Fiction to read about it and real-life tips to help combat it
Eco-horror is a really interesting genre for me. The idea that the environment will fight back is terrifying to most people. So much so that it is often used as a secondary antagonist in lots of fiction. The final girl can’t go outside in a raging blizzard that has knocked out power and blocked off roads, can she? The forest is so thick that people running trip and fall and get caught by the killer. Most readers, however, never think about the fact that the environment is a factor in their favorite character’s death when they have a big bad serial killer on the loose in the pages.
But Mother Nature as the main antagonist? The villain of the story? That is truly horrific. Think about it, where can you go that the ecosystem doesn’t affect? If the earth turned against you, you would have nowhere to hide. People started really experimenting with this idea in the fifties with the rise of nuclear power. Ever since then, we have seen a lot of eco-horror in film and literature. Films like Godzilla, Them!, The Birds, Phase IV, The Happening are a few that come to mind for me. The eco-horror literature world is ripe with fiction to read as well. The Ruins, Jaws, Eden, Summerville, Annihilation, The Nest, Evil Roots, and the list goes on.
You can watch the films and read the books all that you want, but there is a real-life eco-horror happening right now that many are just ignoring. I started writing this article 4 different times, trying to think of a way to tell you about all of the actual damage we are doing to the earth without scaring you. But the truth is, we should be scared. We are doing damage to the earth and the earth is returning the favor. If we don’t change how we affect the planet, it’s going to continue on without us. I’m not going to sit here and give you all the stats about the oceans rising or polar ice caps melting. I’m going to link the sites I used for research, instead.
You don’t need me to tell you what you already know, and if you want to do more research, click the links. Instead of showing you photos of baby sea turtles laying in plastic, I’m going to show you the little changes you can make in your everyday life to help reduce your impact on the only planet we have. I have made all of these changes I am going to tell you about and I can tell you that it’s easy. It just takes a little mindfulness and conviction and you can reduce your ecological footprint.
It’s not going to all be tips and tricks for being greener, I’m going to give you some cool eco-horror books to read and movies to watch as well. The eco-horror genre is really interesting and if you haven’t dug into it yet, it’s a whole other ball field with lots of variety to choose from.
Ditch your single-use plastic.
Not literally, please recycle plastic if you can. But you can swap out all of that plastic that you use once and throw away for reusable options really easily. Plastic sandwich bags? Never heard of her. I use reusable silicone bags that I can wash. Mine are really similar to these Stasher Bags.
Instead of saran wrap for storing leftovers, I use these reusable container lids. They are dishwasher and microwave safe and they fit everything I need them to. If I don’t use one of those, then I use beeswax wraps. They are natural and easy to use and after you’re done with them you can compost them!
Another easy swap is to get a water bottle and refill it on your own rather than buying single-use bottles. Those plastic containers that fruits like blueberries come in? Those make awesome little greenhouses for starting new seeds when you’re gardening.
We have all been hearing about recycling since we were in school. So why aren't you doing it? It’s an easy thing to do, and most waste companies provide recycling bins for free. What you can't reuse on your own can probably be recycled and used for new products, giving once single-use items a new life. You can learn more about recycling and what can and cannot be recycled here.
I have to admit that I am new to the composting game. I bought a composting container and compostable bags to hang under my kitchen sink and I have a compost pile in my backyard. So far, it has been an easy switch to make. I learned a lot about composting here.
Make your own cleaning products.
I have been making my own cleaning supplies for a while now and I am so glad that I am no longer buying those plastic containers full of chemicals that are terrible for the environment. To start, I infuse the vinegar. It helps the vinegar smell better and there are some cleaning properties of the things I use to infuse. Infusing white vinegar is super easy. You just need a container that will seal, distilled white vinegar and either lemons, oranges, or rosemary. For the lemon vinegar, you cut the lemon in half, squeeze the lemon into your container, and then out the squeezed lemon in the lemon juice. Fill the container with white vinegar, seal it, and then let it sit for 24 hours. Take out the lemon and there you go! The orange vinegar is the same process except you don’t use the orange juice and pulp, you only use the orange peel. The rosemary vinegar is the same process again using fresh rosemary. You can use them for tons of cleaning around the house, but I like to use the orange or lemon vinegar to mop my hardwood floors. The rosemary vinegar is what I like to use when I make my all-purpose cleaner.
My all-purpose cleaner is another easy thing to make. I take 2 tablespoons of baking soda and mix it with 1 ½ cups of hot water. Stir it really well and then slowly add ½ cup rosemary infused vinegar. Then squeeze half a lemon into it. Pour it into a reusable spray bottle and your set!
For a glass cleaner, I mix 2 tablespoons of any dish soap and mix it with 1 ½ cups of hot water. I slowly add ½ plain distilled white vinegar and pour it all into a reusable spray bottle.
Using fewer chemicals means less harmful chemicals in your home and less harmful chemical fumes for you and your family to breathe in. It also helps to keep those chemicals out of our water systems.
Kick those paper towels to the curb.
Seriously. Just get some dish towels. This is one of the easiest switches to make and it makes a huge difference. Paper towels take a HUGE amount of resources to make ( including 110 million trees per year, and 130 billion gallons of water). They also produce methane gas (a greenhouse gas) as they break down in landfills. It’s so easy to use dish towels instead of paper towels and it also saves you money in the long run. Think about not buying paper towels anymore, doesn’t that sound amazing?
A few more ways to lessen your eco-footprint.
- Go vegetarian! Eating less meat means fewer slaughterhouses and less meatpacking facilities using so many resources.
- Use less water.
- Grow a small vegetable garden.
- Turn off lights and electronics, not in use.
- Drive less, walk, and bike more.
Some great eco-horror fiction.
Eden- Tim Lebbon
Earth's rising oceans contain enormous islands of refuse, the Amazon rainforest is all-but destroyed, and countless species edge towards extinction. Humanity's last hope to save the planet lies with The Virgin Zones, thirteen vast areas of land off-limits to people and given back to nature.
Dylan leads a clandestine team of adventure racers, including his daughter Jenn, into Eden, the oldest of the Zones. Jenn carries a secret--Kat, Dylan's wife who abandoned them both years ago, has entered Eden ahead of them. Jenn is determined to find her mother, but neither she nor the rest of their tight-knit team are prepared for what confronts them. Nature has returned to Eden in an elemental, primeval way. And here, nature is no longer humanity's friend.
Summerville- D.T. Neal
Three friends set out to find casks of 150-year-old brandy at the bottom of a South Carolina river, not knowing that they've walked right into the clutches of a growing evil in the ghost town of Summerville.
The Ruins- Scott Smith
Trapped in the Mexican jungle, a group of friends stumble upon a creeping horror, unlike anything they could ever imagine. Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation–sun-drenched days, drunken nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day-trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site . . . and the terrifying presence that lurks there.
Evil Roots- Edited by Daisy Butcher
Strangling vines and meat-hungry flora fill this unruly garden of strange stories, selected for their significance as the seeds of the "killer plant" trope in fiction, film, and video games. Before the Demogorgon of Stranger Things and the appearance of Mario's iconic foe the Piranha Plant, writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries were exploring the lethal potential of vegetable life, inspired by new carnivorous species discovered on expeditions into the deep jungles of the world and breakthroughs in the grafting and genetics disciplines of botany. Suddenly, the exotic orchid could become a curiously alluring, yet unsettlingly bloodthirsty menace; the beautifully sprawling wisteria of the stately home could become anything but civilized, and the experimentation of botanists weening new shoots on their own blood could become fuel for a new genre of horticultural nightmare. Every strain of vegetable threat (and one deadly fungus) can be found within this new collection, representing the very best tales from the undergrowth.
Jaws- Peter Benchley
The classic, blockbuster thriller of man-eating terror that inspired the Steven Spielberg movie and made millions of beachgoers afraid to go into the water. Experience the thrill of helpless horror again—or for the first time!
Annihilation- Jeff VanderMeer
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
The Nest- Jeffrey A. Douglas
It was just an ordinary garbage dump on peaceful Cape Cod. No one ever imagined that conditions were perfect for multiple breeding, that it was a warm womb, fetid, moist and with food so plentiful that everything crawling, creeping and slithering could gorge to satiation. Then the change in poison control was made and the huge mutants began to leave their nest - in search of human flesh.
Want to watch some eco-horror films? Let me set you up!
The Ruins, Annihilation and Jaws were all made into films based on the books.
American nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of a seemingly unstoppable, dinosaur-like beast. The original Godzilla is a classic, but there have been remakes and sequels you can watch as well.
The earliest atomic tests in New Mexico cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters that threaten civilization.
The Birds (1963)
A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people. The Birds is a classic Hitchcock film based on the story by Daphne du Maurier.
Phase IV (1974)
Desert ants suddenly form a collective intelligence and begin to wage war on the inhabitants. It is up to two scientists and a stray girl they rescue from the ants to destroy them.
The Happening (2008)
A science teacher, his wife, and a young girl struggle to survive a plague brought on by plants that cause those infected to commit suicide.
The Bay (2012)
This "found-footage" film is set in 2009 in the town of Claridge, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay. During the town's annual 4th of July Crab Festival, townspeople become sick, exhibiting a variety of symptoms, which leads local news reporters to suspect something has infected the water there. No one is sure what it is or how it's transmitted, but as people start to behave strangely, and others turn up dead, fear spawns into a panic. The town is shut down as government authorities confiscate video footage from every media or personal source they find, in an effort to cover-up the incident. But one local reporter who witnessed the epidemic was able to document, assemble, and hide this film in hopes that one day, the horrible truth would be revealed.
So there you have it. Watch some good movies and read some good books, but don’t forget to turn your reading lamp off when you’re done reading. If we all make small changes in our everyday life, we can work to help reduce real-life eco-horrors.