Not so long ago, photos of unusually clear water in Venice canals went viral. The images showed fish swimming around and there were even reports of swans floating around. People were happy to see nature 'cleansing itself'. However, while the canals may look beautiful, the mayor's office in Venice told CNN that the change is not actually due to improved water quality.
"The water now looks clearer because there is less traffic on the canals, allowing the sediment to stay at the bottom," a spokesman said. "It's because there is less boat traffic that usually brings sediment to the top of the water's surface."
Not only that, but the swans also regularly appear in the canals of Burano, a small island in the greater Venice metropolitan area.
Similarly, people started sharing other false evidence of 'healing' nature and since the pandemic has us locked inside our homes, they continued blaming mankind and its dirty everyday life for the initial damage. Some even went as far as to say that 'we are the virus'. Reduced pollution and the unexpected return of wild animals have been the main narratives, preaching that coronavirus is 'Earth’s vaccine'.
All of this is a clear case of eco-fascism (the idea that individuals have to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of nature). One could argue that the main reason why nature has been able to blossom in the days during the lockdown is a direct result of reduced activity by corporations, not the actions of individuals. As a result, counter-memes were born, poking fun at the eco-fascists and their blanket statements.
The above-mentioned examples highlight how quickly eye-popping, too-good-to-be-true rumors can spread in times of crisis. People are drawn to sharing posts that make them emotional. "When we're feeling stressed, joyous," Natasha Daly wrote in National Geographic, "Animal footage can be an irresistible salve. The spread of social phenomena is so powerful, 2016 research shows that it can follow the same models that trace the contagion of epidemics."
Getting a lot of likes and comments “gives us an immediate social reward,” Erin Vogel, a social psychologist and postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, said. In simple words, when people notice and react to our content online, we feel good. Posting on social media temporarily boosts one's self-esteem.
"In times when we're all really lonely, it's tempting to hold onto that feeling, especially if we're posting something that gives people a lot of hope," Vogel added. The idea that animals and nature could flourish during this pandemic "could help give us a sense of meaning and purpose—that we went through this for a reason."
But before we start calling ourselves 'viruses' that 'infect the Earth', it's worth mentioning that 100 companies across the globe are responsible for 71% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. And while it's true that our own actions contribute to the well-being of our environment, without any significant changes in the way these big companies operate, there will likely be no noticeable change or "cure".
With less pollution out in NY the sky whales have finally returned!
Note: this post originally had 39 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.