Pollution is down, so does that mean coronavirus is good for the planet? Sorry, NO.

  • Published on March 24th, 2020

As the coronavirus sickens and kills thousands, and forces millions more into unemployment, everyone is talking about it. But many should consider, well, not doing that. There are a lot of takes out there, and way too many of them are bad.

coronavirus covid19

By Climate Denier Roundup

In addition to the public-health-professional bashing and plastic-promotion that we discussed last week, the right has been full of bad (climate and) corona takes lately.

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel is particularly gross (and wrong) in her latest column, claiming that it’s capitalism that’s saving the day. Never mind the fact that unemployment numbers are poised to double the Great Depression and 5 to 7 million restaurant workers are facing losing their jobs.

Over at WUWT, Anthony Watts wrote an open letter to Greta Thunberg “and other assorted climate wackadoodles” that says she “got what [she] wanted,” as “airplanes, industry, jobs, restaurants, recreation, and schools are all shut down.”

It should be obvious that climate activists are demanding climate action now in order to avoid these sorts of draconian policies and economic shut-downs, by putting us on the smoothest  path off of fossil fuels as is possible with the time we have left in the carbon budget..

Unfortunately, as we mentioned, the internet is full of bad takes these days. Some of them could well be used to justify Watts’ accusation that this is the sort of climate action people want.

But it’s not. Life under lockdown, with economic collapse and widespread human suffering, is exactly what climate activists are trying to avoid. Not replicate.

So while pieces positing that this experience will change our habits for the better may not be technically wrong (and is proving that working from home is a perfectly serviceable option for many jobs, which is hardly news for those with disabilities) we need to be sensitive.

For many jobs, working from home is not an –namely the restaurant and retail industries, among others, whose workers are facing an unknown stretch of unemployment. Don’t alienate them by talking about how great it is for the climate that they’re not commuting to work any more.

Similarly, stories about how shuttered factories and parked cars means fewer air pollution deaths may be a small dose of good news, but it’s of little comfort to those factory workers who are wondering how they’re going to keep food on the table. Mobilizing climate action will mean securing the support of everyone, no matter their profession. It’s far more necessary to show solidarity than preach about the evils of emissions.

Finally, the images shared online, which may or may not be real, of skies and waterways clearing of pollution and flush with wildlife are certainly nice to see… if you’re someone whose paycheck is still arriving on schedule as you scroll Twitter from your home office surrounded by your healthy family. But that clear air in China comes as little comfort for someone who has just lost their ability to keep a roof over their kids’ heads, or who just lost a family member to COVID-19.

So let’s stay away from the idea that people are a scourge on the planet, one whose eradication is a positive. Humanity is not inherently a cancer or a parasite or a virus. How we choose to interact with other species and ecosystems is the result of decisions we make – and it’s very dependent on the choices that our leaders make. A world of permanently clean air and a thriving economy is not only possible, it’s what we’re fighting to make a reality!

The idea that people’s deaths are good for the environment is the core to the violent white supremacy of ecofascism espoused by the likes of Tucker Carlson. After all, while those affluent kids can afford to party through spring break, or take advantage of plane tickets while prices are cratered, those who are serving them will bear the burden of that revelry.

Though reduced emissions are good, celebrating the fact that people are suffering and dying is not.

So with respect to William Carlos Williams, This Is Just to Say:

We have seen
the takes
that were in
the timeline
and which
you were probably
were edgey.
Forgive us,
they were terrible
so inhumane
and so cold.

(Crossposted with DailyKos. Image by Tumisu from Pixabay


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