Renowned climate activist and author Naomi Klein says responses to the climate crisis have for too long focused on individual consumer choices rather than the collective action needed to save the planet. In a new video for The Intercept, Klein argues, “So many environmental responses have just been minor tweaks to an economy based on endless consumption — take your electric car to the drive-thru for an Impossible Burger and a Coke with a paper straw. Look, of course it’s better than the alternative. But it’s nowhere close to the depth of change required if we hope to actually pull our planet back from the brink.” Klein joins us for the hour to discuss her new book, “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Millions of students are expected to walk out of class on Friday in a Global Climate Strike. Here in New York, school authorities have announced students will be allowed to miss classes without facing any penalties in order to participate in the protest. With 1.1 million students, New York City has the largest school system in the country. The student climate strike is taking place three days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, today we spend the rest of the hour with Naomi Klein, who is just out with a new book. It’s called On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. Naomi Klein is senior correspondent at The Intercept and the inaugural Gloria Steinem chair of media, culture and feminist studies at Rutgers University. In a moment, she’ll join us here in our studio, but first we turn to a new video featuring Naomi Klein. It was just released by The Intercept. It’s titled What’s in a Trump Straw?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I do think we have bigger problems than plastic straws.
NAOMI KLEIN: Even a busted clock is right twice a day. And so it is with the Trump straw.
GREG GUTFELD: While most political campaigns sell tacky T-shirts that nobody wants, what is Trump campaign selling? An attitude, in the form of recyclable plastic straws.
NAOMI KLEIN: The president of the United States is a terrible businessman, but it’s time to admit that, for once, he has a certifiable hit on his hands.
GREG GUTFELD: The first batch of 140,000 sold out. That’s 200 grand in sales.
NAOMI KLEIN: Sales of these bits of plastic, proudly advertised on his campaign website as nine inches long and modeled in the mouth of an adorable young girl — eww — show no signs of slowing down. The marketing approach is not exactly mysterious.
SEBASTIAN GORKA: Liberal paper straws don’t work; plastic ones do, especially when they’ve got “Trump” written on the side.
ANDY SURABIAN: It’s true! It’s true!
NAOMI KLEIN: The fast-food president, for his part —
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have pizzas. We have 300 hamburgers, many, many French fries.
NAOMI KLEIN: — seems generally confused.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You have a little straw. But what about the plates, the wrappers and everything else, that are much bigger?
NAOMI KLEIN: But I think there’s more that the success of the Trump straw can tell us. In fact, if you squint, it’s kind of a portal, a long, skinny one. These overpriced bits of pre-landfill actually tell us a whole lot about why our planet is on fire.
REPORTER: The Amazon is burning. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, encouraged deforestation of the Amazon.
NAOMI KLEIN: And why, in country after country, it’s the arsonists who are in charge.
SCOTT MORRISON: This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have ended the war on American energy, and we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.
NAOMI KLEIN: They might even tell us something about how we can put out the flames. Bear with me. I’ve spent the past 15 years trying to figure out why so many of us aren’t acting like our house is on fire, when it clearly is. And I’ve looked at all the theories: Our brains aren’t wired for distant threats, stopping climate change is too expensive, the technology just isn’t there yet, politicians only think short-term. You’ve heard all the theories. But I think it’s actually the Trump straw that does the best job of explaining this. What we are witnessing is a temper tantrum against the merest suggestion that there are limits to what we can consume, to what we can extract from nature and to the garbage we can dump back into it.
It’s no surprise that the backlash is strongest in places like the U.S. and Brazil. Just think of how they were founded. Europe was hitting up against nature’s limits. They had overfished their rivers, felled their great forests and hunted their big game. When European conquerors stumbled upon the so-called New World, they thought they had hit the jackpot. They saw in the Americas a kind of supersized Europe that would never run out of fish, trees, gold, fur or any of that bounty. Here were whole spare countries: New England, New France, New Spain, New Amsterdam. They weren’t very imaginative.
CHEVROLET MOTOR COMPANY VIDEO: America! Industrial miracle of the century! From all the states flow bounteously the products of forest, mine and field.
NAOMI KLEIN: The point is that the very promise, the official story of our countries, is a story of endless nature, wilderness to be devoured without limits. And the indigenous people who stood in the way, who had very different ideas about land and nature? They had to be removed, at all costs. And so now, when an ecological crisis comes along and says, “Whoa, actually, we filled our oceans with plastic, our skies with heat-trapping gases, and we actually have to live within limits,” it’s not just hard for the people most invested in these stories. It’s seen as an existential attack.
SEBASTIAN GORKA: They want to take your pickup truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers.
NAOMI KLEIN: It’s how a paper straw can become a threat to an entire way of life.
LAURA INGRAHAM: The ultimate trigger sculpture. It has everything the Democrats hate: steak, plastic straws and light bulbs.
NAOMI KLEIN: Look, it’s easy to dismiss all this as the infantile worldview of Trump supporters who just can’t wrap their heads around the climate crisis. But the truth is that a lot of liberals are trapped in a pretty similar ideology, one that can imagine anything except limits to growth and consumption. Which might be why some of them feel an overwhelming need to publicly express their fealty to cheeseburgers.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG: First of all, I’m from Indiana. And secondly, I love cheeseburgers.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Just to be very honest with you, I love cheeseburgers.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I am hopeful that we’re going to be able to do this in a way, especially when I’m president, that we can continue to have hamburgers and cheese.
NAOMI KLEIN: And in a way, the straw wars offer a portal into that mindset, as well. So many environmental responses have just been minor tweaks to an economy based on endless consumption — take your electric car to the drive-thru for an Impossible Burger and a Coke with a paper straw. Look, of course it’s better than the alternative. But it’s nowhere close to the depth of change required if we hope to actually pull our planet back from the brink. Restricting plastic straws is great, but we also need a ban on those significantly larger cylindrical sucking things. And electric cars? They’re nice if you can afford them, but what we really need is free, zero-emissions public transit, with energy-efficient, nonmarket housing and healthcare steps away.
But those policies would mean tossing out the market-friendly, centrist religion of the past half-century and massively investing in the public sphere to create millions of good union jobs. In other words, a Green New Deal. Because we are limited by the laws of nature, by what our planet can and cannot take. But when it comes to the laws that we make, the rules governing our economy and our society, there can be no limits to what we’re willing to do to save our future. We need new ways of thinking beyond Trumpian temper tantrums or the dangerous incrementalism of the supposedly serious center, because our house is on fire, and straws aren’t going to cut it. It’s time to grab a [bleep] fire hose.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, as millions of students prepare to walk out of class on Friday in a Global Climate Strike, we spend the rest of the hour with Naomi Klein. She’s out today with a new book titled On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.
AMY GOODMAN: A book reviewer in The New York Times wrote in today’s paper, quote, “If I were a rich man, I’d buy 245 million copies of Naomi Klein’s ‘On Fire’ and hand-deliver them to every eligible voter in America,” he said.
Well, Naomi Klein, welcome back to Democracy Now! Congratulations on this day, the publication date of your book.
NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s called On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. People throw around that term. Certainly the candidates are talking about it, across the political spectrum, whether they’re for it or against it. What, to you, is the Green New Deal? And what is the crisis that we are facing?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, first of all, it’s great to be with you, Amy and Juan.
It is true that the Green New Deal has become something of a bumper sticker slogan, and it’s misrepresented on Fox more than it is accurately represented in the so-called liberal media, so there’s a lot of confusion about what this means. But I think, fundamentally, it is a transformational approach to the climate crisis that is on the scale of the crisis itself, that says that the actions we take have to be guided by science. And scientists are telling us that we need to cut emissions globally in half in a mere 11 years.
But it isn’t a single carbon-based policy, like a tax, you know, or cap and trade. It’s really about transforming the economy and making it fairer. Right? So, it’s battling poverty, it’s battling racism, it’s battling all forms of inequality and exclusion, at the same time as we radically lower our emissions, because we do know that if we are going to lower our emissions in time, it is going to take transformations of how we live in cities, how we move ourselves around, how we grow our food, where we get our energy from. So, essentially what the Green new Deal is saying: If we’re going to do all that, why wouldn’t we tackle all of these systemic economic and social crises at the same time? Because we live in a time of multiple, overlapping crises.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, one of the things you point out, Naomi, is — first of all, the critics are calling the Green New Deal insanely ambitious and prohibitively expensive to the American economy and to other nations, as well. But you point out that in the past there have been instances when the United States government has marshaled enormous forces and money to deal with problems. You talk about the original New Deal under FDR, and you talk about the Marshall Plan after World War II, both of which were attempts by, some would say, enlightened capitalists to deal with the fact the countries — Europe, after World War II, and the U.S. — were heading toward potential revolution —
NAOMI KLEIN: Right.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — and that they had to respond to the popular movements by making radical investments and change. Talk about that further.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, absolutely. You know, I’ve been writing about the climate crisis for more than a decade and really trying to understand why it is that despite all of the scientific warnings, despite the fact that, sure, it’s expensive to deal with the crisis, but we know how not just expensive, but just the devastating human costs inaction carry, why have we talked and talked — our governments, why they’ve been talking for more than 30 years about lowering emissions, while global emissions have gone up by 40%.
And one of the reasons is that this crisis landed on our laps as a species at the worst possible moment in human evolution that a collective crisis of this nature could have landed on their laps — in our laps, which is the late 1980s, the high point of the sort of free-market zealotry, you know, right when the Berlin Wall is collapsing, right when history is being declared over, right when Margaret Thatcher is saying there is no alternative, there is no such thing as society. This was a huge problem, because here we’re being told that, really, we can’t do anything collectively, we have to scale back our collective action, we have to cut existing government programs, we have to privatize everything, when here we’re facing a crisis that requires unprecedented collective action, unprecedented collective investment, and yet we’re handing the tools over to private, for-profit companies, whether it’s water, whether it’s electricity, whether it’s transportation.
So I think the real value of really calling it a Green New Deal and harkening back to an earlier age, it reminds us, actually, it is possible to deal with collective crises. There’s so much fatalism and doomsaying right now, that is really making these appeals to human nature. Of course, Jonathan Franzen is the highest-profile, most recent example. But we hear this argument all the time: Humans can’t do something on this scale; humans are incapable of doing anything but just sort of satisfying our basest, most immediate interests. And so, people hear this. They hear that this is all we are. And so they feel hopeless, right?
And so, I think the important — what is important about reminding ourselves, OK, well, in the face of the Great Depression, in the face of the deepest economic crisis this country has ever faced, there was huge collective action, and — you know, whether it was the Civilian Conservation Corps planting 2.3 billion trees, setting up hundreds of camps across the country, tackling soil erosion, 800 new state parks, whether it’s hundreds of thousands of new works of art during the original New Deal, or, as you said, Juan, the Marshall Plan, which reminds us of another time of collective action. You know, as you said, it wasn’t just governments handing down these programs from on high out of the goodness of their hearts. It was the push and pull of social strife, strikes, militant action, rising socialism. And this came to be seen as a compromise. We need to remember this history, because it reminds us that this thing called human nature that gets evoked, telling us that we are doomed, is not fixed. Humans are many things. And we have been different in the past, and we can be different again.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, you use the term “climate barbarism.” Explain.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I use that term to describe the fact that — you know, we often talk about governments, like the Trump administration, as governments that are committed to climate change denial. I don’t think they deny the reality of climate change. I mean, Donald Trump has had to adapt the construction of his golf courses because of rising sea level. They all know it’s happening. But they think they’re going to be all right. They think their families are going to be all right. They think wealthier countries are going to be all right. And these governments are adapting to climate change. They may not be adapting the way the United Nations would like them to adapt, by cutting emissions, by building seawalls, whatever it is. They’re building border walls. They are adapting through this unleashing of white supremacist ideology, and creating the intellectual rationale for allowing millions of people to die. I mean, that’s what I mean by climate barbarism.
We are already seeing many thousands of people being allowed to die in the Mediterranean. We’re seeing people left in migrant detention facilities that are a lot like concentration camps, whether it’s offshore camps set up by the Australian government, whether it’s the European Union sending people to the Libyan camps, and now the Trump administration setting up its own camps. This is — I think, should be understood as a kind of climate change adaptation. This is how they are proposing to deal with a world in which millions of people are being forced from their homelands. We already know, just yesterday, from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, that 7 million people in the first six months of 2019 have been forced to move because of floods, droughts, disasters, many of them linked to the climate crisis.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And speaking of some of these disasters, one of the particularly powerful essays in this book — and it should be clear, this is a collection of essays that you’ve written over about a 10-year period on the issue of climate — is titled “The Season of Smoke.” And you talk about your going back to your family’s homeplace in British Columbia for your regular summer vacation in 2017, and you were stunned by the changes that were occurring all around you as a result of all of the wildfires that were engulfing the western parts of the United States and Canada. I’m wondering if you could talk further about that.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. So, that essay is an attempt to sort of capture the — I guess, the relentlessness of some of the ways in which the climate crisis plays out, because, obviously, it is these sort of acute disasters, these record-breaking storms, that capture our attention, as well they should. But I think part of the reason why we’re seeing a shift in polling around the climate crisis — and we are seeing a shift in the United States, where not only are more people understanding that, yes, it is real, yes, humans are causing it, but people are ranking concern for climate change as their number one or number two concern. There’s a real sense of urgency. And I think the biggest reason for that is simply that so many people’s lives are touched by it — by storms, by flood, by drought.
But smoke impacts huge numbers of people. So, even if you aren’t right by the wildfire and having to evacuate, for the past several summers in the Pacific Northwest — and the one I write about was 2017, but it was also true of 2018 — the entire region was just enveloped in smoke for well over a month. And you had the sort of impacts on respiratory health and just this sense of profound unease, which is what I was trying to capture in that essay, of just this general kind of — like, the sun and the moon looking so very strange, these little red or orange dots in the sky — and, of course, the inequalities that always accompany this. So, the migrant fruit pickers, for instance, across the border in Washington state, were having to pick fruit in these horrific conditions. And they’re not good to begin with, right? And as workers collapsed on the job, they were just sent home like defective goods. So, you know, part of what I’m exploring in that essay, of course, is what the U.N. is now calling “climate apartheid,” where you have this extreme inequality of impacts.
AMY GOODMAN: We are the last ones to cite polls, but that’s when it comes to presidential candidates.
NAOMI KLEIN: Right. That’s wise.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about some of these new polls that are coming out around the climate crisis, whether we’re talking about in this week called Covering Climate Now, that many of us are involved with, collaborating on, media organizations around the world — CBS came out with a new poll — and then Scientific American on children and what they believe.
NAOMI KLEIN: Oh, well, that was a poll — Scientific American, I think, was reporting on a study in Nature Climate Change about the impacts that young people are having on their parents’ belief in climate change. So, I think this growing sense of urgency, that you see really clearly in many of the polls, including, most recently, the CBS poll, where people are defining climate change more and more as a crisis — they want politicians to act — that’s very different. You know, when I was doing this research just a few years ago, it was — climate change would reliably be listed last, among Democrats, like, so, people — not people who are denying climate change. They say, “Yes, I care about climate change.” But you ask them to rank it, and it would rank like 19th or 20th among other issues of concern. That’s really shifted.
And I think partly it’s because of lived experience. Partly it’s the clarity of the scientific messaging that we’re getting, particularly from the IPCC, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, now speaking in a language people really understand: You have “11 years left to transform” virtually every aspect of society. That’s a quote from their summary, from their 1.5 report. And also, I think so many young people are really living with climate grief, with climate terror, and they’re turning to their parents, and they’re saying, “You have to do something about this.” And this is now — now it’s become clear that young people, particularly young girls, are changing the views of their parents.
AMY GOODMAN: And that’s where the Scientific American article begins, was about children, particularly girls, having an effect on conservative fathers, which is so interesting.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to turn right now to a young woman, to a girl, to Greta Thunberg. On Monday night, Amnesty International presented its 2019 Ambassador of Conscience Award to the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement. This is Greta speaking last night.
GRETA THUNBERG: Right now I think there is an awakening going on. Even though it is slow, the pace is picking up, and the debate is shifting. This is thanks to a lot of different reasons, but it is a lot because of countless of activists, and especially young activists. Activism works. So what I’m telling you to do now is to act, because no one is too small to make a difference. I am urging all of you to take part in the global climate strikes on September 20th and 27th. And just one last thing: See you on the streets.
AMY GOODMAN: Greta Thunberg, receiving the Amnesty International award from Kumi Naidoo, the head of Amnesty International, who will be joining us later this week in our climate coverage. Naomi, you had the chance to be on stage with Greta Thunberg at the Ethical Culture Society. Almost a thousand people packed in to see the two of you have this intergenerational conversation. Talk about her significance. She’s here in New York and will be participating in the Global Climate Strike on Friday.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, she’s — I love seeing her, and her moral clarity is so forceful. I think she’s really a prophetic voice, who has brought the existential urgency of the crisis to the heart of power.
She isn’t the first person to do that, right? And you have covered other young voices on Democracy Now! in the past, particularly from the Global South. You know, I think about Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands, speaking at the United Nations in New York, holding her 9-month-old baby, reading a poem to her, or Yeb Saño at the U.N. climate talks a few years ago. As Typhoon Haiyan is hitting his family home, he’s negotiating on behalf of the Philippines. So, these moments that sort of burst through the bureaucratic language with which we kind of shield ourselves from the reality of the stakes, the extraordinary stakes, of our moment in history.
There are so many ways in which we use language to protect ourselves, and I think the people who are tasked with talking about climate change at the official U.N. conferences are very good at making it seem less urgent than it is. I don’t think they mean to, but, you know, careers in bureaucracy manage to do that.
So, there have been these voices before who have pierced through, from the Global South. Unfortunately, it’s mainly been Democracy Now! who covers them, and very few other media organizations. Greta has broken through. And she’s such an amazing voice for her generation. And it’s a very different voice, I think, in part because, as she talks about, what makes her different and her understanding of this crisis having to do with neurodiversity. She has a different way of seeing the world as somebody on the autism spectrum.
AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to go to the question you asked her. Why don’t you set it up for us, as you spoke from your own personal experience, as well?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I wanted — I was just asking her about the tremendous sense of responsibility she must feel, because, in very short order, she’s become the most prominent, it seems, voice on the climate crisis, or one of them. But she’s also, from what I can tell, the most prominent voice of somebody who self-describes as being on the autism spectrum. And she talks a lot about that. She’s made a choice early on. And so I wanted to just get her reflections on that.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you spoke personally of your own experience. We’re going to start with your question and then go into the answer.
NAOMI KLEIN: I wanted to ask you about this other responsibility that you’ve taken on, which has to do with being very public, from the beginning, about being on the autism spectrum. It was in your Twitter bio: “a climate activist with Asperger’s.” And that leads to a whole other level of responsibility, because you’re probably also the most prominent person in the world right now who self-identifies as being — I’m sorry — being on the autism spectrum. And that’s really, really important to people who identify with you. And I can speak about that personally because I have a 7-year-old son with special needs, and you are his hero.
GRETA THUNBERG: I really didn’t think about being public of it, because I just — it was in my profile and biography on social media, and I didn’t think about it. I mean, it was just: Why should I not be public about that? Why should that be something to not be public about? But then I sort of noticed that it was a big thing, that not many people were public about their diagnosis. But I just — I just think it’s so important, because still many people see to have a diagnosis to be neurodiverse to be something negative, and it doesn’t have to be. And, of course, it can limit you in many ways. It has limited me a lot. But it can also — you can also convert that in to be something good, something positive. And that is what I have done. And that is what I think we should encourage more people to do.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Naomi?
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. I was — as I’ve gotten to know Greta a little bit and thought about her impact, I am really struck by the way she talks about her — she talks about it as a kind of a superpower — right? — that she has this amazing ability to focus, which is true for many people on the spectrum. You know, there are many people on the spectrum who are in the sciences, you know, who are amazing classical musicians. But, as Greta says, not everybody has these — you know, there are a lot of struggles. There are a lot of challenges. So it’s not to romanticize it.
But one of the things that’s really interesting is that therapists talk about how kids on the spectrum don’t do something which most kids do, which is called mirroring. Right? So, most kids, like if you play a game of Simon Says — right? — they get it right away. You move, I move, and we mirror. That’s something that humans do. We’re constantly mirroring each other. We’re looking to one another for social cues to tell us how to act. That’s how we build relationships and cohesive communities. A lot of kids on the spectrum just don’t have that instinct. They don’t have that impulse. They just do their own thing, right? Which is why they get bullied, because they’re following their own path.
So, what’s interesting to me, as it relates to the climate crisis, is that I think this — the fact that we do mirror each other has become a huge problem, because we live in a culture, in an economy, that, on the one hand, is telling us we’re in the middle of this existential emergency — and, you know, we see footage of Arctic sea ice loss, and we hear about an insect apocalypse, we hear about a million species facing extinction — but then, the next minute, it’s like, well, go shopping, you know, watch a makeup tutorial on YouTube, imitate celebrities, so — and politicians talking about pretty much everything except for this, as Greta has said. So, if your impulse is to mirror, you’re getting very conflicting messages. You’re like, “Is this a crisis or not? Because, you know, I’m hearing a message that it’s a crisis, but everywhere I look, I’m getting the opposite message: ‘Everything is fine. Continue as usual. Keep the system going.’”
And so, I think what’s so interesting about Greta — and she’s not the only young person on the spectrum who is playing a leadership role in this movement — is that it’s precisely because they lack that impulse to look to other people to tell them the right way to feel about this, that they trust their initial instinct. I don’t know a kid in the world who doesn’t have their first response to the climate crisis being “Oh my god! Why isn’t everybody acting on this? Why isn’t everybody understanding this is an emergency?” The problem is then that the next wave of messages they get is a message of “be reassured,” when we shouldn’t be reassured. So I think that’s part of why Greta is playing this prophetic role, because she trusted her first instinct, and she’s not mirroring this insane society.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guest for the hour is Naomi Klein, the renowned author, the award-winning journalist, the senior correspondent at The Intercept, inaugural Gloria Steinem chair of media, culture and feminist studies at Rutgers University. Her new book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. And she is the professor at Rutgers University, where Juan is a professor, as well. Juan?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Naomi, I wanted to ask you about a section —
NAOMI KLEIN: It’s a faculty meeting.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, yeah. We meet up at faculty meetings once in a while. You have a section in your introduction that’s called “The Specter of Eco-Fascism,” and you make the link between what has to be called a movement these days of right-wing extremists involved in mass killings all around the world, who actually ape each other and idolize each other. And you begin with the Christchurch killer, but also his references to what happened in Oslo in 2011, the massacres there, of the Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre, the Quebec City mosque attack and, of course, the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. And talk about this whole relationship between white supremacists and this kind of terrorism and the battle over the climate crisis.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, so, I write about the Christchurch killer in part because that horrific attack, which stole the lives of more than 50 people in New Zealand at two mosques, happened on March 15th. And that day is significant for many reasons. One of them is that that was the day of the first global youth climate strike. That is the day that 1.6 million young people around the world walked out of class and took this stand for international solidarity with children all around the world, a really — a movement that is in no way nationalist — right? — that is calling for justice at the center of our response to the climate crisis.
In Christchurch, the student strike — the rally after the student strike was disrupted, and the students were told to disperse, because there was a live shooting just a few blocks away at the mosque. And that was the killing that I referred to earlier. And one of the things that was really different about that attack — and he did take inspiration from all of these different mass murderers — was that this killer identified as an ecofascist. He said that in his manifesto — wrote that in his manifesto, talked about how immigrants were destroying Europe, destroying the Christian world and so on.
And, you know, I think there’s been a lot of focus in recent years about how do we change the minds of the climate deniers, right? I think the only thing scarier than a far-right, racist movement that denies the reality of climate change is a far-right, racist movement that doesn’t deny the reality of climate change, that actually says this is happening, there are going to be many millions of people on the move, and we are going to use this abhorrent ideology that ranks the relative value of human life, that puts white Christians at the top of the hierarchy, that animalizes and otherizes everyone else, as the justification for allowing those people to die.
And so, you know, that is the significance of what happened in New Zealand, because I think it was the first time one of these attackers self-identified as ecofascist. It’s not the first time that climate change has been evoked by one of these killers. It was evoked by the Norway — Norwegian killer, Anders Breivik, who talked about how climate debt was one of the things he was upset about. He saw it as a conspiracy to redistribute the wealth of Europe and North America to the Global South, because they understand that if climate change is real, it does require a redistribution of resources.
And this is fundamentally at the heart of where we’re at right now. We’re at a crossroads, where it’s not about who denies it anymore. I mean, I think that within a few years climate change denial as a force is going to have disappeared. The question is: In the face of this crisis, are we going to — we, in the wealthy world — hoard what is left, lock out everybody else, see this resurgence in these abhorrent ideologies, that never went away, and are would just going to take care of our own, as they say? Or are we going to recognize that our fates are interconnected? Are we going to completely reimagine borders? And are we going to share what’s left? And this is at the heart of the tremendous responsibility of our moment.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you, following up on that: Your response to the way that President Trump and the Republicans are now honing in on socialism and the Green New Deal as a new Red Scare, that they believe will lead them to victory next November?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, look, they believe it will lead them to victory, because they believe that they’re going to be able to define it, right? I mean, Fox News is talking about the Green New Deal way more than any of the other networks, right? And in the liberal newspapers like The New York Times, most of the op-ed columns are attacking it, right? So, the reason why Trump believes that this is a great campaign strategy, that the Green New Deal is the new “build the wall,” is because they are able to lie about it nonstop, right? They, right now, are setting the terms, by saying, you know, it’s just all about depriving you of your whatever, your hamburgers, as we saw in the video. You know, it’s just an attack on your way of life and so on. But, in fact, there’s new polling out from Data for Progress that shows that if you ask union members, unionized workers, whether they support the Green New Deal, vast majority of them do support the Green New Deal, right?
AMY GOODMAN: You have Sunrise Movement coming out for the UAW strike, the strike against GM —
NAOMI KLEIN: Right, exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: — to support the workers.
NAOMI KLEIN: Right. So, I don’t think this is a winning strategy for Trump. It is only a winning strategy for Trump if the Democrats run away from the Green New Deal, allow them to define it, don’t have a story about how this is going to actually create huge numbers of good jobs and a fairer society and better services, whether it’s healthcare or transit. And that’s the story we need to tell.
AMY GOODMAN: Which takes us to the presidential candidates. Let’s go to Bernie Sanders defending the Green New Deal.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: The economists have told us that the cost of inaction, inaction on climate change, will cost some $69 trillion throughout the globe. The scientists have told us that the cost of inaction on climate change will put the entire planet and life as we know it on Earth in serious jeopardy, because what we have been told is that if we do nothing, the effects of climate change will lead to over 250,000 deaths every single year across the globe from factors including malnutrition, heat stress, malaria and other diseases. And that is a very conservative number.
AMY GOODMAN: And this is Senator Elizabeth Warren being questioned by Univision’s Jorge Ramos during last week’s debate on ABC.
JORGE RAMOS: Senator Warren, should American foreign policy be based around the principle of climate change?
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Yes. We need to work on every front on climate change. It is the threat to every living thing on this planet, and we are running out of time. Every time the scientists go back, they say we have less and less time than we thought we had. But that means we’ve got to use all the tools. One of the tools we need to use are our regulatory tools. I have proposed, following Governor Inslee, that we, by 2028, cut all carbon emissions from new buildings; by 2030, carbon emissions from cars; and, by 2035, all carbon emissions from the manufacture of electricity. That alone, those three, will cut our emissions here in the United States by 70%. We can do this. We also need to help around the world to clean. But understand this one more time. Why doesn’t it happen?
JORGE RAMOS: Thank you.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: As long as Washington is paying more attention to money than it is to our future, we can’t make the changes we need to make. We have to attack the corruption head-on, so that we can save our planet.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Senator Elizabeth Warren in last week’s debate. And overall, Naomi Klein, if you can talk about the issue of the Democratic presidential candidates attacking the issue of climate crisis, the big battle within the DNC, but Tom Perez prevailing, at least for the moment —
NAOMI KLEIN: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: — saying there can be no single debate that’s just focused on the climate crisis? And then, finally, weigh in on the voices that so often haven’t been included, around the Global South and indigenous people in this country, who have really led the climate change movement, when you look at things — for example, confrontations like the standoff at Standing Rock.
NAOMI KLEIN: Right, absolutely. So, the decision that the DNC made, I think, was a terrible decision, not to have a climate debate. And it really shows, I think, a failure to understand that this is not a single issue. I mean, when the idea was rejected, it was, “Well, we can’t do climate. It’s not fair to the other issues,” right? And the whole point of a Green New Deal, which supposedly a majority of the candidates support, is that climate change is not an issue. It is an infrastructure for all of these other issues to fit inside, right? We are all inside the climate. Whatever issue it is that we are focused on, it is within the context of a habitable planet that we need to protect, right? And I think what is —
AMY GOODMAN: We have 30 seconds.
NAOMI KLEIN: What’s exciting about a Green New Deal is it doesn’t pit these issues against each other, right? It’s a holistic vision for the next economy, that is about how we radically cut emissions while solving many different crises of inequality at the same time.
So, in terms of the different candidates, maybe we can come back and talk about it in a bit more depth. But I think there is a real difference in terms of which candidates have serious plans for how to have a just response to climate change in a global context. We can’t talk about climate responses just within the United States or tell ourselves, “Oh, the U.S. is going to lead by example.” It’s too late for that. The U.S. owes a climate debt to the rest of the world, particularly the Global South. And there has to be a transfer of resources that allows countries that are on the frontlines of this crisis to leapfrog over fossil fuels and deal with the impacts.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Naomi Klein is out with her new book today. It’s called On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. And she joins us in studio for Part 2 of our conversation.
Naomi, we ended Part 1 of our conversation by talking about the presidential candidates, playing a clip of Bernie Sanders talking about the Green New Deal, playing a clip of Senator Elizabeth Warren. I want to get your overall picture now about this debate within the Democratic Party —
NAOMI KLEIN: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: — how much to focus on the climate crisis, with the DNC holding a vote — the Democratic National Committee — Tom Perez, the chairman of the DNC, prevailing, that there would not be a debate specifically on the climate crisis, because, as he and others say, before you know it, there will be a debate on every other issue.
NAOMI KLEIN: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you respond to that?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think it’s a fundamental failure to understand the intersectional nature of this crisis, right? I mean, the climate crisis impacts everything from economic inequality to international relations, to war, to, you know, whether or not we’re going to have a fair economic system, to femicide. I mean, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, we have seen a huge spike in domestic violence, in murders of women. Basically, climate change makes everything worse. Right? Whatever the stresses your society is under, you add climate stresses on top of that, and it gets worse. So there are ways of talking about climate change — indeed, we need to be talking about climate change in an intersectional way that shows how, you know, we can’t pry it apart from all of these other issues.
In the absence of a DNC that gets this, that is going to create a platform for candidates to talk about how these issues are connected, we really have to rely on the candidates themselves who say they support a Green New Deal to do it, you know, in their stump speeches, in the nonclimate-themed debates. They can’t wait for moderators to ask them about climate change. I mean, if you say you support a Green New Deal, which most of the candidates say they do now — not Biden, but most of the other leading candidates say that they do — then you can’t wait for the moderator to ask you specifically about climate change. This is your economic plan. This is related to what your foreign policy is. This is related to your racial justice platform. So, this is really the story of the next economy. So the candidates need to seize the reins. And I think some of them are doing a better job than others. I think, actually, frankly, all of them have a lot of work to do to really weave this into the stump speech, so that you’re not waiting for the DNC to hand you the opportunity to talk about your holistic vision.
AMY GOODMAN: So, evaluate the candidates’ positions on the climate crisis, where you think they stand.
NAOMI KLEIN: OK, well, I don’t have time to, like, go through each one. I think that the idea that Joe Biden is a safe choice is not true on any level. I don’t think he’s safe electorally, but I also don’t think that he’s safe when it comes to climate, because he’s still within this paradigm of, you know, “We can’t spend too much. We can’t do too much,” you know, this incrementalist approach, that actually leads us to this incredibly unsafe place, which is a warming world of 3 to 4 degrees, you know, additional warming. So, let’s set Biden aside. I don’t think it’ll come as a huge surprise to your listeners and viewers that I’m not a Biden fan.
I think the biggest difference that I would point to has to do with Sanders and Warren as it relates to climate and war, and to climate and international affairs. You know, I think they both have some very, very strong climate policies. I think it was very good that Warren adopted so much of Inslee’s platform. Sanders is talking about spending a lot more money. That is significant. But he’s also talking about spending a lot more money internationally.
One of the things that we’re hearing from a lot of different candidates, including Warren, is that the U.S. can lead by example. And Warren talks about “economic patriotism” as it relates to the green economy, so, basically, spend a lot of money converting U.S. manufacturing to — you know, from manufacturing the infrastructure of a fossil fuel economy to a green economy — so, solar panels, wind turbines — and then sell those products to the world. Right? I don’t think that’s economic patriotism; I think that’s economic imperialism. I think the U.S. doesn’t lead by example. The U.S. has to lead based on historical responsibility.
The U.S. is the world’s largest historical emitter. It is embedded within the treaties that the U.S. has signed, the climate treaties the U.S. has signed, that the U.S. owes a debt to the Global South to have the resources to develop their own economies. So, they don’t have to just buy made-in-the-U.S. solar panels. They need to be able to develop their own green manufacturing. And they do need resources from the U.S. and other large historical emitters to leapfrog over fossil fuels, to get to that economy, and also to prepare for the impacts of climate change that are already locked in.
So, I think Sanders, honestly, is the only candidate that is really reckoning with that historical responsibility. He’s talking about spending $200 billion for climate financing. And this is really the first time we’ve had that type of approach.
You know, another big difference that I think is worth really wrestling with has to do with what Sanders has talked about in terms of greening the military. It is true that the U.S. military is a major procurer of goods, and it would make a big difference if it was procuring goods that were low-carbon. But the fact is that war itself is an ecological disaster. And most of the wars that the United States fights are in areas with a whole lot of oil. And that is not by coincidence.
So, I think this idea that, you know, we battle climate change by painting the military green, frankly, is a bit of an absurdity. I understand why people think that it is more politically palatable. But I think we need to be honest about the fact that, you know, we need to get a lot of the money that is currently being spent on arms, you know, on these disastrous wars, disastrous on every level — first and foremost, humanitarian disasters, but also ecological disasters — we need to move that money over to building a peaceful and just and zero-carbon economy.