A liveable climate and its enemies

Here are links, with transcripts, to the complete Sept. 18, 2014 interview.

Naomi Klein on the Need for a New Economic Model to Address Ecological Crisis.

Naomi Klein on the People’s Climate March and the Global Grassroots Movement Fighting Fossil Fuels.

Naomi Klein on Motherhood, Geoengineering, Climate Debt and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement.


Naomi Klein thinks that, if governments had taken action in the 1990s to curb greenhouse gas emissions to control climate change, it could have been accomplished without drastic upheavals in society or in people’s lives..

Unfortunately another movement arose at the same time, a movement to remove restrictions on corporate activity, and this movement has proved more powerful than the climate movement.   The corporate movement has produced privatization, deregulation, repeal of anti-trust laws and a strong and enforceable body of international law to block environmental regulation and subsidies of renewal energy.

naomi-klein.book0coverThe first chapter of Klein’s new book, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Capitalism vs the Climate, is about how the real objection of climate change deniers is their realization that climate change, if real, would mean an end to free enterprise as they know it.  She said they’re right.

Our economy is based on what Klein calls extractivism—the idea that there can be unlimited economic growth based on the burning of a limited amount of coal, oil and gas.

This is a process that will someday end in and of itself, when it is no longer feasible to dig out what little fossil fuels remain.  We the people can’t afford to wait until that happens, because emissions from burning fossil fuels will have heated up the planet to the point where it is barely liveable.  But moving away from extractivism is easier said than done.

An end to extractivism would require, first of all, the repeal of international trade treaties such as NAFTA and the World Trade Organization treaty that allow corporations to challenge national laws that favor local industry or interfere with the international movement of goods and services.

International shipping and air freight are impossible sources of greenhouse gasses, and these emissions are not the responsibility of any nation.  Manufacturers who dislike pollution controls can relocate to countries without such laws.  A great deal of oil and coal is produced for export, and, under these international trade agreements, nations cannot forbid their export once they are drilled or mined.

The other harm these treaties is to prevent local governments from subsidizing renewable energy or favoring local workers and companies.  In 2010, Klein reported, the USA challenged one of China’s wind subsidy programs, while China in 2012 filed a complaint targeting renewable energy programs in Italy and Greece.  Tax laws that favor oil and gas companies are not challenged.

environment.economyInternational organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank demand governmental austerity in order to balance budget and, in the case of Greece and other countries, bail out banks.  This fits well with the movement for deregulation of industry and privatization of government services.

This not only makes it virtually impossible to promote sustainable sources of energy or to regulate pollution.  It also leaves government unprepared to deal with drought, flood, storms and other consequences of climate change.

Behind these national laws and international treaties, there is a philosophy that has come to be taken for granted and needs to be challenged.  That is the philosophy, which has come to be almost un-questioned, that the for-profit corporation is a model for society as a whole, and that social reform can only take place through the corporate framework.

greenwashing-tom-fishburneNaomi Klein devoted the whole middle section of her book to environmentalists who fell into the trap of accepting this corporate framework, forgetting that the people who create a problem are seldom the best people to solve it.

The result of corporate-environmentalist partnerships is, at best, tiny incremental steps that don’t solve anything.  It is good to have higher-mileage automobiles or lower-phosphate detergents, Klein wrote, but as a solution to global warming, telling people to buy green products is like telling smokers to smoke one less cigarette a day.

Worse, environmentalists fall into the trap of endorsing policies such as cap-and-trade, which guarantee a right to create a minimum amount of pollution in return for trade-offs that don’t necessarily materialize.

polyp_cartoon_environmentWorst are geo-engineering proposals, which are intended to cool off the earth by altering the composition of the atmosphere or tampering with the carbon cycle.   Klein admitted that there might come a time when the situation is so desperate that such solutions would have to be considered.   For now, she wrote, it is better to regulate ExxonMobil than to try to regulate the sun.

The defects of corporate capitalism are not an argument for nationalizing fossil fuel companies.  History shows that government-owned oil and gas companies have not been any better than stockholder-owned companies.   Industries in Communist countries have been the worst polluters of all.

What is needed, Klein wrote, is to give more power to local governments, co-operatives and individual landowners.  Environmentalism should be a bread-and-butter movement, fighting to protect public services and urban housing and to stop polluters and land grabbers.


One Way or Another, Everything Changes by Naomi Klein (book excerpt)

Climate Change: How to Make the Big Polluters Really Pay by Naomi Klein.

Naomi Klein on climate change and capitalism, an interview in Canada’s MacLean’s magazine.

Naomi Klein Breaks a Taboo, an interview in Britain’s The Independent.


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