Perpetuating the false narrative that the coronavirus pandemic is saving the environment is one of countless examples where misinformation is shared across the Internet because it makes readers feel good—without fact-checking.
But spreading this information is more than just incorrect. It’s irresponsible and dangerous.
As social media users worldwide scroll through their feeds lately, they’re bombarded by bad news and stressful statistics about COVID-19. It’s understandable to be drawn to the upbeat posts circulating online that find positivity in this tumultuous time. Among those articles are stories about positive environmental changes that are an unforeseen product of social distancing measures. However, the majority of these are false or misleading.
NASA imaging of dramatically-reduced air pollution in China, photos of crystal-clear canals in Venice, and videos of wildlife roaming empty streets are being liked and shared with hopeful captions about how the Earth is recovering from human pollution. Members of the public have deemed these images a silver lining to appreciate in dark times.
However, experts report that the coronavirus pandemic won’t create a long-lasting positive impact on the environment. In fact, many warn that as countries recover and begin rebooting their economies, pollution could increase to higher levels than before the epidemic.
The viral posts calling the pandemic a blessing in disguise ultimately promote a dangerous sentiment, whether they’re referencing legitimate statistics or bogus stories of wild animals flourishing in quarantined cities.
It’s true that, largely, the air is clear, the streets are empty, and the waters are calm when the world is on lockdown. As confirmed coronavirus cases extend past half a million, more than one-third of the world’s population is under some form of social isolation, and unemployment is reaching record highs.
Accepting extreme restrictions on daily life and the deaths of vulnerable people because it could benefit the environment is not climate justice. It’s overly simplistic to declare overpopulation as a main pillar of climate change.
Overpopulation isn’t the sole cause of climate change. The world’s climate crisis won’t be improved by a pandemic. Admiring the temporary state of a world on lockdown is unproductive.
The world can’t stay the way it is now, nor should it.
It’s easy to understand why these posts are going viral—people long to participate in a positive narrative during these difficult times.
Nonetheless, in order to prevent the spread of misinformation, we should remember it’s just as important to fact-check good news as it is to check bad news.
Lauren is The Journal’s assistant video editor. She’s a second-year Film & Media Studies major.
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