Science Book a Day Interviews Naomi Oreskes

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Special thanks to Naomi Oreskes for answering 6 questions about the book she co-authored with Erik Conway, which we recently featured – The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

Naomi Oreskes is Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  Professor Oreskes’s research focuses on the earth and environmental sciences, with a particular interest in understanding scientific consensus and dissent. – Adapted from her Harvard University profile.

Naomi’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/NaomiOreskes

#1 – What was the impetus for writing The Collapse of Western Civilization?

It was an attempt to say the same thing that scientists had said, but in a different way, a way that conveyed the emotional meaning and social significance of climate change. And a way that might make people step back and think, in a way that charts and graphs and tables just don’t.

#2 – Why did you decide to write this book as a fiction of a possible future? What did it allow you to do that a non-fiction didn’t?

It allowed us to conveyed a sense of what is really at stake, not just in terms of the physical environment, but in terms of society, economics and politics—in terms of our way of life. Many climate change skeptics think that they are protecting the American way of life. We wanted to suggest that actually, not acting on climate is the greater threat to freedom, democracy, and prosperity.

#3 – You have included discussion of political philosophy in your book. What did you see as the importance of this inclusion?

The merchants of doubt who we’ve written about believed they were defending freedom and democracy. Erik and I have always felt that the tragic irony of their story is that by delaying action on climate change, they made intrusive government intervention more likely.

#4 – Who have you written this book for? The public? Politicians? Teachers?

All of the above.

#5 – Just out, what has the response to your book been?

It’s been great. We’ve sold over 20 thousand copies in less than a year. Many people are using it as classes. We didn’t write it as a text, but I think it is a great text, especially to use in undergraduate classes, because it is so readable and accessible.

#6 – Do you have any future projects/books you can tell us about?

Yes but I’m superstitious and don’t like to talk too much about my unhatched chickens. Stay tuned.

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