For Naomi Klein, award-winning journalist and author of four international best-selling books — Fences and Windows, No Logo, Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything — the whole Earth is her home.
Winner of the 2014 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, Klein is a 45-year-old Canadian with a 3-year-old son, Toma, to whom she dedicates her latest book on climate change. The author was the featured speaker at a Lannan Foundation event, “In Pursuit of Cultural Freedom,” at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in late April. I attended the sold-out lecture with another member of the Santa Fe Women’s Network, a coalition of Codepink and Women in Black activists.
The first half of This Changes Everything describes the threats to our physical environment caused by climate change. It is backed by rigorous scientific research interlaced with a scathing political analysis of the social and economic conditions that have caused the crisis we face.
It is an undeniable climate justice manifesto. In her book and lecture, Klein weaves together some of the most compelling issues — black lives matter, fight for $15 (minimum wage), immigration and campaign finance reform, affordable mass transit — into an integrated portrait of what needs immediate attention.
In her book, the author describes her awakening to climate change as the organizing issue of our time while reading aloud a book to her son about a moose ambling among the willows along a wild river. “What if Toma might never see a moose,” she wonders, “because of the alarming increase in species extinction resulting from global warming?” The second half of the book addresses the “place-based campaigns” in process around the globe to halt coal extraction, ban fracking, stop the Keystone XL pipeline and demand fossil fuel divestment.
In her talk, Klein paid tribute to the efforts of a local group, New Energy Economy, and its executive director, Mariel Nanasi, as a significant “emergency citizen movement” to stop Public Service Company of New Mexico from escalating the use of coal and nuclear resources to generate electricity. She underscored the irony in PNM’s choice to avoid harnessing solar power in a state with massive sunshine.
Klein sees climate change as the ultimate collective issue, noting the potential for job creation emerging from the development of alternative energy. She calls for the use of 100 percent renewable energy worldwide by 2030, with a complete rejection of “sacrifice zones,” that is, lands and communities considered expendable in the service of fossil fuel extraction.
In fact, she considers the ability to harness fossil fuels for human consumption a spiritual crisis, wrongly separating us from nature and luring us into a model of endless extraction of resources. Instead, it is a deep sense of belonging to the planet and a “love of place” that will insure a future for all.
Naomi Klein’s message is one of alarm and possibility. She warns that corporate climate change deniers have a lot to lose and will resist the actions that can save us from extinction and massive damage to Mother Earth. She calls for a movement of ordinary people joining together to demand the elimination of carbon emissions in order to reverse the process of global warming. I wonder how Naomi sees building such a mass movement and how she — and we — maintain hope, if she is correct in her claim that capitalism has waged war on the conditions for life on Earth, and that nothing less than a complete restructuring of political and economic systems worldwide will be enough to make a difference.
Marylou Butler, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, president emerita of Southwestern College, a local peace activist and a creative writing student at Santa Fe Community College.