17 April 2020

Jeff Sparrow: “It’s hard to imagine another context in which mass death and economic misery inflicted upon millions of people would be celebrated by those who regarded themselves as progressive. The currency of the ‘humanity is a virus’ slogan should, then, serve as a warning of the extent to which deeply reactionary ideas can bubble away underneath an ostensibly environmental rhetoric. Specifically, as ecological crises worsen, we need to confront the Malthusian legacy that still shapes much ‘common sense’ about humanity’s relationship with nature. … [A]n argument that identifies human activity as an innate threat to nature inevitably leads to such odious positions. If people can’t live in the world — if we’re a virus or a disease or a cancer — then the sooner we’re exterminated, the better. But if we understand how capitalism reshapes our relationship with nature, we can imagine – and fight for – a very different way of being in the world. … That’s the deeper problem with hailing a virus-induced shutdown as somehow environmentally progressive: the misanthropic denunciations of the entire human race discount the possibility that people might improve, rather than destroy, their environment. … People aren’t the virus. Capitalism is the virus. People are, or can be, the cure.”