Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Code words

It is too late for games. It is beyond frustrating when, despite the seriousness of the environmental crisis, we still do not even try to understand why we disagree. I started reading Sverker Sörlin’s book Antropocen with an open mind. Although I knew that my ideological outlook was quite different from his, I still had only the highest respect for him as a scholar. But a few dozen pages in, I begin to sense a disturbing sloppiness. First seemingly innocent misinterpretations of the kind that you can find in any book, like when Sörlin (on page 55) makes a strawman of Fukuyama so that he can quickly contend “he was wrong, of course” without even engaging with the breath of Fukuyama’s thinking. Then, as Sörlin trains his guns on the Breakthrough Institute, I really started losing my patience. The usage of small code words like “market liberals” (if anything, Breakthrough is essentially social democratic with their strong emphasis on publicly funded innovation) quickly grows into wholesale dismal of the work that Michael Shellenberger has been doing to save nuclear in the US. Through a game with words, Sörlin projects an image of Michael as an evangelically motivated zealot who “mixes science, religion and ideology”.

Why?

I guess the answer is the same as always. Nuclear really does bring out the worst in people. Even climate scientists who should at least pretend to be judging all of this impartially.

Sometimes, I really get why conservatives in the US think that climate change is just “too good a problem”…

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