Posts Tagged ‘Naomi Klein’

Reflections on This Changes Everything

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

By Bob Shimabukuro, Associate Editor of the Retiree Advocate and member of PSARA’s Executive Board

Naomi Klein’s September 28 daytime meeting with labor, environmental, and community groups was puzzling to me. She was, after all, scheduled to speak to an already sold-out Town Hall, to promote her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, so the purpose of this daytime meeting of representatives of selected groups seemed redundant, if it was just to sell books. So I thought that she was going to announce something or talk about some great movement happening elsewhere.

She quickly doused that idea in her opening remarks, saying she was interested in finding out what was going on in Seattle, that it seemed like this is where there are a lot of things (political organizing) happening.

It was, strangely enough, the third event in a month, where I had heard someone say that things were “happening” in Seattle, and made me wonder what I had been missing.

Just when I was about to give up on her, I heard the words, “People who have been on the front line of our toxic economy should be the first in line for any benefits of the new economy,” and then added so that no one could misinterpret her, “[T]he first beneficiaries should be the indigenous.”

Klein’s statement also got the attention of Got Green advocate Michael Woo. He welcomed the proposition, noting that sometimes people of color and poor people don’t have the resources to be working with environmental issues; yet we need to get real specific as we talk about availability of jobs.

I was drawn to Klein’s comments because they were very similar to something I had noted in a previous Advocate. Writing about education and jobs, I quoted Grace Lee Boggs, from The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century (2011):

…[A]s citizens of a nation which had achieved economic growth and prosperity at the expense of African Americans, Native Americans, other people of color, and people all over the world, our priority had to be in correcting the injustices and backwardness of our relationships with one another, with other countries, and with the Earth.

This idea is not new. In 1974, James and Grace Lee Boggs had written in Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century:

The revolution to be made in the United States will be the first revolution in history to require the masses to make material sacrifices rather than to acquire more material things. We must give up many of the things which this country has enjoyed at the expense of damning over one-third of the world into a state of underdevelopment, ignorance, disease, and early death. … It is obviously going to take a tremendous transformation to prepare the people of the United States for these new social goals.

(Upon further review, the similarity shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. Both Klein and Boggs credited Martin Luther King as a source.)

Klein was well received and if the purpose of the meeting was simply a chance for all the different groups present to let other groups know what they were doing, then I would say that was a worthwhile meeting.

Klein is an exceptional story teller. Throughout her book is a series of stories of guerilla warriors, farmers of ancient knowledge growing perennial grains, Big Green organizations with oil wells, or sinking islands, etc. And what she is saying is this: We have to change what we have going on now; we have to do it quickly and collectively; we need to be inclusive; we need to transform ourselves; we need to be more equal; we need to pay reparations.

A tall order, indeed. But Klein is very optimistic.

It’s difficult to cover all the issues brought up in This Changes Everything (and in Klein’s previous book, The Shock Doctrine), but we can have a very brief look (more correctly, a glance) at two.

We are currently locked in a consumer-based society. People go into debt to consume. The people who loan money own and make money on that wealth. And a lot of that money is from investments in coal (and natural gas). The investors (and workers) are not going to give up their investments (or their jobs) easily.

As Klein writes about tar sands workers in Fort McMurray, Alberta:

And with so few well-paying blue-collar jobs left, these extraction jobs are often the only route out of debt and poverty. It’s telling that tar sands workers often discuss their time in northern Alberta as if it were less a job than a highly lucrative jail term: there’s “the three-year plan,” (save $200,000, then leave); “the five-year plan,” (put away half a million); “the ten-year plan,” (make a million and retire at 35). . . .[T]he plan is always pretty much the same: tough it out in Fort Mac (or Fort McMoney as it is often called), then get the hell out and begin your real life.

Gary Delgado, Senior Fellow at University of California for New Racial Studies, sees another situation, besides climate and economy, developing in the US that may affect the course of both: By 2050, people of color will outnumber whites. He pointed out that no one is talking about who will hold the political, structural, and institutional power then. But that is behind a lot of the voter restriction/registration drives going on now.

When I was growing up in Hawaii, my dad (and a lot of other people) used to refer to the Big Five (Theo H. Davies, Castle & Cooke, American Factors, Alexander & Baldwin, and C. Brewer and Co.) who ruled Hawaii. Hawaii, at the time, was in my dad’s estimation (and therefore in mine) a colony of the United States. The term “territory” was just another euphemism. A small population of whites ruled a majority people of color (including indigenous Hawaiians), citizens in a so-called democratic territory. The political leader, called a Governor, was appointed by the President of the United States.

Seventy-five years later (if I live that long), I could find myself in exactly the same situation as I was in Hawaii. I need someone who can do the math here. Help. Somebody tell me, if five companies ruled Hawaii during the 1950s, is that greater or less (population-wise) than the 1% that is ruling the USA today?

Perhaps this should be a Common Core question.

This Changes Everything

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Bobby Righi 

“There is a willingness to sacrifice large numbers of people in the way we respond to climate change – we are already showing a brutality in the face of climate change that I find really chilling.…We are with full knowledge deciding to allow cultures to die, to allow peoples to disappear…. I think the profound immorality and violence of that decision is not reflected in the language that we have. We are not speaking about this with the language of urgency or mortality that the issue deserves.” Naomi Klein in Earth Island Journal, Fall 2013. 

Naomi Klein will be in Seattle on Sunday, September 28, at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. as part of an international book tour to promote her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, that tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth.

In the last couple of years Klein spoke to the founding meeting of a large, newly consilidated union in Canada; she was on the Bill Moyers show and visited survivors amidst the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. She has worked in support of the Idle No More movement of First Nations Peoples fighting for their lands.

Klein attended the Heartland Institute’s convention where climate change deniers rail against science, and she reported on scientific meetings like the December 2012 meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco where Brad Werner, a geophysicist from the University of California presented research that shows that our entire economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability. He said that challenging this– through mass-movement – is humanity’s best shot at avoiding catastrophe.

This book promises to be a provocative challenge to our current economic model as well as to mainstream environmental groups. Klein has exposed the reformist behavior of some of the “Big Green” groups and the way they partner with fossil fuel corporations to smooth out concerns over climate change.

Naomi Klein emphasizes the need for collective action and solidarity: “The book I am writing is arguing that our responses to climate change can rebuild the public sphere, can strengthen our communities, can have work with dignity. We can address the financial crisis and the ecological crisis at the same time. I believe that. But I think it’s by building coalitions with people, not with corporations, that you are going to get those wins.” Earth Island Journal, Fall 2013.

What questions might we expect in her new book?

• Do we have to make sacrifices in order to fight climate change?

• How do we build solidarity among groups to insist on curbing the fossil fuels corporations’ power and force them to use their immense profits for the public good?

• How do we fight economic inequality at the same time as climate change and achieve full employment at a living wage?

• What does the incessant violence against young Black people and the heartless treatment of thousands of children seeking refuge along our border have to do with climate change?

• What can we do to repair the damage to the land, rivers, and oceans that has been caused by extractive industries?

• How can we work so as to put power into the hands of communities to develop and control alternative energy sources for the common good?

Naomi Klein may raise these questions and offer hopeful examples but it is up to us to work together here and now to achieve justice on a healthy planet.

Bobby Righi is a PSARA member and serves on PSARA’s Environmental Committee.