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Ecofascism: Naomi Klein Warns the Far Right’s Embrace of White Supremacy Is Tied to Climate Crisis

StorySeptember 17, 2019
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Renowned climate activist and author Naomi Klein addresses the rise of ecofascism, the marrying of environmentalism and white power, which she says manifested in the Christchurch, New Zealand, white supremacist terrorist attack, where the shooter identified himself as an ecofascist. In her latest book, “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal,” Klein writes, “My fear is that, unless something significant changes in how our societies rise to the ecological crisis, we are going to see this kind of white power eco-fascism emerge with much greater frequency, as a ferocious rationalization for refusing to live up to our collective climate responsibilities.”

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

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 — 


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: We clearly have to do Part 2. We’ll do it online at democracynow.org. Naomi Klein, her new book, On Fire. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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