Naomi Klein tells her story

August 27, 2015

In early July, the Vatican invited Naomi Klein to speak at a follow-up conference on the encyclical.  The following is an excerpt from a recent interview with Ms. Klein, in The Guardian: Naomi Klein on Climate Change.

Ten years ago I was in New Orleans covering hurricane Katrina, I was writing the Shock Doctrine at the time. The photographer I went to Iraq with said: “You have to get there, it’s just crazy here, people are being shot in the streets.”

It was this cocktail of heavy weather, racism, and crumbling infrastructure. It felt like I was looking into the future. People said it was like science fiction, with a rich country abandoning the residents of one of its cities, vigilantes roaming the streets, with anyone around after curfew fair game.

For someone with a background of economic justice, what scared me about climate change is not just that the sea level will rise and we’ll have more storms, it’s how this intersects with that cocktail of inequality and racism.

There are moments where the deep moral crisis of climate change breaks through
This is my attempt to lay out what disaster collectivism looks like. The primary reason people look away [from climate change] is that they don’t see a way out and are told that the solutions to climate change involves giving things up.

If we can chart a path to post-carbon economy, it will involve gaining a lot of other things. We can have a higher quality of life, more liveable cities, greater equality, heal historical wounds. It can be exciting.

Fear can’t be the driver. That’s the big mistake the environmental movement made – “we’ll scare the hell out of you and you’ll become an activist”.

There has to be a counter-narrative that we can have a different economy with more and better jobs.

…I try to write for the person who doesn’t want to read the book. The decision to write more personally was a deliberate choice. A lot of the reason we tune out is that we feel this crisis deeply and it’s extremely emotional for someone to think that their homes are at risk.

A lot of the way we communicate climate change doesn’t acknowledge the emotional side of it. So I thought it was best to write about my own raw terror.

At the Copenhagen COP negotiations in 2009

I remember a moment on climate refugees, where the concept of whole countries disappearing was talked about in a very matter of fact way.  There are moments where the deep moral crisis of climate change breaks through, though, moments when it breaks script. There are moments when it isn’t about percentages, it is about decisions that effect countless lives.

There were so many strange juxtapositions. There were the island nations holding protests saying “1.5C to survive” and then there were the US and European delegates averting their eyes like they were seeing a homeless person on the street.

I find it harder to deal with an UN negotiator who knows the science and chooses to do nothing.  I find that more troubling than the Heartland crowd.

About the shifts we need to make…

Well, my book is an argument for a deep ideological shift because the pendulum has swung so far in favour of market fundamentalism.  We have this constrained political debate and a political class that doesn’t believe it should be governing. It’s constantly looking for ways to get out of the way of markets. As long as that continues, we will just keep talking about this problem, as we’ve done for the past 25 years.

Climate change has been epically bad timing because it has landed in the lap of the peak of this ideological movement. Look what’s happening in southern Europe – brutal austerity has been imposed upon Greece and other countries and they are rolling back renewables, ramping up fracking and offshore drilling. That’s not the economic model we need to act on climate change.

We know what we need to do now. We have the policies that could get us there, things that won’t overthrow capitalism, such as a carbon tax, a revolution in renewables. My book is why we aren’t doing that and the ideological scaffolding behind that.

It’s a movement on a roll, it’s just that it’s a race against time. If we had a few more decades I’d say we’re in great shape, but we’ve got to turn things around in this decade. So we always have to do more.

Read the complete interview at The Guardian: Naomi Klein on Climate Change