Nationalism is a disaster for the environment. Nationalistic regimes fixation on deregulation undermines human health and destroys biodiversity. Nationalist leaders have a tendency to eradicate climate action, abandon multilateral deals and sell off protected lands. According to ecological economist Clive L. Spash environmentalism is not faring well in the age of nationalism. His analysis reveals that nationalism justifies the exploitation of others,
Spash is Chair of Public Policy and Governance at Vienna University and Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Environmental Values. He says that exploitation is driven by competition for resources and the proccupation with economic growth.
Nationalism is formally defined as a movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation or group commonly pitting them against another nation or group. Historically nationalism has been associated with some of the most virulently brutal regimes the world has ever seen. The nationalism we see today in the United States, Brazil, the UK is largely a reaction to the modern world, specifically globalization and growing racial and sexual equality.
Nigel Farage is one of the world’s foremost critics of globalization and a leading nationalist voice in the UK. He is also the chief architect of Brexit.
He has openly opposed immigrants and repeatedly expressed contempt for
citizens demanding climate action. When he got caught in a protest, Farage became
incensed about traffic congestion and he harangued protestors telling LBC that he though this was “outrageous” form of , “economic terrorism”.
Nationalist leaders foment and exploit divisions for political gain. However as French president Macron said on Armistice day, Nationalism is the opposite of patriotism. Libertarian author and editor Sheldon Richman calls nationalism a “poison” and differentiates it from the love of place and virtuous principles.
“[Nationalism] attacks the mind, short-circuits thinking, and makes self-destruction look appealing. Nationalism sows the seeds of hate and war,” Richman said. “I understand the love of the place one knew as a child. I understand the love of home, of family, of community, of neighbors, and of people with whom one has shared experiences and beliefs. I understand the love of virtuous principles as expressed in historical documents (such as the Declaration of Independence). That kind of love does not ignite hate for the Other or create admiration for the warrior who enjoys killing the Other on order. That takes the poison of nationalism and an obsession with the nation it creates.”
Trump is a self-declared nationalist. At a Texas rally in October 2018, Trump publicly embraced the ‘nationalist’ title. “A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly not caring about the country so much. You know, we can’t have that,” Trump said,”You know what I am, I’m a nationalist” he then added “Use that word.”
Trump’s nationalism takes the form of ethnocentrism or nativism. The public face of Trump’s nationalism is as the defender of the interests of white Americans and as such he stokes fears about illegal immigration. However, besides the tax cuts for the wealthy, Trump’s only real achievement as president has been to systematically dismantle dozens of hard won environmental regulations and pave the way for expanded fossil fuel extraction.
Like Trump, Brazilian far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro is a climate denier who is systematically dismantling environmental regulations and climate action. Both men have sold off protected federal lands. Bolsonaro may be best known for his war against indigenous people and his destruction of the Amazon rainforest (one world’s most important carbon sinks).
As reported by the Guardian, Bolsonaro’s foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo called climate change a Marxist plot and climate science ‘dogma’. He claims unnamed leftist politicians have hijacked environmentalism to serve as a tool for global domination. “This dogma has been used to justify increasing the regulatory power of states over the economy and the power of international institutions on the nation states and their populations, as well as to stifle economic growth in democratic capitalist countries and to promote the growth of China,” he wrote in a post.
After years of steady progress, the elections of Trump and Bolsonaro have had profoundly adverse impacts on the environment and the health of people in the U.S. and Brazil. Trump’s waning popularity is making it increasingly clear that nationalism cannot bring back the past, nor can it contend with the present.
Yesterday’s failed ideologies cannot mute the growing calls for justice.