Email Updates

Enter your email address to receive updates and previews.

In What Sense Abundant? 

Debating climate, renewal, and American decadence

Matt Frost’s “After Climate Despair” [Fall 2019] helpfully exposes the rhetorical and practical limitations of climate catastrophism. As he argues, such an approach gives the false impression that there is some discrete point of no return, some cliff over which civilization will fall if we fail to cut carbon dioxide emissions quickly enough. More insidiously, catastrophism’s reliance on terrifyingly large numbers and apocalyptic forecasts induces paralysis and despair. The only solution that seems adequate to our ecological problems is some “political breakthrough” that brings about global cooperation. Once we realize this is nigh impossible, we are left with despair.

Instead of basing his optimism on a political breakthrough, Frost recommends looking for a technological one. Yet his claim that “technological breakthroughs are less far-fetched a solution” than political ones is dubious, and it doesn’t actually avoid the “combination of brooding pessimism and delusional optimism” that he thinks it does. In essence, Frost rightly argues that a transformative political activist like Greta Thunberg is not a viable hero for those worried about climate change, but he leaves us waiting for a tech guru like Elon Musk. Authentic hope will not be found in either of these figures. Rather, hope resides in the good work being done by countless farmers and gardeners, walkers and cyclers, artisans and craftsmen, homemakers and ­caretakers — normal people choosing to reject the kind of abundance proffered by modern industry and instead gratefully stewarding the abundant life of a given world....

Not yet available online.
To read articles in print before they’re posted online, subscribe today.
4 issues ~ $24