Image RemovedThe tension between what is politically possible under the world’s current political and economic systems and what is ecologically necessary exposes the need for change, said Naomi Klein, keynote speaker for the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership’s annual Without Borders conference held last weekend at Kalamazoo College. While the Paris climate change agreement looked like the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era, it is not legally binding nor can it make enough of a difference to change the course ecological disaster.

“Fossil fuel frontiers have to be closed if we have any hope of a future,” said Klein. “Politicians have absolutely no plan to do this.”

Doing something about climate change has failed since 1988 when neoliberalism emerged to promote privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade and reductions in government spending to enhance the private sector in the economy. Such policies have created in people a profound sense of hopelessness about climate change, said Klein.

“We are told that selfishness and short-sightedness is part of human nature, which prevents us acting,” said Klein. “This is not true and it steers us away from an analysis of our [capitalist] system. In fact, the fight for survival is human nature.”

Many local, grassroots groups are taking on climate change as they see its connection to an unjust economic system that is failing for a vast majority of people all over the planet, she said.

Klein challenged the audience to work for “climate justice” by reversing the “extractivist” point of view of the Earth and promoting the “caretaking” of one another, an ethos indigenous people advocate.  

“It’s not just ‘energy democracy’ but ‘energy justice’ that we need,” said Klein. “This leads to clean energy projects and jobs.”

She also emphasized that service work like nursing, child care, public interest media should be redefined as climate work that sets out to create a “caring and repairing economy.”

“We need to embed justice in every aspect of our lives,” said Klein. “The people are hungry for transformational change, and we have to go for it on all fronts.”

Photo: Naomi Klein (b. May 5, 1970), Canadian journalist, author and activist. Warsaw (Poland), November 19, 2008. Photo by Mariusz Kubik. Via Wikimedia Commons.