On the eve of the publication of her new book, Naomi Klein talks about the things that give her hope in a world that can sometimes feel very bleak.Naomi Klein rose to international acclaim in 1999 by explaining how big corporations were exploiting our insecurities to convince us to spend money we didn’t have, on stuff we didn’t need No Logo. In 2007 she masterfully dissected the ways those steering the global economy use moments of social and environmental crisis to justify transferring public wealth into the hands of the ultra-rich The Shock Doctrine. Less-known though are the alternatives Klein spends much of her time witnessing, documenting, and digging into, from the spread of fossil fuel divestment, to community-owned energy projects and resistance to tar sands pipelines.On the eve of the publication of her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Klein sat down with Liam Barrington-Bush at the Peoples Social Forum in Ottawa, to talk about where she finds hope in a world that can sometimes feel very bleak. She reminds us that in a culture that treats people as consumers and relationships as transactions, ‘we’re not who we were told we were.’::::::::::::::::::::::LBB: In a recent piece in the Nation, you wrote: “Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real — let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.” What has helped you to believe that a different way of living is possible?NK: I think part of it is just having been lucky enough to have seen other ways of living and to have lived differently myself. To know that not only is living differently not the end of the world, but in many cases, it has enabled some of the happiest times of my life.I think the truth is that we spend a lot of time being afraid of what we would lose if we ever took this crisis seriously. I had this experience when I had been living in Argentina for a couple of years; I came back to the US because I had agreed to do this speech at an American university. It was in Colorado and I went directly from Buenos Aires, which was just on fire at that moment; the culture was so rich, the sense of community was so strong. It was the most transformative experience of my life to be able to be part of that.So I end up staying at a Holiday Inn, looking out at a parking lot, and it’s just so incredibly grim. I go to this class and I do my spiel. I was talking about Argentina and the economic crisis. At this point the US economy’s booming and nobody thinks anything like this could ever happen to them. And this young woman says, “I hear what you’re saying, but why should I care?”
Don’t talk to me about sustainability. You want to question my lifestyle, my impact, my ecological footprint? There is a monster standing over us, with a footprint so large it can trample a whole planet underfoot, without noticing or caring. This monster is Industrial Civilization. I refuse to sustain the monster. If the Earth is to live, the monster must die. This is a declaration of war.
What is it we are trying to sustain? A living planet, or industrial civilization? Because we can’t have both.
And Prof Paul Tyler, also a biologist, of the National Oceanography Centre, warned that unique species would be at risk.
“If you wipe out that area by mining, those animals have to do one of two things: they disperse and colonise another hydrothermal vent somewhere or they die.
“And what happens when they die is that the vent will become biologically extinct.”
However, marine chemist Prof Rachel Mills, of the University of Southampton, called for a wider debate about mining generally on the grounds that we all use minerals and that mines on land are far larger than any would be on the seabed.
She has carried out research for Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian firm planning to mine hydrothermal vents off Papua New Guinea.
“Everything we are surrounded by, the way we live, relies on mineral resources and we don’t often ask where they come from,” she said.
“We need to ask whether there is sustainable mining on land and whether there is sustainable mining in the seas.
“I actually think it is the same moral questions we ask whether it’s from the Andes or down in the Bismarck Sea.”
This debate is set to intensify as the reality of the first mining operations comes closer.
David Shukman presents a documentary on deep sea mining on Discovery on the BBC World Service
The average American generates about 100 pounds of plastic waste a year. So did Beth Terry, until she read an article about plastic pollution in the oceans and saw a photograph of a dead albatross chick carcass filled with plastic products. Making the connection that her actions were harming a creature she never knew existed, she resolved to live a plastic free life. From January to November 2010, she generated less than 2 pounds of plastic waste.
Note: God Move Over, indeed. Proselytizing abounds at the Tree Biotech 2013 conference here in Asheville. Due to massive protests throughout the week, the conference has been dominated by discussion on how to convert the GMO-skeptical public to “believe” in the mythical miracles of the bioengineered forest. So far, it looks like the gospel of truth is winning against the rhetoric of power.
…. But why should we care about the proliferation of large dams? This is a good question, to which there are lots of good, yet conflicting answers. It is interesting to me that these issues are rising alongside the Global Water System Project’s conference on water in the anthropocene. The concern with the Anthropocene is that humans are dominating global systems in a way that is pushing them into new and uncharted territory – where the conditions may be quite different from those in which many species and processes evolved…..
We care about giving plastic a second chance yet we don’t do the same for people?
“Price it right, use it well”. From the perspective of market logic, this is the only feasible solution to the looming shortages of fresh water on the planet. Yet the very idea of commodifying the commons, the most basic fundamentals of human rights, is anathema, or should be. There have to be better solutions and indeed there are. But for them to be inserted at the appropriate levels of infrastructure in ways that will not benefit only the elite and middle class will require more than magic. It requires the active investment of time, energy and conscious will of us all.
This important book is definitely on my ‘order this week’ list