The Environmentalist's Dilemma: Promise and Peril in an Age of Climate Crisis

Kopecky, Arno

  • Honorable Award Mention, The Rachel Carson Environment Book Award

    “Timely and relevant, this offers plenty to think about.” — Publishers Weekly

    From the winner of the 2014 Edna Staebler Award comes a lively, intelligent and nuanced discussion of climate change — a hopeful take on how to live knowing disaster is imminent

    A compelling inquiry into our relationship with humanity’s latest and greatest calamity

    In The Environmentalist’s Dilemma, award-winning journalist Arno Kopecky zeroes in on the core predicament of our times: the planet may be dying, but humanity’s doing better than ever. To acknowledge both sides of this paradox is to enter a realm of difficult decisions: Should we take down the government, or try to change it from the inside? Is it okay to compare climate change to Hitler? Is hope naive or indispensable? How do you tackle collective delusion? Should we still have kids? And can we take them to Disneyland?

    Inquisitive and relatable, Kopecky strikes a rare note of optimistic realism as he guides us through the moral minefields of our polarized world. From start to finish, The Environmentalist’s Dilemma returns to the central question: How should we engage with the story of our times?


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  • Arno Kopecky is an environmental journalist and author whose dispatches from four continents have appeared in the Globe and Mail, The Walrus, the Literary Review of Canada, Reader’s Digest, and others. His last book, The Oil Man and the Sea, chronicled the battle to keep oil tankers out of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest and was shortlisted for the 2014 Governor General’s Award. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

  • Published: October 2021

    ISBN: 9781770416093

    Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.

    Pages: 264


“Timely and relevant, this offers plenty to think about.” — Publishers Weekly

“Should one enjoy reading about the climate emergency? That’s the dilemma I faced reading Arno Kopecky’s earnest, nuanced, and funny new book. From the quagmire of Canadian petropolitics to COVID-19’s impact on the environmental movement, Kopecky captures the current moment of whiplash and dysfunction perfectly. The Environmentalist’s Dilemma unpacks the most worrying issues plaguing the environmental movement while setting out a way forward for the difficult days ahead.” — Laura Tretheway, author of The Imperilled Ocean

“The expansiveness of the dilemma that frames these essays — the world is dying yet human life seems by many metrics to be better than ever — allows Kopecky to write with unfailing verve on a vast array of topics … these essays are consistently stimulating and often moving, sometimes deeply so … In the author’s hands, the book’s titular dilemma emerges in all its richness, ambiguity, and tension as a foundational opportunity and challenge for contemporary environmentalism.” — Literary Review of Canada

“To me, the value of The Environmentalist’s Dilemma is this hope, that though we are in some ways stuck within a system that limits our options, we can make little acts of rebellion against the system. Our little actions may add to the little actions of millions of others, and may one day change the world.” — The Ormsby Review

“Across the essays that follow, Kopecky looks at activism, politics and vested interests, population, justice and more. They’re imaginative and self-critical, often finding a down-to-earth way into the topic … In short, The Environmentalist’s Dilemma is a thought-provoking collection of ideas and questions.” — The Earthbound Report

“After an eventful year and a half, Kopecky’s book of dilemmas is timely and relevant. It provides a road map to ‘engage with the story of our times’ and the captivating people crafting a response to climate change in divergent ways.” — Alberta Views

“Kopecky’s exploration of this dilemma is wry, self-aware and honest.” — The Rachel Carson Environment Book Award

“Startling, wise, and insightful, The Environmentalist’s Dilemma goes into the fraught relationship between nature and civilization. With his wide experience, well-stocked mind, and the fun and deftness of his writing, Kopecky helps us face the threats that face our world.” — Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress

The Environmentalist’s Dilemma is far funnier than a book contemplating apocalypse ought to be, and Arno Kopecky is far wiser than a journalist just hitting middle age ought to be. Every sentence in here is perfect. Every new page opens your mind a little more, until you’re contemplating American tribalism or Extinction Rebellion or the nature of truth or the velocity of time. As a reader, I’d follow Kopecky anywhere. Even — just this once — to Disneyland.” — McKenzie Funk, the PEN Literary Award-winning author of Windfall

“Intellectually nimble, Kopecky deftly bounces from climate-change science to geopolitics to literature … Though Kopecky frequently strikes an urgent and even justifiably alarmist tone, he always returns to a grounded sense of how to navigate the future. The result: a literate, honest and wise guide to the crisis of climate change.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“This may sound a bit weird but Vancouver’s Arno Kopecky’s new book The Environmentalist’s Dilemma: Promise and Peril in an Age of Climate Crisis is a fun read. Sure he points out the inconvenient truth that while humans are having a pretty go of it the planet is dying, but he does so without yelling. It’s this relatable tone that makes it much easier to take in the hard facts about the worrisome relationship between us and the planet we call home.” — Vancouver Sun

“You would be hard-pressed to find a book that more effectively gets to the heart of our collective environmental concerns with such nuance and precision. Author Arno Kopecky has a remarkable knack for articulating the often-conflicting thoughts and emotions so many of us share, while offering insights for keeping realistic hope.” — Green Teacher

“It is lucid, nuanced and challenging as it grapples with the dilemma he is exploring. It is informative without being polemic, and it never yields to the temptation to hector, preach and condemn that is so common in environmental writing. It is also surprisingly funny and touching. All in all, a must read both for both the convinced environmental activist and the enviro skeptic.” — Vancouver Sun