The author and activist Naomi Klein is out with a new book on climate change: This Changes Everything. She argues that our man-made environmental crisis can serve as a transformative moment, an opportunity for a mass social movement to demand a more humane economy. By taxing the fossil fuel industry, investing big in public infrastructure, and accelerating the shift to renewable energy in our country and abroad, we can tackle toxic emissions AND reduce obscene inequality and poverty.
Shaban: In your last book, The Shock Doctrine, you argue that in the past four decades, corporate interests have used extreme shocks—natural disasters, wars, financial meltdowns—to ram through policies that blunt regulations, cut social spending, and push the privatization of public projects. Now you argue that climate change can be the “people’s shock.” What do you mean by that?
Klein: What I’m arguing in this book is that we need to return to the progressive tradition of responding to deep crisis by trying to get at the root causes of the crisis.
And the best example of that is the way in which the progressive movement responded to the Great Depression. It became an opportunity to change the way we organized our economies, to regulate banks, to launch social programs that got at the roots of inequality.
If we really believed that climate change is an existential crisis, if we believed climate change is a weapon of mass destruction, as John Kerry said, why on Earth would you leave it to the vagaries of the market? Can you imagine if after 9/11 if President Bush had just said: “You know, our liberty and way of life has been threatened so I’m going to propose a market solution to terrorism.” The truth is when our elites really believe that they face a crisis, as they did when the banks collapsed, they bend all kinds of free-market rules. That’s why the climate march happening this weekend is significant. Because it’s regular people literally sounding the climate alarm: We consider this to be a crisis even if our leaders are behaving as if it’s not. And I think that our only hope is in mobilizing from below, to say we believe in science, we believe that this is a crisis, and therefore we want to act like it.