Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Naomi Klein Changes Everything



We're lucky that the smartest woman on the planet has turned her eye, and her pen, to fixing the planet. Naomi Klein calls her new book This Changes Everything the sequel to her 2007 blockbuster The Shock Doctrine, which presaged the economic meltdown of 2008.

At a standing-room-only event in Berkeley last night, Klein began by describing how reading a book about finding a moose to her 2-year-old son made her wonder whether he would ever see a moose, and sent her researching her new book. While The Shock Doctrine talked about the "disaster capitalists" who take advantage of events like Hurricane Katrina to assert their elitist agendas, we now need "disaster collectivism" to fix the climate change that is destroying our habitat, she said.

"We're past the point where radical changes aren't needed," Klein told the crowd. Greenhouse gas emissions are up 61% since our government started negotiating to end emissions; cutting emissions 8-10% per year "is not compatible with endless growth." Yet because of global trade agreements, Germany and the EU took Canada to court against their solar industry tax credits, and the US has similarly challenged China and India's alternative energy industries. Meanwhile, governments have been selling off sectors like energy and transportation that are needed to set things right. "We have allowed trade to trump the planet," she said.

Klein pointed to the halting of oil pipelines as successful resistance, but added, "It isn't enough to resist; you need your own strategy." Germany, she said, is phasing out nuclear energy with wind and solar energy cooperatives. Communities like Boulder, Colorado have fought to take back local energy grids and move to renewable sources in the "remunicipalization" movement. Investors, notably the Rockefeller foundation heirs to the Standard Oil fortune, are divesting themselves of oil stocks.

But we must do more, Klein says. We need a "polluter pays" model that funnels the profits from the oil industry into renewables. Pointing out that renewable energy industries generate 6-8 times as many jobs as do oil industries, she noted that adding jobs will help end the "industrialized racism" of the prison industry.

A sustainable industry model with economic and planetary justice?
It made me think about marijuana legalization, and how the industry is already moving towards a centralized, energy-sucking, indoor "warehouse weed" cultivation model. Illinois just made $5 million on non-refundable licensing applications for the 60 dispensaries and 21 medical marijuana grow sites it will allow in a pilot program; licenses will cost $200K each. In Pennsylvania, a proposal from the legislature would allow only 65 grower licenses with $50,000 application fees. A Maryland advisory board is recommending licensing fees of over $125K for only 15 licensed growers. If the cottage industry in California and elsewhere wants to keep any kind of economic and planetary justice in the marijuana market, it will have to learn how to model itself in agricultural coops or the kind of collectivism that Klein is talking about.

Environmentalists can't do all this on their own, Klein said. "We need a massive, serious social movement." She brought up members of Movement Generation's Justice and Ecology Project, whose motto is:

Liberate the Soil
Undam the Rivers
Free the People
Unplug the Empire

Sounds good to me.

The Berkeley event was a fundraiser for KPFK radio, which plans to air the talk in the future. Keep up with Naomi at www.naomiklein.org. She'll be in Los Angeles tonight and in Santa Rosa on Oct. 17 & 18 (Bioneers Conference).  

In 2013, along with 174 other prominent women (and men), Klein signed a letter to Obama calling for an end to the injustice of the war on drugs.

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