Jonathan Franzen, "What If We Stopped Pretending?"

Alacrates's picture

I have a tiny Twitter account, and I kind of gained some appreciation for how Twitter works this weekend, watching the roll-out of a New Yorker piece by the novelist Jonathan Franzen, "What If We All Stopped Pretending" on the platform....

As far as I can tell, Franzen was pilloried for his article, which argued that there was no way that we, as a society, are going to stop warming of beyond 2 degrees celcius (and thus trigger runaway warming)...

Tons of authors descended on him... how dare he express his opinion in such a respected publication.... +2 Celsius does not equal runaway warming. Attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change will help alleviate the suffering of untold number of disadvantaged peoples. Franzen's alarmism is characteristic of rich, white, male voices, especially distasteful if they do so under the auspices of an artist/novelist viewpoint....

I think there is a grain of truth in all these criticisms of his piece, but reading through these attacks, I also felt that... if you claim that the climate crisis is a concern to everyone and it's all hands on deck regarding solutions, you can't disallow people who aren't PhD's from giving their reactions in public media...

People's responses may not accord with the latest climate science, but you can't say that they're disqualified from making responses... If you have expertise in the field, please just point out where author was mistaken, and how you would disagree with their recommendations... and write your own articles as to how we should be addressing the issue of climate change....

But definitely don't make statements that anyone who is not in the climate scientist PhD circle isn't allowed to put forward their thoughts on the issue... if that were the case, I guess we should allow climate scientists to be the de facto leaders of our nation's policies, without question?

I think it would be far better to allow experts in climate science to give their input, to be combined with other expert testimony on renewable energy systems, infrastructure experts, voices from the appropriate technology movement, etc., to combine with the voice of regular citizens (including novelists!) to decide how we want to go forward with an energy transition. Excluding people because of a lack of climate science awareness is, I think, a cop-out.

David Trammel's picture

His article is the subject of my blog post this week and will be posted tomorrow. I agree 100 percent with him and will say why.

(It's not finished yet or I'd post it today, lol.)

David Trammel's picture

Here is my opinions and thoughts about his article.

Alacrates's picture

Looking forward to reading it this evening - I hadn't read through Franzen's article that closely yet, I just saw a bunch of people online dog-piling to denounce him, in a lot of ways that were condescending, saying he had no place as a non-scientist to be giving his take. Well, he is however a good writer, so I say if people disagree with his take, just write your responses, but don't call for him to be removed from the discussion.

On general opinion I was interested in was the possible divergence between measures to prevent degrees of climate change and measures to adapt to the changes that are on the way. The idea that these might not always be the same thing, in a world to limited resources and trade-offs, is an interesting one to me.

Anyways, I'll give his piece another read & and yours and some other responses and see what I think.