• Larissa Breit-Nicholson

Let's Talk About Ecofascism and "Earth Healing"

Dolphins have returned to the canals of Italy with the lack of boats to drive them away, tea gardens in China’s Yunnan province have elephants falling asleep with no humans working in them, and rival monkey gangs fill the streets in Thailand because no tourists are there to feed them. These, and more, are some of the alleged, and likely untrue, changes the world has seen with lack of human activity due to quarantining and social distancing with COVID-19.

The correct response is not to claim “the Earth is healing” because humans are absent. Reversing the effects of climate change is not like when someone chooses to stop smoking. When someone decides to stop, the body starts to heal about 20 minutes after their last cigarette. Just because humans stop normal activity for a few weeks does not mean that the Earth is going back to its natural ways. All it shows is how interconnected the world is, which is not a revolutionary thought. Animals roaming into places where humans normally walk simply shows that humans have driven animals from where they belong.

Regular people are not the primary cause of climate change; it is corporations and governments that value profit for the few at the top over the wellness for the many at the bottom.

Arguing that the world has started to “heal” fails to recognize the structural institutions that lead to climate change. It is saying that the individual going to work to pay bills and feed themselves is responsible for climate change, not the companies polluting the air with fossil fuel production, not the PACs and special interest groups lobbying Congress for more lenient laws and regulations, not the corporations putting human lives at risk by building factories in people’s backyards.

Energy production is responsible for over 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, with most of it coming from fossil fuel extraction and production. This also includes powering buildings and transportation, and the decision on how to power these essentials comes from governments or corporations.

An individual who rides the bus and works in a building has no say in how they are powered. Seventy percent of people agree that humans should be working towards a 100 percent renewable energy infrastructure.

Regular people are not the primary cause of climate change; it is corporations and governments that value profit for the few at the top over the wellness for the many at the bottom.

Saying that the effects of COVID-19 on the Earth is healing the world implies that killing the poor and elderly is an acceptable trade-off. It fails to recognize the failure of capitalism as it stands and the inability for [working class/blue collar] people to stay home, which puts workers in harm's way. This is the same type of weak argument as saying that the world needs a famine, so people will die because the planet is too overpopulated—invalid, misleading, uninformed, and wrong.

The negative effects of COVID-19 are so profound that no one can truly say the Earth is healing.

Hospitals are being forced to prioritize certain patients over others as the virus spreads, putting disabled people, the uninsured, people of color with an emphasis on black people, and the elderly last. Healthcare workers are forced to make daily decisions on who is valued enough to attempt to save first because of an insufficient system. This current system is inhumane and requires choices no healthcare provider wants to make, however; these decisions must regrettably be made, and the cost is human lives, disproportionately the lives of black and brown individuals, and poor individuals.

The negative effects of COVID-19 are so profound that no one can truly say the Earth is healing. Trying to put COVID-19 into a positive light is near impossible because it diminishes those who have had their loved ones lost and lives ruined. COVID-19 needs to be a wake-up call, because as climate instability worsens, the melting permafrost will unleash viruses that no human alive has the ability to beat. The virus shows that, if the world continues business as usual, our healthcare system at a global level, will need some major changes to be able to handle multiple and more frequent severe illnesses. These changes should include an adequate pandemic response plan and making sure proper supplies are available when needed for healthcare professionals to properly protect themselves and patients. This is some of the bare minimum that must be done to ensure we are prepared for the next pandemic.

Many fail to remember that climate change is not just an environmental health problem, but a human health problem as well. We recognize that coal plants release more toxins than any other form of energy used today, but we also need to recognize that those same toxins go into peoples’ lungs, which makes them more vulnerable to asthma and other lung infections. These are the types of problems that face primarily non-white and poor communities. A failure to recognize climate change as a human health problem shows a failure to understand the climate crisis

The world is not healing. Humans are not the virus. Humans simply need to acknowledge the harm we are causing the world so we can adjust as needed. Ideally, this quarantine will show how changing our actions on a global scale can make noticeable changes, such as improved air quality globally, which generates the potential for massive reform led by those who are most adversely affected by climate change.

Larissa Breit-Nicholson is a third-year Political Science major in the School of Public Affairs. She is a columnist for the Agora.

Image courtesy Roel Wijnants, Creative Commons


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