Zoe Mojon-Doyard, Greece (July 2016)

Zoe Mojon-Doyard, Greece (July 2016)


We are witnessing the rise of eco-fascism as it is sweetly lulled and nurtured by a mainstream population control ideology. Would population control help us fight climate change? What do we mean by population control, where does it exist and how does it affect us? Where do we receive such ideas from? 

Eco-fascism is usually seen as the ideology marrying environmentalism and white supremacy. It is also used to describe a dystopian state, left with no options but extreme ones to save the planet. Eco-fascism is on the rise and is fed by estimates of population growth and the media’s idealised consequences of it, mainly that migration, intended to scare the public. Eco-fascism was and is at the root of Nazi ideology. It stems from romanticism and the mystification of a German or Norse traditional way of life, in communion with nature. It was built against industrialisation and it is building itself up against globalisation. Environmentalist movements today must increasingly distance themselves from extreme rightist political figures.   

Population control stems from the idea population growth is and should be limited. It is a deterministic notion drawing on the Malthusian conception of limited resources capping the growth of population through checks (famine disease and war). It also draws on population ecology, which describes the balance between species within nature, all species imposing checks on each other, and humans being the only species not preyed upon or “checked”. It also contains the notion of a Leviathan state needing to operate and order the population checks, instead of letting them chaotically unwind or not unwind and thus disrupt the planet’s equilibrium. 

Eco-fascist movements advocate for population control, as they are systematically against migration and nationalistically believe in the innateness of states. The feeling behind eco-fascism is characterised by the social media movement #TreesNotRefugees. Proponents claim to belong to a nation’s land, therefore its biodiversity and equilibrium, and that foreigners disrupt that balance.  The popular narratives of the dangers of population growth, such as Malthusian checks or migration, feed these eco-fascist movements. We are led to believed the challenges ahead lie in population growth and can be resolved by population control.  

The catastrophic scenarios of overpopulation that are waved at us are manipulated in the narratives of popular academics as well as blockbusters. Diamond, in his book Collapse, supports the practice of population control by insinuating population growth is more adaptable than resource distribution. He describes the Rwandan genocide as a self-inflicted Malthusian check, and China having successfully prevented it through its One Child Policy. He ascribes the root cause of the genocide as demographic transition gone wrong; dispels the political roots of the genocide, claiming the Hutus and Tutsis killed members of the opposite ethnic group as well as members of their own group in order to recover enough land to live off; and omits to mention resource management could have been a solution. The reader may come away believing in population growth and that the Rwandans are to blame. 

Courtesy of Vox, October 2018  https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/7/14/15963544/climate-change-individual-choices

Courtesy of Vox, October 2018


Furthermore, Diamond’s analysis of the crisis through moral hazard has its origins in ‘laissez faire’ convictions of the elite in the mid 19th century. The British Crown had refused to help the Irish when the potato harvest failed, believing the famine to be an act of divine intervention and retributing the believed inefficient Irish agriculture. The central government was complicit with the famine, as they agreed to let thousands die all the while they blamed individual risk taking for it. We have two examples of economically and politically motivated practices of population control under the cover of “Providence”. 

 Armatya Sen insists famine is almost always a preventable occurrence if only the government in question has the political will to prevent it. Many countries have known the catastrophic conditions the Rwandans and Irish knew when they faced a resource shock, without resorting to warfare, famine or Chinese population policy.  There is no such thing as moral hazard because there is no such thing as individuals acting completely independently. Jared Diamond’s argument that the genocide was a self-inflicted Malthusian check doesn’t check out. It seems governments use population control to avoid tackling the issues of distribution and handling of resources. In Rwanda, the Hutus monopolized the political institutions and the resources, they went to the length of genocide to maintain their hold on them.  

Marvel’s last movie, Infinity War, also constructs the narrative that the greatest threat to humanity is overpopulation. Even though the neo-Malthusian hero-villain ends up being defeated, the problematic is constructed around population growth rather than the more appropriate redistribution of resources. The danger in these cultural tropes is a potential prediction of future human action.

Population growth is not responsible for overexploitation of the planets’ resources, consumers are.  

Population control ideology is considered a mainstream solution for climate change when it is not. Ecofascists seize such theories to suits other purposes than that of climate change. Though the theory of population control is utilized by ecofascists, it is implemented by different governments and still justified in blockbuster and academic narratives. Women empowerment through responsible family planning (not Eurocentric or fascist) would be the most effective carbon mitigation strategy, why is it not perpetrated instead? It is necessarily fascist to talk of population control, because it entails to impose a will, a force unto a group of people, or a category of the population either to die or not to produce a child.