It's the second to last day of the climate conference and I have the worst case of laryngitis of my life. I open my mouth and nothing comes out.
It's frustrating because I was just at Hillary Clinton's press conference and desperately wanted to ask her a question – or six. She said that the U.S. would contribute its "share" to a $100-billion financing package for developing countries by 2020 – but only if all countries agreed to the terms of the climate deal that the U.S. has slammed on the table here, which include killing Kyoto, replacing legally binding measures with the fuzzy concept of "transparency," and nixing universal emissions targets in favor of vague "national plans" that are mashed together. Oh, and abandoning the whole concept (which the U.S. agreed to by singing the UN climate convention) that the rich countries that created the climate crisis have to take the lead in solving it.
On the ninth day of the Copenhagen climate summit, Africa was sacrificed. The position of the G-77 negotiating bloc, including African states, had been clear: a 2 degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures translates into a 3-3.5 degree increase in Africa.
That means, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, "an additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger" and "water stress could affect between 350 and 600 million more people." Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts the stakes like this: "We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale.... A global goal of about 2 degrees C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development."
For a great many women around the world, Donald J. Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton feels like a painful setback not just for democracy, but for our gender.
Voters chose a loose cannon of a man with zero government experience over a calm, collected and supremely qualified woman. The root cause of this injustice, many have suggested, can only be sexism — proof that the glass ceiling protecting the highest reaches of power cannot yet be shattered.
The reaction is understandable. It’s also wrong and unnecessarily demoralizing.
Of course no female or nonwhite candidate with Mr. Trump’s lack of experience, angry outbursts, boasts of sexual assault or trail of broken marriages could have gotten elected. That Mr. Trump did, while spouting such ugliness about women and minorities, speaks to deep and persistent strains of misogyny and white supremacy in American society.
At the precise moment that Donald Trump was giving his acceptance speech, I was in a room packed with a thousand people in Sydney, Australia, listening to Maria Tiimon Chi-Fang, a leading activist from the island state of Kiribati. All day I had been sending e-mails with the subject line “It’s the end of the world.” I suddenly felt embarrassed by the privilege of this hyperbole.
If Trump does what he says and rolls back the (insufficient) climate progress won under Obama, inspiring other nations to do the same, Chi-Fang’s nation and culture will almost surely disappear beneath the waves. Literally, the end of their whole world.
Chi-Fang talked about how the Paris climate negotiations was a rare moment of hope. It’s not a perfect text, but island nations waged—and won—a valiant battle to include language reflecting the need to keep warming below 1.5. Celsius. “We didn’t sleep,” she told the crowd.
They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry.
But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves wide awake: neoliberalism. That worldview – fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine – is no match for Trump-style extremism. The decision to run one against the other is what sealed our fate. If we learn nothing else, can we please learn from that mistake?
The short film I’ve made with the Guardian stars my son, Toma, aged four years and five months. That’s a little scary for me to write, since, up until this moment, my husband, Avi, and I have been pretty careful about protecting him from public exposure. No matter how damn cute we think he’s being, absolutely no tweeting is allowed.
So I want to explain how I decided to introduce him to you in this very public way.
For the past eight years, I have been writing and speaking about climate change pretty much around the clock. I use all the communication tools I can — books, articles, feature documentary, photographs, lectures.
The imperatives of the climate crisis and the logic of economic austerity are at war—and Washington State is on the front lines.
So-called “revenue-neutral” carbon pricing—whereby the proceeds are used to fund tax cuts—has long been a cherished hobbyhorse of free-market economists and the odd Republican who favors climate action. It’s also the policy of choice for big polluters like ExxonMobil. And now this right-wing friendly model is being pushed in Washington State, thanks to Initiative 732.
In August 1976, The Nation published an essay that rocked the US political establishment, both for what it said and for who was saying it. “The ‘Chicago Boys’ in Chile: Economic ‘Freedom’s’ Awful Toll” was written by Orlando Letelier, the former right-hand man of Chilean President Salvador Allende. Earlier in the decade, Allende had appointed Letelier to a series of top-level positions in his democratically elected socialist government: ambassador to the United States (where he negotiated the terms of nationalization for several US-owned firms operating in Chile), minister of foreign affairs, and, finally, minister of defense.
Then, on September 11, 1973, Chile’s government was overthrown in a bloody, CIA-backed coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. This shattering event left Allende dead in the smoldering presidential palace and Letelier and other “VIP prisoners” banished to a remote labor camp in the Strait of Magellan.
Get ready for some high-powered hugging. On Friday, some 60 heads of state and government will gather at United Nations headquarters in New York City to officially sign the climate change pact known as the Paris Agreement.
When it was unveiled in Paris last December, the headlines were euphoric. A “major leap for mankind,” said one. Another declared that the pact marked the “end of the fossil fuel era.”
But there were dissenting voices, too: James Hansen, arguably the most respected climate scientist in the world, called the agreement “a fraud really, a fake,” because “there is no action, just promises.” And in Paris, thousands of climate activists took to the streets to protest a deal they said was so weak that it would lead to catastrophic levels of warming.
So who’s right? Is the Paris Agreement a historic political breakthrough or is it a potential ecological disaster?
There aren’t a lot of certainties left in the US presidential race, but here’s one thing about which we can be absolutely sure: The Clinton camp really doesn’t like talking about fossil-fuel money. Last week, when a young Greenpeace campaigner challenged Hillary Clinton about taking money from fossil-fuel companies, the candidate accused the Bernie Sanders campaign of “lying” and declared herself “so sick” of it. As the exchange went viral, a succession of high-powered Clinton supporters pronounced that there was nothing to see here and that everyone should move along.
Whose security gets protected by any means necessary? Whose security is casually sacrificed, despite the means to do so much better? Those are the questions at the heart of the climate crisis, and the answers are the reason climate summits so often end in acrimony and tears.
The French government’s decision to ban protests, marches and other “outdoor activities” during the Paris climate summit is disturbing on many levels. The one that preoccupies me most has to do with the way it reflects the fundamental inequity of the climate crisis itself – and that core question of whose security is ultimately valued in our lopsided world.
Soon after the horrific terror attacks in Paris, last Friday, our phones filled with messages from friends and colleagues: “So are they going to cancel the Paris climate summit?” “The drums of war are beating. Count on climate change being drowned out.” The assumption is reasonable enough. While many politicians pay lip service to the existential urgency of the climate crisis, as soon as another more immediate crisis rears its head—war, a market shock, an epidemic—climate reliably falls off the political map.
Our inboxes runneth over with congratulations from American friends. “Pleasure to be able to look north without wincing,” “we’re all thrilled to have regained our sensible neighbors to the north,” “Goodbye Stephen ‘Keystone XL’ Harper.” And then there was this from England: “you now officially have the hottest Prime Minister EVER!”
Like us, our friends tend to spend a lot of time thinking about climate change, so you can understand their euphoria. Among other crimes, Stephen Harper shredded environmental protections, re-fashioned our country as a petro-state, and made us climate criminals on the world stage. Now after the ugliest decade in recent Canadian memory, he is gone at last.
So why are we not breathing more easily?
Perhaps it’s because of a few things we learned about our new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, during the election—details that didn’t exactly make national news south of the border.
Ask Canadians about the most pressing issues facing their country and, alongside concerns about the economy and healthcare, they will inevitably raise the need for action on climate change. And no wonder: British Columbia and the Prairies were in the grips of a serious drought this summer and, only weeks after our election, world leaders will head to Paris to try to come up with a serious plan to stop global warming.
Yet, encouraged by Conservative leader Stephen Harper, much of the election debate has been narrowed to focus on “wedge issues” such as cultural differences. But Canadians cannot afford to be pulled in by the politics of diversion and division.
The reason is simple: when it comes to climate change, we are simply out of time. Climate scientists have told us that this is the most critical decade to begin decisively weaning ourselves off fossil fuels if we are to have a decent shot at preventing truly catastrophic warming.
For me, the road to This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate begins in a very specific time and place. The time was exactly ten years ago. The place was New Orleans, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The road in question was flooded and littered with bodies.
Today I am posting, for the first time, the entire section on Hurricane Katrina from my last book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Rereading the chapter 10 years after the events transpired, I am struck most by this fact: the same military equipment and contractors used against New Orleans’ Black residents have since been used to militarize police across the United States, contributing to the epidemic of murders of unarmed Black men and women. That is one way in which the Disaster Capitalism Complex perpetuates itself and protects its lucrative market.