We can leap…Highlights from No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein
There is a reason why the Vatican chose to have Naomi Klein speak and give comment with a small number of spokespeople after release of Laudato Si’ two years ago. She is on the same page as Pope Francis in so many respects, and speaks well and with resonance to so many activists, front line communities, and young people today. The page numbers to the excerpts herein are from the kindle edition. We are looking to develop a joint approach. If you want to get involved, please contact [email protected] Further solutions are listed and articles catalogued at rapidshift.net.
We have to tell a different story from the one the shock doctors are peddling, a vision of the world compelling enough to compete head-to-head with theirs. This values-based vision must offer a different path, away from serial shocks—one based on coming together across racial, ethnic, religious, and gender divides, rather than being wrenched further apart, and one based on healing the planet rather than unleashing further destabilizing wars and pollution. Most of all, that vision needs to offer those who are hurting—for lack of jobs, lack of health care, lack of peace, lack of hope—a tangibly better life. 186
I am figuring it out with everyone else, and I am convinced it can only be birthed out of a genuinely collaborative process, with leadership coming from those most brutalized by our current system. In the final chapters of this book, I’ll explore some early and very hopeful grassroots collaborations between dozens of organizations and thinkers who have come together to begin to lay out that kind of agenda, one capable of competing with rising militarism, nationalism, and corporatism. Though still in its early stages, it is becoming possible to see the outlines of a progressive majority, one grounded in a bold plan for the safe and caring world we all want and need. 191
Trump, extreme as he is, is less an aberration than a logical conclusion—a pastiche of pretty much all the worst trends of the past half century. Trump is the product of powerful systems of thought that rank human life based on race, religion, gender, sexuality, physical appearance, and physical ability—and that have systematically used race as a weapon to advance brutal economic policies since the earliest days of North American colonization and the transatlantic slave trade. He is also the personification of the merger of humans and corporations—a one-man megabrand, whose wife and children are spin-off brands, with all the pathologies and conflicts of interest inherent in that. He is the embodiment of the belief that money and power provide license to impose one’s will on others, whether that entitlement is expressed by grabbing women or grabbing the finite resources from a planet on the cusp of catastrophic warming. He is the product of a business culture that fetishizes “disruptors” who make their fortunes by flagrantly ignoring both laws and regulatory standards. Most of all, he is the incarnation of a still-powerful free-market ideological project—one embraced by centrist parties as well as conservative ones—that wages war on everything public and commonly held, and imagines corporate CEOs as superheroes who will save humanity. 202
How we can collectively rise to the responsibility of this moment. 224
We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. —MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. “Beyond Vietnam,” 1967 245
Most US voters did not cast a ballot for Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton received nearly 2.9 million more votes, a fact that continues to torment the sitting president. That he won at all is the result of an electoral college system originally designed to protect the power of slave owners. And on the rest of the planet, overwhelming majorities of people told pollsters that if they had been magically able to vote in this pivotal election, they would have cast a ballot for Clinton. (A notable exception to this global trend was Russia, where Trump enjoyed strong support.) 273
He (Trump) has collected a team of individuals who made their personal fortunes by knowingly causing harm to some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and to the planet itself, often in the midst of crisis. It almost appears to be some sort of job requirement. There’s junk banker Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury secretary, once chairman and lead investor in “foreclosure machine” OneWest, which kicked tens of thousands of people out of their homes after the 2008 financial collapse. There’s Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, the largest private oil company in the world. The company he headed bankrolled and amplified junk climate science for decades, and lobbied fiercely, behind the scenes, against meaningful international climate action, all while figuring out how Exxon could profit from a warming world. And there are also military and surveillance contractors and paid lobbyists who make up a staggering number of Trump’s defense and Homeland Security appointments. 310
In the face of his total lack of government experience, Trump sold himself to voters with a somewhat novel two-pronged pitch. First: I’m so rich that I don’t need to be bought off. And second: You can trust me to fix this corrupt system because I know it from the inside—I gamed it as a businessman, I bought politicians, I dodged taxes, I outsourced production. So who better than me and my equally rich friends to drain the swamp? Not surprisingly, something else has occurred. Trump and his cabinet of former executives are remaking government at a startling pace to serve the interests of their own businesses, their former businesses, and their tax bracket as a whole. Within hours of taking office, Trump called for a massive tax cut, which would see corporations pay just 15 percent (down from 35 percent), and pledged to slash regulations by 75 percent. His tax plan includes a range of other breaks and loopholes for very wealthy people like the ones inhabiting his cabinet (not to mention himself). He appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to head up a “swat team” stacked with corporate executives who have been tasked with finding new regulations to eliminate, new programs to privatize, and new ways to make the US government “run like a great American company.” (According to an analysis by Public Citizen, Trump met with at least 190 corporate executives in less than three months in office—before announcing that visitor logs would no longer be made public). Pushed on what the administration had accomplished of substance in its first months, budget director Mick Mulvaney cited Trump’s hail of executive orders and stressed this: “Most of these are laws and regulations getting rid of other laws. Regulations getting rid of other regulations.” That they are. Trump and his team are set to detonate programs that protect children from environmental toxins, have told gas companies they no longer need to report all of the powerful greenhouse gases they are spewing, and are pushing dozens and dozens of measures along the same lines. This is, in short, a great unmaking. Which is why Trump and his appointees are laughing at the feeble objections over conflicts of interest—the whole thing is a conflict of interest. That’s the point. And for no one more than Donald Trump, a man who has merged so completely with his corporate brand that he is clearly unable to tell where one stops and the other begins. 342
It was in the branding—which manufactured a sense of tribal identity—that they believed their fortunes lay. Forget factories. Forget needing to maintain a huge workforce. Once they realized that their biggest profits flowed from manufacturing an image, these “hollow brands” came to the conclusion that it didn’t really matter who made their products or how little they were paid. They left that to the contractors—a development with devastating repercussions for workers at home and abroad, and one that was also fueling a new wave of anticorporate resistance. 372
by the 1980s, sales of classic brand-name goods like Tide, Levi’s, and Marlboro had begun to falter. The problem seemed to be that the market was flooded with nearly identical products and, with the economy in recession, many were making decisions based on price, not brand name. The old tricks—billboards, TV ads—didn’t seem to be working anymore; it was as if consumers had built up some sort of resistance. (Or, as ad executive David Lubars memorably put it, consumers “are like roaches—you spray them and spray them and they get immune after a while.”) At around this same time, a new kind of corporation began to rival the traditional all-American manufacturers for market share. These were the Nikes and Apples and, later, the Tommy Hilfigers and Starbucks and so on. These pioneers had a different model: Create a transcendent idea or brand surrounding your company. Use it to connect with consumers who share its values. Then charge a steep premium for products that are less about the objects themselves than about the profound human desire to be part of a tribe, a circle of belonging. 395
Another key development in this period was the notion that, since the true product was the brand, it could be projected onto any number of seemingly unconnected physical commodities. Ralph Lauren launched a line of paints, Virgin went into wedding dresses and colas, Starbucks had a line of jazz CDs. The possibilities seemed endless. 411
The meteoric rise of this business model had two immediate impacts. Our culture became more and more crowded with marketing, as brands searched out fresh space and new “brand extensions” with which to project their big ideas and reach their target markets. Work and workers, on the other hand, experienced a sharp discounting and were treated as increasingly disposable. Brands like Nike and Adidas competed fiercely in the marketing sphere, and yet they manufactured their products in some of the same factories, with the same workers stitching their shoes. And why not? Making stuff was no longer considered a “core competency.” Head offices (now increasingly being called “campuses”) wanted to be as free as possible to focus on what they considered the real business at hand: creating a corporate mythology powerful enough to project meaning onto pretty much any object, simply by stamping their brand on it. 424
Where you work (an office tower), where you live (a condominium), and where you play (your golf club or vacation destination) would all be franchises of a single global luxury brand. Much like Celebration, Florida—Disney’s fully branded town—Trump was selling the opportunity for people to live inside his brand, 24/7. The real breakthrough, however, came when Mark Burnett, head of a reality TV empire, pitched Trump on the idea of The Apprentice. 461 He was being offered a chance to leap into the stratosphere of Superbrands, those rarefied companies earning their enormous profits primarily by building up their brand meaning and then projecting it hither and yon, liberated from the burden of having to make their own products—or, in Trump’s case, build his own buildings. He understood the potential immediately. Because the show would put the brightest possible spotlight on his gilded lifestyle, with long, lingering shots of his palatial homes and his luxury jets, it would do wonders to solidify his decades-long mission to equate the name Trump with material success. 466
His (Trump’s) revenue comes from leasing his name. A large part of Trump’s international success was timing. He entered the global high-end real estate market at a time when an unprecedented amount of untaxed private wealth was sloshing around looking for safe places to park, as it still is. 493
According to James S. Henry, a senior advisor with the UK-based Tax Justice Network, in 2015 the estimated private financial wealth of individuals stashed unreported in tax havens around the globe was somewhere between $24 trillion and $36 trillion. Gilded condos, with a flashy aesthetic pitched perfectly to newly minted oligarchs from Moscow to Colombia, fit the bill perfectly. But Trump’s market wasn’t just the rich. His Apprentice-era brand empire allowed him to appeal to wealthy and middle-income consumers simultaneously. For the well-heeled and flashy, there was membership at his beach and golf clubs, or a unit in a Trump-branded tower, with furnishings from the Trump homeware collection. For the masses who don’t have that kind of cash, Trump auctioned off little pieces of the dream—a glossy red Trump tie, a Trump steak, a Trump book. 495
Donald Trump’s personal brand is slightly different but intimately related. His brand is being the ultimate boss, the guy who is so rich he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and to whomever he wants (including grabbing whichever woman he wants, by whichever body part he wants). This helps explain why signifiers of Trump’s wealth are so important to him. Gold curtains and shots of his private jets are how Trump constantly reinforces his brand as the ultimate capitalist success story—power and wealth incarnate. It’s why he placed his personal wealth (however exaggerated) at the center of his campaign for president. It’s also why no labor scandal is ever going to stick to him. In the world he has created, he’s just acting like a “winner”; if someone gets stepped on, they are obviously a loser. And this doesn’t only apply to labor scandals—virtually every traditional political scandal bounces off Trump. That’s because Trump didn’t just enter politics as a so-called outsider, somebody who doesn’t play by the rules. He entered politics playing by a completely different set of rules—the rules of branding. According to those rules, you don’t need to be objectively good or decent; you only need to be true and consistent to the brand you have created. That’s why brand managers are so obsessed with discipline and repetition: once you have identified what your core brand is, your only job is to embody that brand, project that brand, and repeat its message. If you stay focused, very little can touch you. 527 That’s a problem when applied to a sitting US president, especially because over many, many years, and with a startling level of consistency, Donald Trump created a brand that is entirely amoral. 538
There is no sign that Trump is backing off exploiting that fact to its fullest advantage. According to a New York Times report in April 2017, “Mr. Trump’s enterprise, now run by his two adult sons, has 157 trademark applications pending in 36 countries.” 603
Back then, I saw branding as a colonial process: it seeks to absorb ever more space and real estate and create a self-enclosed bubble. What’s extraordinary about Donald Trump’s presidency is that now we are all inside the Trump branded world, whether we want to be or not. We have all become extras in his for-profit reality TV show, which has expanded to swallow the most powerful government in the world. Is there any escape? The essential immorality of Trump’s brand does present unique barriers to holding this administration accountable. And yet there is hope. In fact, Trump’s animating life force—the quest for money—may actually make him more vulnerable than any president before. 662
The first season of Survivor—so wildly successful that it spawned an army of imitators—was in 2000. That was two decades after the “free-market revolution” had been kicked into high gear by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, with its veneration of greed, individualism, and competition as the governing principles of society. It was now possible to peddle as mass entertainment the act of watching people turn on each other for a pot of gold. The whole genre—the alliances, the backstabbing, the one person left standing—was always a kind of capitalist burlesque. Before The Apprentice, however, there was at least the pretext that it was about something else: how to survive in the wilderness, how to catch a husband, how to be a housemate. With Donald Trump’s arrival, the veneer was gone. The Apprentice was explicitly about the race to survive in the cutthroat “jungle” of late capitalism. The first episode began with a shot of a homeless person sleeping rough on the street—a loser, in other words. Then the camera cut to Trump in his limo, living the dream—the ultimate winner. The message was unmistakable: you can be the homeless guy, or you can be Trump. That was the whole sadistic drama of the show—play your cards right and be the one lucky winner, or suffer the abject humiliation of being berated and then fired by the boss. It was quite a cultural feat: after decades of mass layoffs, declining living standards, and the normalization of extremely precarious employment, Mark Burnett and Donald Trump delivered the coup de grâce: they turned the act of firing people into mass entertainment. 725
In later seasons, the underlying cruelty of the show grew even more sadistic. The winning team lived in a luxurious mansion—drinking champagne in inflatable pool loungers, zipping off in limos to meet celebrities. The losing team was deported to tents in the backyard, nicknamed “Trump trailer park.” The tent-dwellers, whom Trump gleefully deemed the “have-nots,” didn’t have electricity, ate off paper plates, and slept to the sounds of howling dogs. They would peek through a gap in the hedge to see what decadent wonders the “haves” were enjoying. In other words, Trump and Burnett deliberately created a microcosm of the very real and ever-widening inequalities outside the show, the same injustices that have enraged many Trump voters—but they played those inequalities for kicks, turning them into a spectator sport. (There was a slight Hunger Games quality to it, though hemmed in by network television restrictions on non-simulated violence.) On one show, Trump told the tent team that “life’s a bitch,” so they’d better do everything possible to step over the losers and become a winner like him. What’s interesting about this particular piece of televised class warfare, which aired in 2007, is that the pretense sold to a previous generation—capitalism was going to create the best of all possible worlds—is completely absent. No: this is a system that generates a few big winners and hordes of losers, so you’d better make damn sure you are on the winning team. This reflects the fact that, for well over a decade now, the ideological and intellectual side of the neoliberal project has been in severe crisis. In 2016, Credit Suisse estimated that there is roughly $256 trillion in total global wealth—with a staggeringly unequal distribution: “While the bottom half collectively own less than 1 percent of total wealth, the wealthiest top 10 percent own 89 percent of all global assets.” Which is why there just aren’t many serious people left who are willing to argue, with a straight face, that giving more to the wealthy is the best way to help the poor. Trump’s pitch has always been different. From the start, it was: I will turn you into a winner—and together we can crush the losers. 741
The Tyndall Report found that, through the entire election, the three major nightly network news shows combined spent a total of just 32 minutes on “issues coverage”—down from an already paltry 220 minutes in the 2008 election. The rest was the reality show of who said what about whom, and who was leading which poll where. For millions of viewers, the result was highly entertaining. (Which is likely why French media followed a markedly similar formula to cover its high-stakes 2017 elections.) This is worth underlining: Trump didn’t create the problem—he exploited it. And because he understood the conventions of fake reality better than anyone, he took the game to a whole new level. 791
What reality television and professional wrestling have in common is that they are forms of mass entertainment that are relatively new in American culture, and they both establish a curious relationship with reality—one that is both fake and still somehow genuine at the same time. With WWE, every fight is fixed, everybody knows that it’s rehearsed. But that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment in any way. The fact that everyone is in on the joke, that the cheers and boos are part of the show, increases the fun. The artifice is not a drawback—it’s the point. Wrestling and reality TV both thrive on the spectacle of extreme emotion, conflict, and suffering. They both involve people screaming at each other and pulling each other’s hair out and, in the case of wrestling, beating the crap out of each other. But at the same time as you’re watching it, you know it’s not real, so you don’t have to care; you get to be part of the drama without having to feel any empathy. Nobody cries when wrestlers get slammed and humiliated, any more than we were meant to cry for The Apprentice contestants when Trump fired or humiliated them. It’s a safe place to laugh at suffering. And it was all part of preparing the ground for that Igor of all things fake, Donald Trump. Fake body parts, fake wrestling, fake-reality TV, fake news, and his whole fake business model. And now Trump has grafted this same warped relationship to reality onto his administration. He announces that Obama wiretapped him in the same way that a wrestler declares he’s going to annihilate and humiliate his opponent. Whether or not it’s true is beside the point. It’s part of rousing the crowd, part of the theater. The Apprentice may be off the air, and Trump may have retired his WWE career, but the show is still on. Indeed, it never stops. 815
While our branded world can exploit the unmet need to be part of something larger than ourselves, it can’t fill it in any sustained way: you make a purchase to be part of a tribe, a big idea, a revolution, and it feels good for a moment, but the satisfaction wears off almost before you’ve thrown out the packaging for that new pair of sneakers, that latest model iPhone, or whatever the surrogate is. Then you have to find a way to fill the void again. It’s the perfect formula for endless consumption and perpetual self-commodification through social media, and it’s a disaster for the planet, which cannot sustain these levels of consumption.
But it’s always worth remembering: at the heart of this cycle is that very powerful force—the human longing for community and connection, which simply refuses to die. And that means there is still hope: if we rebuild our communities and begin to derive more meaning and a sense of the good life from them, many of us are going to be less susceptible to the siren song of mindless consumerism (and while we’re at it, we might even spend less time producing and editing our personal brands on social media). 928
I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain. —JAMES BALDWIN Notes of a Native Son, 1955 943
Roughly one billion people around the world rely on the fish sustained by coral reefs for food and income. And I wanted to try to show the disaster through Toma’s eyes too. Because one of the most unjust aspects of climate disruption (and there are many) is that our actions as adults today will have their most severe impact on the lives of generations yet to come, as well as kids alive today who are too young to impact policy—kids like Toma and his friends, and their generation the world over. These children have done nothing to create the crisis, but they are the ones who will deal with the most extreme weather—the storms and droughts and fires and rising seas—and all the social and economic stresses that will flow as a result. They are the ones growing up amidst a mass extinction, robbed of so much beauty and so much of the companionship that comes from being surrounded by other life forms. It is a form of theft, of violence—what the author and theorist Rob Nixon calls “slow violence.” A clean, vibrant planet is the birthright of all living beings. That’s why the Great Barrier Reef is classified as a World Heritage Site. It belongs to the world, and it is dying on our watch.
I realized that the story I wanted to tell is about intergenerational theft and intergenerational justice. That’s why I decided to put Toma on camera for the first time; I was reluctant, but I just couldn’t tell that story without him. By the end of the day, we were all completely wiped out. We had seen so much death, so much loss, but my son had also had this special experience. That night, tucking him into bed in our Port Douglas motel room, I said: “Toma, today is the day when you discovered there is a secret world under the sea.” And he just looked up at me with an expression of pure bliss and said, “I saw it.” 992
(Exxon) also received warnings from its own senior scientists, including James Black who was categorical in his reports to his employer about the “general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.” He also wrote that “man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.” That was in 1978. By the time Rex Tillerson took over the job of general manager of the central production division of Exxon USA, these facts had long been known in the company, including the uncomfortable one about how little time remained. Despite this, ExxonMobil has since then lavished more than $30 million on think tanks that systematically spread doubt through the press about the reality of climate science. Mobil (before its merger with Exxon) even took out its own full-page ads in the New York Times casting doubt on the science. ExxonMobil is currently under investigation by the attorneys general of New York, California, and Massachusetts for these alleged deceptions. Because of this campaign of misinformation, promoted by the entire fossil fuel sector, humanity lost key decades when we could have been taking the actions necessary to move to a clean economy—the same decades in which ExxonMobil and others opened up vast frontiers for oil and gas. If we had not lost that time, the Great Barrier Reef might still be healthy today. 1011
Lots of social movements have adopted Samuel Beckett’s famous line “Try again. Fail again. Fail better” as a lighthearted motto. I’ve always liked the attitude; we can’t be perfect, we won’t always win, but we should strive to improve. The trouble is, Beckett’s dictum doesn’t work for climate—not at this stage in the game. If we keep failing to lower emissions, if we keep failing to kick-start the transition in earnest away from fossil fuels and to an economy based on renewables, if we keep dodging the question of wasteful consumption and the quest for more and more and bigger and bigger, there won’t be more opportunities to fail better. Nearly everything is moving faster than the climate change modeling projected, including Arctic sea-ice loss, ice-sheet collapse, ocean warming, sea-level rise, and coral bleaching. The next time voters in countries around the world go to the polls, more sea ice will have melted, more coastal land will have been lost, more species will have disappeared for good. The chance for us to keep temperatures below what it would take for island nations such as, say, Tuvalu or the Maldives to be saved from drowning becomes that much slimmer. These are irreversible changes—we don’t get a do-over on a drowned country. The latest peer-reviewed science tells us that if we want a good shot at protecting coastal cities in my son’s lifetime—including metropolises like New York City and Mumbai—then we need to get off fossil fuels with superhuman speed. A paper from Oxford University that came out during the campaign, published in the Applied Energy journal, concluded that for humanity to have a fifty-fifty chance of meeting the temperature targets set in the climate accord negotiated in Paris at the end of 2015, every new power plant would have to be zero-carbon starting in 2018. That’s the second year of the Trump presidency. 1041
For most of us—including me—this is very hard information to wrap our heads around, because we are used to narratives that reassure us about the inevitability of eventual progress. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It’s a powerful idea that sadly doesn’t work for the climate crisis. The wealthy governments of the world have procrastinated for so long, and made the problem so much worse in the meantime, that the arc has to bend very, very fast now—or the shot at justice is gone for good. We are almost at midnight on the climate clock. 1055
If we continue on our current pollution trajectory, we are set to warm the planet by four to six degrees Celsius. The climate scientist and emissions expert Kevin Anderson says that four degrees of warming is “incompatible with any reasonable characterization of an organized, equitable and civilized global community.” That is why governments came together in Paris and drew up an agreement to make their best efforts to get off this dangerous course, and try to limit warming to “well below” 2 degrees, pursuing efforts to keep it below 1.5 degrees. The high end of that temperature target represents double the warming we have already experienced, so it’s by no means safe. Which is why we have to try very hard to hit the lower end of that target. And that’s tough. According to a September 2016 study by the Washington-based think tank Oil Change International, if governments want a solid chance of keeping temperature increases below two degrees Celsius, then all new and undeveloped fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground. The problem is, even before Trump, no major economy was doing what was required. They were all still trying to have it all ways—introducing some solid green policies but then approving expanded fossil fuel extraction and new pipelines. It’s like eating lots of salad and a whole lot of junk food at the same time, and expecting to lose weight. 1076
Trump has killed a new program that required oil and gas companies to report how much methane—a very powerful greenhouse gas—their operations were releasing, including from leaks. Industry hated the program, which was only finalized in the last weeks of Obama’s administration, in part because it was poised to blow the lid off the claim that natural gas is in any way a climate change solution. Trump is handing the industry a big gift by effectively saying: don’t tell us, we don’t want to know. From here on in, the rest of the world will have to guess the extent to which the US is a climate renegade, because a key piece of the data won’t exist. By far the biggest threat this industry faces is the demand for real action on climate change being voiced by people around the world, and the mounting consensus that taking the crisis seriously means a halt on new fossil fuel projects. That prospect strikes terror in the hearts of fossil fuel executives and in the governments of petro-states (like Russia), because it means that trillions of dollars’ worth of proven reserves—currently propping up share prices—could become worthless overnight. This is sometimes referred to as “the carbon bubble,” and by 2016 it was already beginning to deflate. Think of Trump as the guy running to the rescue with a bicycle pump, signaling to the industry that he’s going to fill their bubble with a few more years’ worth of toxic air. How? Easy. By making climate change disappear. 1123
When hard-core conservatives deny climate change, they are not just protecting the trillions in wealth that are threatened by climate action. They are also defending something even more precious to them: an entire ideological project—neoliberalism—which holds that the market is always right, regulation is always wrong, private is good and public is bad, and taxes that support public services are the worst of all. There is a lot of confusion around the word neoliberalism, and about who is a neoliberal. And understandably so. So let’s break it down. Neoliberalism is an extreme form of capitalism that started to become dominant in the 1980s, under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, but since the 1990s has been the reigning ideology of the world’s elites, regardless of partisan affiliation. Still, its strictest and most dogmatic adherents remain where the movement started: on the US Right. Neoliberalism is shorthand for an economic project that vilifies the public sphere and anything that’s not either the workings of the market or the decisions of individual consumers. It is probably best summarized by another of Reagan’s famous phrases, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Under the neoliberal worldview, governments exist in order to create the optimal conditions for private interests to maximize their profits and wealth, based on the theory that the profits and economic growth that follow will benefit everyone in the trickle-down from the top—eventually. If it doesn’t work, and stubborn inequalities remain or worsen (as they invariably do), then according to this worldview, that must be the personal failing of the individuals and communities that are suffering. They must have “a culture of crime,” say, or lack a “work ethic,” or perhaps it’s absentee fathers, or some other racially tinged excuse for why government policy and public funds should never be used to reduce inequalities, improve lives, or address structural crises. 1199
The primary tools of this project are all too familiar: privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sphere, and low taxes paid for by cuts to public services, and all of this locked in under corporate-friendly trade deals. It’s the same recipe everywhere, regardless of context, history, or the hopes and dreams of the people who live there. Larry Summers, when he was chief economist of the World Bank in 1991, summed up the ethos: “Spread the truth—the laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. One set of laws works everywhere.” (Which is why I sometimes call neoliberalism “McGovernment.”) The 1989 collapse of the Berlin Wall was interpreted as the signal to take the campaign global. With socialism in decline, there was seemingly no longer any need to soften capitalism’s edges anywhere. As Thatcher famously declared, “There is no alternative.” (Another way of thinking about this is that neoliberalism is simply capitalism without competition, or capitalism lying on the couch in its undershirt saying, “What are you going to do, leave me?”) Neoliberalism is a very profitable set of ideas, which is why I am always a little hesitant to describe it as an ideology. What it really is, at its core, is a rationale for greed. That’s what the American billionaire Warren Buffett meant when he made headlines a few years ago by telling CNN that “there’s been class warfare going on for the last twenty years, and my class has won…the rich class.” He was referring to the tremendous tax cuts the wealthy have enjoyed in this period, but you could extend that to the whole neoliberal policy package. 1214
Because climate change, especially at this late date, can only be dealt with through collective action that sharply curtails the behavior of corporations such as ExxonMobil and Goldman Sachs. It demands investments in the public sphere—in new energy grids, public transit and light rail, and energy efficiency—on a scale not seen since the Second World War. And that can only happen by raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, the very people Trump is determined to shower with the most generous tax cuts, loopholes and regulatory breaks. Responding to climate change also means giving communities the freedom to prioritize local green industries—a process that often clashes directly with the corporate free trade deals that have been such an integral part of neoliberalism, and which bar “buy local” rules as protectionist. (Trump campaigned against those parts of free trade deals, but, as we will see in Chapter 6, he has no intention of rescinding those rules.) In short, climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. To admit that the climate crisis is real is to admit the end of the neoliberal project. 1228
Many grassroots organizations have sprung up to provide direct aid where governments have failed. When large numbers of migrants began arriving in Greece in 2015, they encountered a people who had “endured five years of austerity shock treatment, who had seen their lives degraded and their social, political and labor rights vanishing,” writes sociologist Theodoros Karyotis. And yet, rather than jealously guard what little they had left, locals met migrants with an “outpouring of solidarity.” Thousands of Greeks opened their homes to refugees, millions of home-cooked meals were delivered to refugee camps, free health care was provided in community-run clinics, and a warehouse in a worker-run factory was opened to collect donated items such as clothes and baby food. In Germany, as proposals surfaced that migrants be housed in dodgy conditions that included school gyms, vacant office buildings, empty warehouses, army barracks, and even a former Nazi forced-labor camp, people organized an “Airbnb for refugees,” matching migrant families in need of a safe place to stay with spare rooms in local houses. The effort has now spread to thirteen other countries. My country is home to a remarkable pro-refugee movement that has seen thousands of Canadians sponsor Syrian families, taking financial and interpersonal responsibility for the newcomers’ needs for one year as they adjusted to a new language, culture, and climate. The New York Times described it as “the world’s most personal resettlement program.” 3018
If Obama had taken a transformative approach to the failed banks and auto companies and to the reckless energy sector when he came into office, the backlash would have been ferocious and difficult to bear. He would have been painted as a communist, the US’s own Hugo Chávez. On the other hand, his mandate for widespread change, along with the outpouring of goodwill that greeted his election, was accompanied by such rare economic powers that it could well have ushered in a new era of economic fairness and climate stability. 3139
The kind of outside pressure that has leveraged major policy victories in the past was largely MIA during Obama’s first term. Despite some valiant attempts, there was no united progressive coalition pressuring Obama to make more of his unique moment in history, pushing him to deliver big on jobs, racial justice, clean air, clean water, and better services. That was a mistake. As the great (and much-missed) historian Howard Zinn once wrote, “The really critical thing isn’t who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in—in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating. Those are the things that determine what happens.” The bottom line is that in 2009, as theorists and organizers, we weren’t ready—too many of us were waiting for change to be delivered from on high. And by the time most of us realized how inadequate that change was, the window had closed and the Tea Party was already on the rise. 3145
Remembering When We Leapt
Before shock doctrine politics became the norm in the eighties, crises that were obviously born of financial greed and corporate malfeasance often sparked very different responses. In fact, they provoked some of the most momentous progressive victories in modern history.
In the United States, after the carnage of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, Blacks and their radical allies pushed for economic justice and greater social rights. They won major victories, including free public education for all children—although it would take another century before schools were desegregated.
The horrific 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City, which took the lives of 146 young immigrant garment workers, catalyzed hundreds of thousands of workers into militancy—eventually leading to an overhaul of the state labor code, caps on overtime, new rules for child labor, and breakthroughs in health and fire safety regulations. 3153
Most significantly, it was only thanks to the collective response from below to the Great Crash of 1929 that the New Deal became possible. The strike wave of the mid-1930s—the Teamsters’ rebellion and Minneapolis general strike, the 83-day shutdown of the west coast by longshore workers, and the Flint sit-down strikes in the auto plants—established the power of industrial unions, and forced owners to share a great deal more wealth with their workers. In this same period, as a response to the suffering brought on by the Great Depression, mass movements demanded sweeping social programs such as Social Security and unemployment insurance (programs from which the majority of African-American and many women workers were notably excluded). In the same period, tough new rules regulating the financial sector were introduced, at real cost to unfettered profit making. Across the industrialized world, pressure from social movements created the conditions for programs like the New Deal, featuring ambitious investments in public infrastructure—utilities, transportation systems, housing, and more—on a scale comparable to what the climate crisis calls for today. (Just as the wreckage of the Second World War provided another such catalyst.)
In 1969, there was an oil spill in Santa Barbara, which coated California’s beautiful beaches, and it was something like a Great Crash for the environment—a shock millions responded to by demanding fundamental change. Many of North America’s toughest laws protecting air, water, and endangered species can trace their roots back to the popular anger that exploded in response to that disaster (also the river through Cleveland Ohio catching fire). 3162
In all these cases, a painful crisis served as a wake-up call, ushering in meaningful legislation that created a fairer and safer society—thanks in no small part to the hard work of organizers who had been preparing the ground for years before the shocks hit. These were far from perfect reforms, not full-scale transformations, and yet they were directly responsible for winning much of the modern social safety net, as well as the regulatory structures that protect so many workers and public health. Moreover, winning them did not require authoritarian trickery. They were so popular with voters that they didn’t have to be snuck in under cover of crisis but rather were loudly demanded by muscular social movements—a deepening of democracy, not its subversion. So why did those crises produce such visionary change, while more recent ones—Katrina, the subprime mortgage debacle, BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster—have left so little progressive public policy behind?
When Utopia Lends a Hand (or the importance of Vision, Faith, Hope, and Love)
Here is one theory: The interplay between lofty dreams and earthly victories has always been at the heart of moments of deep transformation. The breakthroughs won for workers and their families after the Civil War and during the Great Depression, as well as for civil rights and the environment in the sixties and early seventies, were not just responses to crises. They were responses to crises that unfolded in times when people dared to dream big, out loud, in public—explosions of utopian imagination. 3173
The Gilded Age strikers of the late nineteenth century, enraged by the enormous fortunes being amassed off the backs of repressed laborers, were inspired by the Paris Commune, when the working people of Paris took over the governing of their city for months. They dreamed of a “cooperative commonwealth,” a world where work was but one element of a well-balanced life, with plenty of time for leisure, family, and art. Utopian socialist fiction, including Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, topped the best-seller lists (in sharp contrast to today, when it is classic dystopian fiction—George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here—that has reappeared on best-seller lists since Trump’s inauguration).
Working-class organizers in the Great Depression were versed not only in Marx but also in W.E.B. Du Bois, whose vision was of a pan–working class movement that could unite the downtrodden to transform an unjust economic system. As historian Robin D.G. Kelley has written, the end of the nineteenth century was a period of foment for “black-led biracial democratic, populist, and radical movements.”
The same is true of the hard-won victories of the civil rights era. It was the movement’s transcendent dream—whether articulated in the oratory of Martin Luther King Jr. or in the vision of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—that created the space for, and inspired, the grassroots organizing that in turn led to tangible wins. A similar utopian fervor in the late sixties and early seventies—emerging out of the countercultural upheaval, when young people were questioning just about everything—laid the groundwork for feminist, lesbian and gay, and environmental breakthroughs. 3186
The New Deal, it is always worth remembering, was adopted by President Roosevelt at a time of such progressive and Left militancy that its programs—radical by today’s standards—appeared at the time to be the only way to prevent full-scale revolution. And this was no idle threat. When Upton Sinclair, the muckraking author of The Jungle, ran for governor of California in 1934, it was something like the Bernie Sanders campaign of its day. Sinclair was a champion of a more left-wing version of the New Deal, arguing that the key to ending poverty was full state funding of workers’ cooperatives. He received nearly 900,000 votes, but fell short of winning the governor’s office. (If you didn’t learn this in history class, it may not be a coincidence. As the Czech novelist Milan Kundera famously observed, “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”) 3200
By the time the 2008 financial fiasco was unfolding, that utopian imagination had largely atrophied. A great many people knew that the appropriate response to the crisis was moral outrage, that gifting the banks with trillions, refusing to prosecute those responsible, and asking the poor and elderly to pay the steepest costs was an obscenity. Yet generations who had grown up under neoliberalism struggled to picture something, anything, other than what they had always known. This may also have something to do with the power of memory.
When workers rose up against the depravities of the industrial age, many had living memories of a different kind of economy. Others were actively fighting to protect an existing way of life, whether it was the family farm that was being lost to predatory creditors or small-scale artisanal businesses being wiped out by industrial capitalism. Having known something different, they were capable of imagining—and fighting for—a radically better future.
Even those who have never known anything but enslavement and apartheid have been endlessly creative in finding ways—often through clandestine art forms—to nurture and keep alive the dream of freedom, self-government, and democracy. As the Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Junot Díaz observed shortly after the 2016 election, forecasting the hard times ahead: Those of us whose ancestors were owned and bred like animals know that future all too well, because it is, in part, our past. And we know that by fighting, against all odds, we who had nothing, not even our real names, transformed the universe. Our ancestors did this with very little, and we who have more must do the same. 3208
It is this imaginative capacity, the ability to envision a world radically different from the present, that has been largely missing since the cry of No first began echoing around the world in 2008. In the West, there is little popular memory of any other kind of economic system. There are specific cultures and communities—most notably Indigenous communities—that have vigilantly kept alive memories and models of other ways to live, not based on ownership of the land and endless extraction of profit. But most of us who are outside those traditions find ourselves fully within capitalism’s matrix—so while we can demand slight improvements to our current conditions, imagining something else entirely is distinctly more difficult. Which is partially why the movements that did emerge—from Europe’s “movement of the squares” to Occupy Wall Street and even Egypt’s revolution—were very clear on their “no”: no to the greed of the bankers, no to austerity, and, in Egypt, no to dictatorship. But what was too often missing was a clear and captivating vision of the world beyond that no. And in its absence, the shocks kept coming. With unleashed white supremacy and misogyny, with the world teetering on the edge of ecological collapse, with the very last vestiges of the public sphere set to be devoured by capital, it’s clear that we need to do more than draw a line in the sand and say “no more.” Yes, we need to do that and we need to chart a credible and inspiring path to a different future. And that future cannot simply be where we were before Trump came along (aka the world that gave us Trump). It has to be somewhere we have never been before. 3222
As Oscar Wilde wrote in 1891, “a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.” Part of that voyage is not just talking and writing about the future we want—but building it as we go. It’s a principle I saw in action (and prayer, and song) in Standing Rock 3237 (and) Elder LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who in many ways had got all this resistance going when she opened the first camp on her land, the Sacred Stone Camp. That was in April 2016. Eight months later, here she was, eyes still sparkling, betraying not a bit of fatigue despite playing den mother to thousands of people who had come from across the world to be part of this historic movement. She told me that the camp had become a home and a community to hundreds and then thousands. It had also become a field hospital—for those injured by the police attacks, and also those psychically frightened by what Trump’s rise was already unleashing. Learning by Living Brave Bull Allard, who is the official historian of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said that, most of all, the encampment had become a school—for Indigenous youth seeking to connect more deeply with their own culture, to live on the land and in ceremony, and also for non-Indigenous people who realized that the moment called for skills and knowledge most of us don’t have. “My grandkids can’t believe how little some of the white people know,” she told me, laughing, but without judgment. “They come running: ‘Grandma! The white people don’t know how to chop wood! Can we teach them?’ I say, ‘Yes, teach them.’ ” Brave Bull Allard herself patiently taught hundreds of visitors what she considered basic survival skills: how to use sage as a natural disinfectant, how to stay warm and dry in North Dakota’s vicious storms (“everyone needs at least six tarps,” she declared sternly). 3275
She told me she had come to understand that, although stopping the pipeline was crucial, there was something greater at work in this convergence. She said the camps were now a place where Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike were learning to live in relationship and community with the land. And for her, it was not just the hard skills that mattered. This moment was also about exposing visitors to the traditions and ceremonies that had been kept alive despite hundreds of years of genocidal attacks on Indigenous people and culture. This, she told me, is why the traditions survived the onslaught. “We knew this day was coming—the unification of all the tribes….We are here to protect the earth and the water. This is why we are still alive. To do this very thing we are doing. To help humanity answer its most pressing question: how do we live with the earth again, not against it?” And this teaching needs to happen fast, she said—climate disruption is kicking in. If non-Indigenous people don’t start to learn how to take care of earth’s life-sustaining systems, then we are all cooked. With this in mind, Brave Bull Allard saw the camps as just the beginning. After the pipeline was defeated, she said, the Standing Rock Sioux needed to turn themselves into a model for green energy and sustainable living. 3288
“We taught them how to grow food, keep warm, build longhouses.” But the taking never ended, from the earth and from Indigenous people. And now, Two Bears says, “things are getting worse. So the first people of this land have to teach this country how to live again. By going green, by going renewable, by using the blessings the Creator has given us: the sun and the wind. We are going to start in Native country. And we’re going to show the rest of the country how to live.”
Age of the Protectors
At Standing Rock, I found myself thinking a lot about what it means to be a protector. Leaders of the movement here had insisted from day one that they were not “protesters” out to make trouble, but “water protectors” determined to stop a whole other order of trouble. And then there were all the vets in t-shirts that said To Serve and Protect, deciding that living up to that oath meant putting themselves on the front line to protect the rights of the continent’s First Peoples. And I thought about my own duty to be a protector—of my son, and his friends, and the kids yet to come, in the face of the rocky future we’ve locked in for all of them. The role of the protector, in the wrong hands, can be lethal. In moments of crisis, strong men step into it with far too much ease, announcing themselves ready to protect the flock from all evil, asking only absolute power and blind obedience in return. Yet the spirit of protection that infused the camp had nothing in common with that all-powerful patriarchal figure. Here was a protection born of intimate knowledge of human frailty, and it was not the one-way, passive kind of protection that can go so very wrong. This protection was reciprocal and it blurred all separation: the water, land, and air protect and sustain all of us—the very least we can do is protect them (or is it us?) when they (or is it we?) are threatened. When the people here faced off against armored tanks and riot police, chanting Mni Wiconi, they were giving voice to that core principle: protect the water, because water protects all of us. 3302
The same sense of vulnerability and reciprocity guided the veterans’ presence as well. On December 5, the Obama administration announced it had denied the permit to lay the pipeline under the tribe’s water reservoir. That evening, a “forgiveness ceremony” was held on the reservation. For hours, hundreds of vets lined up to beg forgiveness of the elders for crimes committed against Indigenous peoples over centuries by the military institutions they served. Wesley Clark Jr., one of the main organizers of the veterans’ delegation to Standing Rock, began by saying: Many of us, me particularly, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. Then we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried…to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways but we have come to say that we are sorry. 3318
As the great Anishinaabe writer and organizer Winona LaDuke wrote of the standoff, “This is a moment of extreme corporate rights and extreme racism faced with courage, prayers and resolve.” It’s a battle that knows no borders. All around the world, the people doing the sacred work of protecting fragile ecologies from industrial onslaught are facing dirty wars. According to a report from the human rights watchdog Global Witness, “More than three people were killed a week in 2015 defending their land, forests and rivers against destructive industries…. Increasingly communities that take a stand are finding themselves in the firing line of companies’ private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers.” About 40 percent of the victims, they estimate, are Indigenous. 3345
So many of the crises we are facing are symptoms of the same underlying sickness: a dominance-based logic that treats so many people, and the earth itself, as disposable. We came together out of a belief that the persistence of these disconnections, of this siloed thinking, is why progressives are losing ground on virtually every front, left fighting for scraps when we all know that our historical moment demands transformative change. These divisions and compartmentalizations—the hesitancy to identify the systems we are up against—are robbing us of our full potential, and have trained too many to believe that lasting solutions will always be out of reach. We also came together out of a belief that overcoming those divisions—finding and strengthening the threads that run through our various issues and movements—is our most pressing task. That out of those connections would emerge a larger and more fired-up progressive coalition than we have seen in decades, one capable of taking on not only the symptoms of a failed system, but maybe even the system itself. Our goal, and it wasn’t modest, was to try to map not just the world we don’t want but the one we want instead. 3401
from road rage to screen addiction. So we asked ourselves to imagine: what would it take to build happier, healthier communities? And could those be the same things that would make the planet healthier? In short, we aimed high. It felt, on some cellular level, like the only moral thing to do: for everyone in the room, whether they were working on migration or homelessness or Indigenous land rights or the climate, there had rarely been so much at stake. The goal was to come up with a vision so concrete and inspiring that voters could, practically speaking, do two things at once. They could go to the polls to vote against what they didn’t want (the disastrous government of the day); and they would still have a space, even if it was outside electoral politics, to say yes to a vision we hoped would reflect what many actually do want, by adding their names to our people’s platform or otherwise voicing public support. We figured that if we built up enough momentum behind the platform, it might exert some pressure on our elected representatives. But before that could happen, we first had to agree on the planks of the document—and that wasn’t going to be easy. 3463
There were a few ground rules in that initial meeting, some unspoken, some not. The first was that no one was allowed to play “my crisis is bigger than your crisis,” nor argue that, because of the urgency and scope of the climate crisis, it should take precedence over fighting poverty or racism or other major concerns. Instead of ranking issues, we started from the premise that we live in a time of multiple, intersecting crises, and since all of them are urgent, we cannot afford to fix them sequentially. What we need are integrated solutions, concrete ideas for how to radically bring down emissions while creating huge numbers of unionized jobs and delivering meaningful justice to those who have been abused and excluded under the current extractive economy. Another ground rule was that respectful conflict is healthy and a necessary part of getting to new territory. Arguments mean it’s working! Many of the groups and people in the room talked about how, while they had formed coalitions before, most had been coalitions of “no”—no to a lousy pro-corporate trade deal, no to a punishing austerity agenda, no to a particularly egregious politician, no to oil pipelines or fracking. But we realized that it had been a long time since the progressive side of the political spectrum had assembled to say yes, let alone yes to a sweeping vision for the next economy. So conflicts were inevitable, especially since, like all gatherings, ours was imperfect, with people missing from the room who should have been there. There were moments of ease and joy too, where ideas for a “just transition” flowed fast and furious. Whiteboards grew crowded with suggestions and questions: • Free high-quality child care. • Less driving. • Less work, more music and gardens and family. • Super-fast trains. Solar roads. 3474
We also heard challenges we knew we couldn’t resolve in two days but would continue puzzling over for years: • If we don’t address ownership, how can we move toward equitable justice? • How do we move beyond the idea that what we own is what protects us? Security comes from community, from solidarity. Security is based on how solid my ties are, not how much I own. • How do we build the public sector so we, the public, feel part of it? We should all feel ownership over public housing, public resources. • How can we ensure that informal and unpaid work around caregiving, domestic work, and land care is recognized and valued in a just transition? • What should a guaranteed basic income look like? • Climate justice is indivisible from decolonization. How do we imagine reparations to the people most impacted by extractive industries and climate change? And on all our minds as so many thousands of refugees continued to flee their homes in search of safety: • Migrants are not looking at the climate crisis. They are in the climate crisis. 3490
On making synthesis possible. One such theme was that we have a system based on limitless taking and extracting, on maximum grabbing. Our economy takes endlessly from workers, asking more and more from them in ever-tighter time frames, even as employers offer less and less security and lower wages in return. Many of our communities are being pushed to a similar breaking point: schools, parks, transit, and other services have had resources clawed back from them over many decades, even as residents have less time to fill in the gaps. And of course we are all part of a system that takes endlessly from the earth’s natural bounty, without protecting cycles of regeneration, and while paying dangerously little attention to where we are offloading pollution, whether it be into the water systems that sustain life or the atmosphere that keeps our climate system in balance. Listening to the stories—workers being laid off after a lifetime of service, immigrants facing indefinite detention under deplorable conditions, Indigenous knowledge and culture ignored and attacked—it was clear to all of us that this is what a system addicted to short-term profits and wealth is structurally required to do: it treats people and the earth either like resources to be mined to their limits or as garbage to be disposed of far out of sight, whether deep in the ocean or deep in a prison cell. 3506
In sharp contrast, when people spoke about the world they wanted, the words care and caretaking came up again and again—care for the land, for the planet’s living systems, and for one another. As we talked, that became a frame within which everything seemed to fit: the need for a shift from a system based on endless taking—from the earth and from one another—to a culture based on caretaking, the principle that when we take, we also take care and give back. A system in which everyone is valued, and we don’t treat people or the natural world as if they were disposable. Acting with care and consent, rather than extractively and through force, became the idea binding the whole draft together, starting with respect for the knowledge and inherent rights of Indigenous peoples, the original caretakers of the land, water, and air. Though many of us (including me) had originally thought we were convening to draft a list of policy goals, we realized that this shift in values, and indeed in morality, was at the core of what we were trying to map.
The specifics of policy all flowed from that shift. For example, when we talk about “green jobs,” we usually picture a guy in a hard hat putting up a solar array. And that is one kind of green job, and an important one. But it’s not the only one. Looking after elderly and sick people doesn’t burn a lot of carbon. Making art doesn’t burn a lot of carbon. Teaching is low-carbon. Day care is low-carbon. And yet this work, overwhelmingly done by women, tends to be undervalued and underpaid, and is frequently the target of government cutbacks. So we decided to deliberately extend the traditional definition of a green job to anything useful and enriching to our communities that doesn’t burn a lot of fossil fuels. As one participant said: “Nursing is renewable energy. Education is renewable energy.” It was an attempt, in short, to show how to replace an economy built on destruction with an economy built on love.
We tried to touch on as many issues as possible that reflected the values shift people were calling for (from welcoming many more migrants to putting an end to trade deals that force us to choose between “growth” on the one hand and protecting the environment and creating local jobs on the other). But we also decided to resist the temptation to make laundry lists that would cover every conceivable demand. Instead, we emphasized the frame that showed how so many of our challenges—and solutions—are interconnected, because the frame could then be expanded in whatever place or community the vision was applied. 3516
At the same time, there were certain demands, specific to different groups in the room, that needed to be in the platform. For the Indigenous participants, it was crucial to call for the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that no development can take place on the land of Indigenous peoples without their “free, prior and informed consent.” For the climate activists, there needed to be an acknowledgment that no new fossil fuel infrastructure can be built. For trade union participants, it was critical to call for workers to be not only retrained for new green jobs but democratic participants in that retraining.
For many people in the room, a bright red line was a rejection of nostalgia. The platform could not fall back on an idealized memory of a country that had always relied on land theft and the systematic economic and social exclusion of many communities of color. The inspiration would have to come from the picture of the future that we painted together. Ellen Gabriel, one of the coauthors of the draft and a well-known Indigenous rights activist from Kanehsatà:ke in the province of Quebec, said the process for her represented “a rebirth of humanity.” Rebirth, not a resurrection. 3537
Christina Sharpe, a Tufts professor of English who wrote a powerful book called In the Wake about the ongoing reverberations of the slave trade, participated in a recent discussion inspired by the platform and offered an important warning on this score: the task, she said, was “to connect but not collapse.” This means that though we can and must look for points of unity and commonality across very different experiences and issues, everything cannot be blended into an indecipherable mush of lowest-common-denominator platitudes. The integrity of individual movements, the specificities of community experiences, must be reflected and protected, even as we come together in an attempt to weave a unified vision.
In It Together
In a way, we asked ourselves this: what are the qualities that we value most in people? Those included: generosity, hospitality, warmth, and wisdom. And then we asked ourselves: what do those qualities look like when expressed in public, as policy?
We discovered that one of the things those qualities reflect is openness. Which means nurturing a culture that welcomes those in need, rather than greeting strangers with fear and suspicion; that values elders and the knowledge they have accumulated over lifetimes, as well as the ways of knowing that long predate this very recent invention called Canada. 3547
Today, the energy most of us use is owned by a tiny number of corporations that generate it for the profit of their shareholders. Their primary goal, indeed their fiduciary duty, is to produce maximum profit—which is why most energy companies have been so reluctant to switch to renewables.
But what, we asked, if the energy we use was owned by ordinary citizens, and controlled democratically? What if we changed the nature of the energy and the structure of its ownership? So we decided that we didn’t want to be buying renewable power from ExxonMobil and Shell, even if they were offering it—we wanted that power generation to be owned by the public, by communities, or by energy cooperatives. If energy systems are owned by us, democratically, then we can use the revenues to build social services needed in rural areas, towns, and cities—day cares, elder care, community centers, and transit systems (instead of wasting it on, say, $180-million retirement packages for the likes of Rex Tillerson). This turn toward community-controlled energy was pioneered in Denmark in the eighties, with government policies that encouraged and subsidized co-operatively owned wind farms, and it has been embraced on a large scale in Germany. (Roughly half of Germany’s renewable energy facilities are in the hands of farmers, citizen groups, and almost nine hundred energy cooperatives; in Denmark in 2000, roughly 85 percent of the country’s wind turbines were owned by small players such as farmers and co-ops.) Both countries have shown that this model carries immense social benefits and is compatible with a very rapid transition. There are some days when Denmark generates far more power from its wind farms than it can use—so it exports the surplus to Germany and Sweden. 3566
Our collective reliance on dirty energy over the past couple of hundred years has taken its highest toll on the poorest and most vulnerable people, overwhelmingly Indigenous and immigrant. That’s whose lands have been stolen and poisoned by mining. That’s who gets the most polluting refineries and power plants in their neighborhoods. So in addition to calling for “energy democracy” on the German model, we placed reparative justice at the center of the energy transition, calling for Indigenous and other front-line communities (such as immigrant neighborhoods where coal plants have fouled the air) to be first in line to receive public funds to own and control their own green energy projects—with the jobs, profits, and skills staying in those communities.
A justice-based transition also means that workers in high-carbon sectors—many of whom have sacrificed their health in coal mines and oil refineries—must be full and democratic participants. Our guiding principle was: no worker left behind. In summary, our plan argued that in the process of fundamentally changing our country to make it cleaner, we also have a historic opportunity to make it a lot fairer. As we move to get off fossil fuels, we can simultaneously begin to redress the terrible wrongs done to Indigenous peoples; radically reduce economic, racial, and gender inequalities; eliminate glaring double standards for immigrant workers; and we can create a whole lot of stable, well-paying jobs in green sectors, in land and water remediation, and in the caring professions.
Kids would have an opportunity to be healthier because they wouldn’t be breathing toxic air; our increasingly aging society could be provided with healthier community living; and we could spend less time stuck in traffic, working long hours, and more time with our friends and families. A happier, more balanced society, in other words, with the definition of happiness liberated from the endless cycle of ever-escalating consumption that underlies the logic of branding (and fueled the rise of Donald Trump). 3583
We worked closely with a team of economists to cost out how we could raise the revenues to pay for our plan. The key tools included:
- Getting a fairer share of the financial sector’s massive earnings by imposing a transaction tax (which could raise $650 billion globally, according to the European Parliament);
- Increasing royalties on fossil fuel extraction;
- Raising income taxes on corporations and the wealthiest people (lots of room there—a one-percent billionaire’s tax alone could raise $45 billion globally, according to the United Nations);
- Ending fossil fuel subsidies (worth about $775 billion globally);
- A progressive carbon tax (a $50 tax per metric ton of CO2 emitted in developed countries would raise an estimated $450 billion annually); and making cuts to military spending (if the military budgets of the top ten military spenders globally were cut by 25 percent, that would free up $325 billion, according to numbers reported by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). To our chagrin, we neglected to include a call to
- Shut down tax havens, perhaps the greatest potential revenue source of all.
The math is clear: the money for this great transition is out there—we just need governments with the guts to go after it. So that, in summary, was our vision—to invest in those sectors that tangibly improve our quality of life and create more caring societies, rather than hacking away at them in the name of that manufactured crisis called “austerity.” And we were committed to embedding justice in every aspect of the transition. 3603
This give-and-take reflected the principles and values that emerged from our discussions: if the goal is to move from a society based on endless taking and depletion to one based on caretaking and renewal, then all of our relationships have to be grounded in those same principles of reciprocity and care—because our relationships with one another are our most valuable resource of all. And that’s the antithesis of bullying one another into submission.
Yes to the “Yes”
After a few weeks of back-and-forth over wording, we had a final draft of the platform, acceptable to almost everyone at the original gathering. (The full text appears at the end of the book.) We also agreed on a name: The Leap Manifesto—A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another. We chose leap because it raises a defiant middle finger to centrist incrementalism—the kind that calls itself “cautious” but is in fact exquisitely dangerous at this late stage in the climate crisis. The gap between where we are and where we need to go is so great, and the time left is so short, that small steps are not going to cut it—we need to leap. 3620
My partner, Avi Lewis, who is one of the document’s coauthors, puts it like this: With The Leap, the scale of the plan matches the scale of the crisis. And for many of us, this comes as a cosmic relief—at last, a set of demands that actually acknowledges how much and how fast we need to change.
The Leap rings true because it sees the climate crisis not as a technical problem to be solved by engineers, but as a crisis of a system and an economic philosophy. The Leap identifies the root cause of the climate crisis—and it’s the dominant economic logic of our time: extractivism to feed perpetual growth rooted in ever-increasing consumption…. That’s a scary level of change, but it’s honest. And people know in their bones that it’s the kind of change we need.
Before releasing it to the public, we asked many organizations and trusted public figures to become initiating signatories. Again and again, we heard: Yes. This is who we want to be. Let’s push our politicians. Cautious centrism be damned. National icons stood with us without hesitation: Neil Young. Leonard Cohen (then still with us). The novelist Yann Martel wrote back that it should “be shouted in every square by every town crier this country has.” This was a rare document that could be signed by large organizations such as Greenpeace and Oxfam, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (the largest in the country), the head of the Canadian Labour Congress (the union of unions), as well as truly grassroots groups such as Black Lives Matter–Toronto and No One Is Illegal–Coast Salish Territories and the country’s largest membership-based advocacy organization, the Council of Canadians. Original endorsers included supporters of all parties, and some who support none. All shared the belief that if the major political parties weren’t offering voters a plan commensurate with the multiple crises we face, then it would have to come from outside electoral politics.
Within days of The Leap’s launch, thousands of people had added their names, soon tens of thousands, and well over two hundred endorsing organizations. We were stunned. It was clear that a whole lot of people, after decades of fighting against what they don’t want—tar sands pipelines, money in politics, corporate trade deals, draconian security bills—were ready to rally around the world they do want. 3630
Despite some mystified mainstream reporting, people kept signing, kept asking us for Leap lawn signs, kept self-organizing local Leap chapters in their cities, towns, schools, and unions. And they kept sending us photos of their Leap teach-ins, sit-ins, and rallies—even audio of the songs it was inspiring. A national poll found that a clear majority of supporters of all three center and center-left parties—the Liberals, the NDP, and the Green Party—were in agreement with The Leap’s key demands. Even 20 percent of Conservatives said they were on board. 3662
Postal Service example…instead of fighting for the best deal they can get under this failed logic, they worked with The Leap team and a group called Friends of Public Services to put together a visionary plan for every post office in the country to become a local hub for the green transition. Combined with the union’s long-standing demand for postal banking, the proposal, called “Delivering Community Power,” reimagines the post office as a twenty-first-century network where residents can recharge electric vehicles; individuals and businesses can do an end run around the big banks and get a loan to start an energy co-op; and postal workers do more than deliver the mail—they also deliver locally grown produce and check in on the elderly. In other words, they become care workers, and climate workers—and they do it all in vehicles that are electric and made in Canada. 3682
The vitality of The Leap today, especially since Trump’s election, lies in the people, inside Canada and out, who are using it more and more as the basis for their own local work and electoral platforms. For instance, in Thunder Bay, a northern Canadian city with a long reliance on logging, a local Leap group has decided to run a slate of candidates for city council, writing their own version of the manifesto and using it to lay out how their city could be a hub for green manufacturing while battling homelessness and defending Indigenous land rights. And in March 2017, in a hard-fought campaign for state representative in Pennsylvania, legendary housing and anti-poverty activist Cheri Honkala ran on a pledge to create “a platform derived from the Leap Manifesto,” citing the need to address the “crises of climate change, inequality, and racism together.”
Utopia—Back by Popular Demand
The Leap is part of a shift in the political zeitgeist, as many are realizing that the future depends on our ability to come together across painful divides, and to take leadership from those who traditionally have been most excluded. We have reached the limits of siloed politics, where everyone fights in their own corner without mapping the connections between our various struggles, and without a clear idea of the concepts and values that must form the moral foundation of the future we need. 3690
In the United States, the boldest and most inspiring example of this new utopianism is the Vision for Black Lives, a sweeping policy platform released in the summer of 2016 by the Movement for Black Lives. Born of a coalition of over fifty Black-led organizations, the platform states, “We reject false solutions and believe we can achieve a complete transformation of the current systems, which place profit over people and make it impossible for many of us to breathe.” It goes on to place police shootings and mass incarceration in the context of an economic system that has waged war on Black and brown communities, putting them first in line for lost jobs, hacked-back social services, and environmental pollution. The result has been huge numbers of people exiled from the formal economy, preyed upon by increasingly militarized police, and warehoused in overcrowded prisons. And the platform makes a series of concrete proposals, including defunding prisons, removing police from schools, and demilitarizing police. It also lays out a program for reparations for slavery and systemic discrimination, one that includes free college education and forgiveness of student loans. There is much more—nearly forty policy demands in all, spanning changes to the tax code to breaking up the banks. The Atlantic magazine remarked that the platform—which was dropped smack in the middle of the US presidential campaign—“rivals even political-party platforms in thoroughness.” 3719
The new coalition argues, “it is imperative that we put forth a true, collective vision of economic justice and worker justice, for all people.” 3734
Several similar state-level convergences are also under way, in Michigan as well as North Carolina, where “Moral Mondays” have been bringing movements together for several years. As one of its founders, Reverend William Barber, has said, “You have to build a movement, not a moment…I believe all these movements—Moral Mondays, Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter—are signs of hope that people are going to stand up and not stand down.” 3737
A powerful and broad coalition called New York Renews is pushing hard for the state to transition entirely to renewable energy by 2050. If more US states adopt these kinds of ambitious targets, and other countries do the same (Sweden, for instance, has a target of carbon neutrality by 2045), then Trump and Tillerson’s most nefarious efforts may be insufficient to tip the planet into climate chaos. It’s becoming possible to see a genuine path forward—new political formations that, from their inception, will marry the fight for economic fairness with a deep analysis of how racism and misogyny are used as potent tools to enforce a system that further enriches the already obscenely wealthy on the backs of both people and the planet. Formations that could become home to the millions of people who are engaging in activism and organizing for the first time, knitting together a multiracial and intergenerational coalition bound by a common transformational project.
The plans that are taking shape for defeating Trumpism wherever we live go well beyond finding a progressive savior to run for office and then offering that person our blind support. Instead, communities and movements are uniting to lay out the core policies that politicians who want their support must endorse. The people’s platforms are starting to lead—and the politicians will have to follow. 3742
A state of shock is produced when a story is ruptured, when we have no idea what’s going on. But in so many ways explored in these pages, Trump is not a rupture at all, but rather the culmination—the logical end point—of a great many dangerous stories our culture has been telling for a very long time. That greed is good. That the market rules. That money is what matters in life. That white men are better than the rest. That the natural world is there for us to pillage. That the vulnerable deserve their fate and the one percent deserve their golden towers. That anything public or commonly held is sinister and not worth protecting. That we are surrounded by danger and should only look after our own. That there is no alternative to any of this. Given these stories are, for many of us, part of the very air we breathe, Trump really shouldn’t come as a shock. A billionaire president who boasts he can grab women by their genitals while calling Mexicans “rapists” and jeering at the disabled is the logical expression of a culture that grants indecent levels of impunity to the ultrarich, that is consumed with winner-take-all competition, and that is grounded in dominance-based logic at every level. We should have been expecting him. And indeed, many of those most directly touched by the underbelly of Western racism and misogyny have 3760
We should see America’s first nuclear-armed reality TV president in a similar fashion, as dystopian fiction come to life. Trump is a mirror, held up not only to the United States but to the world. If we don’t like what we see—and throngs of us clearly do not—then it is clear what we need to do. We have to question not only Trump but the stories that ineluctably produced him. It’s not enough to superficially challenge him as an individual, foul and alarmingly ignorant though he may be. We have to confront the deep-seated trends that rewarded him and exalted him until he became the most powerful person in the world. The values that have been sold to us through reality TV, get-rich-quick books, billionaire saviors, philanthrocapitalists. The same values that have been playing out in destroyed safety nets, exploding prison numbers, normalized rape culture, democracy-destroying trade deals, rising seas and privatized disaster response 3775
Trump’s rise has also prompted a more internal kind of challenge: it has made me determined to kill my inner Trump. We have already seen that the new regime in Washington has led a great many people to try to understand and overcome our own latent biases and prejudices, the ones that have kept us divided in the past. This internal work is crucial as we come together in resistance and transformation. There are some other, often-overlooked ways that many of us can do more to confront our inner Trump—something, anything, that’s just a little bit Trump-ish in our habits. (And to be clear: I’m not saying these omissions make all of us responsible for the outcome of the 2016 elections—this is not about who voted for whom and why.) Maybe it’s the part whose attention span is fracturing into 140 characters, and that is prone to confusing “followers” with friends. Maybe it’s the part that has learned to see ourselves as brands in the marketplace rather than as people in communities. Or the part that sees other people doing similar work not as potential allies in a struggle that will need all our talents, but as rival products competing for scarce market share. (Given that Trump’s presidency is the culmination of corporate branding’s insidious colonial logic, perhaps it’s past time to leave all that behind.) Or maybe it’s the part that can’t resist joining a mob to shame and attack people with whom we disagree—sometimes using cruel personal slurs and with an intensity set to nuclear. At the very real risk of bringing on the kinds of attacks I’m describing, is it possible that this habit too is uncomfortably close to the Tweeter-in-Chief? Or maybe it’s the part that is waiting for a billionaire to ride to the rescue, except this one will be kind and generous and concerned about climate change and empowerment for girls. The liberal billionaire savior may appear very far from Trump, but the fantasy still equates great wealth with superhero powers, which, once again, is just a little too close for comfort to the Ministry of Mar-a-Lago.
If some of these impulses and stories seem hardwired inside us, it’s not because we’re terrible people. It’s because so many of us function within systems that are constantly telling us there are not enough resources for everyone to thrive, so we’d better elbow our way to the top, whatever the costs. Willingly or not, anyone who consumes and produces media swims in the cultural waters of reality TV and personal branding and nonstop attention-splintering messages—the same waters that produced Donald Trump. There are different parts of that fetid swimming pool, to be sure, and some people are in zones with no lifeguards and with way more waterborne diseases than others—but it’s still hard to get genuinely outside the pool. Recognizing this can help clarify our task: to have a hope of changing the world, we’re going to have to be willing to change ourselves. The good news is that as we de-Trump—perhaps resolving to spend a few more hours a week in face-to-face relationships, or to surrender some ego for the greater good of a project, or to recognize the value of so much in life that cannot be bought or sold—we might just get happier. And that is what will keep us in a struggle that does not have a finish line in sight and indeed will require from us lifetimes of engagement. 3791
Clearly, it is the culture itself that must be confronted now, and not policy by policy, but at the root. 3835
What for decades was unsayable is now being said out loud by candidates who win millions of votes: free college tuition, double the minimum wage, 100 percent renewable energy as quickly as technology allows, demilitarize the police, prisons are no place for young people, refugees are welcome here, war makes us all less safe. And the crowds are roaring their agreement. 3844
Many movement leaders are now arguing, a very good start would be accepting the premise that widening economic inequality and climate disaster are inseparable from systems that have always ranked human life based on race and gender, while the capacity to pit populations against each other based on skin color, religious faith, and sexuality has been the single most potent tool for protecting and sustaining this lethal order. And if the political formation that has the guts to say all that also has a bold plan for humanizing and democratizing new technologies and global trade, then it would quickly seize back populist ground from the Right, while feeling less like a blast from the past and more like a path to an exciting, never-before-attempted future. A deeply diverse and insistently forward-looking campaign like that could well prove unbeatable. 3854
Crises, as we have seen, do not always cause societies to regress and give up. There is also the second option—that, faced with a grave common threat, we can choose to come together and make an evolutionary leap. We can choose, as the Reverend William Barber puts it, “to be the moral defibrillators of our time and shock the heart of this nation and build a movement of resistance and hope and justice and love.” We can, in other words, surprise the hell out of ourselves—by being united, focused, and determined. By refusing to fall for those tired old shock tactics. By refusing to be afraid, no matter how much we are tested. 3890
The Leap Manifesto A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another
We start from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. 3900
Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And Canada’s record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future. These facts are all the more jarring because they depart so dramatically from our stated values: respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship. Canada is not this place today—but it could be. We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest-growing sectors. Many more people could have higher-wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.
We know that the time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go. 3904
This leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land. Indigenous communities have been at the forefront of protecting rivers, coasts, forests and lands from out-of-control industrial activity. We can bolster this role, and reset our relationship, by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Moved by the treaties that form the legal basis of this country and bind us to share the land “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the rivers flow,” we want energy sources that will last for time immemorial and never run out or poison the land. Technological breakthroughs have brought this dream within reach. The latest research shows it is feasible for Canada to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources within two decades; by 2050 we could have a 100 percent clean economy. We demand that this shift begin now. 3915
There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard. That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec, and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian-owned mining projects the world over.
The time for energy democracy has come: we believe not just in changes to our energy sources, but that wherever possible communities should collectively control these new energy systems. As an alternative to the profit-gouging of private companies and the remote bureaucracy of some centralized state ones, we can create innovative ownership structures: democratically run, paying living wages, and keeping much-needed revenue in communities.
And Indigenous Peoples should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects. So should communities currently dealing with heavy health impacts of polluting industrial activity. 3923
Power generated this way will not merely light our homes but redistribute wealth, deepen our democracy, strengthen our economy, and start to heal the wounds that date back to this country’s founding. A leap to a non-polluting economy creates countless openings for similar multiple “wins.” We want a universal program to build energy-efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest-income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term. We want training and other resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to take part in the clean energy economy. This transition should involve the democratic participation of workers themselves.
High-speed rail powered by renewables and affordable public transit can unite every community in this country—in place of more cars, pipelines, and exploding trains that endanger and divide us. And since we know this leap is beginning late, we need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
Moving to a far more localized and ecologically based agricultural system would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, capture carbon in the soil, and absorb sudden shocks in the global supply—as well as produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone. We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations, and stop damaging extractive projects. Rebalancing the scales of justice, we should ensure immigration status and full protection for all workers. Recognizing Canada’s contributions to military conflicts and climate change—primary drivers of the global refugee crisis—we must welcome refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life. 3933
Shifting to an economy in balance with the earth’s limits also means expanding the sectors of our economy that are already low-carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts, and public-interest media. Following on Quebec’s lead, a national childcare program is long past due. All this work, much of it performed by women, is the glue that builds humane, resilient communities—and we will need our communities to be as strong as possible in the face of the rocky future we have already locked in.
Since so much of the labour of caretaking—whether of people or the planet—is currently unpaid, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income. Pioneered in Manitoba in the 1970s, this sturdy safety net could help ensure that no one is forced to take work that threatens their children’s tomorrow, just to feed those children today. We declare that “austerity”—which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and healthcare, while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations—is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.
The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available—we just need the right policies to release it. Like an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending. All of these are based on a simple “polluter pays” principle and hold enormous promise. One thing is clear: public scarcity in times of unprecedented private wealth is a manufactured crisis, designed to extinguish our dreams before they have a chance to be born. 3950
Those dreams go well beyond this document. We call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation. We call for town hall meetings across the country where residents can gather to democratically define what a genuine leap to the next economy means in their communities. Inevitably, this bottom-up revival will lead to a renewal of democracy at every level of government, working swiftly toward a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns. This is a great deal to take on all at once, but such are the times in which we live. The drop in oil prices has temporarily relieved the pressure to dig up fossil fuels as rapidly as high-risk technologies will allow. This pause in frenetic expansion should not be viewed as a crisis, but as a gift. It has given us a rare moment to look at what we have become—and decide to change.
And so we call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation. This is our sacred duty to those this country harmed in the past, to those suffering needlessly in the present, and to all who have a right to a bright and safe future. Now is the time for boldness. Now is the time to leap. 3966