Eco-fascism Has No Place During the Coronavirus
“Wow… Earth is recovering… Coronavirus is Earth’s vaccine… We are the virus” one account tweets on March 17th. By then, some of the immediate environmental effects of national lockdowns started to look positive: the canals of Venice turning “blue and clear”, the decrease in air pollution and CO2 and the countless numbers of animals returning to streets and cities globally. With what we’ve seen here, it wouldn’t at first be an illogical conclusion to make some link between the fact that people are in lockdown and that the environment is “improving”.
But, this can turn to eco-fascism very quickly, and it has no place here or anywhere.
What is eco-fascism? It is the political model and idea that “individuals should sacrifice their own interests to the ‘organic whole of nature’”. Although, there have been people who have made the decision of what others should sacrifice: attempts of population control, the El Paso and Christchurch massacres and yes, even comments like we’ve been seeing about COVID-19 being some form of “saving grace” to our environment, or “Mother Nature’s” way of taking back control.
Why are comments like these so harmful? Despite them being seemingly optimistic, they can be detrimental, as it perpetuates the false notion that to improve our environment we need mass human suffering and tight authoritarian restrictions. COVID-19 has been one of the most devastating global health crises in our lifetimes, and to say that it’s Earth’s way of cleansing itself trivialises the deaths of hundreds of thousands globally, not to mention the loss of opportunity and decline in mental well-being (in some cases). Life has halted for all of us. Businesses, social gatherings, academic research, elections, teaching and almost every other aspect of our lives are being affected in some way.
It isn’t okay to excuse all of that just because our environment is, for the moment, improving. Eco-fascism has and can also become dangerous.
As I touched on earlier, there were at least two shootings during 2019 which were inspired by nationalism, and the eco-fascism that comes with it. The most striking example is Christchurch: 51 were shot dead and several more injured between two mosques in the city. The Australian man behind the attacks claimed in his manifesto that “immigration is environmental warfare” and expressed concerns around overpopulation and immigrant birth rates.
The thing is, overpopulation has been found not to be a problem in general, particularly in relation to climate change. But, racists, nationalists and eco-fascists don’t care about that. In a COVID-19 world, it looks like championing herd immunity as a viable solution, arguing that the most vulnerable should die to save the rest of us and our Earth.
We have established twice now that human suffering, death and restriction shouldn’t be the price for a healthy relationship with our environment. In fact, the structural actions needed to steer climate emissions to a manageable level focus on things like energy, the way we produce food and how we use non-renewables. It has also been suggested time and time again that capitalism needs to go in order for us to keep climate change at a manageable level. A rehaul of the way we currently live may need to happen, but more importantly systematic change that is perhaps unnoticeable to the average person, needs to happen.
So back to COVID-19, eco-fascist views and celebrations of “Mother Nature taking back what’s hers” won’t help here because it has recently been argued that despite the current improvements we are seeing, the virus could actually be worse for our environment than if it didn’t exist at all. It’s important to note that we don’t really know what changes we’ll see after this is over, but this article by the BBC and this article by the Guardian explore these in greater detail than I can. They highlight potential issues in maintaining the climate progress we’ve made so far, such as the urge to relentlessly bounce back our economies (leading naturally to a boost in emissions) and people perhaps feeling the urge to travel much more than if the pandemic didn’t happen.
Eco-fascism is useless, not factually based and is outright dangerous. It tells stories of impractical and discriminatory ways we could put a stop to our global climate crisis. The coronavirus outbreak is a tragedy in global health which has and will sadly continue to claim lives. This undeniably outweighs any possible environmental “benefits”.