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Naomi Klein on the People’s Climate March & the Global Grassroots Movement Fighting Fossil Fuels

StorySeptember 18, 2014
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At least 100,000 people are expected to take part in the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday. More than 2,000 “People’s Climate” events are planned worldwide in 150 countries. And on Monday, climate activists are planning to stage a mass sit-in in the financial district in Manhattan in an action dubbed “Flood Wall Street.” The actions are taking place ahead of Tuesday’s one-day United Nations Climate Summit. We speak to acclaimed journalist Naomi Klein, author of the new book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” about the upcoming climate activism as well as the global grassroots movement dubbed “Blockadia,” which is fighting fossil fuel extraction from Canada to Nigeria to Greece.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: “Do It Now! Sing for the Climate.” Special thanks to Be Electric Studios for that footage of climate activists building a 300-foot banner for Monday’s “Flood Wall Street” action, which we will talk about in a moment. 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, yes, author of No Logo, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Now she’s out with a new book—seems like you get a seven-year itch, Naomi. Every seven years—2000, No Logo; 2007, Shock Doctrine; now it’s 2014, This Changes Everything. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Naomi, I wanted to follow up on what we were talking about just before the break, this new generation of activists who are now challenging the old Big Green establishment groups. You write in the book, “Resistance to high-risk extreme extraction is building a global, grassroots and broad-based network the likes of which the environmental movement has rarely seen.” And you give it a name: “Blockadia.”

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, that’s—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about Blockadia and what it means?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, “Blockadia” is a term that was first coined by activists in fighting the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas, that piece of pipe that Obama was proudly standing in front of, because that—they did go ahead and build that, and people tried to stop it with their bodies. And they called their camps “Blockadia.” And what I argue in the book is Blockadia is really this transnational space, roving space, where regular people are stepping in where our leaders are failing, and they are trying to stop this era of extreme extraction with their bodies or in the courts, particularly indigenous people, First Nations people, using their traditional land rights, their treaties, their aboriginal title, to take on massive corporations and to take on the Canadian government, the U.S. government—and winning some really significant victories. You know, this often gets called NIMBYism, you know, “not in my backyard.” But the French anti-fracking activists have a slogan, ”Ni ici, ni ailleurs,” “Not here or anywhere,” right? And that’s really the spirit of it. It’s drawing the line. And you often hear that slogan whether people are fighting pipelines or fighting fracking or coal export terminals up and down the Pacific Northwest.

And there have been real victories. Whole countries have passed fracking moratoriums, like France. You have the province of Quebec, New York state, which is fiercely—people are fiercely trying to defend the fracking moratorium. You have really strong movements opposing LNG export terminals. And, you know, there’s—what people are doing is identifying the choke points. So, you know, a mine gets approved in Montana to open up a huge new coal mine, but because demand for coal is dropping in the U.S., this coal needs to be exported, so you’ve got to build a railway, you’ve got to build huge export terminals. And at every point there in this process, there’s huge opposition. And so, you know, in the book, I write about the Otter Creek mine in Montana. You know, it may very well not get built, not because they were able to block the mining permit, but because they’re blocking the construction of the railway and the export. It’s very hard to get the coal out, because all along the Pacific Northwest you have such strong opposition.

And this is—you know, it’s really the flipside of this carbon boom, this fossil fuel frenzy. These companies have become so ravenous to get every last drop of fossil fuels out of the ground, they’re going to places and they’re having to go to places where they don’t have as much political power as the places they’re used to operating. Right? So, you go to the Pacific Northwest, it’s not Texas, you know? I mean, these are places where there’s a very, very strong and militant environmental tradition. This is where Earth First! was born. This is a history of tree-sits and blocking logging that way. You also have resurgent indigenous rights movements.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you mention also the fight to preserve the forests in Greece that’s become a national cause in Greece.

NAOMI KLEIN: Oh, yeah. I mean, this is something we filmed for the documentary that my partner, Avi Lewis, is going to be coming out in a few months with, a documentary that in many ways is a companion to the book—it’s not an adaptation of the book—because we did it sort of in a parallel process. And, you know, I’m really excited about the documentary, because in a way that a book can’t, the documentary really shows the vibrancy of these resistance movements, and people are speaking with their own powerful voices.

And one of the most inspiring movements that we were lucky enough to document was this movement against a massive open-pit gold mine in northern Greece, in Halkidiki. And it’s become a huge national symbol. And it’s part of—you know, I think it’s more than a resistance movement against fossil fuels. I think it’s a resistance movement against the whole logic of extractivism, the whole idea that we need to create sacrifice zones in order to have a healthy economy. And the shift is towards a regenerative economy, an economy that takes care of the land, that doesn’t—in which no one, no people, and no place needs to be sacrificed in the name of progress. And it was extraordinarily powerful to see that. And it was also—you know, Greece is the country being hit hardest by austerity. And in the name of economic crisis, we hear about how pensions are being cut, salaries are being cut. But it’s also the natural environment that is being thrown under the bus in Greece in the name of economic progress. And in the face of that, people are redefining what progress means.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about what’s happening, first on Sunday, then on Monday. It’s being billed as the largest climate march in history. Talk about what’s happening here in New York and also around the world.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Well, I mean, I’m really excited about the march on Sunday, and I’m sure some of the core local organizers could talk about it better than me, but I’ve been lucky, you know, to—as I’m on the board of 350 and, you know, been—

AMY GOODMAN: Board of 350 is—350 is the environmental organization 350.org.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, and 350 is one of the—part of the coalition behind the march. But there’s just hundreds of groups. And I think the most exciting part of it, to me, is that I think this is going to be the most diverse environmental demonstration maybe ever seen in North America. And I think that this idea of climate activism being this thing that like only sort of slick NGOs do—and you’ve seen this at the summits—and it’s really not going to be like that, I mean.

And I think it’s really significant that this is happening in post-Hurricane Sandy New York, because there’s the connection between the need, the imperative, to fight inequality, to have economic and racial injustice, and to fight climate change. The connections between these projects and these values were so clear in the midst and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, because you saw how different the experience of the storm was if you were wealthy and had had private responses, or if you were relying on the state or if you were in public housing. It was an entirely different experience. And so, I think, for a lot of people in this city, these are not abstract issues. They live it. You know, they know it.

And so, there’s going to be a different kind of climate movement on the streets, and it’s going to be a lot of people who are not sort of looking down at the globe from space. You know, I have a part of the book about the problem of the imagery of the environmental movement being this—the astronaut’s-eye view of the Earth. And, you know, it’s a beautiful blue planet, but it gets really fuzzy and abstract from way up there, from—it really is—you know, it’s the God’s-eye view of the world. This is a movement that is really—it’s down in the dirt, and it’s—we’re going to see Blockadia in force. We’re going to see the anti-fracking movement, the anti-pipeline movement, the people fighting mountaintop-removal coal mining, people with refineries in their backyards. So, yeah, there are going to be NGOs participating, but I think what’s really different about this is it’s just going to feel a lot more immediate.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in line with the breadth of the movement, as it’s growing, I was—in my column in the Daily News yesterday, I reported on a lot of the unions, the labor unions, that are organizing people to come out.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: 1199, the hospital workers, is bringing several thousand of its members. And I asked one of the leaders, “Why are you getting involved in this at this stage?” And they said, “Well, we’ve got members. We’ve got members who come from Guyana who are facing rising sea levels in their country. We’ve got lots—thousands of Filipino nurses that are part of our union, and they’ve just had to deal with what happened in their home country with the typhoon. And so that this is something that strikes directly at our members and their understanding of what’s happening in the world.”

NAOMI KLEIN: It’s also—I think it’s even more than that, which is that if we’re serious about getting off fossil fuels and having a more deliberate economy where we can track those parts of our economy that are responsible for soaring emissions, then we need to also expand those parts of our economy that are lower emissions. And that includes healthcare. That includes education. And these are sectors that are in crisis, where we need these massive investments. So, I think climate change, if we’re going to respond to it seriously, because it is a health crisis, and also because this one of those—this is a real win-win, where we can invest in services that make people’s lives better and are also low-carbon. I think that’s why healthcare workers get this. They get this. But so do transit workers’ unions. And, you know, obviously there’s tensions within the labor movement, and we have a long way to go, but that’s going to be a big part of the march.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask about what’s happening on Monday, the direct action called “Flood Wall Street.” This is one of the action’s organizers, David Solnit.

DAVID SOLNIT: Now I think the next step for the climate movement is realizing that the fossil fuel industry is just the tip of the iceberg of the economic system that is hardwired to produce climate change, be bad for democracy, bad for community. So we’re going to take the next step during this—the day after the march and actually take it to Wall Street and say we actually need to replace this whole economic system of corporate capitalism. We have the pieces to replace it. We have the know-how. We have the alternatives. We just need to build a big loud movement that has the capacity to actually shift and make the changes needed to address climate change. So we’re going to be on Wall Street with thousands of people, and a lot of us are going to sit down and refuse to move, even if that means risking arrest. And we invite everybody to join us, if you care about the future, care about the climate and care about democracy. [video courtesy of Be Electric Studios]

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Monday, after the big march on Sunday. And that’s Wall Street. You’re actually going to be speaking there, Naomi.

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, I’m going to be speaking there when people start gathering at Battery Park. And, you know, Sunday is a big family-friendly march, and everybody, I think, will feel safe participating in that. And there is a desire to—and I think a big message of Sunday’s march is urgency, you know? There’s going to be a sounding of the climate alarm, and precisely because of what we were talking about earlier, because of this impossible cognitive dissonance that we are living, where on the one hand we’re being told this is emergency, and on the other hand we’re being told to double down on the cause of the emergency. So, because we don’t have climate leaders gathering at the U.N., we have climate failures gathering at the U.N. And some of them aren’t even showing up, like my prime minister. Stephen Harper is such a climate criminal that he’s decided to skip the whole thing, and he’s just showing up for the dinner afterwards. So, there’s going to be that sense of urgency expressed in the streets.

And then, I think people are going to take it one step further on Monday with Flood Wall Street, and also, as David said, you know, take it to the people who are really responsible for blocking progress, and make those connections. You know, a lot of the people who are involved in organizing Flood Wall Street, I first met them in the context of Occupy Wall Street. And they understand that this is an economic system that is sacrificing people in the name of profit. They already knew that. What climate change tells us is this same logic of profit and growth above all else is sacrificing the very life systems that we all depend on. And that’s an obvious connection to make, and it supercharges our movements with existential urgency. And, you know, this isn’t about a brand new movement; it’s about all of our movements coming together.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, I want to thank you for being with us. We’re doing part two of this interview, and then we’ll be broadcasting it on Democracy Now! Naomi’s new book is out, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Democracy Now! will be covering the climate march on Sunday from 10:30 to 1:30 Eastern time. Go to democracynow.org.

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