Words | Steph McCarthy-Reece
hUmAnS aRe ThE vIrUs!!1!
The memes might be funny, but there’s a darker side to them – something called eco-fascism. Eco-fascism is a fairly recent ideology that rejects the nonviolent methods of mainstream environmentalism, instead favouring the extremist view that the reduction of human populations (and therefore, negative human impact) is the only viable way to save the planet from climate change and environmental destruction. Humans are the virus, and should therefore be eliminated, etc. etc.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of eco-fascism. After all, wouldn’t the easiest way to save the earth from humans would be to reduce the number of humans? To eco-fascists, I would ask the following question: which humans do you propose we ‘reduce’? The burden, I predict, will almost always fall on the poor, the workers, the disadvantaged, and the underprivileged.
According to Oxfam’s 2015 Extreme Carbon Inequality report, “the richest 10 percent of people produce half of the planet’s individual-consumption-based fossil fuel emissions, while the poorest 50 percent — about 3.5 billion people — contribute only 10 percent.” This isn’t a human problem.
The eco-fascist viewpoint neglects to perceive the real threat – the real ‘virus’ – to the environment: capitalism. It is capitalism and the craving for profit it necessitates that drives environmental destruction, that pushes stakeholders to oil over solar or nuclear energy, that discards or destroys un-purchased food and clothing instead of selling it for cheaper, that puts a Maccas and a Starbucks on every corner. Not humans.
The answer to climate change is radical change, both in politics and in industry. As scientist and journalist Leigh Phillips states in his work Austerity Ecology and the Collapse-Porn Addicts, the left wasn’t always so diametrically opposed to industrial, economic, or technological progress. “Rather,” Phillips argues, “our demand has always been that the fruits of civilisation be extended to all of humanity. When did we turn away to the idea that capitalism was the problem, and begin to believe that it was modernity instead, or even the advent of mankind itself, that was the problem?” To stand against progress is to stand against our inevitable future.
Rather than reducing the human population, we need to channel it positively. Invest in environmental scientists, in politics that champions environmental restoration and progress, in modernisation that benefits the earth. Technological and socio-political progress that is free from capitalism harnesses the best parts of humanity and has the actual ability to make this world habitable for future generations. Ending humanity is a stupid idea. It’s a cop-out, a waste of time to consider.
It’s exactly what corporate interests would want if humankind wasn’t so vital to their profits.
Ingenuity, technology, industry, and humanity are necessary to be able to engineer a future that is sustainable.
It is the investor and the corporation, not the worker or the technology that drives climate change and environmental degradation. Yet it is the worker and the technology, not corporate capitalism, that eco-fascists attack. So next time you see a meme saying that ‘hUmAnS aRe ThE vIrUs’, contemplate what that means. Try not to forget that humans have also been the ones fighting the [corona]virus, making PPE for doctors, developing vaccines, donating to charities, and helping their neighbours. It is capitalism that is the virus, capitalism that withholds vaccines for profit and makes charities a social necessity and turns neighbours against each other.
Don’t be an eco-fascist. It’s still fascism.
We need to push towards progress and away from capitalism, not get caught up in a disturbing, fantastical make-believe wherein all humans except you and your select few cease to exist ‘for the good of the earth.’ Humans are not the virus. Humans are living things with hearts and minds and consciousness and the ability to make the world a better place. Capitalism, however, is not a living thing; it does not have a heart or mind or consciousness or the ability to make the world a better place.