Staunton, July 25 – Many analysts see environmentalism and nationalism as contradicting one another, because the former promotes universal values and the latter particularist ones. But in fact, Margarita Fabrikant says, their relationship is far more complicated and in recent decades they have become mutually supportive, something that changes the nature of nationalism.
In an essay for the Liberal Russia Foundation portal, the Belarusian scholar says that talk about “eco-nationalism” looks superficially like yet another example of research conducted “in a series about ‘nationalism and …’” In fact, it is far more important than that (liberal.ru/authors-projects/eko-naczionalizm-zachem-nuzhen-otdyh-na-prirode).
While many are still inclined to see the two movements as contradictory, Fabrikant says, in fact, they are increasingly reinforcing because they are both about protecting something and allowing their followers to conclude that they are engaged in the defense of something rather than seeking for something they do not have.
Moreover, environmentalism is useful for nationalism because it helps elevate the importance of territory in the minds of nationalists. If one is concerned about protecting the environment of one’s people, one is thus in a far better position to protect one’s nation and to insist that it must have a territorial component.
Ethnic groups which “lack contemporary social institutions can preserve their identity despite their geographic dispersal, she says. And “for the preservation of collective identity it is sufficient for them to share ideas about their past as part of the myth of their origins” even if this past is highly mythologized.
But “for a present-day nation, on the contrary, one of the few necessary attributes is a really existing and clearly defined territory on which this nation by means of its ideas and social and political institutions has sovereignty.” That means the role of the environment in defining and then supporting the nation is far greater, Fabrikant says.
That gives far greater content to the nation as “an imagined community.” It means that members have something very real to grasp onto, and in this respect, environmentalism leading to eco-nationalism plays an ever more important role. When people feel attached and defensive of a particular territory, they also feel far more attached to the nation itself.
Consequently, Fabrikant says, one must not see environmentalism and nationalism as antagonists but instead as mutually reinforcing feelings, with the desire to protect and advance the interests of the one increasingly part of a similar set of desire regarding the other.