Highlights from a December 2 workshop on The Leap Manifesto, towards a justice-based energy transition.
Banner image by Perrin Ireland.
Highlights from a December 2 workshop on The Leap Manifesto, towards a justice-based energy transition.
Banner image by Perrin Ireland.
The TCE team is excited to be joining Naomi in Paris for COP21, and we thought it might be helpful to publish this list of where you’ll find us over the next two weeks. Naomi will speaking at some of these events, and she (or team members) will just be attending others.
The list is incomplete and subject to revision, so please check back!
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30
—Climate Games (multiple events, Nov 30-Dec 12)
—Climate Strike in Paris (all-day event)
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1
—Briefing at Place to B, with Naomi Klein and other speakers including James Hansen, Nicolas Hulot, and Barbara Hendricks (6pm)
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2
—Paris workshop with Naomi Klein and special guests—The Leap Manifesto: A Justice-Based Energy Transition (2pm)
—This Changes Everything book signing and film screening with Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis, and special guests Alexis Bonogofsky, Mike Scott, and Theodoros Karyotis (book signing at 6:45pm, screening at 7:30pm followed by Q&A)
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3
—International Rights of Nature Tribunal (all-day event)
—Pinocchio Climate Awards 2015 ceremony (7pm)
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4
—International Rights of Nature Tribunal (all-day event)
—Pathway to Paris concert with Naomi Klein and other guests, including Bill McKibben, Vandana Shiva, Thom Yorke, Flea, and Patti Smith (7:30pm, SOLD OUT)
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5
—The People’s Climate Summit (multiple events)
—The Global Village of Alternatives (all-day event)
—This Changes Everything film screening with Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis, and special guests Alexis Bonogofsky, Mike Scott, and Crystal Lameman (introduction at 2:30pm, Q&A after screening)
—The People vs. ExxonMobil: A Public Trial for the Greatest Climate Crime of the Century, with Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben (4pm)
—Pathway to Paris concert with Naomi Klein and other guests, including Bill McKibben, Vandana Shiva, Thom Yorke, Flea, and Patti Smith (7:30pm)
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6
—The People’s Climate Summit (multiple events)
—The Global Village of Alternatives (all-day event)
—Water canoe action on the canals of Paris, held by Indigenous peoples of North and South America (2pm)
MONDAY, DECEMBER 7
—The Climate Action Zone (multiple events, December 7-11)
—Trade Unions and Climate Change, Naomi Klein in conversation with Jeremy Corbyn (6pm, SOLD OUT)
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8
—Women’s Assembly, 2pm
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10
—Human Rights Day vigil at the US Embassy (11am)
—Capitalism vs. the Climate: How trade agreements are undermining climate action—and what you can do about it, with Naomi Klein and other speakers (7pm)
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12
OTHER CALENDARS AND EVENTS
—Climate Coalition (130 groups organizing together around Paris)
Last weekend, This Changes Everything had its first grassroots community screenings in Manila, Philippines and in 16 cities across Europe.
These “movement premieres” were part of a global day of action, designed to kickstart what activists are describing as the road to—and through—the upcoming UN climate conference in Paris. We were thrilled that so many of our partners in the global climate movement were able to use This Changes Everything as an organizing tool, which has been our greatest hope for the project from the very beginning.
In Manila, artists, film enthusiasts, and passionate activists were in attendance. The event featured a special tribute to the Philippine Climate Walkers, who bravely traveled on foot from Manila to Tacloban in 2014 to help galvanize climate action. The group, led by former UN negotiator Yeb Saño, will soon be embarking on a 60-day “People’s Pilgrimage” from Rome to Paris, calling on governments attending the climate conference to take action on behalf of vulnerable countries like the Philippines.
This Changes Everything tells the story of the battle to stop a gold mine in the Halkidki region of Greece, and we were told that at the local screening in Ierissos, “the community who gathered was very touched and moved to see our own struggle in a wider context, and it had a huge effect on people’s feelings. When the lights went on, many eyes were teary.”
On a cold night in Amsterdam, around 1,000 people donned blankets outside to watch the film projected onto the side of a coal power station. The image of giant wind turbines overtaking the smoking plant was an incredible sight.
Director Avi Lewis and writer Naomi Klein spent an afternoon in NYC Skyping into a number of events. The film also screened in Magali Panagia and Thessoloniki in Greece; Bergen and Oslo in Norway; and in Barcelona, Berlin, Bucharest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Manchester, and Stockholm. It was a joy for our team to be able to connect with organizers across Europe.
We hope this is just the beginning, as the film will be simultaneously released in cinemas around the world (including for more grassroots screenings) and on iTunes beginning on October 20th. Check out our website for a list of current screenings, as well as information on how to organize one in your community.
Today, several musicians, directors, actors, authors, national and community leaders and dozens of organizations launched the Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another. Translated into 8 languages, including Cree and Inuktitut, the manifesto aims to gather tens of thousands of signatures and build pressure on the next Canadian federal government to transition off fossil fuels, while also building a more livable, fair, and just society.
Initiating signatories to the Leap Manifesto include Donald Sutherland, Rachel McAdams, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Ellen Page, Gord Downie, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Stephen Lewis, Sarah Polley, Bruce Cockburn, Guujaaw, Tegan and Sara, Leslie Feist, Joseph Boyden, Dionne Brand, Thomas King, Maude Barlow, Paul Moist, Robyn Benson, Former Ontario Chief Justice Ron McMurtry, Michael Ondaatje and more.
You can download the Leap Manifesto, see the full list of signatories, and sign the document yourself here.
The writing of the Leap Manifesto began at an unprecedented gathering of representatives from Canada’s social movements that the This Changes Everything team hosted in Toronto this spring. We brought together sixty leaders from Canada’s Indigenous rights, social and food justice, environmental, faith-based, and labour movements to hammer out what a justice-based transition to a clean energy economy in Canada would look like.
In addition to shifting the national debate in Canada in the leadup to the October 19 federal election and beyond, we also aim to encourage and support friends in envisioning their own versions of the Leap Manifesto around the world. Initial discussions towards an Australian Leap are already occurring down under.
Today in Toronto, the launch event featured readings and remarks from several of the Manifesto’s high-profile signatories, including experts who outlined why this vision is feasible and achievable.
Here is the press conference video, followed by the full text of the manifesto.
We start from the premise that Canada is facing the deepest crisis in recent memory.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has acknowledged shocking details about the violence of Canada’s near past. Deepening poverty and inequality are a scar on the country’s present. And our record on climate change is a crime against humanity’s future.
These facts are all the more jarring because they depart so dramatically from our stated values: respect for Indigenous rights, internationalism, human rights, diversity, and environmental stewardship.
Canada is not this place today—but it could be.
We could live in a country powered entirely by truly just renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.
We know that the time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.
So we need to leap.
This leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land. Indigenous communities have been at the forefront of protecting rivers, coasts, forests and lands from out-of-control industrial activity. We can bolster this role, and reset our relationship, by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Moved by the treaties that form the legal basis of this country and bind us to share the land “for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow,” we want energy sources that will last for time immemorial and never run out or poison the land. Technological breakthroughs have brought this dream within reach. The latest research shows it is feasible for Canada to get 100% of its electricity from renewable resources within two decades; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy .
We demand that this shift begin now.
There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard. That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines; fracking in New Brunswick, Quebec and British Columbia; increased tanker traffic off our coasts; and to Canadian- owned mining projects the world over.
The time for energy democracy has come: we believe not just in changes to our energy sources, but that wherever possible communities should collectively control these new energy systems.
As an alternative to the profit-gouging of private companies and the remote bureaucracy of some centralized state ones, we can create innovative ownership structures: democratically run, paying living wages and keeping much-needed revenue in communities. And Indigenous Peoples should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects. So should communities currently dealing with heavy health impacts of polluting industrial activity.
Power generated this way will not merely light our homes but redistribute wealth, deepen our democracy, strengthen our economy and start to heal the wounds that date back to this country’s founding.
A leap to a non-polluting economy creates countless openings for similar multiple “wins.” We want a universal program to build energy efficient homes, and retrofit existing housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities and neighbourhoods will benefit first and receive job training and opportunities that reduce poverty over the long term. We want training and other resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to take part in the clean energy economy. This transition should involve the democratic participation of workers themselves. High-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit can unite every community in this country—in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.
And since we know this leap is beginning late, we need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.
Moving to a far more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system would reduce reliance on fossil fuels, capture carbon in the soil, and absorb sudden shocks in the global supply—as well as produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.
We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects. Rebalancing the scales of justice, we should ensure immigration status and full protection for all workers. Recognizing Canada’s contributions to military conflicts and climate change—primary drivers of the global refugee crisis—we must welcome refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life.
Shifting to an economy in balance with the earth’s limits also means expanding the sectors of our economy that are already low carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media. Following on Quebec’s lead, a national childcare program is long past due. All this work, much of it performed by women, is the glue that builds humane, resilient communities—and we will need our communities to be as strong as possible in the face of the rocky future we have already locked in.
Since so much of the labour of caretaking—whether of people or the planet—is currently unpaid, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income. Pioneered in Manitoba in the 1970’s, this sturdy safety net could help ensure that no one is forced to take work that threatens their children’s tomorrow, just to feed those children today.
We declare that “austerity”—which has systematically attacked low-carbon sectors like education and healthcare, while starving public transit and forcing reckless energy privatizations—is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth.
The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available—we just need the right policies to release it. Like an end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending. All of these are based on a simple “polluter pays” principle and hold enormous promise.
One thing is clear: public scarcity in times of unprecedented private wealth is a manufactured crisis, designed to extinguish our dreams before they have a chance to be born.
Those dreams go well beyond this document. We call for town hall meetings across the country where residents can gather to democratically define what a genuine leap to the next economy means in their communities.
Inevitably, this bottom-up revival will lead to a renewal of democracy at every level of government, working swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.
This is a great deal to take on all at once, but such are the times in which we live.
The drop in oil prices has temporarily relieved the pressure to dig up fossil fuels as rapidly as high-risk technologies will allow. This pause in frenetic expansion should not be viewed as a crisis, but as a gift.
It has given us a rare moment to look at what we have become—and decide to change.
And so we call on all those seeking political office to seize this opportunity and embrace the urgent need for transformation. This is our sacred duty to those this country harmed in the past, to those suffering needlessly in the present, and to all who have a right to a bright and safe future.
Now is the time for boldness.
Now is the time to leap.
No Ethics in Migrant Detention.
Statement from speakers at Festival of Dangerous Ideas. Sydney, Australia September 2015.
We are thrilled to be in Australia this week for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas and are all greatly looking forward to our respective events at the Sydney Opera House.
For authors dealing with themes of social justice and basic fairness, this feels like a critical time to be invited to join Australia’s public debate. For instance, at the very time we entered the country, Australia’s Border Force was in the midst of a shocking attempt to expand its powers, announcing plans to perform random document checks on the streets of Melbourne.
We were very pleased that, in response to public outrage, this plan was quickly scrapped – a powerful testament to the importance of the right to protest and freely express dissent.
As we have learned more about the migration debate here in Australia, we were surprised to discover that the festival’s co-curator, the Ethics Centre, is no mere bystander. One of its board members is retired Major General Andrew James Molan, co-architect of Tony Abbott’s “Operation Sovereign Borders,” the draconian program relying on the remote island detention centres condemned as cruel and inhumane by multiple respected human rights organizations.
Molan is so proud of his accomplishments turning back and imprisoning asylum seekers that he has recently proposed Australia as a model for Europe. “In Australia’s situation… judicious boat turn-backs was the key. Now success is the continued application of effective policies with resolve,” he has written.
As festival speakers, we wish to separate ourselves – in the strongest possible terms – from Molan’s views and policies. Australia’s cruel practices towards migrants are wholly unacceptable, and they most certainly should not be exported to Europe, where they would make an already intolerable moral crisis far worse.
We also wish to express our firm solidarity with this country’s courageous migrant rights movement, which has long fought against the unjust treatment of asylum seekers in Australian-controlled detention centres, as well as on the streets of Melbourne.
We look forward to sharing more dangerous ideas with you in the days to come.
We’re excited to share the official poster for This Changes Everything the documentary! The poster was designed by street artist Shepard Fairey, whose most famous work includes Obey Giant.
Fairey is also involved in the film as one of its Executive Producers, social and environmental justice being a longstanding theme in his work. In 2014, the release year of This Changes Everything the book, he created an impressive gallery based on the theme of climate denial. In a blog post, Fairey argued that:
“…you don’t need to be a “nature” person to understand that this planet is the one we humans and all other species have to live on… I meant to read This Changes Everything right when it came out, and should have, so don’t waste another minute like I did.. get the book now. This book thoroughly and compellingly examines the causes of Climate Change and the systemic roadblocks to reversing it.”
For more information about film screenings please reach out at email@example.com.
To view Artsy’s Shepard Fairey page, click here. Arsty strives to make all of the world’s art accessible to anyone online.
For the 2.5 minute trailer, we tried something new: we released an open call asking interested movement allies and partners to crowd-translate. Over 180 people have contributed so far using the online video platform Amara, an innovative subtitle editing program that works like a wiki and allows people to check each other’s translations. The trailer is now available in 26 languages, with more to come. Thank you to all who contributed.
Is there a language missing that you would like to help us translate, or a suggestion for a change you’d like to make in the subtitles in your language? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avi Lewis’s film is inspired by the book by Naomi Klein, and makes the case that responding to the climate crisis may be the best chance we’ve ever had to build a better world.
Shot over four years in dozens of locations spanning nine countries and five continents, This Changes Everything is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change.
The documentary presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond.
Interwoven with these stories of struggle is Naomi’s narration – her take on the carbon in the air and the economic system that put it there. It builds to her most controversial and exciting idea: that we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.
Hot on the heels of TIFF we’ll be rolling out our unique global distribution plan, making the film accessible to movements around the world ahead of the Paris COP21 talks. If you’re interested in organizing a screening event in your community please get in touch with us. Updates on our distribution plans will be announced through our newsletter (signup at right) and social media channels.
Naomi Klein joins reporters Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! to talk about climate change and President Obama’s plan to cut emissions. View the full transcript here.
In the second section of the show, Naomi reflects on being included in the major conference on climate change held at the Vatican. She discusses the Pope’s radical message not only on climate change, but the economy. Find the video and full transcript here.
Obama does not deserve to be called a climate leader simply because he has introduced what is a pretty good plan for cutting emissions from coal-fired power plants. I’m not saying that’s not important. It’s a step in the right direction… [But] when you take one step in the right direction and five steps in the wrong direction, you’re going in the wrong direction. You’re not going in the right direction. And we have to be honest about this, despite the fact that he’s under huge fire from the coal lobby right now. – Naomi Klein
Naomi delivered the following remarks at a press conference introducing “People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course,” a high-level meeting being held at the Vatican this week to explore Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ recently-released encyclical letter on ecology. The gathering will take place on July 2-3, and is being convened by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Alliance of Catholic Development Organisations (CIDSE).
Here is video of the full press conference, followed by the prepared text of Naomi’s statement. Other speakers included Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Bernd Nilles, Secretary General of CIDSE.
Thank you. I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and to CIDSE for hosting us here, and for convening this remarkable 2-day gathering that I’m very much looking forward to.
It’s also a real honour to be here supporting and indeed celebrating the historic publication of the Pope’s encyclical.
Pope Francis writes early on that Laudato Si’ is not only a teaching for the Catholic world but for “every person living on this planet.” And I can say that as a secular Jewish feminist who was rather surprised to be invited to the Vatican, it certainly spoke to me.
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Alliance of Catholic Development Organisations (CIDSE) are hosting a press conference the day before the opening of the major ‘People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course’ conference, focusing on the publication of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on Ecology and its guidance for the struggle against climate change and towards economies and lifestyles working for people and planet.
The conference and press event will bring together church leaders, decision makers, scientists as well as a wide range of representatives of Catholic and civil society organisations from different regions of the world.
Speakers at the press conference:
• H.E. Cardinal Peter Turkson: President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace;
• Ms. Naomi Klein: Author. Latest publication: “This Changes Everything” (Una rivoluzione ci salverà);
• Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer: Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
• Mr. Bernd Nilles: CIDSE Secretary General.
I was traveling through a typically crowded street in Jakarta on the back of a motorbike recently, breathing the usual noxious stench of exhaust fumes, when I was struck by a powerful realization about the climate crisis. Many of the people around me were two, three, or more to a bike. So many faces were covered with masks to protect against life-threatening pollution. The fossil fuel industry has the world fooled, I couldn’t help but think—billions are addicted to its products with nowhere else to turn.
One of the most incredible and outrageous things about the so-called “issue” of human-caused climate change is the mountain of credible evidence showing a decades-long, highly strategic effort by fossil fuel companies to prevent climate action.
MoveOn.org sent out the following message and accompanying petition from Naomi to its members on May 21. Make sure to sign the petition here.
Dear MoveOn member,
This is Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything—and I’m writing because President Obama and the U.S. Congress need to hear from you before they rush toward approving a massive new trade agreement that would benefit corporations and undercut serious efforts to fight climate change.
This deal—the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP—has been called “NAFTA on steroids.” It’s the latest and largest in a series of international agreements that have attacked working women and men, fueled mindless and carbon-intensive consumption, and prevented governments from enforcing their own laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
NAFTA-esque deals around the world have been a disaster for democracy, good jobs, and environmental justice, which is why I hope you’ll click here and sign the petition to stop the TPP from being rushed through Congress.
This post originally appeared at openDemocracy on April 22.
On April 11, 2015 there were dozens of rallies across Canada demanding true leadership to deal with the climate crisis we face around the world. The federal Harper government continues to be a climate laggard, refusing to address the need to reduce our carbon emissions and violating Indigenous peoples’ rights with its zealous pro-tar sands agenda. For the first time in Quebec, Indigenous peoples led the march to show our resolve to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth and demand justice. As I stood before a crowd of 25,000 people from across Canada, I spoke of the contamination, despair, and detrimental impacts my family and many other communities face from resource extraction happening in our homelands of Northern Alberta.
As austerity shrinks already meager national programs, local governments are facing heightened pressure to take up the slack—and even to re-imagine public services in an age of climate crisis and resource stress. The wave of so-called “re-municipalization” efforts around the world, seeking to return electric and water utilities to community hands, is a key example of how this new reality is playing out. Municipalities are tackling a variety of public initiatives neglected by central authorities.
Cities cannot meet these responsibilities without the necessary means. Yet in 2010 alone state aid to local governments was cut by $12.6 billion in the United States; in Nebraska, it was eliminated. We have no choice but to resuscitate a debate over local spending, one that has played a pivotal role in US history.
In the United States, municipalities are public corporations. Just like private corporations, they can borrow money, issue bonds, go into debt, develop credit scores, and own utilities. Though the financial powers of localities are quite limited today, this was not always the case.
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Feminism rests on a paradox, as historian Joan W. Scott laid out in her wonderful 1996 book, Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Rights of Man. Since the 18th century, women’s movements struggling for full citizenship have argued that gender differences are irrelevant to politics. Organizing under the banner of women’s rights, however, meant codifying the very difference they were fighting against.
The paradox of feminism has been a politically productive one: women’s rights have advanced through a combination of universalism (gender differences are irrelevant) and particularism (women are oppressed, and should therefore mobilize as women). A similar dynamic can be seen in anti-racist movements.
This paradox cannot be easily resolved, according to Scott. But it seems to be the very stuff of modern politics.
Avi Lewis delivered the opening keynote at the 9th annual Advocacy Conference of Public Interest Alberta, entitled “A Just and Fair Alberta: Making It Happen,” on April 9 in Edmonton. PIA “exists to foster an understanding of the importance of public spaces, services and institutions in Albertans’ lives, and to build a network of people and organizations committed to advancing the public interest.”
Here’s the (lightly condensed) text of Avi’s rousing, wide-ranging speech.
I want to start by acknowledging the Treaty 6 First Nations, on whose land we gather tonight. In this historic period of resurgent and inspiring indigenous activism, I think it’s all the more important that we settlers remind ourselves constantly that we are guests here.
The utility of this humility is that it helps us remember that in fact, all humans are guests on this earth—and taking better care of the place is not just the polite thing to do: it’s a matter of our collective survival.
Let me also say how delighted I am to be back in Alberta, and at what a time! To be here, at the epicenter of the country’s politics and economy, with a group of unapologetic progressives and public sector champions, in the first news cycle of an historic election campaign….it is nothing short of exhilarating.
I mean it when I say that Alberta is the epicenter of Canadian public life today. Since the ascent of Stephen Harper (a former denizen of the Imperial Oil mailroom) to the highest office in the land, the province has become the very heart of the New Conservative Canada. You are the richest province, that is well known. You still have no sales tax, and you still have the lowest personal and corporate taxes in the country. And some of the lowest royalty rates of any petro-state on earth. Not coincidentally—in fact, as you all know, precisely because of these business-pandering braggables—you have a whole slew of other Alberta superlatives. Shameful ones.
One week ago, I was honoured to receive an “Izzy Award” for “outstanding achievement in independent media and journalism.” The annual award, which this year also went to David Sirota for his groundbreaking investigations into political corruption in the U.S. pension system, is named after the great muckraker I.F. Stone (“Izzy” to his friends).
In past years, the award has gone to people who do a far better job of embodying the legacy of Stone’s investigative reporting than I (Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill among them). But as I said at the ceremony at Ithaca College, I doubt the judges have given the honour to anyone whose grandparents would have been more thrilled. Without fail, my late grandfather Philip Klein would read I.F. Stone’s Weekly to my late grandmother Annie while she knitted some new creation.
In preparation for the ceremony, I read some of Stone’s environmental writing, and came across a piece that seems very worth sharing today. It’s the speech he gave on April 22, 1970—the very first Earth Day. Never one to mince words, Stone’s speech was titled “Con Games.”
Picture the scene: it’s the Sylvan Theater on the grounds of the National Monument in Washington, D.C. Millions have participated in Earth Day events across the country and thousands are now gathered on the National Mall to listen to music (including Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs) and hear rally speeches from political heavyweights.
It is in this joyous and self-congratulatory atmosphere that a curmudgeonly I.F. Stone, by now a full-fledged icon on the left, takes the stage. And he unapologetically rains on the parade, accusing Earth Day of providing cover for escalating war and calling for a movement willing to demand “enormous changes—psychological, military, and bureaucratic—to end the existing world system, a system of hatred, of anarchy, of murder, of war and pollution.”
There are times when free-market fundamentalism seems like a one-way street. As corporations move in on postal services in the US, healthcare in the UK, railways in India, and schools in South Africa, those of us opposed to the commercialization of basic services seem to be constantly on the retreat. The argument that there is no alternative, perpetuated so loudly by public commentators, politicians, and media alike, is one of the most powerful weapons corporations have used to steamroll ahead.
Fortunately, it is also completely untrue. Not only are citizens successfully standing up to defend the public sector, but growing numbers of communities are also reversing past privatizations and delivering even better public services in the process.
In 2011, political theorist Timothy Mitchell published Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil, which argues that the fossil fuel industry “helped create both the possibility of modern democracy and its limits.”
The book begins with the rise of coal: the rigid, concentrated structure of its production and distribution networks made them highly vulnerable to disruption by militant workers, who were able to achieve new and unprecedented forms of political power as a result. All that changed with the global shift from coal to oil, with its comparatively flexible networks and less reliance on workers—a shift that consolidated the power of the fossil fuel giants, and was also closely linked to the creation of the idea of an “economy” based on endless GDP growth.
I recently spoke with Mitchell at his Columbia University office about Carbon Democracy, and how the book resonates with the climate fight.
PR: Your book examines the origins and practice of sabotage. Could you talk about that, and how it plays into the relationship between fossil fuels and democracy?
TM: If one looks at the early 20th century, when coal had become the dominant fossil fuel, the dependence on coal is associated very strongly with the emergence of mass democracy. Working classes were able to transform their forms of politics and mount very serious claims for more egalitarian ways of life, starting with extending the right to vote, which led to further social rights. And they did so via sabotage. The word “sabotage” originally referred to the actions of energy workers—coal workers, rail workers, dock workers—who discovered the effectiveness of coordinated strikes along the energy chain, or what became known as the general strike. The rise of coal, as a single dominant energy source, had given them an unusual opportunity to have their voices heard and make effective demands.
Proposals by the German government to reduce emissions from coal power plants are under threat despite new analysis showing that German lignite coal plants make up 4 out of 5 largest emitters in Europe.
The proposals to limit emissions from coal, which were leaked last month, are coming under intense pressure from local politicians and utility companies who are playing on exaggerated concerns over job losses.
In fact, a recent study by the International Trade Union Confederation shows that climate change is already putting thousands of jobs at risk and that a just transition away from fossil fuels will create new, quality jobs.
Grassroots climate groups and NGOs alike are urging ministers to protect the plans and are mobilizing people en masse to take part in actions in April and August to demand a complete phase out of coal in Germany. On 25th April, a giant Human Chain will stretch across the length of the Garzweiler II open-pit mine — one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in Europe, let alone Germany.
This is an excerpt from a fantastic new essay written by Andreas Malm, a researcher in the Human Ecology Division at Lund University whose work had a big influence on This Changes Everything. It appeared on March 30th at Jacobin, where you can read it in full.
Last year was the hottest year ever recorded. And yet, the latest figures show that in 2013 the source that provided the most new energy to the world economy wasn’t solar, wind power, or even natural gas or oil, but coal.
The growth in global emissions — from 1 percent a year in the 1990s to 3 percent so far this millennium — is striking. It’s an increase that’s paralleled our growing knowledge of the terrible consequences of fossil fuel usage.
Who’s driving us toward disaster? A radical answer would be the reliance of capitalists on the extraction and use of fossil energy. Some, however, would rather identify other culprits.
The earth has now, we are told, entered “the Anthropocene”: the epoch of humanity. Enormously popular — and accepted even by many Marxist scholars — the Anthropocene concept suggests that humankind is the new geological force transforming the planet beyond recognition, chiefly by burning prodigious amounts of coal, oil, and natural gas.
In case you missed it, The Guardian recently posted a new essay by Naomi, in video form: “Let’s kick oil while the price is down.”
Using a framework developed by the terrific climate justice group Movement Generation, Naomi explains why the abrupt crash that has seen oil prices tumble by 50% over six months is not only a shock, but also a gift: an opportunity for the climate movement to demand radical change to our energy and economic systems.
Here’s the video, followed by the full text of Naomi’s essay.
We’re very excited about this TCE-inspired event happening in London tomorrow (March 28): UK organizers have planned a “radical, participatory” gathering that “will bring hundreds of people together in interactive workshops with leading campaigners and climate scientists,” to explore how capitalism is fueling the climate crisis and how social movements can seize the moment to build alternatives. (To learn more about the origins and aims of This Changes Everything UK, check out this backgrounder we posted last month.)
Joining a fantastic list of speakers including Russell Brand, Francesca Martinez, Asad Rehman, Lidy Nacpil, and Nnimmo Bassey, Naomi will be speaking with participants via Skype.
Update: Naomi’s speech and Q&A have been archived here, and you can watch it below. Enjoy!