Good news: Environmental journalist Naomi Klein says we can avert climate catastrophe by coming together to create a more just, sustainable world.
Imagine living in a world with abundant clean energy, jobs and resources for everyone, instead of destructive weather and fossil fuel and mineral extraction. Wow, but how?
Imagine living in a world offering dignity, liberty and justice no matter your race, gender, class, religion, abilities or birthplace. Wow, but how?
In her new book, “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for the New Deal,” Klein explains how the Green New Deal (GND) could do both. Making the connection between exploitaion of nature and humans is an opportunity to solve many challenges at once. Climate scientists now urge replacing failed, obsolete economic policies that waste and pollute our natural resources. Current policies harm human lives in many ways, from creating wage stagnation — which leads to gaping inequalities — to crumbling government services. Green New Deal policy changes, however, will likely add momentum to a surging right-wing backlash.
What exactly is this Green New Deal? In “On Fire,” Klein explains a vision for social and economic transformation to reduce carbon emissions, pollution and waste of resources while converting to clean energy. This would create more meaningful, well-paying, low-carbon jobs. This would meet more of our basic needs, including education, health, homes and transit. By changing how we live, grow our food, work and move around, we could improve our quality of life and reduce waste.
How could we win this GND? In her chapter, “When Science Says that Political Revolution is Our Only Hope,” Klein reveals that our current economic paradigm is a threat to ecological stability, prioritizing gross domestic products (GDP) growth above all else. It disregards human or ecological consequences. Many scientists have been moved by their research to advocate action, lead marches and even get arrested for resisting pipelines, coal mines and fossil fuel investments.
In a sample commencement speech, Klein exhorted new college graduates to “Stop trying to save the world all by yourself,” warning that no single career or lifestyle choice would suffice. We can only meet this tremendous challenge together as part of massive local and global multi-issue, multi-generational and multi-identity movements.
In the chapter “Movements Will Make or Break the Green New Deal,” Klein warns that we still have a long way to go to unite our movements and dramatically expand their bases. Voters need to elect representatives who have the courage to stand up to powerful fossil fuel interests and banks that finance them. She warns the GND will not be won through elections alone, but by changing hearts and minds about what is possible. Klein ends the book explaining why the GND has a better chance to win and work than other incremental, too-little-too-late proposals. “Epilogue: The Capsule Case for a Green New Deal” lists nine reasons, including the massive job creation, a more fair economy and the power of new multi-issue, multi-cultural, multi-generational alliances working together against common threats and for common purposes.
As in prior books, Klein writes with the clear, concise style of a professional journalist. She adds her personal stories, such as meeting with Pope Francis, Swedish global-warming activist Greta Thunberg and other world leaders; she shares a story of her own family suffering through a summer of sunshine lost to wildfire smoke. For those who critique the limited specifics of the GND, she would reply that the precise details will be up to each sector, institution, city, state and nation.
One can hope future books will elaborate how to pay for the GND transition. Klein briefly mentions reducing military spending. As the largest part of the U.S. discretionary budget, redefining national security to reallocate funds from “weapons to windmills” would yield trillions while also reducing the carbon footprint of war and weapons.
If you are curious about the connection between escalating wildfires and fiery hate groups, read “On Fire.” If you are ready to get fired up to turn your outrage into action for a Green New Deal, read it with your friends, family or a book group. In a short video she produced, Klein quotes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-New York): “We didn’t just change the infrastructure. We changed how we did things. By committing to universal rights like health care, meaningful work for all, we stopped being so scared of the future and each other. We found our shared purpose.”
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