About that viral climate strike hoax photo…

Illustration by Sarah DeMercurio

A viral hoax photo of the climate strike aftermath has been circulating like wildfire. The photo claims to show a park in Australia riddled with garbage and accusing the climate strikers of the mess. It didn’t take long for this photo to be debunked. Within a few hours of it’s first share, the Guardian released an article calling out the false image. This image was actually taken after a 420 festival in Hyde Park London, UK back in April.

The real photo and explanation back in April of 2019.

I found out about the photo the Sunday following the climate strike when a woman posted it in a group dedicated to cleaning up Macomb County Michigan. “They claim to care about the environment,” she angrily wrote in her post. I immediately took to the, more times than not, helpful internet only to find the Guardian article almost immediately. Before I could call her out for passing along a fake image, several other members of the group had done just that, but not before the original post shared by a man named Joe Storkson — who may or may not have plans to run for office — was shared close to 200,000 times. By the end of the day, it had been shared close to 300,000 times and I predict it will hit 1 million in no time unless Facebook takes it down.

What if that photo was accurate after all? I’m sure when you have over 3 million people gathering around the world, you will most likely encounter a certain amount of litter. After all, it is an unfortunate characteristic of humans. Is that enough to discredit the entire climate movement? I would argue it is not.

Is the act of littering ever acceptable? Absolutely not. It drives me crazy and infuriates me when I’m on a walk or a run and pass a bunch of garbage on the side of the road. I once saw a man toss his coffee cup out the window of his car and wanted to speed up and tell him what a garbage human he was for doing that. Why would you ever feel so entitled to throw your trash on the ground at this point in our history? Who failed you in life to think that was an acceptable act? But it happens and will continue to happen because we have been living in a wasteful and very self-centered society.

While I would never condone the act of littering under any circumstance, even if you accidentally drop something, to call an entire movement hypocritical because of the actions of a few is what you call a hasty generalization and is one of the most popular fallacies as of late. If litter was left behind at a climate strike where nearly 3.5 million people were estimated in attendance throughout the world, and there is a good chance that did happen, do you really think it is logical to call that entire group of people hypocrites for the actions of only a portion of those strikers? I don’t, but I would have to say it is up to the leaders of the movement to address any form of littering that may have taken place. And we really don’t know the extent of these actions unless we were there, do we?

What is most irritating to me about this fake photo being used to discredit a very important movement is the fact that the same people attempting to use that photo as fuel, refuse to blame the real culprits of pollution or admit that we are in fact facing a very serious problem. While we sit here trying to point the finger at individual action, we allow those major corporations who contribute to the majority of carbon emissions and production of the very items used to litter to just skip by without any accountability. These companies pollute our environment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and have been for decades. If you are privileged enough to not have to see it for yourself every day, I implore you to go hang out in the Delray neighborhood of Detroit’s Southwest side and tell me it isn’t a problem. So even if that viral photo was true, the amount of damage to the environment on that one day by that one movement, during that one event pales in comparison to the damage done by these companies on a daily basis.

I understand we are an angry society. We are always trying to “own” the other side in some way to try and prove our side is the right side, but we are really doing a lot of damage when we constantly take what we see on Facebook or our favorite news network at face value. It takes minutes if not seconds to find out if something is true and that’s all thanks to the people who take truth seriously and are tired of people hitting that ‘share’ button without thinking twice about it. Do the research and stop being part of the problem. You hate how people talk to each other these days? Then stop causing that disrespect. Over 200,000 people shared that false photo within 2 days of it being posted and not one of those 200,000 people attempted to verify it was accurate. Don’t be that person. I have reported that photo to Facebook as being fake and encourage anyone who comes across it to do the same until they do something about it. And to the people who willfully take these images knowing they aren’t accurate but so desperately want to stick it to those they disagree with, go do something productive for society.

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