Make love, not vaccines: why are New Age hippies so anti-vax?

Jules Evans
12 min readAug 26, 2021

In the autumn of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, Dr Emily Grossman and her partner decided to move to Totnes, a small town in Devon that is popular with eco-hippies. Emily looked forward to escaping the Big Smoke and being surrounded by like-minded spiritual activists. A friend encouraged her to join some Totnes online chat groups. It was a rude awakening.

Dr Grossman says:

The groups turned out to be rife with people posting anti-vax, anti-mask or anti-lockdown content, or saying that Covid is no worse than flu.

When she went into town to get groceries, she came across groups of anti-vaxxers in the Town Square, calling people sheeple’ and trying to get them to stop wearing masks:

I was horrified to find that these people were protesting in the streets just five minutes from my new home, handing out flyers about the ‘Covid hoax’, refusing to wear masks in shops and spitting over the vulnerable.

The tide of disinformation even came through her door, when a local anti-vax newsletter, or ‘Truthpaper’, was pushed through her letter-box.

Emily is a science author and broadcaster with a double first from Cambridge and a PhD in molecular biology, but when she tried to defend the science behind vaccination, she was told she was ignorant, she was being paid by the government, she was a Nazi for trying to control others. She was even booted out of one group for ‘posting inappropriate information’. It’s been heart-breaking, she says. ‘I’ve lost friends over it.’

Previously, Totnes was famous for being a mellow, progressive place — the home of Transition Towns, Dartington Hall and Schumacher College. A graffitied sign as you enter the town says it’s twinned with Narnia. Now, it’s becoming famous for its anti-vax hippies, and the locals are getting annoyed. One resident, Paul Wesley, complained to a recent Totnes council meeting that the Town Market has become unsafe to visit:

At the market I was one of only three people wearing a mask. By mid-afternoon it was buzzing, with quite a large number of conspiracy nutcases and anti-vaccine cult followers and others. People won’t come in to town when there are so many anti-maskers or anti-vaxxers around…

Jules Evans

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