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Naomi Klein on The Leap Manifesto & What a System of Climate and Economic Justice Looks Like

StoryOctober 05, 2015
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Ahead of Canada’s October 19 elections, a coalition of Canadian labor, indigenous rights, climate justice, anti-poverty and migrant rights organizations have released The Leap Manifesto, a plan to transition away from fossil fuels to a 100 percent clean economy by the middle of this century. “A lot of the polling in Canada is showing that people don’t want just gradual, incremental change,” says Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” “They’re ready for more dramatic change. And this is why we’re seeing more support for The Leap Manifesto. Stephen Harper is an incredibly unpopular prime minister, and because of that, there are a lot of people who are going to be voting strategically for whoever they believe has the best chance of beating Harper, because there’s a lot of concern about splitting the vote.” We speak with Klein and Avi Lewis, the duo behind the new climate change documentary, “This Changes Everything,” about the effort, as well as Canadian politics and the move by Shell against drilling in the Arctic.

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

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein in this Part Two of our conversation about their new film, This Changes Everything, which is just premiering in the United States in New York at the IFC Center. I asked Naomi Klein to explain The Leap Manifesto.

NAOMI KLEIN: So, in Canada—we’re Canadian—we have been part of a process of bringing different social movements together to try to not just talk about what we don’t want. You know, we don’t want more pipelines. We don’t want more fossil fuel infrastructure. We don’t want our government to continue to be this climate criminal on the world stage, which we have been under Stephen Harper for far too long. But we spend a lot of time—because we have this very extreme government keeping the Bush dream alive, we spend a lot of time saying no. And, you know, one of the things that’s come out of this project is that we need to have a fully articulated yes, a fully articulated yes of what the next economy looks like, because a lot of what holds us back is just this idea that there is no alternative, that, yeah, you can fight austerity, but then what you’ll end up with is even worse.

So, we were really fortunate to be part of this meeting of 60 movement leaders, from labor, indigenous rights, climate justice, anti-poverty, migrant rights, in Toronto for two days. And out of that meeting came this document, which we called The Leap Manifesto. And what it does is it maps out how we can transition away from fossil fuels very rapidly in line with what scientists are telling us we must do and what engineers are telling us we now can do because of these breakthroughs in technology, so getting to 100 percent renewable electricity within two decades, getting to a 100 percent clean economy by mid-century, but doing it in a way that systematically closes inequalities along racial and gender lines, so bringing energy democracy, control over resources to indigenous communities first, to front-line communities first.

And what’s been amazing is the way people have responded to this, both in Canada and around the world, because now there’s plans to write a Leap Manifesto in Australia. We’re hearing from people all over Europe who want to do the same. There’s even some interest in the U.S. And, you know, it’s—the political parties in Canada are having to respond to it. Some are running towards it, like the Green Party, saying this is—you know, “Our platform has much in common with it.” Some are running away from it, like the NDP is afraid of being associated with this radical document. But yet, you know, tens of thousands of Canadians have signed it, including people like Leonard Cohen and Ellen Page. And it’s just—what we wanted was to put this on the agenda in the election and force a discussion. And it’s happened.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the October 19th elections that will be taking place in Canada, the significance of these elections?

NAOMI KLEIN: Oh, Avi is way better at talking about electoral politics than me.

AVI LEWIS: Well, I mean, it’s an unprecedented election in that we have three major political parties in Canada. And a lot of Americans understand that the fact that we have a third party, which traditionally was more to the left, is the reason that we have universal healthcare and a lot of our other progressive social programs. Of course, in Canada, since the 1980s, those programs have been under attack, and we’ve experienced a dramatic shift to the right, the way just about everywhere in the world has. But we do have three political parties. And in this election, after—

NAOMI KLEIN: Three major political—

AVI LEWIS: Three major parties. And in this election, after a decade of extreme-right rule from the Harper government, we’ve had this amazing horse race where all three parties have basically been tied. Now, in the last few weeks of the campaign, it looks like the New Democratic Party, the left-most of the three parties, is starting to fall behind. But there’s an overwhelming number of Canadians who want to change course from the Harper years.

NAOMI KLEIN: And interestingly, the reason why that left party seems to be dropping behind is because they moved to the center, and they’re being outflanked by the Liberals, who have moved to the left. And a lot of the polling in Canada is showing that people want—don’t want just gradual, incremental change. They’re ready for more dramatic change. And this is why we’re seeing more support for The Leap Manifesto. But, you know, look, Stephen Harper is an incredibly unpopular prime minister, and because of that, there are a lot of people who are going to be voting strategically for whoever they believe has the best chance of beating Harper, because there’s a lot of concern about splitting the vote.

And that’s the other thing that we’re doing with The Leap Manifesto. If people are voting for a party that doesn’t reflect their full aspirations, particularly on climate change because not one of these three major parties has made climate change an election issue, The Leap Manifesto gives them an opportunity to say, “OK, this is where I’m casting my ballot, but this is what I actually believe in.” And our hope is that we’ll end up with a government that is not the Harper government, maybe it will be a coalition government, and it will be looking for, OK, what mix of policy platforms from the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens are we going to embrace and make our platform, and that The Leap Manifesto can really have an influence on that process.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what just happened in the Arctic—I think, to many people’s shock? You had the kayaktivists, the environmentalists converging along—all through the Northwest to try to stop Shell from drilling. You have President Obama, the first sitting president of the United States to go to the Arctic, giving some of the best climate change speeches ever. And yet, right before he went, he approved drilling in the Arctic. And then Shell announces they won’t be doing it, though he had given them permission?

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, and though they had spent, I think, $7 billion on this adventure over the years. You know, it’s remarkable. And one of the things that I think one has to understand is that the fossil fuel industry will go to great lengths not to credit activism as being a contributor to a decision like this, because—

AVI LEWIS: Well, think what they could encourage, if they did.

NAOMI KLEIN: They don’t want to encourage us, yes. But I believe that this is a victory that absolutely should be claimed by this remarkable movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Author Naomi Klein and filmmaker Avi Lewis on their new documentary, This Changes Everything. The film is now playing in New York at the IFC Center. You can visit their website,, for upcoming screenings and to learn how to host a screening in your community.

That does it for the show, but this breaking news: The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations have reached a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest regional trade pact in history. We will discuss this on Tuesday’s show.

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