Tuatha de Danaan: literally, "Children of the Goddess Danu."

That said, there is one point upon which I must quibble with Ms. Solnit. She ignores the indisputable fact the ultimate enemy of the environment and therefore of all earthly life is Capitalism -- that unless we overthrow Capitalism and ban it so forcefully it can never again arise to blight us (as it did in destroying the New Deal), we are surely doomed.

As proven ever more forcefully by current events, it is either world socialism or the death of the planet and most if not all the creatures on it.

After all, precisely as Ms. Solnit says, "fighting against climate change is the equivalent of fighting against hatred."

In other words, to be an environmental activist is to be a partisan of love.
-1 # Depressionborn 2019-03-26 20:00
I care about Climate change.If sun spots stay low for much longer it is going to be really cold again, darn. As in a food shortage.
Don't count on "green". We grew up with wood burning and wool blankets. It was a lot of work. (we ate organic from ma's garden.) Try getting by for a while without running water.

rsn posters are easily fooled
-1 # Depressionborn 2019-03-29 22:13
Last chance econ" [Forbs]
"If you are a true believer in anthropogenic, catastrophic, global warming, you don’t know what you are talking about unless you also have at least looked through the hundreds of pages of calm, dispassionate science in Climate Change Reconsidered II, which also reviews the peer-reviewed literature on climate change. Go ahead, I dare you. What are you afraid of??
-1 # Depressionborn 2019-03-30 04:27
just for econ and his badmouthing:

He, econ, could simply look up Global Warming Fraud. He will quickly find his post about me was both rude and wrong. rsn ignorance is often rude and misinformed. Ash should be ashamed.
0 # Depressionborn 2019-04-26 22:35
Try NASA # economagic 2019-03-28 17:47 Go CO2

"A satellite study spanning three decades confirms that carbon dioxide is re-greening the Earth, spurring huge gains in green plant mass across the globe since 1982.

If we want to "green" the Earth, we should support CO2. But the climate change alarmists want to eliminate CO2 -- a move that would annihilate plant life and collapse nearly every ecosystem planet-wide.

The Green New Deal, it turns out, is a death cult to destroy the world."

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