One of the early products of the coronavirus-induced lockdown is the “Earth is healing” meme. This stemmed from posts containing pictures of nature seemingly becoming normal. The Venice Canal has been clear for the first time in years, and dolphins seem to have found their way there. The former is good news, but the latter is fake.
What is troubling with this narrative — equally as fake news — is the imposition that humans have been the problem all along. Many people have bought the idea that the “Earth is healing” because humans are forced to stay home, therefore lessening pollution from human activities.
This belief is called eco-fascism.
As Jeff Sparrow describes eco-fascists, he encapsulates the essence of the belief: “While eco-fascists violently oppose contemporary environmentalists, they often appropriate ideas from the past of the environmental movement.” He’s not talking about the good times. He’s talking about Nazi ideologies.
Simply put, eco-fascism focuses on getting rid of people to lessen pollution and destruction of the Earth. It highlights individualism in the fight against climate change. Every person doing little initiatives to save the Earth is good, but eco-fascism pairs it with a fixation on less privileged people and the oppressed.
Eco-fascism is detrimental because it takes away the blame from huge corporations, especially the oil industry. Since 1965, oil companies have been responsible for 35% of greenhouse gasses emission in the country. If the biggest companies in the world were to be held accountable for their environmental damages 12 years ago, it would collectively cost them US$2.2 trillion. Therefore, the destruction of the environment is less about individual human activities but more about the exploitation brought by capitalism.
Humans are bound by the systems that govern them.
Before the lockdown, many people did not have a choice but to subscribe to the standards set by the powers that be. They are compelled to buy items with plastic packaging because they’re cheaper. They travel in private cars because public transportation comes with a few hassles. It’s crucial to remember that there are more significant forces at play, and the people do not have a choice most of the time.
How can one stay optimistic and celebrate small wins during the pandemic?
For one, stop with the “Earth is healing.” Celebrating this could be as simple as announcing it to the world: “Look! The river is clear.” Recognition is already a celebration and a declaration of happiness in itself.
Most of all, be ready to change your mindset. Take in the information that may go against your current beliefs. These might be of great help to foster critical thinking and eventually change how you see the world. It’s also essential to forming one’s own opinion.
Deterring from eco-fascism doesn’t mean everyone should exploit their surroundings. It’s commendable that people have started sustainable lifestyles by having Meatless Mondays, utilizing reusable items, and using solar power in their home in Salt Lake City. But they need to push the conversation about the environment even further.
Until the big leagues decide to prioritize the environment over profit, people will be stuck with plastic packaging and carbon emissions. Stopping the “Earth is healing” meme is one thing; holding bigger forces accountable is another.