October 29, 2021

The Coronavirus Pandemic and Our Relationship to Nature

Despite all the global environmental activism and achievements since 1970, we are now on the precipice of irreversible climate change, the sixth great extinction, the transformation of large swaths of our planet into areas uninhabitable for humans, plants and animal species, irreparable harm to our oceans and unprecedented threats to human health from viruses that jump from wild animals to humans.


Climate change and sustainability are common terms that we hear far more today than just a few generations ago, thanks in part to activism that led to the celebration of the first Earth Day in 1970. In an article published in the Sierra Atlantic for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, DAUS Associate Professor of Social Sciences Dr. Lisa DiCaprio reflects on environmental initiatives and sustainability efforts in the years since , while reminding us of the connections between humans and the natural environment. This is particularly relevant as the coronavirus pandemic continues to be ever-present (Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count).

Indeed, COVID-19 has been a chance for many to become more aware of our interconnectedness as a global society and also the interdependence between humans and the environment. What we eat, how we live, where we live, and how we care for the planet all have implications for what the future will look like and the challenges that we will face. Indeed, Professor DiCaprio reflects on the research and writing that has drawn a connection between past and current pandemics to our interactions with nature. As examples, Dr. DiCapriodiscusses the mass extinction of plants and animals, the global wildlife trade, initiatives to protect wildlife, and the airborne nature of the coronavirus (a topic also covered by The New York Times, for example, here and here. NYU students and faculty can sign up for free access to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal here).

To see how NYU SPS students and faculty have been examining COVID-19’s impact on all facets of our society, please visit this page.


Lisa DiCaprio, PhD, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Social Sciences and the Associate Director of Curriculum. Professor DiCaprio teaches two courses that she developed, Green Design and the Future of Organizations and NYC: The Future Metropolis. She also serves as the Conservation Chair of the New York (Atlantic) Chapter of the Sierra Club.


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