“Be human!” is the slogan the media recently spread in an attempt to relaunch a “new humanism” proposed by well-known exponents of the cultural and political worlds, including the Christian sphere. The new president of the European Commission was perhaps alluding to it as she recalled the need to recover the original culture and “lifestyle” of modern Europe.
However, the same humanistic and humanitarian circles are propagating an “integral ecology” (read “radical”) that promises to be inhuman because it seeks to replace modern anthropocentrism with post-modern cosmocentrism.
If we take a look at the historical roots of environmentalism, a strange fact emerges: its most sincere love for animals is compatible with its most ardent hatred of men.
An exemplary case in point is German National Socialism. Indeed, Nazism is the best known historical-political forerunner of radical ecologism, although ecological propaganda almost always conceals this fact to avoid embarrassment.
The Nazi Myth of Nature and Wild Life
Faithful to its materialist and neo-pagan ideology, the Nazi Party started a policy of revaluation of nature with propaganda that bordered on idolatry.
It was inspired by the well-established romantic and idealistic myth of the ‘golden age,’ namely the happy but lost Eden animated by a “vital impulse” and characterized by primitive “wildness” (Wildheit, today wilderness), a sort of primitive spontaneity (Ursprünglichkeit) devoid of laws, hierarchies, and institutions.
However, contrary to the Rousseauian version of the naturalistic myth, for Nazism the harmony between the species in that Eden did not result from peaceful cohabitation but from free competition among living beings, that is, from bellum omnium contra omnes: the war of all against all.
The original “state of nature” imposed the values and requirements of predation; the law of survival of the fittest prevailing over the weakest, invented by evolutionists and idolized by Nazis, was in force. Therefore, the healthier, more powerful, and more capable beings dominated.
In the plant and animal world, this “natural selection” occurs spontaneously. In the world of humans, it should occur through culture, customs and politics, including selective legislation that prevents the weakest from abusing the strongest. Yes, you read that right: that is precisely the “natural balance” the radical ecological mentality desires!
In the environmental context, man can compete with animals only by taking advantage of his intellect, skill, and cunning. But the Nazis condemned these virtues as “petty,” “unfair,” and even “cowardly.” Moreover, “In the beginning was Action” (Goethe), certainly not the Word, the Thought, as Christians claim.
In the vital evolution, this requires that only the fittest survive in the harsh life of fields, mountains, seas, forests (and of course, war). The well-known pseudo-Nibelungic but in reality Wagnerian literary character of Siegfried — wild, strong and loyal hominid but also imprudent, naive and indeed foolish (dumme) — reflects well the strange Nazi ideal of a two-footed animal poised between consciousness and unconsciousness.
Environmentalists of the Nazi era justified man’s ecological interventionism over nature with the philosophies of utilitarianism and evolutionism. In this context, good, fair, and therefore valuable, are things useful for the conservation and evolution of Nature, understood as a global living organism of which each species is only a component.
Throughout history, organized political society later overcame the healthy “war of all against all,” but only for the benefit of man and to the detriment of his “animal brothers.” Nazism criticized the alleged Rights of Man sanctioned by the French Revolution also because they privilege the rights of the civilized weak (the “citizen”) over those of the strong and competitive (the “savage”). In this perspective, Nazis did not consider animal rights over human rights.
The Animal Rights and Ecological Laws of Nazism
“Cruelty to animals will no longer be tolerated in our new empire,” Hitler proclaimed several times. He was very fond of his wolf-dog, like Himmler of his canaries, not to mention Göring. These three sensitive souls, together with the Minister of Justice Frick, promoted the law for the protection of animals (Tierschutzgesetz, November 24, 1933), followed by the law to limit hunting as much as possible (3 July 1934), and finally, the global law on the protection of nature (Reichnaturschutzgesetz, July 1, 1935).
Someone may have seen the famous Nazi cartoon, actually quite ridiculous, which depicts representatives of some animal species doing the Nazi salute in front of Hitler to thank him for issuing the zoophilic laws mentioned above.
The first of these ecological laws proclaims that mankind has “high and grave moral duties” towards animals, which must be protected not according to man, but as such and for themselves (“um ihren selbst”). That applies to all animals so that “no difference will be made between domestic animals and other types of animals, between lower and higher animals, or between animals useful or harmful to man.” Therefore, forced nutrition, oppressive imprisonment, abuse, vivisection, animal sacrifice, etc. were forbidden. The third environmental law also provides for the protection of the plant world, for example, by establishing periods of sabbatical rest for the cultivated countryside, and by creating “protected natural areas” (Article 4).
The ‘animal rights’ legislation of the Reich was written by two expert consultants of the Ministry of the Interior, who compiled their contribution in an essay (Giese and Kahler, The German Law on the Protection of Animals, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1939). The inspirer of global environmental legislation was the Nazi biologist Walter Schönichen, professor of Nature Protection at the University of Berlin, who summarized his “scientific” thinking in books like The Protection of Nature in the Third Reich (Berlin 1934) and above all, The Protection of Nature as a Popular and International Task (Jena 1942).
Nazi Third Worldism
Strange as it may seem, the Nazi ideology also professed a sort of multi-culturalism, a third-world forerunner of those now in fashion. Criticizing the uniformity and one-sidedness of “liberal ideology,” the Nazi move to safeguard the environment envisaged to “protect diversity” not only in the vegetable and animal, but also human domain.
Nazism imagined that “indigenous peoples” (Naturvölker), descendants of those living in the primordial Eden, revived full harmony between nature and culture, environment and civilization, fact and value. There is no opposition between these two poles because each must come into being and turn dialectically into its opposite, as German Romanticism dreamed.
Schönichen planned to protect the “natural, ethnic and cultural characteristics” of indigenous peoples reduced to racial minorities (especially if Indoarians) or religious minorities (especially if pagan), considered as residual witnesses of the “primordial cauldron” of lost Eden.
The Nazi project for the “formation of the new man” actually aimed to restore the “primordial Man” (Ur-mensch) by penalizing “the selfishness of the bourgeois white man” guilty of having repressed, for example, the multicolored savage minorities of American Indians and the religious minorities of India.
In short, as a well-known scholar summed up making a comparison between Nazi and contemporary ecologism, “Man is no longer seen as lord and master of a nature humanized and cultivated by his work, but as the person responsible for a savage original state endowed with intrinsic rights, the wealth and diversity of which he is bound to safeguard permanently” (Luc Ferry, Le nouvel ordre écologique, Grasset, Paris 1992, chap. II, par. II).
True Ecology Is Conservative and Traditionalist
According to the philosopher and evolutionary biologist Ernst Häckel, who launched the word ecology in the scientific field, it indicates “the science of the relations between living organisms and their domestic environment.” That word derives from the Greek oikos, which means home; environmentalism sees the Earth as “our common home.” Therefore, being an ecologist means taking care of the environment as man’s natural home.
But — the English philosopher Roger Scruton observes – conservatives and traditionalists have always been the real “ecophiles,” that is, those who seek to take care of their home. In fact, they have a sense of limits, a sense of hierarchical order and territory (Heimat); their motto is “pro aris et focis,” and hence they take care of their family home, rural community, and natural family and working environments. In short, ecology has been for centuries a typical topic of the culture of conservative and traditionalist movements, especially Catholics.
Conversely, for many centuries, revolutionaries have despised the created nature and its order to the point of reducing it to a matter that can be measured, manipulated and exploited at will by human omnipotence on the altar of technological-economic progress. They are moved by hatred for the creation and particularly for human nature, as one can see by their propaganda against natural sexuality and procreation, and policies favoring homosexuality, denatality, abortion, and euthanasia.
Today the situation seems to have turned upside down. Forty years ago, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira observed with regret that progressive and revolutionary circles were stealing the ecological issue from conservatives and traditionalists, who had eventually lost interest, becoming psychologically submissive to the myth of science and technology. Today we have to ask: How was this “crafty theft” made possible? And how can we claw back this important issue?