Updated: Jul 2
The coronavirus has presented massive difficulties to people from all walks of life. However, there are some things that can be viewed as a positive. The environmental impact of the virus has been very noticeable. Travel bans and lower manufacturing rates have significantly lessened the impact of fossil fuels on our world. The BBC reported that Carbon Monoxide emissions have fallen 50% in New York compared to last year. And that is just in the past few weeks. New York is looking at a massive decline in pollution and that is fantastic news. Hell, the rest of the world is witnessing this too. Global pollution rates are down and wildlife is beginning to flourish out in the open. This is certainly the silver lining when it comes to the international crisis at hand.
With all that being said, some of the messaging surrounding these changes have been dangerous, to say the least. When that video of the dolphins in Italy surfaced all over social media a couple weeks back, everyone was amazed at the beauty of it, myself included. While many of these videos have been debunked as fake, the damage was already done. The videos themselves are feel-good misinformation but that’s as far as the harm goes. The comments though are another story. Twitter user Thomas Schulz wrote “Wow... Earth is recovering - Air pollution is slowing down - Water pollution is clearing up - Natural wildlife returning home Coronavirus is Earth’s vaccine We’re the virus”. This is just a Tweet, right? Well, this tweet has almost 71,000 retweets and 290,000 likes. While yes, nature will undeniably be healthier with a huge portion of the industrial world locked in, the connotations of this message are harmful. Calling humans a virus is problematic and borders on Eco-fascism, a growing political ideology that champions a return to an agrarian, ethno-nationalist society. Notable Eco Fascists includes Ted Kaczynski and the mass shooters in El Paso, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand.
The image to the left is the prediction made by the Imperial College in London on the death tolls of COVID-19 depending on how the government acts. Based off of what governments are currently doing, the death toll could reach 25 million people. That is more than the total of lives lost in World War One from both sides as well as civilians This does not even include what could result in many deaths not directly of coronavirus but a result of its economic impacts as well as the social isolation. According to Reuters, suicides could climb to 20,000 in the U.S. and Europe alone. Deaths that would have been avoidable from accidents or other diseases will also increase in understaffed, underfunded hospitals.
Calling Coronavirus “Earth’s Vaccine” is disturbing. People are going to die, most of whom have played little a role in what Schulz and others refer to when talking about the harm inflicted by humans on the earth. Sure, people contribute to pollution but the people dying because they are unable to afford, or access treatment are not the people at fault. In today’s world, poor people are faced with challenges that naturally run against the good of the environment. Cars, one of the greatest causes of pollution in the United States are a necessity for those in rural areas of the country. Because American infrastructure and public transport are so ineffective, people need to drive just to meet basic needs such as grocery shopping, thus causing pollution. Renters, who represent 36% of the American population have no choice as what powers their homes, and people who live in cities are at the mercy of building owners and politicians when it comes to even installing a solar panel. These are the people that will fall victim to this disease. Not the rich and powerful.
If the blame for the destruction of the environment must be placed, blame the corporations for business practices that actively harm the environment solely to save a bit of money, but don’t blame the People. Blame governments who fail to enforce or fail to even implement measures that drastically reduce carbon emissions, but don’t blame the People. Blame Amazon for emitting 44 million metric tons of carbon emissions in 2018, a number that rivals that of Denmark or Switzerland, makes campaign donations to climate change deniers such as Senator Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma), and fails to pay its workers who contract the coronavirus. Blame the Trump decision to withdraw from the climate agreement and the Democrat leaders’ failure to support the Green New Deal, but don’t blame the People. For the people who are inspired by the words of Thomas Schulz, think about this. We are not the virus; we are just another casualty, along with the environment of the actions of major corporations and politicians all just to make an extra dollar. We are not the virus.