Roy Scranton: Presuming the worst can be a resilient approach to facing climate change

Author: Jon Hendricks

Roy Scranton

As director of the Creative Writing Program, Roy Scranton knows the power of frightening fictional stories.

Scaring people about very real climate change may be effective, as well, said Scranton, who also directs the Environmental Humanities Initiative and is writing a book titled Endgame: Climate Change, the Myth of Progress and Ethical Pessimism.

“As various philosophers have argued, and as I'll show in the work I'm doing, pessimism can actually be a resilient way of facing adversity,” he said, which includes “presuming the worst and going to work to see what you can save anyway.”

The associate professor in the Department of English said it’s key to come to terms with the fact that we don't know what's going to happen with climate change and the ecological crisis. To some degree, we have to accept that, he said.

“And still figuring out how to keep living into a future, I think, is one of the deepest, most intractable philosophical problems we face,” he said.

Scranton said Notre Dame is an excellent place to think through this philosophical question, as well as other questions about how to live and work together toward new common good.

“There's an emphasis on the spirit here, on the soul, on the character of the community that's inflected by a concern for social justice and inflected by the kind of focus on integral ecology and ethics and compassion that we see in Pope Francis's 2015 encyclical Laudato si’,” he said. “This is a unique place to be and it's a special place to be. And I think we have a great opportunity here and I think we have a great obligation.”

Originally published by Jon Hendricks at on September 20, 2023.