Let’s Finally Admit It: We’re Doomed On Climate

Let’s Finally Admit It: We’re Doomed On Climate

Jonathan Franzen writes that it will serve us well to acknowledge calamity is inevitable


Worried about climate change? An essay in the New Yorker by novelist Jonathan Franzen probably won’t help. The piece is getting attention for his provocative argument: We’re doomed, and it’s time to admit it instead of “pretending” we can turn things around. Here’s the gloomy set-up early on: “The scientific evidence verges on irrefutable,” he writes. “If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.” However, even though calamity is a sure thing, Franzen isn’t suggesting that people stop taking measures to help.



“There’s still a strong practical and ethical case for reducing carbon emissions,” writes Franzen. “If collective action resulted in just one fewer devastating hurricane, just a few extra years of relative stability, it would be a goal worth pursuing.” In particular, Franzen encourages people to focus on small, tangible things they care about—helping save a species, a place, or an institution in their community. “Any good thing you do now is arguably a hedge against the hotter future, but the really meaningful thing is that it’s good today.” It may have made sense to wage an “all-out war on climate change” as recently as 30 years ago, when it was still winnable. “Once you accept that we’ve lost it, other kinds of action take on greater meaning.”


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