The New Yorker Proposes ‘Ridding the Country of Assault Weapons’ to Fight Climate Change

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty

“Any movement toward a more just and civil society can now be considered a meaningful climate action,” asserts a new essay in the New Yorker, which links gun control, immigration, and climate change.

“Securing fair elections is a climate action. Combating extreme wealth inequality is a climate action. Shutting down the hate machines on social media is a climate action,” insists New Yorker writer Jonathan Franzen in his lengthy September 8 essay.

“Instituting humane immigration policy, advocating for racial and gender equality, promoting respect for laws and their enforcement, supporting a free and independent press, ridding the country of assault weapons—these are all meaningful climate actions,” he writes.

Mr. Franzen’s article, provocatively titled “What If We Stopped Pretending?” bears an even more provocative subtitle: “The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.”

The author takes for granted that the worst prophecies of what rising global temperatures could do to the planet are a matter of established fact rather than prediction, because today “the scientific evidence verges on irrefutable.”

“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,” he explains.

The science about global warming became “became fully clear” in 1988, Franzen relates, and back then there may have been a chance to do something about the future of the planet, whereas now, no such sunny scenarios exist.

Instead, it is better for the world to “accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope,” he proposes.

Climate apocalypse, he declares, “will take the form of increasingly severe crises compounding chaotically until civilization begins to fray.”

No such climate screed would be complete without demonizing your enemies, and Mr. Franzen’s is no exception, and he decries the Republican Party’s position on climate science as simply “evil.”

The only realistic way to approach the necessary zero net emissions, globally, in the next three decades would involve a centralized, authoritarian power capable of using coercive measures to deal with the critical state of emergency, he notes.

“The first condition is that every one of the world’s major polluting countries institute draconian conservation measures, shut down much of its energy and transportation infrastructure, and completely retool its economy,” he says, with an implicit nod to AOC’s Green New Deal.

Moreover, “overwhelming numbers of human beings, including millions of government-hating Americans, need to accept high taxes and severe curtailment of their familiar life styles without revolting,” he suggests.

“They must accept the reality of climate change and have faith in the extreme measures taken to combat it. They can’t dismiss news they dislike as fake. They have to set aside nationalism and class and racial resentments,” he adds.

But even if this should fail to happen, he continues, “there’s still a strong practical and ethical case for reducing carbon emissions” and this goal “would be worth pursuing even if it had no effect at all.”

Judging from the swift and harsh reactions to Franzen’s piece from the left, it would seem that a rift is opening within the church of climate change.

On the one hand, orthodox believers insist that everything possible must be done to eradicate climate change since the war is still “winnable.”

On the other hand, reformers are beginning to preach that the apocalypse is coming whether we like it or not, and we must find solace in personal efforts to make the world a better place, even though we know that we will not, in the end, succeed in averting disaster.

For the unwashed outside this church, the arguments can seem as abstruse and nonsensical as impassioned theological debates about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

The danger is, of course, that true believers from either side of the aisle — who see no separation between state and the church of climate change — may in the not-so-distant future be holding the reins of society: redefining the rules of humanity, ostracizing heretics, and using all the coercive powers of the state to compel conformity to the new creed.

Whether you believe or not, you could be forced to radically reform your life as if you did.

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