Sir David Attenborough’s upcoming documentary, “The Year Earth Changed,” romanticizes the global lockdowns in 2020 for proving how “the natural world” would “do much better if we weren’t there at all.” Similar attitudes have circulated on social media since last March: from the “nature is healing” meme to Extinction Rebellion stickers calling humanity a “disease” and COVID the “cure” plastered across the East Midlands.
An increasing number of liberal democratic governments are flirting with utilitarian approaches to policymaking, and removing any limiting principles on the scope of their overreach. With herd immunity on the horizon, COVID is expiring as a palatable justification to a paranoid public for intrusive nanny-statism. The next pretext they’re likely to use for controlling lives and livelihoods? Climate change.
COVID-19 lockdowns produced a 2.4 billion ton (7 percent) decrease in CO2 emissions in 2020. This has informed a belief that lockdowns are a viable method of cutting carbon emissions by 2050. World Economic Forum, European Commission, and U.N. advisor Mariana Muzzucato has, therefore, hypothesized lockdowns may be enforced again to prevent climate change.
Move Goalposts, Stay Locked Down
Measures such as banning private transport, a moratorium on meat consumption, and ending fossil-fuel production would be mandated by governments worldwide. The World Economic Forum has since published other articles like Muzzucato’s, suggesting lockdowns are a “crucial dress-rehearsal” for addressing climate change by reducing consumerism and providing homeostasis for low-emission living.
Other voices promoted this policy in political spheres. Germany’s Social Democratic Party Member of Parliament Karl Lauterbach authored an op-ed urging environmental policies analogous to “the restrictions on personal freedom [imposed] to combat the pandemic.” The U.K.’S Green Party praised lockdowns for providing a vision of how “a different world might be possible.”
When debating the role of the market in environmentalism at Durham Union, Extinction Rebellion co-founder Claire Farrell pushed for replicating COVID-19 lockdowns to instigate revolutionary economic redistribution and reduce Britain’s carbon emissions.
Of 180 nations, the U.K. has imposed the sixth most stringent COVID-19 lockdowns on its subjects. Recently, the prime minister stated it was his lockdown policies — not Britain’s exemplary vaccine rollout program — that reduced COVID-19 cases and related deaths. Neither the facts nor the principles behind the prime minister’s “data not dates” approach have been presented to the British public. Instead, the prime minister seems to be hard-selling lockdowns as a policy worth repeating.
Parliament appears to have bought this line of argument. A bipartisan majority of members voted to extend “draconian” “Emergency Powers” until October. This is despite six of England’s nine regions reporting no deaths with COVID-19 that week, and the World Health Organisation condemning the use of lockdowns as a “primary control method” for pandemics. With the government repeatedly moving goal-posts — from “Protect the NHS. Save lives” to a crusade to immunize Brits from death itself — there’s no longer any set criteria on which reopening the country is contingent.
Negative externalities produced by the U.K.’s three successive lockdowns have inflicted irreversible damage on society. Taxpayer money funded a “covert,” “unevaluated psychological experiment” run on the British public, with sage advising the government “use media to increase the sense of personal threat.”
Lockdowns’ combination of prohibited commercial operations and the furlough scheme is costing Britain £1.5 billion daily. Banning small businesses caused income disparity to increase; and wealth and influence monopolistically consolidate in international companies like Amazon, which accrued record profits due to stay-at-home orders.
It’s financially unsustainable and morally untenable to involuntarily confine anybody — let alone healthy people — to their homes, and deprive them of opportunities to interact or earn a living. However, when halting what Greta Thunberg called “the fairy-tale of eternal economic growth” is the goal, lockdowns become an enticing tool for ending both capitalism and climate emissions.
Climate Change as Eugenics
British professor Patricia McCormack’s “Ahuman Manifesto” urges gradual depopulation according to intersectional feminism. Echoing Simone De Beauvoir’s metaphors of a feminine Earth violated by masculine instruments of industrialization. Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed abortion as a method of lowering carbon emissions through population control. Some women have taken to surgical sterilization, believing “going child-free [is] the answer to our climate crisis.”
Lockdowns aid in suppressing population growth. Despite initial predictions of a quarantine “baby boom” — when we have, as Dostoyevsky said, nothing to do but “sleep, eat cakes and busy [ourselves] with [the] continuation of the species” — the West is heading for a “baby-bust”. Increases in self-reported anxiety and suicidality have depreciated libido.
A 2020 survey of European couples’ fertility plans demonstrated dire economic straits have influenced 50 percent of couples to postpone having children, even indefinitely. Both economic and individual depression produced by lockdowns will depreciate birth rates for a generation.
Where did these lockdown policies come from? As Professor Neil Ferguson, whose erroneous epidemiological models for Swine Flu caused thousands of unnecessary livestock deaths, explains, his advice to the U.K. government was based on actions taken by “a communist one-party state”: China. Ferguson cited China’s totalitarian lockdowns where families were welded into their homes as the precondition for Britain realizing “We [could] get away with it.”
If China is the standard for morally legitimate policies, what is the limiting principle on governments’ intervention into lives and livelihoods the pretext of other “existential threats”?
Emulating the European Union, the prime minister has proposed ransoming normality back to us with oxymoronic “Freedom Passports”: promoting pub chains to tie pulling pints to their customer’s vaccine status. This program has been critically compared to China’s Social Credit System: a surveillance software that consolidates citizens’ medical history, biometric data, and social media so the government can blacklist dissidents from purchasing property, using transport, and accessing vital goods and services. (This was satirized by “Black Mirror.”)
Tying one’s ability to own and exchange property and engage with civil society to one private medical history is an inexcusable intrusion on inviolable rights. And what’s to stop penalties being tied to a digital carbon footprint down the line?
The World Locks Down and China Races Ahead
The biting irony of lockdowns is that China lifted restrictions as early as March 2020. China has accelerated its timeline of global dominance by five years in 2020, due to a combination of using slave labor and the economic damage lockdowns inflicted on competitors. It would be ludicrous for climate lockdown advocates to assume China — the leading global producer of carbon emissions and ocean plastic pollution — would adopt lockdown policies at the expense of their economic growth and role as top dog of the global hegemon.
Fortunately, non-authoritarian measures are both more moral and more effective at addressing climate concerns. Environmental Kuznets curves demonstrate the wealthier a nation is, the more environmentally conscious decisions are made over time. Prior resource scarcity prophecies from the likes of Paul Ehrlich were also predicated on embarrassing underestimations of human ingenuity.
Markets and families, not depopulation and ending innovation, are the best mechanisms for combating climate change. There’s no imperative to improve or conserve the Earth without a generation to inherit it. Both ethics and efficacy expose lockdowns as unsustainable, inefficient, and immoral, regardless of pretext.
Whether for planet or pandemic, lockdowns, health passports, and sterilization narratives should be opposed as long as they remain voluntary and resisted if ever made mandatory.