Jonathon Safran Foer discusses climate crisis, why lifestyle changes can help the earth


Lizz Malloy

(From left) Author Jonathon Safran Foer and Steve Curwood of NPR’s environmental news program, “Living on Earth.”

On Wednesday night, best selling author Jonathon Safran Foer spoke about his new book at UMass Boston, “We are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast,” and how people need to be more environmentally conscious in their everyday choices.

Foer’s book covers not only environmental issues but discusses society, politics, economics and religion. The main mission of the book is to encourage readers to lessen their consumption of meat.

Steve Curwood, host of NPR’s environmental news program, “Living on Earth,” interviewed Foer at the event.

“It describes the power of collective activism in solving the latest climate crisis,” Curwood said at the event.

Foer discussed how 70% of Americans have said they wished the country stayed in the Paris Climate Accords. Now that a majority of people believe that climate change is taking place, Foer said we need to draw more attention to what can be done about it.

“A bigger problem is connecting the dots between what we know and what we are going to do about it,” said Foer.

In his book, Foer suggested that people start at least cutting back on their meat consumption, such as only eating meat at dinner.

While the talk focused on was how the individual can do their part by changing their dietary habits to live a more sustainable lifestyle, Curwood said this is not the main issue.

Lizz Malloy / Living on Earth
(From left) Jonathon Safran Foer and Steve Curwood take questions from the audience

Instead,  corporations and the top 10% of wealthy people have to make changes because most of the harmful emissions that are escalating climate change come from them. Foer agreed and said that not eating meat is just another piece of the puzzle.

“It is absolutely the case that we cannot solve this by individual action alone,” said Foer.

Maurice Roberson, an africana studies major at UMass Boston, said Foer’s focus on self-reflection was an important point.

“Once you have that moment of self-reflection and be real with yourself, it kind of opens up the possibility to make change,” said Roberson. “Even if at small increments, it’s still change.”

Not focusing on statistics and more on yourself is a take away that Roberson had from the talk, he said.

Foer said the book is a personal exploration of how he responds to the climate crisis. He drew a parallel from his actions to his children. Sometimes he’ll be working in one room while his children are roughhousing in the other, but it is okay. Only when it gets to a point where someone is crying is when he intervenes.

“[This example] was more or less the moment I had, except I was both the kid and the parent,” said Foer. “Where I heard myself saying, over and over, ‘somebody needs to do something,’ but ‘somebody’ never included me.”

Curwood asked the audience to raise their hands if they thought the story of climate change is a made-up story.

“Jonathan, I don’t see a single hand,” said Curwood.

After asking the audience if they believed in climate change, Curwood said, “I think we are seeing every hand.”

Foer also said that there is a difference between saying you can do something and actually doing it. He added that even the smallest efforts people can put in, such as not eating meat on the weekends, can make a difference.

“Recognize the choices available. Recognize the impact of the choices available,” said Foer.

“We are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast” is available in stores now. Some of Foer’s other books include “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “Everything is Illuminated” and “Eating Animals.”

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