Arndt and Riehl – fathers of the völkish-environmentalism

The history of the environmental component in the outlook of the nationalists (and later the National Socialists) began in 1815, when ...

The history of the environmental component in the outlook of the nationalists (and later the National Socialists) began in 1815, when a German nationalist Ernst Moritz Arndt published a paper “On the protection and conservation of forests”, directed against the uncontrolled and ruthless destruction of forests and contrary to sound a logic operation of the soil.

Ernst Moritz Arndt- one of the founding fathers of German nationalism, tied patriotic support of the homeland with protection of nature. This relationship is evident in the essay entitled “The Word of care and protection of forests and the peasants in the minds of a higher, ie, a more humane law. ‘ “In the protection of the principle that people should interact with nature in such a way that its performance and beauty could survive and grow, Arndt brought a rational basis for the practice of nature protection -” to produce and feed the people who are the strongest, most healthy and the most beautiful in body and spirit “. For Arndt people and nature give each other form, and for this reason, the protection of” people and peasants “are two of the inseparable actions of nature protection. He complaints about deforestation have in basically the same relationship by saying, “… the ax that strikes the tree becomes an ax, which has the nation” according to Arndt nature protection is improved cultivation of the human race..
Soon followed by Arndt was his student – Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl. Theology students with the experience of a journalist and theater director, Riehl eventually became a professor in the new field of ethnography in Munich. Conservative to the core, Riehl rejected industry, urbanization and all the cosmopolitan and liberal ideas. From his point of view of a healthy society requires a healthy peasantry, ordered in a hierarchical society and rooted in unspoiled nature. Developing the Arndt’s attitudes he insisted that “the inner refreshment and rejuvenation of our national life can only come from the peasantry.” Like Arndt, Riehl believed that the welfare of the peasantry depended on forest protection. “The village is like a city without scaffolding, in short, without the social and artistic stimulation without historical buildings, no monuments, no art museums, no theater and music.” Riehl believed that economists who viewed the forest only in terms of board feet of logs were missing the social and political importance of forests. “The German people need the forests as well as people need wine to warm the person inside.” The article of Riehl become crucial for a large part of the consciousness völkish. He fully defined the position of the relationship of man and society in relation to the nature, history and land. He was the author of the famous works “Land and People”, written in 1857-1863, which describes the organic nature of man, which, he believed, could only be achieved when connected to ground.
Riehl defined modernity as “nature invented by man” and thus deprived of the truth, which is the true nature. Only nature was true for many völkish supporters. In «Diebürgerliche Gesellschaft», (bourgeois society) he blamed capitalism in violation of the ancient customs and thus the destruction of the history of the people. Hostility to the city has been an integral part of the völkish thought. In Riehl is particularly expressed in the slogan “Berlin is a territory of the Jews” or in the notes that “the city is the grave of Germanism.”

Riehl recognized that for centuries the progress required to have the interests of the development of a one-sided advantage over the interests of nature conservation. But now, he argued – “the cause of progress represent wildlife right in parallel with the rights of agriculture.” Reflecting on the cultural consequences of environmental destruction, Riehl was indignant: “If you want to transform society in the blurred salon society, eradicate the forest, razed mountains and hide the lake!” Pointing to the mystical significance of nature for the German people, Riehl declared in his essay 1853 year ” Feld und Wald »(« field and forest “):” We must save the forest not only to focus that without it people couldn’t warm in winter, but also to continue to beat the heat and the pulse of national life happily and a Germany remained German. ”

In an essay of 1914, “The forest as a teacher”, which was published in the journal Society Dürer, Riehl outlook reflected in the story of the exploits of Siegfried and other heroes of the German people. In this paper, it stated that the German origins lie in the “mysterious dark primeval forests …”. “Nothing, – exclaims author – does not affect or determine the formation of our national soul to a greater extent than the forest!”
Riehl was an implacable opponent of industrialism and urbanization; its glorification of rural peasant values ​​and condemnation of modernity have defined it as “the founder of agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism”. His convictions matured in the second half of the XIX century in the context of the völkish movement, strong cultural attitudes and social trends, which were combined with a natural mysticism and ethnocentrism. At the heart of völkish outlook was a negative reaction to modernity. In the face of severe shocks that followed the triumph of industrialization ,völkish supporters preached a return to the land, to the simplicity and wholeness of life, focusing on the purity of nature. The movement sought to rebuild society, associated with the nature and contact with the cosmic life spirit. The emergence of modern ecology has established the final links in the chain that linked nationalism, mystically charged racism and passion for protecting the environment.

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