Birds matter more than renewable energy schemes, says Jonathan Franzen

American novelist and essayist Jonathan Franzen argues that birds matter more than renewable energy schemes aimed at combating climate change and ultimately protecting humans. He said he cared “more about birds in the present than about people in the future.”

The author of The Corrections and Freedom who won the National Book Award and was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist, believes it is better to protect wildlife areas even if this was at the cost of a worsening ‘human catastrophe’.

Writing in The New Yorker, Mr. Franzen believes some ‘miracle cure’ will soon be invented for climate change, such as fusion energy.

Protecting birds

Jonathan Franzen believes birds matter more than renewable energy schemes.

Why should we be ‘bullied’ into slapping on the global warming combat to the agenda on every major issue, he wonders.

While accepting that increases in global temperature and sea levels are important issues of concern, Mr. Franzen challenges the idea that everyone who “cares about the environment is obliged to make climate the overriding priority.”


Mr. Franzen, who claims to be a keen birdwatcher, wrote:

“We can dam every river and blight every landscape with biofuel agriculture, solar farms and wind turbines to buy some extra years of moderated warming.”

“Or we can settle for a shorter life of higher quality, protecting the areas where wild animals and plants are hanging on, at the cost of slightly hastening the human catastrophe.”

“If a miracle cure like fusion energy should come along, there might still be some intact ecosystems for it to save.”

If the fight against climate change takes priority over all other environmental concerns, then “no landscape on Earth is safe,” Mr. Franzen tells us.

Climate change fight protects not just humans

Environmental scientists and zoologists reacted to Mr. Franzen’s comment by reminding him that awareness of and action on global warming are aimed at conservation – not just of human life – but of all living species on this planet, including birds.

Effective climate action today would benefit the overwhelming majority of living things on this planet, perhaps with the exception of some pests, jelly fish, tropical diseases and other invasive species.

Canary and miner

Birds and humans are animals. What hurts them hurts us, and vice-versa.

President and CEO of the National Audubon Society (an American non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation), David Yarnold. called Franzen’s entire analysis “Woody Allen-esque” and “out of touch with reality.”

Why did miners take canaries (birds) underground with them? Because they are animals like us, and what harms them harms us – they are our litmus test, and we are theirs. In other words, global warming will definitely harm birds too, not just humans.

Who will feel pleased with Mr. Franzen’s article? According to every media comment I have read so far quoting scientists, environmentalists and bird-protection societies – definitely not them. The fossil-fuel lobby has said nothing, but they are likely to be nodding in agreement with Mr. Franzen. So, one wonders, what inspired the New Yorker comment?