Covid-19: a glimpse of the dystopia greens want us to live in

This pandemic has shown us what life would be like if environmentalists got their way.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill

Greens just can’t help themselves. As the rest of us do what we can to tackle or withstand the Covid-19 crisis, they treat it as a sign, a warning from nature, a telling-off to hubristic, destructive mankind. The speed with which they have folded this pandemic into their misanthropic narrative about humanity being a pox on the planet has been shocking, but not surprising.

Right from the top of the UN, they have been promoting their backward belief that this virus is a reprimand from nature. Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, says ‘nature is sending us a message’ with this pandemic and other recent disasters, including bushfires in Australia and locust invasions in Kenya. Of course nature is doing no such thing, because nature is not a sentient being, however much the new religion of environmentalism might fantasise that it is.

The Guardian reports that Andersen thinks humanity’s ‘destruction of the natural world for farming, housing and mining’ is making pandemics more likely. In short, human growth, modern society itself, is now getting its comeuppance. We think we can farm and mine and, erm, build houses as we see fit, but here comes nature with her punishment: a terrible disease. This is positively Biblical. Gaia is God in this scenario, coming to punish us for our sins.

A group of scientists agrees with Andersen. They describe Covid-19 as a ‘clear warning shot’ from nature, telling human civilisation that it is ‘playing with fire’. This is the political exploitation of a horrible disease to the end of winding back human industry: what a low trick.

Britain’s chief bourgeois misanthrope, George Monbiot, was hot on the heels of the UN’s eco-medievalists. He says Covid-19 has shattered humanity’s self-serving myth that it has achieved ‘insulation from natural hazards’. There is a grotesque glee in the way Monbiot describes what Covid-19 has unleashed – ‘the membrane has ruptured’, he says, and ‘we find ourselves naked and outraged, as the biology we appeared to have banished storms through our lives’.

Monbiot also views this pandemic as a lesson from nature. The headline to his piece says: ‘Covid-19 is nature’s wake-up call to our complacent civilisation.’ And what is the content of nature’s violent lesson to disgusting mankind? It is to remind us that, for all our arrogance, we are actually ‘governed by biology and physics’.

There is something profoundly ugly in this. Monbiot and other greens seem to view Covid-19 as a disaster that will have an upside: it might roll back the Enlightenment-era belief that humankind can exercise dominion over nature and remind us that actually we are at nature’s mercy. They hope this disaster will restore nature’s power over the humanised world.

This is also why so many greens online have been sharing images of dolphins swimming near Venice or an absence of airplane trails over California. Because to them, these are signs of a benefit from Covid-19: the humbling of humankind, the reining in of our industrial and technological activity, and the reassertion of nature’s awesome power. If you see a disease as a political statement, as an opportunity to pursue your pre-existing misanthropic agendas, there is something very wrong with you.

Even though all of this is morally perverse, it is not surprising. For a long time, greens have viewed human beings as a pox, a virus in our own right, doing untold damage to the planet. Green god David Attenborough has said humans are ‘a plague on the planet’. Even when greens don’t use such explicitly hateful language, they constantly promote a view of human production and development as toxic and destructive.

And they latch on to everything from bushfires to floods, from plagues of locusts to melting ice-caps, as signs from nature, lessons from a furious Gaia. When religious crackpots blame floods on gay marriage, claiming God is punishing us for losing the moral plot, we rightly mock them. Yet greens offer merely a secular version of such backward, apocalyptic claptrap.

The truth is that if the Covid-19 crisis has shown us anything, it is how awful it would be to live in the kind of world greens dream about. Right now, courtesy of a horrible new virus, our societies look not dissimilar to the kind of societies Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, green parties and others have long been agitating for. Fewer flights, industry halted, huge infrastructure projects put on hold. Less driving, less travelling, less human interaction. Over the past few weeks, as a result of our response to Covid-19, the ‘human footprint’ will undoubtedly have shrunk. And what an awful world it has become: smaller, quieter, more atomised.

We are all happy to make some sacrifices during this crisis. We are staying home, observing social distancing, and of course, most of us are not working or travelling. But we cannot wait to go back to a world in which factories crank back to life, airplanes scrawl their lines in the sky, and people can go anywhere and work, socialise, buy and eat to their heart’s content. Greens really should be careful when they talk about Covid-19, because it won’t be long before more and more people realise that this unpleasant emergency we are living through is just like the warped dystopia greens want to build.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Tom Taylor-Duxbury

29th March 2020 at 9:23 am

Maybe they could listen to the voice in their head and rather than self isolate just self eliminate. First step of their long journey, well they do seem to want sacrifices so I suggest you start with your own.

Howard Hirsch

28th March 2020 at 8:38 pm

Simon Flynn

28th March 2020 at 7:49 pm

You’re British. Why not write British?

Ann Ceely

28th March 2020 at 12:52 pm

All the current evidence is that the data can be manipulated to give opposing opinions.
* On March 18th, the Imperial College Team used incomplete and untested data sets of infectiousness, susceptibility & severity to show that the NHS will be overwhelmed.
* While the Oxford UniversityTeam used incomplete data sets to produce a scenario which is much the same as the annual flu season.
Because the Government is responsible for the NHS, they then needed to act to prevent journalists making them seem incompetent.

However, now, 28th March, the Imperial Team have confirmed that their potential death figure includes all those who would have died anyway. And that the NHS will be able to cope with all who need hospitalisation.

So, a scare in a teacup!!!!

Darth Saddius

28th March 2020 at 10:43 am

Hi Michael Roberts. This a response to your post of 27th March 2020 at 1:07 pm. The reply buttons which show here on my system are a bit random so I’m posting a response here. Firstly thank you for your reply and for the friendly polite tone of it. It is all too easy for debates about this matter to descend into ‘yah boo sucks’. It certainly does over at the Daily Telegraph where I sometime amuse myself by commenting on AGW.

Regarding the recent geological time events you discuss this is an area I have not yet looked in any meaningful detail so I won’t comment specifically in these areas at the moment. Funnily enough in my retirement I am doing a science degree for interest which is mainly geology*. The course has covered a lot of environmental change largely in the context of sedimentary geology where it is directly connected. We haven’t reached the last glacial maximum yet as we’ve been looking much further back. I think will do so in the current module I am doing. I am now looking forward to it with baited breath.

Briefly (as the boss is about to dragoon me into the garden for labouring duties) I will just reiterate my understanding that a primary concern about CO2 levels amongst scientists is not the absolute concentration but the rate of change of concentration. Having a target level of x ppm CO2 is not because x ppm is some magical figure but because it is calculated to dare I say ‘flatten the curve’.

With regard to plants and elevated CO2 this a fascinating and hot topic in botany at the moment. Simplifying considerably for some plants it enhances growth, for others it has less effect. In part this is due to the different photosynthetic pathways different plant groups use – C3, C4, CAM. Even within these three groups the responses vary. C4 plants are interesting in this regard as they include a lot of important crop plants. There is evidence that some crop plants for example become less nutritious at higher CO2 levels. Worth looking into if you find this sort of thing interesting.

Broadly and againg simplifying somewhat I think many of the journalists/writers on this site mix up the politics/sociology/psychology of ‘environmentalism’ (a valid subject for debate to be sure) with the science of the environment. I just think this muddies the waters in an unhelpful fashion.

Now the sun is shining and I’m off to stick some C3 plants in the ground.

*Pre retirement I worked in an obscure backwater of materials science. One relevant thing I took from this is that our lab used to have a very expensive piece of kit that used an infra-red laser to generate data by bombarding different materials. The absorption of the IR by atmospheric CO2 was so high that the machine had to be designed to take this into account. You could either use software to chop the CO2 swamping out or flush the specimen chamber with nitrogen which is transparent to IR. I always remember this fondly when someone at the Telegraph says ‘CO2 doesn’t absorb IR! I saw a video on youtube!!’.

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