vrijdag 20 juli 2012

The true roots of Ecological activism

In our current society the themes environmentalism and animal welfare are usually attributed to leftwing groups. Most of the modern environmentalists and animal rights activists believe that animal welfare and the environment are inextricably bound to the struggle for human rights, so in their opinion incompatible with "intolerant and racist" nationalist views. It’s surprising that most of them are completely unaware of the nationalist roots of radical green thought.

We can find the origin of radical green thought in the 19th century.

In this period the first animal welfare associations were founded throughout several countries and the first onset is made towards a different attitude concerning animals in national and local laws. Peculiar is that the legal translation of this thought at first instance didn’t originate from a new moral perspective towards animals and the environment, but seems to be dictated from Kantian views (conform the ideas of Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher during the time of the enlightenment). They assumed that cruelty towards animals could lead to cruelty towards people. These laws stemmed from a paternalistic moral education instead of a real involvement with the suffering of animals. At first instance only the animal unfriendly practices of the so-called "lower classes" were addressed and the animal unfriendly practices of the "higher classes" were not limited. They thought the wealthy class wouldn’t lower their standards to banalities and cruelty towards other people. The whole flora and fauna were during this time subjected to mankind and their only use was considered to serve mankind. This was a strictly anthropocentric thought.

We must mention the German philosopher Ludwig Klages (1872-1956) if we're talking about the history of radical green thought. Anno 1913 he wrote the leading essay "Mensch und Erde". He excoriated the felling of ancient forests, the abominable treatment of cattle, the extermination of animal and plant species, the urbanization and the precipitation of industrial carbon black. In general the overall demise of the (untouched) nature. All subjects that still remain up to date until today. The deep-seated grounds Klages pointed out as the cause (progression, science and technique, followed by consumerism and utility thinking) for the adversity made him one of the predecessors of the contemporary environmentalist radicals. According to Klages the ecological disaster that awaits us, could only be turned around by a just as comprehensive resistance. Resistance against the economic attitude, the bourgeois society, democracy, technique and individualism.

This conservative cultural criticism of Klages gained a lot of support during the 20's among the German youth movement Wandervogel (which later on integrated into the national-socialist movement). Later on Klages became one of the most influential ideologues during the rise of the Third Reich.  

The National-Socialist views about the protection of animals were different from, the till then ruling anthropocentric perspective. Within the NSDAP they felt that animals should be protected for their own interest instead of the interest of mankind. Within National-Socialist Germany there was a lot of support for animal welfare and nature, as well as among many leading figures within the NSDAP. Air force chief Hermann Göring was known as an animal lover, supporter of environmental conservation and a strong proponent for a ban on vivisection. The leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, owned his own eco-farm. And Adolf Hitler himself was a vegetarian, nature and animal lover and since the beginning of his political career an abstainer and an avid supporter of homeopathy. The NSDAP was revolutionary in its measures to safeguard the protection of animals and nature. The National-Socialists where active conservationalists:  

- They encouraged biological-dynamic agriculture and founded several National parks.
- Protection of species and animal welfare were of a huge importance.
- The slaughter of animals was regulated and the hunt strictly restricted.
- The NSDAP undertook campaigns to make people eat healthier and make them use (seasonal) local products.
- After Hitler came to power one of his first acts was a ban on the alive cooking of lobsters and crabs.
- Soon after this a ban on vivisection followed.
- The use of animals - for example by movies or public events - was established by law to prevent pain or health damage to the animals.
- The transport of animals was restricted.
- Forced feeding of poultry and cutting of frog legs from living frogs was banned.
- A prohibition was accepted concerning living fish and cold blooded.
- Reforesting and the protection of millions of trees were also important to the NSDAP.

There are numerous more examples of laws and provisions that were adopted to secure the welfare of the environment. Animal protection even became an educational topic on lower, middle and higher schools.

Because of this it’s not surprising that the conservational list of laws from the NSDAP was one of the most extensive ever. Its policy isn't equaled by any nation or regime. Even until today - like in Germany - the influence of National-Socialism can be found in animal welfare laws, although these countries and governments will always deny this fact.  

Sincere animal rights activists and environmentalists would indulge a Party that knew a comprehensive legislation regarding the interest of animals and the environment. But because in this case it’s about the NSDAP it’s demonized and depreciated in advance. However in the history of radical green thought almost none leftwing roots can be found. Within the leftwing political spectrum nature was simply seen as a reservoir of usable objects at the service of mankind until the late '50's. The prevailing view within the leftwing theorists was that nature was only there to serve human beings and people only had to threat it conscientious. Karl Marx even went further halfway the 19th century. He acclaimed the exploitation of nature. According to Marx the submission of nature meant the emancipation of mankind. From the '60's onwards environmentalism and related subjects increasingly came in the spotlight and were considered a leftwing theme. By this we came back to square one and the anthropocentric perspective had been re-introduced. Again it’s more about the future of mankind in a spoiled environment instead of nature as an individual isolated phenomenon.        

Source: Green Nationalists

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