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Naomi Klein

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Klein at Occupy Wall Street, 6 October 2011.
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And a dirty dozen more

Naomi Klein (born 1970) is a Canadian author and self-proclaimed secular Jewish feminist[1][2] and (as far as we can tell) a socialist.[3][4][5]

She is most known for three books, No Logo, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Environment, as well as a variety of shorter journalism, all professing a left-wing, anti-globalization, anti-capitalist viewpoint. Her early books were specifically attacks on consumerism and trends in the world's consumer-goods market, while The Shock Doctrine examines capitalism more generally. This Changes Everything basically says "We can't get there from here" regarding solutions to global warming.

Klein is currently a senior contributor for The Intercept[6] and sits on the board of directors of 350.orgWikipedia's W.svg.[7] She has been rated the 21st century's answer to such left-wing writers as Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.[8]

Books[edit]

[edit]

Klein's first major book, No Logo, was published in December 1999, shortly after the Seatle WTO protests which brought attention to the alter-globalization movement. [note 1] [9]

The book's main focus was on the phenomenon of "branding"; Klein argued that major companies had, starting in the 1980s, transitioned from manufacturing products to branding products made by other companies, specifically overseas subcontractors; in this process, brands had expanded from identifying the manufacturers of products into representing entire lifestyles, and management of brands and corporate images had become more important to companies than actually manufacturing products. These trends, Klein said, were the primary cause of "astronomical growth in the wealth and cultural influence of multi-national corporations."[10]

The book also includes extensive documentation of the anti-globalization movement at that time, best known for the 1999 anti-WTO riots in Seattle which led to the resignation of the Seattle police chief.[11]

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism[edit]

Klein's second book, The Shock Doctrine, published in 2007, argues that capitalism (or, at least its "neoliberal variant") is only able to be built from a "blank slate," necessitating the use of violence to destroy any pre-existing economic order, which she calls the Shock Doctrine.[12] The book does make a connection between a willingness to resort to authoritarian means in order to implement disastrous free market policies, for instance in the neoliberal reform of Chile under Augusto Pinochet, which was carried out by the "Chicago Boys," disciples of Milton Friedman trained at Chicago school of economics, who brought to power by a military coup backed by the CIA.[13]

The book points out how large corporations use natural and man-made disasters to make profit off people's suffering, as pointed out by Katy Guest[14]. Other see Naomi as willing to see conspiracies where others discern the all-too human pattern of confusion, chaos and greed.[15]

The book was the basis for a 2009 documentary film of the same name.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Environment[edit]

So much carbon has been allowed to accumulate in the atmosphere over the past two decades that now our only hope of keeping warming below the internationally agreed-upon target of 2 degrees Celsius is for wealthy countries to cut their emissions by somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 percent a year. The 'free' market simply cannot accomplish this task. Indeed, this level of emission reduction has happened only in the context of economic collapse or deep depressions...Our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity's use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it's not the laws of nature.
—Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything[16]

A New York Times book review by Bob Nixon was positive, except regarding the subtitle (“Capitalism vs. the Environment”); “Klein’s adversary is neoliberalism — the extreme capitalism that has birthed our era of extreme extraction.” Still, he said, “This Changes Everything is, improbably, Klein’s most optimistic book. She braids together the science, psychology, geopolitics, economics, ethics and activism that shape the climate question. The result is the most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring.”[17] George Monbiot praised the book in an interview on the podcast The Elephant from January, 2016, saying “A lot of what we face is even deeper, even bigger, than capitalism.” [18]

This Changes Everything was published in 2014 and made into a documentary film in 2015.

Part One: Bad Timing[edit]

Part One lays out the case that radical change is coming, either in the environment, the economy or both. Klein considers doing nothing to be a radical response to the threat of global warming. She makes it clear why so many libertarians and conservatives profess to climate change denial and uncovers the source of their vitriol toward environmentalists. For Klein, climate change threatens their cherished ideology of unregulated free markets. The response required to combat climate change threatens the status quo, the fossil fuel industries, the very idea that mankind has dominion over the earth.

Chapter 2 attacks globalization, free trade agreements, cheap overseas labor, and exporting factories. We need to consume less. We need mass transit, affordable, energy-efficient housing, cities planned for high-density living. We need manufacturers to “radically reduce built-in redundancies and obsolescences.”[19] We need safety nets that ensure everyone has access to health care, education, food, and clean water, so that people aren't desperate for whatever job they can get, so desperate for work that they look away from their employer's pollution and promotion of consumption. “Unlike encouraging energy efficiency, the measures we must take to secure a just, equitable, and inspiring transition away from fossil fuels clash directly with our reigning economic orthodoxy at every level.”[20] It requires “tough regulation of business, higher levels of taxation for the affluent, big public sector expenditure, and in many cases reversals of core privatizations in to give communities the power to make the changes they desire. In short, it means changing everything about how we think about the economy so that our pollution doesn't change everything about our physical world.”[21]

Chapter 3 continues to argue for renewable energy and reversing privatization. Klein argues for universal health care and publicly funded disaster insurance “so that people who have lost everything to a hurricane or a forest fire are not left a the mercy of a private insurance industry that is already adapting to climate change by avoiding payouts and slapping victims with massive rate increases.”[22] To pay for these things, polluters, specifically fossil fuel companies, will be forced to help, through taxes, higher royalties, or even lawsuits. Other targets will be the auto industry, shipping industry, and airlines. Klein says the US military is by some accounts the single largest consumer of petroleum in the world.[23] They and arms companies could help pay for what is required, what Klein calls “The Great Transition,” but cutting military spending would also free up public money. She acknowledges how difficult this would be, which is why a “robust” social movement is required.

Chapter 4 addresses agriculture and nuclear power. Klein touts “agroecology,” which she quotes National Geographic as including the integration of “trees and shrubs into crop and livestock fields; solar-powered drip irrigation, which delivers water directly to plant roots; intercropping, which involves planting tow or more crops near each other to maximize the use of light, water, and nutrients; and the use of green manures, which are quick-growing plants that help prevent erosion and replace nutrients in the soil.”[24] Klein prefers “wind, water, and solar” to nuclear power, partly due to the time it takes to get a nuclear power plant online, partly due to uranium required, and partly due to her fears of the risks associated with nuclear power.[25] She examines the push for and resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline and calls for removing “corporate money from politics” to reduce “corporate power over politics.”[26]

Chapter 5 includes a brief look at the Industrial Revolution and the beginning of environmental movements in response to the “extractavist” nature of both the capitalists and the communists. She says Latin American “left and center-left governments” have done an admirable job of reducing poverty and unemployment rates, but “have so far been unable to come up with economic models that do not require extremely high levels of extraction of finite resources, often at tremendous ecological and human cost.”[27] “Yes, the wealth is better distributed, particularly among the urban poor, but outside the cities, the ways of life of Indigenous peoples and peasants are still being endangered without their consent, and they are still being made landless by ecosystem destruction.”[28] She ends the chapter by introducing her argument that it is magical thinking to believe “we are going to be saved at the last minute—whether by the market, by philanthropic billionaires, or by technological wizards.”[29]

Part Two: Magical Thinking[edit]

Chapter 6 takes aim at environmentalist organizations (“Big Green”) with ties to fossil fuel industries, Walmart, Monsanto, and banks like JP Morgan. She reports how The Nature Conservancy drilled an oil well on property donated to it by Exxon in 1999 in Texas; land inhabited by speckled grouse, an endangered species.[30][31][32] She is also critical of the Environmental Defense Fund and its support for cap and trade and the millions of dollars it accepts from the Walton Family Foundation. Sam Walton's grandson, Sam Rawlings Walton, sits on the EDF board of trustees.[33][34]

In Chapter 7, Klein argues against the folly of expecting “green billionaires” save us. “There is plenty of room to make a profit in a zero-carbon economy; but the profit motive is not going to be the midwife for that great transformation” (to a zero-carbon economy).[35]

Chapter 8 outlines Klein's fears and criticisms regarding geo-engineering (“Plan B”): “'fertilizing' oceans with iron to pull carbon out of the atmosphere; covering deserts with vast white sheets in order to reflect sunlight back to space; and building fleets of machines...that would suck carbon out of the air.”[36] But what bothers her most is the idea of “dimming the sun,” which might not have a uniform effect on climate across the globe and could have unpredictable results.[37] Rather than continuing to try to master nature, Klein passionately advocates for actually trying Plan A (cutting emissions).

Part Three: Starting Anyway[edit]

Part Three examines environmental disasters other than global warming, proposals such as Keystone XL, and protests that are more grassroots and inclusive of indigenous people than “Big Green,” a movement that has been referred to as “Blockadia”. Klein promotes the rights of indigenous peoples against fossil fuel extraction in and around their lands, though their response is by no means unanimous, citing “rancorous divisions and families...often torn apart over whether to accept industry deals or to uphold traditional teachings.”[38] Klein says these people need more than legal assistance fighting extraction. They need health care, education, and “economic opportunities that do not jeopardize the right to engage in traditional ways of life.”[39]

In her concluding chapter, Klein draws parallels of climate change to the fight for the abolition of slavery and for universal health care.

Though these movements all contained economic arguments as part of building their case for justice, they did not win by putting a monetary value on granting equal rights and freedoms. They won by asserting that those rights and freedoms were too valuable to be measured and were inherent to each of us. Similarly, there are plenty of solid economic arguments for moving beyond fossil fuels, as more and more patient investors are realizing. And that's worth pointing out. But we will not win the battle for a stable climate by trying to beat the bean counters at their own game—arguing, for instance, that it is more cost-effective to invest in emission reduction now than disaster response later. We will win by asserting that such calculations are morally monstrous, since they imply that there is an acceptable price for allowing entire countries to disappear, for leaving untold millions to die on parched land, for depriving today's children of their right to live in a world teeming with the wonders and beauties of creation.[40]

External links[edit]

http://thischangeseverything.org/

Notes[edit]

  1. A social movement seeking to create an alternative to economic globalization that promotes democracy, economic justice and safeguarding the enviroment and human rights

References[edit]

  1. "Meet Naomi," naomiklein.org
  2. "Late Night Live" interview (Australian Broadcast Corp.), 1/4/16.
  3. http://marccooper.typepad.com/marccooper/2004/08/najaf_to_new_yo.html
  4. http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/how-naomi-klein-became-canadas-only-voice-for-angry-socialism/
  5. https://www.quora.com/Is-Naomi-Klein-a-libertarian-socialist
  6. "Naomi Klein to Cover Shocks of Trump Era for The Intercept", The Intercept
  7. http://www.thenation.com/authors/naomi-klein/
  8. Yes, there's a "Nation Institute."
  9. Definition of the term alter-globalization, in French
  10. Extract from No Logo at The Guardian
  11. http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/WTO-riots-in-Seattle-15-years-ago-5915088.php
  12. Part 2
  13. https://www.cia.gov/library/reports/general-reports-1/chile/
  14. The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
  15. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/21/AR2007112101919.html
  16. [ P. 21]
  17. New York Times book review by Rob Nixon, November 6, 2014
  18. The Elephant: “The Guardian's George Monbiot: 'Climate Change Is Bigger Than Capitalism'”, (33:30).
  19. P. 91.
  20. P. 94.
  21. P. 95.
  22. P. 109.
  23. P. 113.
  24. P. 134. Andrea Stone in National Geographic, 5/2/14.
  25. P. 137.
  26. P. 152.
  27. P. 180.
  28. P. 182.
  29. P. 186.
  30. P. 192.
  31. Washington Post “Big Green: When Conservation and Business Fail to Mix: How a Bid to Save a Species Came to Grief” by Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, May 5, 2003
  32. http://powersource.post-gazette.com/powersource/latest-oil-and-gas/2014/08/03/Conservation-Group-Still-Earns-Income-Off-an-Oil-Well/stories/201408030227
  33. P. 209.
  34. https://www.edf.org/people/board-of-trustees Accessed February 8, 2016.
  35. P. 252.
  36. P. 257.
  37. Pp. 267-268.
  38. P. 386.
  39. P. 387.
  40. Pp. 462-464.