Updated: Mar 12
I fell for a false narrative that has dangerously been floating around social media.
You’ve seen them on Instagram; photographs of Venice’s canals cleaning up, elephants falling asleep in vineyards and monkeys coming out to play in Thailand. All these posts are shared with the wider message that our Earth is healing because people are forced to stay at home. At the time, they made me feel so happy. I most definitely believed them. I even reposted them.
Since then, I’ve learnt that these posts have been repeatedly debunked and labelled as misinformation. Like in Venice the photograph was taken by a tourist and in reality, the swans always come out. The spread of this rhetoric is more dangerous than first meets the eye, it comes from a place of emotion: This feeling that there is some divine intervention from Mother Earth.
ECO-FASCISM, BUT LET’S MAKE IT ART
These exaggerations and half-truths paint a picture that humanity is to blame entirely for our environmental degradation, which is not what climate activists believe.
We fight for structural change and environmental policies, that fight to save lives, not destroy it.
Sayings such as ‘Humans are the virus’ are not poetic musings that valiantly advocate for environmental sustainability. Instead, they lend to the ideology of eco-fascism, and we’re seeing a lot of it plastered all over social media.
This rhetoric reverberates that Humans and the environment are separate entities. As Ajit Niranjan, Environment and Globalization reporter at DW states: “There are clear solutions that would enable us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the climate targets that countries have agreed on, in a way that doesn’t require people to stay locked in their houses or halt economic activity.”
Or you know, die.
OVERPOPULATION IS A MYTH
When we rejoice at statements about the ‘Mother Earth’ cleansing herself, what are we really rejoicing at? The virus is hitting minority communities the hardest, and the death rate for BIPOC is significantly higher. The idea that there are too many humans plaguing the Earth, is simply a myth. Oxfam’s studies show that the world’s richest 10% of people have carbon footprints that are 60 times higher than the poorest 10%. People who haven’t even contributed to the problem are now being targeted as the problem. As we scratch under the surface, we find the core is rooted in the idea that ‘some must die, for others to thrive’.
We’re starting to resonate with Thanos’ obliterate-half-the-existence fetish.
There is a massive flaw in thinking that overpopulation is the most noteworthy contributor to the climate crisis. The reason for that is simple, and undoubtedly one you’ve encountered before: the high-emitters are the wealthiest nations. While the majority of countries with high population growth have relatively poor living conditions by Western standards, their per-capita consumption of resources is very low.
AREN’T EMISSIONS REDUCING?
Some say: “But what about the genuine improvements to carbon emissions as a result of coronavirus? Surely, that is a positive.” Well, not exactly. Yes, air pollution and emission have dipped globally, with China reporting a 25% decline in emission and an improvement in the quality of their air in comparison to last year. Similarly, New York has seen 50% reduction in pollution compared to last year.
But experts are telling us that these are unlikely to be long-term changes. The measures to reduce the spread of the COVID - 19 pandemic have meant considerable changes to the operation of daily lives worldwide. For example, Italy is now implementing the most extensive travel restrictions since World War II. In Australia, our unemployment rate is forecast to reach 30%, higher than during the GFC, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of families. The drastic changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have hardly created the decarbonised, sustainable economy that Climate activists have been advocating for.
Rather, when the pandemic ends, and it’s back to business as usual, the dip in emission we have experienced will “bounce back”. Professor Julia Pongratz, from the Department of Geography at the University of Munich, predicts that the current situation will be similar to after the Global Financial Crisis. During the GFC global emissions also saw a significant decline for a year. However, these changes quickly rebounded by 2010, and as the economy recovered, emissions were at an all-time high.
The biggest offenders of carbon emissions are still private corporations, supported by our Government. Not to mention there is a proven way to control population growth that doesn’t involve a life-threatening pandemic. We already know that thanks to Katherine Wilkinson and Project Drawdown, that female empowerment is the most effective carbon mitigation strategy.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO INSTEAD?
Instead of rejoicing about a superficial decrease in carbon emissions, we need to re-evaluate ways that we will pick the pieces up once the pandemic ends. We want a lasting impact, not a tiny dent. Now more than ever, we need a shift in the way our economy functions. The doughnut model for the economy, constructed by Kate Raworth, aims to meet the needs of all, within the means of the planet. It is definitely worth knowing about.
We also need to work on ensuring that no individual is being left behind. International students are now seen as a liability, yet time and time again they have proved to be one of the largest reasons for Australia’s economic growth. It’s no surprise that the government has decided to protect their own, and told anyone who doesn’t belong to kindly, go back to where they came from. In this political climate, It’s also impossible for the Refugees and Asylum Seekers on Manus and Christmas Island to practice social distancing. These men, women and children who have already suffered unimaginable amounts of trauma and loss are being forced to stay locked in detention centres. A ongoing problem lasting 7 years and counting.
We should always remember; human health depends on a healthy ecosystem, and they are one in the same, not separate entities. Instead of reposting the flowery narratives about nature, we need to direct our energy to structural change that focuses on better quality of life. The global political sphere has now set a precedent and shown us that we can work together to tackle a crisis. Could this provide a potential framework for climate action?
The 'Doughnut' Model https://www.kateraworth.com/doughnut/
An Open Letter to Mr Scott Morrison http://farragomagazine.com/2020/04/04/letter-to-morrison/
Eco-Fascism and Covid 19 http://honisoit.com/2020/03/eco-fascism-and-covid-19/
How Thanos Fits Into Real-World Myths of Overpopulation and Scarcity https://wearyourvoicemag.com/marvel-thanos-overpopulation-scarcity-myth/
Humans are not the Virus https://wearyourvoicemag.com/humans-are-not-the-virus-eco-fascist/
The Necropolitics of Coronavirus: Who may live, Who must die https://wearyourvoicemag.com/necropolitics-coronavirus-government/
Colarossi, J., 2020.The World’S Richest People Emit The Most Carbon - Our World. [online] Ourworld.unu.edu. Available at: <https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/the-worlds-richest-people-also-emit-the-most-carbon > [Accessed 6 April 2020].
Daly, N., 2020.Fake Animal News Abounds On Social Media As Coronavirus Upends Life. [online] Nationalgeographic.com. Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/03/coronavirus-pandemic-fake-animal-viral-social-media-posts/ > [Accessed 6 April 2020].
Morse, A. and Mosher, S., 2020.Debunking The Myth Of Overpopulation - PRI. [online] PRI. Available at: <https://www.pop.org/debunking-the-myth-of-overpopulation/ > [Accessed 6 April 2020].
Wright, R., 2020.There's An Unlikely Beneficiary Of Coronavirus: The Planet. [online] CNN. Available at: <https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/16/asia/china-pollution-coronavirus-hnk-intl/index.html > [Accessed 6 April 2020].
Lead Editors: Irisa R. and Mariam H.