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Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Supposed Smugness of Environmental Critique: a Response to Thomas Hylland Eriksen

By Jacob Hjortsberg

Thomas Hylland Eriksen, the Norwegian anthropologist, has read Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (Klein 2014). His verdict? That Klein is being self-righteous. According to Hylland Eriksen, writing on his blog[1], Klein thinks that she is better than you, or, as he puts it, “holier-than-thou”.

It’s interesting, I think, that Hylland Eriksen chooses to focus on whether or not Naomi Klein thinks that she is morally superior to the corporate bosses who earn millions of dollars from destroying the ecosystem through fracking, that he chooses to critique her for being “smug” when she points out that we really really need to cut back on our emissions of green house gases if we want to have any plausible chance of avoiding a catastrophic 4 (or 5 or 6 or 7) degree C temperature increase by the end of the century. After all, instead of seeing this as a clear sign of Klein’s self-righteousness, he could have chosen to say that she is also just plainly right – or, to be more precise, that the facts that she is referring to are most probably correct, since they reflect a 97% scientific consensus – but still, he chooses to instead call her self-righteous. Now, why is that?

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