From the start of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, reports of decreased carbon emissions and wild animals in the streets were circulated widely on social media. These reports were often accompanied by comments or memes expressing sentiments like, “Humans are the disease”; “the coronavirus is the planet trying to heal itself”; “Mother Nature is sending us all to our rooms.”

Yet scientists and experts warn there’s a darker side to this supposedly eco-friendly message, including the co-director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University, Dr. Jacqueline Klopp.