"Freedom" book coverDearest readers,

Welcome to our ongoing Book Club conversation about the novel Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Thanks to all who weighed in on yesterday’s thread about putting the mental in environmental.

Today’s topic is compromises, particularly those around the ever-complex topic of energy. Freedom delves into the thorny subject of mountaintop-removal coal mining, and also touches on wind power and natural gas. In case you haven’t finished the book yet (or even started it), one of the main characters, Walter Berglund, comes to run the Cerulean Mountain Trust, which is funded by an oil baron and focused on saving the cerulean warbler. The Trust strikes up a compromise that would help the bird but lead to the destruction of an Appalachian mountaintop. When Walter becomes disillusioned with this deal, he steers the Trust’s resources toward a campaign to convince young people to care about overpopulation.

In his exclusive interview with Grist (read the whole thing!), Franzen talks about the difficult compromises environmentalists often have to make, particularly on energy issues. Watch a clip:

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So, readers, what do you think about what Franzen has to say on compromises? When does an environmentally conscious trader become an environmental traitor? What compromises are reasonable on the way to sustainability?

In the book, a hard-core environmentalist named Jocelyn Zorn physically blocks mining-company trucks from moving forward. Walter is incensed and wants her troop of protesters removed. Jocelyn is unrelenting with her slogan, “Don’t Trust the Trust.”

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Are the hard-core environmentalists always right? Do we need the strategic negotiators too? Is it possible for the two to work together? And what kind of environmentalist are you?