Yes, it would be a great name for a punk rock group. But the Adam in the title refers to the original one, the first man. And the eco-fascists are contemporary environmentalists gone wild.
Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, famously, “to work it
and to guard it” (Beraishis, 2:15). The latter phrase is regularly held aloft
by some who are deeply concerned with humanity’s effects on nature. Preserving
the state of flora, fauna and the landscape, they say, is nothing less than a
The Torah does in fact enjoin us elsewhere to not waste
useful things, and that prohibition can certainly be applied to wanton
destruction of any sort, including of animals and the environment. And we are charged,
too, with preserving our health, so efforts to minimize harmful pollution are proper
as well from a Jewish perspective.
But the Jewish religious tradition’s take on the words “to
guard it” is radically different from conservationists who seek to draft it to
support their cause. According to Midrash Rabbah, the “work it” refers to using
six days of the week to earn our livings, and the “guard it” refers to ceasing
work on Shabbos. The Zohar sees the “work it” as a charge to heed the Torah’s
positive commandments, and the “guard it” as a warning to not violate its
prohibitions. No true Jewish source interprets the verse as an ecological
Again, wantonly destroying nature is against the Torah’s guidance.
But using nature, even destroying parts of it, for the benefit of humans is,
well, precisely what nature is for. Man is no mere part of nature; he, as the
creation with free will, is its lord.
Rejecting that reality underlies the ideology of the eco-fascist
movement, which considers the supreme political model to be a world in which an
authoritarian government requires individuals to sacrifice their own interests
to the higher ideal of nature. Man, according to that conviction, is a mere fragment
of nature, not its apogee.
Last week, Earth Day, the annual demonstration of support
for environmental protection, was commemorated around the world.
Most who mark that day are simple conservationists, promoters
of recycling and advocates for legislation to help ensure clean air and water.
Some, though, are eco-fascists.
And this year, they celebrated the coronavirus.
As one particularly popular social media posting put it: “Air
pollution is slowing down. Water pollution is clearing up. Natural wildlife is
returning home. Coronavirus is Earth’s vaccine. We’re the virus.”
Another giddily gushed: “This isn’t an apocalypse. It’s an
Others called attention to the wonderful “unexpected side
effects” of the virus, like swans and dolphins swimming in the canals of
Leaving aside the fact that swans regularly appear in some
of Venice’s canals and that an accompanying photo of “Venetian” dolphins was in
fact taken at a port in Sardinia, hundreds of miles away, the thought of
celebrating a deadly germ is mad. No, actually, it’s evil.
Most people don’t realize it, but contemporary radical
environmentalism has its roots in an earlier fascism.
The Third Reich’s “Blood and Soil” propaganda campaign
explicitly linked “non-Aryan” people on German soil with degradation of the
environment. Hitler and his minister Hermann Göring were avid supporters of animal
rights and conservation. Germans who violated Nazi animal welfare laws were
sent to concentration camps.
Of late, white supremacists have adopted the Nazi “Blood and
Soil” slogan, and it was chanted at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in
Charlottesville, Virginia, by torch-carrying racists.
The gunman who murdered 51 people in Christchurch, New
Zealand last year disclosed that he was an eco-fascist concerned about the
threats of climate change, overpopulation, and immigration. “They are the same
issue,” he wrote. “The environment is being destroyed by overpopulation… Kill
the invaders, kill the overpopulation and by doing so save the environment.”
The shooter who later killed 23 people in the El Paso
massacre was connected to a manifesto that lamented the fact that “The
environment is getting worse by the year,” and, addressing the public,
continued: “Most of y’all are just too stubborn to change your lifestyle. So
the next logical step is to decrease the number of people in America using
Returning to last century’s eco-fascists, Nazi Propaganda
Minister Joseph Goebbels, in his private diaries, described Hitler as someone
whose hatred of the Jewish and Christian religions in large part stemmed from
the ethical distinction these faiths drew between the value of humans and the
value of other animals.
Well, the führer was on to something there. The
eco-definition of “to work it and to guard it” stands in stark contrast to the
phrases’ true meanings.
Humans are qualitatively different from animals. Imagining
otherwise might seem like a harmless conceit. In reality, it is a very dangerous one.
© 2020 Rabbi Avi