Danny Bloom
I seek the truth wherever it lies.

Activist Greta Thunberg vs. Doomer Roy Scranton: The climate jury is still out

”I admire 16-year-old Swedish climate demonstrator Greta Thunberg, I respect her and I find her courage inspirational, and I at the same time I recognize that having these feelings won’t change the political inequalities, structural economic and social inertia, and climate feedback dynamics that are going to kill us all,” says climate philosopher and doomsday prophet Roy Scranton, 50, a professor at the University of Notre Dame in Ohio.

“Thunberg’s project is doomed to fail,” Scranton recently told a reporter at a Swedish newspaper while attending a film festival seminar in Gothenberg.

He was quoted as saying that as much as he admires and respects Greta’s drive and ambition, he also feels that environmentalists such as Greta Thunberg are struggling unnecessarily.

”Her project will fail,” he said during an interview in Sweden where he was attending a seminar during the Gothenburg Film Festival.  Scranton referred to a variety of data that he claims show that it is too late to do anything about the negative climate development and how the global capitalism has caused disaster after disaster.

“There is really nothing more to say,” he said. “There is no more room for hope.”

Scranton’s nonfiction book “Learning to die in the Anthropocene,” which received a great deal  of  media and critical attention when it was first publisihed in English in 2015, will be published in  a Swedish translation inn May. Perhaps Greta will read it, too, and see what Roy has to say.

“The message is clear: Hope is gone. Although humans might come up with some amazing new technology with the potential to save us, the global political will is missing,” he told the Swedish media.

Do you mean that politicians and other corporate powers don’t give a damn? the reporter asked.

”Yeah. I have not seen any evidence that they would care. Is Elon Musk doing anything to save the planet? And in Davos, all any of the politicians did there was to  talk about automation. In a sense, one gets the sense these “leaders” must think of a future where they can sit in their fortified fort with security guards protecting them and with all their private jets and they want to replace people with robots.”

So do you think Greta Thunberg was wasting her time in Poland and at Davos? the Swedish reported asked.

‘I wouldn’t say she was wasting her time,” Professor Scranton said. “She is a brave young woman and this is how she feels and how she makes senses of her life. But her calls for student strikes around the world will not stop climate change and I wonder how she will feel in five, ten years when her project has failed.”

Scranton, who is a Buddhist, advocates that people meditate, creating some room in their minds for silence.

“Panic only leads to violence,” he said, referring to Thunberg’s statement to world leaders in Davos that they all need to be very very afraid and to panic. “And, of course, we will see much more of this fear and panic in the future. But in the silence of meditation, there is an opportunity to take in what is happening, to mourn and listen to the last bird and think about how we should live ethically and how we should reorganize our societies.”

Do you ever feel like a doomsday preacher who just making people depressed with your essays and books? the Swedish reporter asked.

”Yes, I do and I am trying to cut down on my public appearances and publications and tweets, Scranton answered. “All this is hard for me, too, and I would rather spend the rest of my time being with my young daughter and reading poetry and writing. There is really nothing more to say.”

Later, on Twitter, @RoyScranton wrote: ”I just wanted to repost this essay link here for those of you who seem confused about my argument. I wrote this op-ed in the New York Times in 2013 titled ‘Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene.’ Things have only gotten worse since then.”

When on Twitter @DanielPinchbeck posed this question to Scranton during  a Twitter chat “When you say “we are defeated,” do you mean near-term extinction is inevitable? Otherwise there are many levels and lots of reason to organize and fight, no?

Scranton replied: ”I agree there are many reasons and ways to organize, but I think doing so to ‘stop climate change’ is a lost cause. We’ve lost whatever fight there was to stop catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, which is happening now, and going to get worse.”

Pinchbeck shot back: ”Scientists say we have a shot at preventing 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temps if we reduce CO2 50 percent and get to carbon neutral quickly. So that is still an option, albeit a long shot. Wouldn’t it make sense for you to work with the Extinction Rebellion group  — anNon-violent direct action and civil disobedience for action on the climate and ecological crisis:now instead of giving up?”

Scranton replied: ”Greenhouse gases increased last year. There will be no political change in the US that puts us on a substantive carbon reduction pathway. Carbon capture and sequestration tech is still underfunded and underdeveloped, and I don’t have the money to change that.”

And he then added: ”Also, what am I supposed to do about China, India, and other industrializing nations? Should I go protest in Beijing? You’re talking about completely transforming the global energy economy as if it could be solved by passing a bill through a legislature. It’s absurd.”

On Twitter, Greta Thunberg retweeted, with glowing approval for her cause, this statement issued by 3,000 Belgian scientists and academics who wrote an ”open letter” urging for strongly increased climate ambition, a statement that directly supported Greta’s stand on mass street rallies around the world by teenagers: “If you consider the objective science, only one conclusion is possible: the people taking the streets are completely right.”

So between Roy Scranton and Greta Thunberg there is a lot of love and respect. But they are going their separate ways, one the perspective of a doomsday philosopher, and the other, a teenage idealist with an angelic face and an English accent that has charmed the adult world.

Will these two people ever meet in peace and agreement? It seems like a long shot.

Stay tuned to both of them.

About the Author
Dan Bloom curates The Cli-Fi Report at He graduated from Tufts University in Boston in 1971 with a major in Modern Literature. A newspaper editor and reporter since his days in Washington, D.C., Juneau, Alaska, Tokyo, Japan and Taipei, Taiwan, he has lived and worked 5 countries and speaks rudimentary French, Japanese and Chinese. He hopes to live for a few more years.