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.
Shell has one or two rivals for the title of Planet’s Most Irresponsible Company, but it’s definitely the most ironic.
The grand irony, of course, is that, having watched the Arctic melt as global temperatures rose, Shell was first in line to drill the newly melted waters for yet more oil which would raise the temperature some more.
But lately, the planetary-scale irony was compounded by one of a more local variety, contained in the phrase safety zone.
I’ve had the incredible privilege of traveling around the world and meeting with activists, labour unions, and politicians who are focusing on climate change. I want to tell you that that the coalition of groups we’re witnessing being assembled here in Canada is unique: organizations representing the most marginalized people in Toronto; First Nations who are our water and carbon keepers; environmentalists waging inspiring divestment campaigns; and the trade union movement, including the country’s largest private sector union representing workers at the heart of the fossil fuel economy. We understand that we have key differences, but we also understand that what unites us is greater.
For two years running, Oxfam International has traveled to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to make a request: Could the superrich kindly cease devouring the world’s wealth? And while they’re at it, could they quit using “their financial might to influence public policies that favor the rich at the expense of everyone else”?
In 2014, when Oxfam arrived in Davos, it came bearing the (then) shocking news that just 85 individuals controlled as much wealth as half of the world’s population combined. This January, that number went down to 80 individuals.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier is one of the most widely respected political figures to emerge from Canada’s Arctic, and this potential was identified early on. When she was just 10 years old, she and her friend Lizzie were selected as promising future Inuit leaders and sent to live with a white family in the tiny coastal community of Blanche, N.S. Having grown up in Nunavik, Que., on dog sleds and in canoes, the young Watt-Cloutier loved new experiences and approached the long voyage south in the spirit of adventure.
The girls were in for what Watt-Cloutier now describes as a “brutal shock.”
Naomi delivered this speech on December 18 at The Opera House in Toronto, at a special production of the Basement Revue to honour Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women.
Listen to an audio recording of Naomi’s reading here, with live musical accompaniment from Cris Derksen.
On July 20, 2013, Bella Laboucan-McLean fell 31 stories off the balcony of a condo tower in downtown Toronto. She had been at a small gathering inside one of the building’s many glass boxes. There were five other people in the condo that night.
A resident of a lower-floor heard the sound of her body falling and alerted the police.
Bella was twenty-five years old, Cree from Northern Alberta.
The police deemed the death “suspicious.”
Five people besides Bella in an 800 square foot condo. All of Bella’s belongings still inside: Purse. Wallet. Shoes. Phone.
The annual United Nations climate summit is wrapping up in in Lima, Peru and on its penultimate day, something historic happened. No, not the empty promises from powerful governments to finally get serious about climate action—starting in 2020 or 2030 or any time other than right now. The historic event was the decision of the climate justice movement to symbolically join the increasingly global #BlackLivesMatter uprising, staging a “die in” outside the convention center much like the ones that have brought shopping malls and busy intersections to a standstill, from the US to the UK.
“For us it is either death or climate justice,” said Gerry Arances, national coordinator for the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.
This Changes Everything will be in stores September 16 and is available for pre-order. For more information, tour dates, or to buy the book: thischangeseverything.org/
Forget everything you think you know about global warming. The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon—it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better. In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth.
So I’m profiled in the new issue of Vogue that comes out today, talking about my forthcoming book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. I was pretty nervous about the piece, in part because of the somewhat weird (for me) context, but mostly because it’s the first major piece on the book. Happily, the writer, John Powers, did a really lovely and thoughtful job and I’m grateful. Of course he made my life sound way more fabulous than it actually is, but that’s his job (it’s Vogue!).
There are however, two issues raised by the article that need addressing, both of them (sort of) about branding.
One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.
The way to beat Vladimir Putin is to flood the European market with fracked-in-the-USA natural gas, or so the industry would have us believe. As part of escalating anti-Russian hysteria, two bills have been introduced into the US Congress – one in the House of Representatives (H.R. 6), one in the Senate (S. 2083) – that attempt to fast-track liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, all in the name of helping Europe to wean itself from Putin's fossil fuels, and enhancing US national security.
In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.
But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).
Canadian author Naomi Klein is so well known for her blade-sharp commentary that it’s easy to forget that she is, above all, a first-rate reporter. I got a glimpse into her priorities as I was working on this interview. Klein told me she was worried that some of the things she had said would make it hard for her to land an interview with a president of the one of the Big Green groups (read below and you’ll see why). She was more interested in nabbing the story than being the story; her reporting trumped any opinion-making.
Such focus is a hallmark of Klein’s career. She doesn’t do much of the chattering class’s news cycle blathering. She works steadily, carefully, quietly. It can be surprising to remember that Klein’s immense global influence rests on a relatively small body of work; she has published three books, one of which is an anthology of magazine pieces.