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A study of far-right discourses on environmental issues

Over recent decades, an increased focus on environmental issues and the rise of far-right parties and non-party actors have been observed in European societies. Despite many studies conducted on both subjects individually, very little work has been done on the two subjects together.
A study of far-right discourses on environmental issues
The EU-funded project FAR-RIGHTECO (Appropriating the ‘legitimate’: Far-right discourses on ecology), however, has headed down this road, analysing the far-right environmental risk communication of various actors in Austria, Germany and Switzerland between 2001 and 2013.

A corpus of several thousand articles published in party newspapers and non-party magazines was compiled. The project analysed actors individually and comparatively, and categorised them according to the extent to which their communication was ideologically rigorous. Both quantitative corpus and network analysis as well as qualitative analysis of actual performances via discourse-analytical tools were used.

Results show the wide range of environmental issues discussed, more specifically climate change, energy resources and agricultural issues, over the period by the actors studied. Additionally, the various ways in which relevant actors engaged in environmental risk communication were analysed, revealing a connection to cultural or ideological assumptions. The project showed that stories about environmental issues told by different far-right actors are part of much broader frameworks.

This is observable through the concerns regarding the transition from fossil to alternative resources and discourses about agriculture and the use of pesticides and ‘Genetically modified organisms’ (GMOs). Pesticides and GMOs are rejected, as they appear to endanger nature, something that is essential for far-right parties.

Secondary literature argues that this opposition is driven by hostility to foreign producers, although the project showed that this opposition also finds its source in more fundamental arguments.

Little change was observed in actors’ behaviours during the period of the study, except for one case. A change in party leadership led to scepticism over man-induced climate change, although positions in other major areas of concern remained stable.

Project results offer insights into the research community dealing with the far-right and environmental sociology, as well as the wider public, which includes ‘Non-governmental organisations’ (NGOs). The project provided a comparative analysis of a rarely investigated area, acknowledging substantial differences and illustrating similarities within the far-right.

The initiative raised awareness of the opportunities that contemporary environmental crises provide for these actors. FAR-RIGHTECO revealed overlaps between mainstream environmental actors and far-right actors. Although this doesn’t imply a propagation of far-right goals from non-far-right environmentalists, care should be taken on how the arguments are presented.

Related information

Keywords

Environmental issues, far-right, FAR-RIGHTECO, ecology, environmental risk communication
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