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Time to change everything

by Guillermo Boccagni September 23, 2014
Time to change everything

Klein’s book launch strikes combative tone

Canadian activist Naomi Klein launched her latest book to a crowd of over 800 attendees at the Imperial Theatre on Sept. 16 in a renewed call for radical, aggressive response against modern capitalism and environmental degradation.

The crowd, of which students formed a large part, gathered outside the entrance and made a long and snaking line stretching around across Ste. Catherine street and resembling more the line of a rock concert than a book launch.

While Klein was undoubtedly the star of the show, journalist and radio presenter Anne Lagacé Dowson served as host and introduced three short appearances meant to set the ambiance. Concordia’s Student Union VP External and Mobilization Anthony Garoufalis-Auger and SSMU’s VP External Affairs Amina Moustaqim-Barrette took the stage in order to invite the crowd to the worldwide People’s Climate March on September 21.

Photographer and activist Robert van Waarden came afterwards to display images from his work “Along the Pipeline”, a compilation of places and people along the proposed route of the Energy East pipeline that will stretch from Alberta to New Brunswick. Student activist Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois rounded off the introduction by using a few minutes to take on the tangle of neoliberalism, extraction companies, and politics.

Klein’s talk fired the audience with a magnificent set of concepts in the little more than an hour allotted to her, talking above all of the importance and need for radical change when it comes to human activity on the planet and the failings of our way of life.

“Only radical change has a chance of diverting catastrophe in time and that is because we have waited so long,” she said, dismissing the idea of gradual change. “We need to reduce our emissions by 10 per cent per year starting now. The problem is that [such reduction] is incompatible with our economic system.”

On the battle between the economy and the environment Klein recognized that the big hurdle to environmentalism’s public image was the economic fallout many expect would come from weaning society from traditional sources of energy. She was convinced nonetheless that diverting  our focus from oil and investing in energy efficiency would actually create more jobs in the end. “It’s not a choice between jobs and the environment. It’s a choice between mindless growth and the environment,” Klein said.

Klein also contested the strategy of economic austerity defended by governments and corporations, particularly in Europe. For her there is a basic clash between the logic of austerity’s endless cuts to the public sphere and the needed response to this crisis.

Usually austerity comes in hand with privatization, and that is another obstacle that Naomi acknowledged by saying that she fought the key pillars of the neoliberal era. She said that all of the public services become better when handed over to the private sector when one realizes it is not in the private interests of companies to provide and explore cleaner sources of energy over traditional fossil fuels.

Naomi did have a few  kind words to say and congratulated the members of the organizations present for her talk. “I’ve never seen a student movement spread so quickly,” she said of divestment groups aiming to strip public institutions of links to corporate polluters. She advocated the continuance of pressure demanding educational institutions and public organizations to sell shares of fossil fuel related corporations.

“[These companies should] be pariahs as the tobacco companies were made into pariahs,” she said combatively.

“[It’s] not just the divestment. [It’s also] the re-investments. It’s what could be done with this money once it’s taken away from the Exxons and the Shells. There are so many fantastic projects out there that are languishing for lack of funding,” she said.

“We have built an energy system based on the idea of disposable people and disposable places. That has been built into the fossil fuel economy since the very beginning,” she said. “We are up against a psychotic logic that has profoundly confused destruction with creation and that is the logic that we fundamentally have to change.”

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