One buzzword amid the COVID-19 pandemic that’s been gaining some attention is “ecofascism.” The term has been coming up in arguments against cynical posts that read a lot like Hugo Weaving’s Matrix quote: “Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.” But what does it mean exactly?
To call someone an ecofascist is not a light accusation to make; it’s also often unfounded. Somewhere along the way, online discourse has diluted the term into a catch-all for anyone who seemed to put nature before people, no matter how vaguely expressed.
Samuel Miller McDonald explained in an article for Current Affairs that ecofascism isn’t when someone makes observations such as “some human populations often displace nonhuman populations,” “many human spaces will likely have to contract in some ways to avoid global ecological collapse,” and “having dramatically fewer human demands on the environment would probably result in fewer negative impacts on the environment.”
While it is important to underscore how these ideas have been weaponized against the marginalized, it’s not to say that anyone who makes an Iza Calzado-esque comment about how the pandemic could be “the Universe’s way of making the world a better place” fits the bill.
Same energy. pic.twitter.com/5vw9YHtSuB
— L. 🧈 (@breathlesslyb) March 16, 2020
The idea of ecofascism came from leading Nazi ideologist Richard Walther Darré, who coined the Nazi slogan “Blood and Soil” to capture the authoritarian concept that a nation has a mystic connection with their homeland and are dutybound to sacrifice their interests for what environmental historian Michael Zimmerman calls the “organic whole of nature.” While some tweets were right about how anti-poor sensibilities are tip-toeing around ecofascism, it’s still a bit of a reach when the use of dictatorial power and forcible suppression is in the name.
Please stop celebrating the #coronavirus as some sort of blessing in disguise simply because pollution has gone down due to quarantines.
“The weak will die but it’s okay because it helps the climate” is not climate justice.
That is Ecofascism.
— Jamie Margolin (@Jamie_Margolin) March 20, 2020
Staunch criticism from political watchdogs is valuable especially during times of crisis. However, the use of terms like ecofascism should be more carefully considered lest we give hate groups a bigger platform. Recently, the word has been appropriated by neo-nazis and other purveyors of white nationalism. Among them is El Paso shooter Patrick Crusius who referred to himself as an eco-fascist and claimed in a rather incoherent manifesto that “there is no nationalism without environmentalism.”
In his article, McDonald acknowledged that anti-democratic notions of wealth inequality do have the same foundations as ecofascism. They share a sort of willful blindness to the difference in the weight of consequences for the actions of the underprivileged and those in a position of power.
The belief that the climate crisis is mainly the fault of the general public rather than economic big shots can be seen in the series of fake animal stories which National Geographic published an article on. Tweets about animals returning to now deserted areas hard-hit with COVID-19 went viral. Although now debunked, the reactions to the tweets showed an ugly side to the well-intentioned act of seeking positivity.
Similarly, tweets about how the “clear” blue-green waters of Manila Bay are an example of Mother Nature “healing” itself has gained some traction. This was reported to be an effect of toxic blue-green algae. At a time of great loss where many have been forced to make sacrifices, looking for a silver lining in calamity is uncalled for.
The change of color in Manila Bay does not mean that the water is clearer and cleaner, it is technically caused by algae blooming which usually happens when water temperature rises. It actually kills and causes harm on the marine life. https://t.co/ReVB1gvrAT
— fran (@hypnoticpaulson) March 26, 2020
Ecofascism and closely related sentiments of devaluing human life are cruel impressions of privilege. The greater “we” are not the problem.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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