Misguided Misanthropy: Why the “Humans are the Virus” Mindset is Damaging to the Environmental Movement

Misguided Misanthropy: Why the “Humans are the Virus” Mindset is Damaging to the Environmental Movement

We’ve all seen the tweets lately: “Humans are the real virus!” “The earth is healing in our absence” and so on. Their message is clear: humans are a plague on the earth and the current COVID-19 pandemic is a form of reckoning.

Not only are some of these tweets just plain wrong, but there’s a deep-seated misanthropy behind them that has no place in the environmental movement.

They’re misguided for the following reasons:

1. This is an ahistoric worldview. For tens of thousands of years, people have lived in balance with our natural environment. Even early agriculture, forestry, and animal husbandry was minimally destructive on a global scale.

Our current problems—climate change, rampant deforestation, soil erosion, and species extinction—are recent inventions. They’ve arisen within the past several hundred years of colonial expansion and industrial capitalism, disproving the idea that environmental degradation is innate to human beings.

2. The burden of environmental destruction can’t be placed equally at the feet of all people. As a matter of fact, the wealthiest 10% of people contribute half of global greenhouse gas emissions!

We also know that countries like the USA, UK, Canada, and many European countries have been polluting for much longer than countries in the Global South. The first wave of industrial revolution happened in the second half of the 19th century in the Global North, but many countries in Africa and South America are still developing industry today. This is a massive disparity; to aim your ecological rage at the whole of humanity is not just heartless, it’s also misguided.

 3. Pitting people against nature is also a relatively recent construct. This idea of humans vs. nature, as opposed to humans in nature, might stem from Western dualism in philosophy, such as Cartesian mind/body duality. Early settlers to the “New World” viewed nature, or “wilderness,” as something to be conquered and tamed.

Even everyday language lends itself to segregating humans from nature; notice the awkwardly verbose gymnastics to attempt to paint humans and nature as not distinct, but parts of a whole. Surely there should be a more elegant and succinct way of portraying this concept than “humans in nature, not humans vs. nature!” The truth is, we’re a multicellular organism like so many others!

4. Decentering humanity can have dangerous implications. There is a startling implication behind blaming “humanity” for environmental destruction instead of certain systems, corporations, or governments: humans (or at least some humans) will need to die to solve these problems. This is an insidious line of thinking. Do all people need to die to “save the planet?” If not, who do we eliminate? Who gets to decide?

One insidious version of this is lifeboat ethics, coined by Southern Poverty Law Center-designated white supremacist Garrett Hardin. Since the planet isn’t capable of harboring everyone, we have to let others (often read: poor people) perish so we can flourish in the “developed” world. Supporting the death of humans as good for the environment can unintentionally feed into these narratives.

When you don’t consider the long history of pollution from wealthy nations, it’s easy to fall into that line of thinking from a surface-level analysis. Today, many developing countries (e.g. India, Brazil, Mexico) are increasing their greenhouse gas emissions. This is not be encouraged. However, dishonestly disregarding that historical trend and ignoring our polluted past is inequitable.

This is only a few steps from calling for genocide; we can do better. 

When your love for the planet leads to a deep disdain for humanity, you need to reassess why you’re an environmentalist in the first place. If you believe that the earth is better off without us, that includes you too! And if we’re all gone, there won’t be anyone around to appreciate an earth that’s whole and free of destruction.

So I say, embrace your love of humanity, fellow environmentalists. Let that love drive you to heal the earth, instead of the hate for other people. Ultimately, we have a world to win—one in which there’s enough room for all of us.

At least we got some good memes from these tweets!



  1. Rebecca

    Yes, it is the corporations and governments, but Earth does not see corporations and governments, just as it does not see borders or countries. All of these constructs mean nothing to Earth. As a species, we are poisoning ourselves and the Earth, but the Earth is not as fragile as we are. Sure, we can debate that some humans (10%) are the worst contributors, but does it really matter in the end when we’re gone? The Earth is better off without industrialized/consuming humanity and there will be quite a lot of amazingly intelligent life left to naturally thrive on what it has to offer. If another species upsets the balance like we have, I’m sure Earth will have an equally appropriate reaction. It’s not like we’re special.
    In the end, the other creatures deserve this Earth more than we do. If you thought humans were better or more deserving than the rest of life, well, I wonder what the Earth thinks. Plastic, anyone?
    And if you are God fearing, then maybe contemplate how your God feels about what we’ve done to God’s creation.

    1. James Roscoe

      Well for one for us people who are God fearing. They would disagree with you on a few of your points. For starters humans already are special both from a spiritual and purely scientific standpoint. Some of are developmental characteristics are unlike any other living thing, not to mention our capabilities are unlike any other animals. Secondly, Christians believe God made them stewards of his creation. The only agreement they would have with you is that we’ve havens exactly been very good stewards.

      1. Chris

        And who made the humans “special”? Humans! As deciphered and interpreted by Luke, David, and the other hermits. G, that sounds JUST like a human…to put themselves at the front of the line.

  2. Misanthropist

    Humans are poison. Of no value whatsoever. I don’t need anyone to agree, nor do I care if they do. If I could press a button that would eradicate the human virus, but I had to be the first to vaporize, I wouldn’t hesitate.

    “And if we’re all gone, there won’t be anyone around to appreciate an earth that’s whole and free of destruction.”

    — Good. The Earth is better off without us – but being unappreciated – than with us, raped and strangled.

    1. Vid

      People have forgot how special we humans are. People also forgot that we ARE a part of nature and nature created us for a reason, we aren’t destroying nature then, nature is destroying itself, because we are and always will be a part of it. The dualism between nature and a human is what is destroying earth, not humans.

  3. Nostradamus

    Humans are Earths virus, akin to cancer if you like, cancer sits in the human system often for years, often benign and only begins to kill us in the later stages, see any comparrison with Earth and it’s human virus? I am sure you can.
    7.9 billion of us ravaging whats left of Earths resources, polluting the land, the ocean and the ozon layer, corrupt politicians world wide are hostile to any measure to revert that trend.
    We know what we are and we know that nature will kill us ultimately it’s our fate.

  4. Jane, Layton and Bria

    This author deleted all the comments that pointed out the flaws, narcissism of humans and contradictions to reality and what actually takes places, which exemplifies why humans are a virus. Humans have become deranged by green paper organized ‘religion’ technology and more. Humans are becoming more ‘dumber’ ‘idiotic’. You can’t ‘know’ anything from First was television. Then computers. Then cell phones.

    Humans are the most violent cruel species to each other and other beings.

    1. S

      How are humans a virus, it is an apex predator caused by evolution, even if we did not exist another animal would evolve to our level. Earth could care less anyway, it is a speck of dust floating in the ever expanding universe

  5. CountBoogie

    As selfish, controlling, territorial and brutal as humans have been throughout history, it gives great evidence that we would have been this destructive and polluting 1000’s of years ago had we had the machinery and technology to do so.
    The SECOND we got the ability to pollute without concern of balance or conservation, we did just that.
    Only an idiot says to kill poor people when the evidence is there that the wealthy nations pollute more.
    However the poor nations are still massive consumers of plastic and plastic based products.
    Go to poor parts of Malaysia or Thailand and see all street food is served in plastic bags.
    We have far too many humans…period.
    I had a vasectomy in 1993…the trash stops with me.

  6. Pat

    “And if we’re all gone, there won’t be anyone around to appreciate an earth that’s whole and free of destruction. ”

    Are you serious?? That is pure repugnant anthropocentric thinking. Do you really believe an earth that is whole and free of destruction is only desirable if humans are around to appreciate it? You really don’t think ALL OF THE OTHER SPECIES ON THIS PLANET deserve to enjoy such an earth, whether people are around or not?

    People need to stop breeding and all the regressive governments that are attempting to make abortions illegal (or have already done so) must be voted out and replaced with progressive thinkers. The same goes for those who want to ban birth control or discourage it in developing countries.

    Unchecked capitalism must be eradicated and corporations must suffer severe consequences for polluting and environmental destruction, instead of receiving tax breaks and lowering of environmental standards by donating to the political campaigns of those who support their greedy, short-sighted, destructive goals and working against those who would hold them accountable.

    Dictators/capitalists in various countries must be voted out and replaced with people who care about the environment and will protect it.

    We must stop ruining land to put up yet more strip malls and other useless commercial buildings. How many churches or fast food places or gas stations does one town need anyway?

    We must replant native flowers and plants in areas that have been ruined.

    Pesticides that cause deaths/declines of pollinators (and birds and bats and many more) must be banned.

    People must be forced to stop consuming on a massive scale.

    I could go on and on and on, but what’s the point. People are just going to do the same old crap, consume and consume, be apathetic toward climate change and environmental destruction, and claim they are “too busy to vote”. Same old same old, because in the end, you can’t fix abject stupidity, which is something humanity excels at.

  7. Yeti

    Humans will never change. Using chess analogy: “If only bishop learned how to move in straight lines, that would save all of our problems. Only he will never do, being hardwired to move diagonally.”

  8. Jonathan Hands

    Human religions without exception, place us above all other life forms on Earth. According to at least the majority of religious beliefs, we are the supreme creation of God, constructed in his image. This widespread belief has given us permission to use all the resources, plant, animal, mineral, etc, without regard to the consequences. It’s obvious to me that we will destroy the resources, without realizing what we have done until it’s too late. Pessimistic? Yeah I guess. But as a student of history that’s how I see it.

  9. Me

    To everyone saying humans are absolutely evil and destroying the world and it would be better off without us, if you truly believe that, start the process and end yourself. Acting like humans are at all unique in the amount of destruction we cause is just plain stupid. No animal naturally balances to nature. It is a constant arms race between all the animals to make the world work. Lions don’t hunt gazelles until there is only a few. They hunt them until they can’t catch them anymore. The animals adapt to each other. The plants adapt to the animals. If any of the animals could do what we do, they would. Get off your high horses about it.

  10. Dan Fairman

    If you examine the pathology of a virus, you can easily compare to the evolution of man in that our ability to move throughout our environment and the amount of resources human beings consume, the return of human existence to the overall
    Health of the planet is highl negative compared to other creatures on the planet.
    Human beings are pretty much the worst thing on the planet and for the planet.
    I have more on this but whatever.

  11. Miss Anne Thrope

    If disease can be defined as “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people,” then people can be defined as having particular qualities, habits and dispositions regarded as adversely affecting the planet.

  12. YouCouldn'tBeDumber

    For all the reasons listed by the OP and everyone in the comments section, it is easy to see that the Revolution is coming. Whether it comes from the extremist right-wing ideologies or the same old tired left-wing ideologies is a moot point, because destruction is inherently paramount to both parties, and therefore destruction is what will primarily result from said Revolution. When life is THIS messed up, short term solutions and handouts are unable to relieve the pressure anymore. This fuels the desire for said destruction. Pressure builds up due to all the reasons mentioned here, and eventually the explosion will take place. It is simply only a matter of time at this point. The irony is that those Rich Assholes who work 24/7 to make this world a shitty reality fundamentally believe that they are safe from this Explosion they are working to create. Make no mistake: when it happens, the Explosion will destroy EVERYTHING.

  13. Lorem Ipsum

    It’s odd to see one supremacist bad mouth another, but here you are. Your arrogance to the point that Earth and the sentient (not sapient maybe but whatever) life are there for us to gawk at and otherwise worthless, the millennia long list of pre-industrial extinctions and environmental degradations brought on by human activity and the fact that the fever pitch of white capitalism is no less impossible without humanity to begin with than any other evil deed, changes the case for human supremacism (humano-fascism?) significantly. I mean the “European miracle” was luck, none of humanity’s cultures don’t show the same predatory instincts on some level. Do you think they invented empire? The dichotomy of genocide or human mysticism is more of a desire to turn ourselves into human shields to escape environmental justice than a true reflection of options available to a fair and rational species. Are we in the west, or the world, too stubborn to accept responsibility and that we’d fight to the death against “eco-fascists” threatening to take away our cHeRiShEd fReEdOmS..?
    So I guess we start with the richest 10% then assess our options? Seriously though, credit to you for highlighting that calls for destroying the global south that come from white middle America are a hollow racism.
    Submit to nature. Let it exist for itself so it can reclaim sovereignty. Stop growing and “centering” our colonial species and let’s be just another animal.

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