"Humans Aren’t The Virus, We’re The Vaccine": Eco-Fascism In The Age Of Pandemic

by Annie Bocock

When you get a bit older you find out - as well as the fact society holds a vendetta against the interests of teenage girls - that Nazism encompasses the roots of deep ecology.


Believe it or not, The Nazi Party was one of the first political parties to take radical action against climate change, evidenced through both their proposed and actioned policies. They planned wind mills to generate hydrogen electricity and had plans to create masses of “green jobs”.


Rupert Darwell, author of Green Tyranny, says: “As an approximation, subtract Nazi race-hate, militarism and desire for world conquest, and Nazi ideology ends up looking not dissimilar to today’s environmental movement."


But how can this be? The environmental movement today aims to conserve all life on Earth and they want environmental justice for those most affected...


This corruption of environmentalism - its merge with fascism and eugenics - is called eco-fascism. In a brief but thorough definition from VICE, eco-fascism is defined as the phenomenon which “blames the demise of the environment on overpopulation, immigration, and over-industrialization,” an ideology which first became popular under the Nazi Party.


COVID-19 has seen a resurfacing of eco-fascist ideologies in our day to day media. Since the pandemic became widespread in March 2020, we saw carbon emissions drop 7% globally compared to 2019 rates. This was initially framed as a silver lining by media outlets globally. Very quickly we started to see this pandemic framed as a blessing in disguise, an environmental wake up call. It isn’t violent eco-fascism, but it is implicit: painting the millions of lost lives and those affected by the virus with the positive spin that maybe this has “reset” our societies.



Throughout early Spring, a few tweets went viral for their deep ecological and eco-fascist roots. One reads: “Earth is recovering… Coronavirus is Earth’s vaccine. We’re the virus,”. Another reads “Citizens of Wuhan can finally hear birds chirping after years, Venice’s water canals are clear and full of fish… This isn’t an apocalypse. It’s an awakening,” each causing quite a stir. And it hasn’t died down, it’s just transformed: from the release of David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet, to violent veganism, and ableist attitudes towards mask exemptions; it has manifested in different ways and to different extremes.


Attenborough: A Lie for Our Planet


Back in September David Attenborough's latest documentary A Life on Our Planet was released in a selected UK cinemas before an October Netflix release. The documentary raises the alarm about climate change and its surrounding issues.

Promo still: 'David Attenborough - A Life on Our Planet", Netflix

However, there’s a problem with one thread of Attenborough’s proposed measures against the looming climate crisis: his views on overpopulation. If you have been exposed to rumours about his weird comments about overpopulation, you’ll know what I mean: “when you talk about world population, the areas we're talking about are Africa and Asia, you know," and even as explicitly as, “Human beings have become a plague on the Earth.


The opinions about overpopulation aren’t even really founded, or at least we haven’t come to a firm consensus. For Attenborough, a valued naturalist, to make claims about overpopulation is a harrowingly big deal: Jarrow Insights, a campaign strategy organisation, found that the top three times Attenborough trended on social media between January - October 2020 were with references to overpopulation, even beating his iconic debut on Instagram.


When concerns about Covid-19 deaths are raw and rife, A Life on Our Planet didn’t need to be drawing attention to a topic which has been disputed time and time again. The last thing we need is people drawing a link between overpopulation, Covid-19 and the climate crisis, and maybe even feeling a bit grateful that the deaths caused at least contribute positively to our environment.


Herd Immunity and Eco-fascism


Blatant forms of eco-fascism can even be found in early pandemic government policy, as well as in public discourse relating to Covid-19. The UK government’s initial strategy of herd immunity showed little regard for the lives of the elderly and the clinically vulnerable. This fascist attitude is perhaps not at first glance linked to eco-fascism, but when we start to consider the undertones of natural selection theories they become clearly linked.


These kind of views were even part of day to day conversation, with friends reassuring each other that they’d “probably be alright” if they contracted Covid, as it's most likely to cause issues if you have health conditions or as you get older.


And if you hoped far-right circles would take a break from xenophobia during the pandemic, you’ll be disappointed. Racism is rife. Anti-Asian racism was the first to remerge, with thousands referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus”, Donald Trump included. Couple this with disgust towards “wet” markets, which is a way that rural communities in China often access their food, then they have indeed faced xenophobia.


The Western desire for “wet” markets to close comes from a common history of labelling the meat-eating habits of other cultures “wrong” or “alien”, deriving from feelings of moral supremacy and ignorance. The need to control which animals they eat, or to use the origins of Covid to insist that this is why everyone should go plant based (like PETA did), with little acknowledgment of why people may need access to meat, is eco-fascist.

Related: Solitude and the Sixth Extinction

The desire to gatekeep environmentalism, and to shame minorities not being able to take certain environmental actions, pops up too. The inaccessibility of veganism and vegetarianism to working class people in food deserts, or those simply on low-income is ignored and Indigenous communities that rely on certain animal products, comes under fire too.


We blame each other incessantly as individuals in capitalistic societies rather than those with power and wealth. And whilst individual action towards climate change is important, intersectionality, compassion and accessibility are vital. This means stopping referring to humanity as a disease and it means showing some basic human compassion.

Annie Bocock is the founder of Art for Messy Beings, they are a content creator and speaker for TEDxBrayfordPool and mental health advocate. You can follow them on Instagram at Art For Messy Beings and watch her TEDxBrayfordPool talk here.