The more the climate crisis develops, the more that a certain idea has the potential to gain traction. This is the idea that for the species to be saved, a great deal of people-especially poorer and nonwhite people-will need to have the population numbers in their communities reduced, whether through birth reductions or through more drastic means.
Liberals, who are the main people in the present time that advocate for population control as a climate solution, don’t like to think that their ideas have such sinister implications. They like to think that their statements will only result in increased access to birth control and sex education. But with the way that global capitalism is structured, and the way that reactionary politics is trying to hijack environmentalism, the end result of the ideas they’re promoting will be atrocities on a gigantic scale.
The far right has already been working to manipulate the narrative around climate change in a way that can bring about eco-fascism. White supremacists have been paying increasing attention to climate change in recent years, with rightist leaders in countries like France and New Zealand exploiting fears of global warming to argue for scapegoating immigrants and ethnic minorities.
For now, their main solution for the climate crisis is to exclude these groups, which is bad enough. But sometimes they use terms like “invasive species” to portray the disfavored groups as a threat to the environment, which indicates just how they view these people and how they might eventually respond to the “overpopulation” issue; an invasive species isn’t dealt with through banning its entry, it’s dealt with through an extermination effort.
How can liberals, who would never support such blatant atrocities, be contributing to the march towards a climate-based genocide? They’re contributing to it by essentially doing what the reactionaries are doing, which is blaming the symptoms of capitalism on a supposed over-abundance of certain groups.
There are some anti-capitalists who mistakenly buy into the “overpopulation” rhetoric, but the most influential left-of-center voices who propagate this language don’t oppose capitalism. Jeff Gibbs, who points to “overpopulation” as a climate change culprit in his film Planet of the Humans, has said in a recent interview: “If somebody says ‘do you think capitalism is the problem,’ no, that’s not the ultimate problem.” Whatever his intentions, his decision to push the “overpopulation” narrative while not presenting a thesis against capitalism furthers the trend towards a systematic, climate-based campaign of cruelty against the globe’s most vulnerable people.
This campaign is already going on. It’s taking the forms of the deportation and mass detention of climate refugees, the bombing and sanctioning of populations who live in areas that are being impacted by climate change, and the pushing of the victims of climate disasters into extreme poverty. All of these things are symptoms of capitalism, imperialism and colonialism. And since liberals choose to be complicit in these systems, the structural violence that these systems create is being reinforced by liberalism.
The creators of Planet of the Humans, along with the “progressive” political faction that they represent, demonstrate this unwillingness to challenge the forces behind global oppression and exploitation. The film’s co-creator Michael Moore, while vaguely critical of capitalism, has promoted pro-capitalist social democrats like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Since Sanders has helped perpetuate Washington’s regime change operations while supporting U.S. bombing and drone campaigns, he clearly doesn’t seek an end to the imperialist paradigm that spreads death and destruction throughout the Third World. And Ocasio-Cortez, whose record on imperialism so far suggests a similar pattern, has helped advance the same profit-based “solutions” to climate change that Planet of the Humans criticizes.
My goal isn’t to gripe about my personal problems with Gibbs, Moore, or the politicians they align with. It’s to point out the fundamental complicity that the American left has in the systems of global exploitation and oppression. If you don’t challenge capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism, you’re not seeking to end the violence and suffering that afflicts the world’s underclass. Figures like Sanders may want to expand social benefits for the people who live in the imperial core, but the global victims of imperialism aren’t going to find the same relief so long as capitalism and imperialism continue.
The role that liberals play in bringing about eco-fascism is one of refusing to work against the factors which put the globe’s poor and marginalized people at special risk of being hurt by the climate crisis. Leaders like Trump and Bolsonaro, whose far-right political camp is becoming more powerful around the globe with each year, will exploit these factors to carry out unprecedented horrors.
In this next decade, the main targets of eco-fascism will be the colonized and marginalized groups. Palestinians in Gaza will experience increasing food and water shortages. The Amazon’s indigenous peoples will experience upheaval due to the climate-related fires that the region’s neoliberal states are exacerbating. India’s growing systematic persecution of Muslims will be increased by the claims that Muslims are to blame for the country’s population explosion-an idea that the fascist BJP government has recently begun to propagate. The BJP MP has even called for “compulsory sterilization” of Muslims, which he justifies by saying that “one particular community is responsible for increasing the population of the country and that is curbing the nation’s development.”
The more the climate crisis impacts the planet, the more the BJP’s line will be emulated by other reactionary governments. By the 2030s, when global warming will likely have become too much of an issue for anyone to not address it, reactionaries and the liberals who unwittingly help them will gravitate to the “overpopulation” argument. Already this argument is gaining a lot of traction amid Covid-19, with the phrase “humans are the virus” gaining popularity. The idea that there are too many people will be used to justify deporting immigrants back to the unstable and deadly regions where they’ll be fleeing from. In the U.S., black and brown people are who will be blamed for supposedly overpopulating the country.
If the campaign against these groups doesn’t go as far as euthanasia or eugenics, it will consist of an extreme version of austerity; the poor, who disproportionately consist of nonwhite people, will be told that they’ll have to live with less to save the planet. Since around 120 million more people are predicted to be forced into poverty by 2030 as a result of climate change, this cutting off of resources will be global. A situation of climate apartheid will emerge, where the rich retreat to their enclaves while the others are left behind.
These events need to be used to invigorate the forces of class warfare. While pro-bourgeois figures tell us that the world’s impoverished populations are to blame for the environmental crisis, the U.S. military remains the largest polluter and 100 corporations contribute over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, despite being a frequent target for “overpopulation” rhetoric, overall contributes just two percent of the world’s carbon emissions through its energy consumption. And the poorest 50% of the global population contributes just around 14% of global carbon emissions.
Those who seek to shift the blame onto the poor are trying to preserve the aristocracy of colonialism and capitalism. Let’s tear down their societal model, and implement a socialist system where resources are allocated to the maximum benefit of humanity and nature.
Rainer Shea is an anti imperialist journalist.
Copyright © Rainer Shea
This article was originally published as; The “overpopulation” arguments are a precursor to eco-fascism and climate genocide. The original source of this article is at The Medium