From forest fires to monster hurricanes to destructive flooding, evidence of climate change is storming the United States, but capitalism blocks reforms that could mitigate the effects of a warming planet, said social activist and author Naomi Klein.
“We don’t live in a time when there is just one urgent crisis,” Klein told a large turnout for Franklin & Marshall’s Sept. 14 Common Hour, a community conversation scheduled every Thursday classes are in session. “We live in a time of overlapping and intersecting crises.”
Klein, author of a series of books on the blunting of social and economic justice and thus the spirit of community activism, spoke on the topic of her two latest books, 2014’s “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” and this year’s “No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need,” nominated for the National Book Award this week.
Since “This Changes Everything” was published, “Klein’s primary focus has been on putting these ideas into action,” said Sarah Dawson, director of F&M's Center for Sustainable Environment, who introduced Klein.
“She is one of the organizers and authors of Canada’s Leap manifesto, a blueprint for a rapid and justice-based transition away from fossil fuel,” Dawson said. “Leap has been endorsed by over 200 organizations, tens of thousands of individuals and inspired similar kinds of justice initiatives around the world.”
The manifesto is about changing from a society that takes from people, by unfair labor and wages and social security, as well as from the environment by unsustainable practices, Klein said.
“What we tried to map is less a list of policies – although there are 15 policies that came out of this—and more a shift in story,” Klein said. “From a society based on endless taking to a society based on caring for one another and the environment.”
Since the devastation in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Klein said policymakers have pursued free-market, corporate solutions to address the aftermath of crises, such as replacing public schools with charter schools and low-income housing with tax-free enterprise zones.
“What we see again and again in the shock and confusion and disorientation that necessarily follows an event like this, there has been a very concerted strategy on the right to move into this disorientation and push through very radical pro-corporate policies that further divide society,” Klein said.
However, between such policies and an administration that does not believe climate change exists, a growing movement of activists are pushing for progress in social justice and environmental policies, Klein said.
“We are living in a time of tremendous political engagement,” she said. “Crises can transform us, if we let them.”