Cli­mate shock

NAOMI KLEIN’S anti-cap­i­tal­ist view of the global cri­sis

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Bill Kohlhaase I For The New Mex­i­can

Naomi Klein takes an anti-cap­i­tal­ist view of global warm­ing; she ap­pears in a Lan­nan event at the Lensic

When Katharine Viner, the newly ap­pointed edi­tor-in-chief of The Guardian (the 12th in the pa­per’s 194 years, and the first woman), talks to jour­nal­ist Naomi Klein at the Lensic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Wed­nes­day, April 29, as part of the Lan­nan Foun­da­tion’s In Pur­suit of Cul­tural Free­dom se­ries, they’ll re­new a friend­ship that goes back some 15 years. In 2000, Viner trav­eled to Toronto to in­ter­view Klein for a Guardian week­end fea­ture on the Canadian jour­nal­ist’s first book, No Logo. In it, Klein took the cor­po­rate propen­sity for putting brand be­fore prod­uct and turned it into an anti-cap­i­tal­ist man­i­festo. Sweat shops shared scru­tiny with sub­tle-but-evil la­bor ma­nip­u­la­tion in the U.S. and de­cep­tive at­tempts at mar­ket con­trol. Klein made a per­sonal con­nec­tion to the is­sue, writ­ing about grow­ing up as a mall rat chained to the very brands she now scorns. Viner called the book “a word-of-mouth sen­sa­tion, giv­ing voice to a gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple un­der 30 who have never re­lated to pol­i­tics un­til now.” Quoted in an Au­gust 2014 piece in Vogue cel­e­brat­ing Klein’s lat­est book, This Changes Ev­ery­thing: Cap­i­tal­ism vs. the Cli­mate (Simon & Schus­ter), Viner de­clared that Klein has “this clair­voy­ant skill of nail­ing a sub­ject be­fore any­one gets there, and then within months, it’s main­stream think­ing.”

What Klein nails in This Changes Ev­ery­thing is the scope of what it will take to stop car­bon-in­duced cli­mate change. It won’t be ac­com­plished through small, feel-good mea­sures: Such a mo­men­tous act would re­quire a com­plete sweep of the cur­rent car­bon­based sys­tem and all the at­ten­dant evils of its cap­i­tal­ist busi­ness prac­tices. This, she ar­gues, can only come from the kind of mas­sive, so­cial move­ment that has lit­tle his­tor­i­cal prece­dent. The abo­li­tion of slav­ery, with its sig­nif­i­cant loss of wealth for the slave-own­ing class, hints at the mag­ni­tude of strug­gle needed. She doesn’t spend time prov­ing the ex­is­tence of cli­mate change, but she does speak to its de­nial. She de­scribes the tan­gle of busi­ness and gov­ern­ment that must be dis­solved if the com­ing dis­as­ter is to be avoided. Along the way, she brings many of to­day’s big­gest is­sues, in­clud­ing in­equal­ity, into the pic­ture. In “Why #Black­Lives­Mat­ter Should Trans­form the Cli­mate De­bate,” pub­lished last De­cem­ber in The Na­tion, Klein echoed the themes of her book: “Thinly veiled no­tions of racial su­pe­ri­or­ity have in­formed ev­ery as­pect of the non-re­sponse to cli­mate change so far. Racism is what has made it pos­si­ble to sys­tem­at­i­cally look away from the cli­mate threat for more than two decades.”

What, in­deed, would it mean if the re­sponse to the cli­mate cri­sis was based on the be­lief that the lives of the im­pov­er­ished and peo­ple of color ac­tu­ally do mat­ter? “We would all be treat­ing the cli­mate cri­sis as a full-scale five-alarm fire,” Klein told Pasatiempo from her home in Toronto. “Our gov­ern­ments have been en­gaged in th­ese deeply immoral ne­go­ti­a­tions about how much tem­per­a­ture rise to al­low be­fore we con­sider do­ing much. In [the United Na­tions’ 2009 cli­mate sum­mit in Copen­hagen], where it was de­cided that we would al­low a 2-de­gree-Cel­sius rise in global tem­per­a­ture, the African del­e­ga­tions marched through the halls say­ing this was some kind of death sen­tence. Some used the word ‘geno­cide.’ It’s a very crude cost­ben­e­fit anal­y­sis that gets made. The pace of cli­mate change so far is af­fect­ing parts of the world that have such a small eco­nomic out­put, big industrial coun­tries of Europe and North Amer­ica don’t feel it’s nec­es­sary to change their economies.” Klein’s book con­sid­ers the famine fol­low­ing the drought in Africa and the is­lands and coast­lines, of­ten home to peo­ple of lit­tle means, that in­dus­tri­al­ists and politi­cians are will­ing to let dis­ap­pear. She links th­ese to the po­lit­i­cally pow­er­less, high-poverty ar­eas in the shadow of oil re­finer­ies and chem­i­cal plants both here and abroad.

Klein’s third book, The Shock Doc­trine: The Rise of Dis­as­ter Cap­i­tal­ism, opens and ends with a type of nat­u­ral dis­as­ter that, cli­ma­tol­o­gists warn, could be­come more fre­quent as weather pat­terns change. She cites war and po­lit­i­cal strug­gle in Iraq, Ar­gentina, and Chile as well as Hur­ri­cane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka and In­done­sia to show how cor­po­ratist en­ti­ties ex­ploit dis­as­ters, nat­u­ral and man­made. Viner has said that The Shock Doc­trine changed main­stream think­ing, mak­ing ev­ery eco­nomic cri­sis sus­pect; mak­ing wars ap­pear to be waged only to for­ward busi­ness; and spot­light­ing how hur­ri­canes, earth­quakes, and other nat­u­ral dis­as­ters are pre­dictably fol­lowed by dis­as­trous at­tempts to pri­va­tize and con­trol. Any dis­as­ter or set­back presents a vul­ner­a­bil­ity the free-mar­ket econ­omy can ex­ploit for profit.

Hard eco­nomic times can also be an op­por­tu­nity for pro­gres­sives, Klein said. “The Shock Doc­trine talks about how this strat­egy was de­vel­oped in the right-

wing think tanks to re­spond quickly to push through an agenda through — un­demo­crat­i­cally — as a way to cir­cum­vent the fact that eco­nomic cri­sis has or­gan­i­cally given us mo­ments of pro­gres­sive change. Ev­ery­thing went wrong in 1929, but there was much in­ter­ven­tion: the estab­lish­ment of fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tion and the birth of the so­cial safety net.” Klein thought that 2008 could have been a sim­i­lar turn­ing point, and that it wasn’t re­flected not on how well the ideas of her best-sell­ing book had sunk in, but on how adeptly neo-lib­eral, free-mar­ket cham­pi­ons could re­sist them. “2008, 2009 were deeply de­press­ing to me,” she ad­mit­ted. “I thought, naively, that if peo­ple un­der­stood the [shock-doc­trine] tac­tic, that peo­ple could re­sist it. What be­came clear to me, af­ter see­ing that peo­ple re­ally did try to re­sist and take ad­van­tage, was the abil­ity of the wealthy to turn a public cri­sis into a push for aus­ter­ity. You saw huge re­sis­tance to this around the world, es­pe­cially in Europe, but not enough to stop it.”

Part of that in­abil­ity to stop so­cial and eco­nomic re-en­gi­neer­ing in fa­vor of cor­po­ra­tions is cul­tural, Klein ex­plained. “We keep imag­in­ing the same fu­ture for our­selves. Ev­ery post-apoc­a­lyp­tic movie we see, ev­ery Hol­ly­wood dis­as­ter flick, ev­ery film that imag­ines eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter shows the ‘one per­cent’ living well and ev­ery­one else in some form of slav­ery, as if it’s al­ready hap­pened. There’s a sense of de­featism, that there’s noth­ing we can do about it. We’re the Ma­trix gen­er­a­tion: We can’t imag­ine the way out of the prob­lem.”

As Klein did in No Logo, she works her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences into the nar­ra­tive of This

Changes Ev­ery­thing. This time, it’s a frank dis­cus­sion of fer­til­ity and preg­nancy (the book is ded­i­cated to her son) and her con­cerns af­ter pos­si­ble toxic ex­po­sure while cov­er­ing the 2010 Bri­tish Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­ico. “I was feel­ing very blocked when I started, and I needed to write about this be­fore I wrote the book. I re­al­ized I was go­ing through the kind of in­tense ex­pe­ri­ence that I needed to write through be­fore I could go on. I thought I could let it sit in the drawer or pub­lish it as a stand-alone. Then I can­vassed my friends about in­clud­ing it in the book. Make it the fore­word? I made it the end­ing. But I was wor­ried about be­ing nar­cis­sis­tic. A book on a topic so huge: What right do I have to go small?”

The process of putting to­gether her four books (there’s also a 2002 col­lec­tion of pub­lished es­says, Fences and Win­dows: Dis­patches From the Front Lines of the Glob­al­iza­tion De­bate) has changed for Klein since No Logo. “For Logo, I wrote out an out­line and fol­lowed it. Both The Shock Doc­trine and This Changes Ev­ery­thing changed rad­i­cally as the re­search re­vealed more and more things to me. I find books get harder to write as I get older. Writ­ing is eas­ier and re­ally lib­er­at­ing when you have that youth­ful over­con­fi­dence.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.