Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Naomi Klein: Raw, Sensitive and Dangerous

Naomi Klein’s ideas are not dangerous. But our failure to act on them will be.

There is a certain rawness and sensitivity to Naomi Klein that I didn't expect.

For a self-proclaimed "secular Jewish feminist", whose Twitter bio asserts that her ideas ‘polarise’, Klein presents with a level of authenticity that is impossible to fake.

At an MWF preview of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas Klein was invited to showcase, before a 450 person-strong full house at Deakin Edge, her thesis which conjoins the climate crisis to the nature of deregulated capitalism.

Her theory, that climate change is not about carbon; it is about the privatisation of services to profit-driven corporations, is the “inconvenient truth” she asserts both at this event and in her latest book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. Energy, transport and food production, she claims, are controlled by the short-term profit motive of the companies that deliver them.

And this, Klein states, is the problem. Even Sir Richard Branson receives a slap on the hand.

Simply, in a system where shareholder primacy reigns as the dominant model of business, Klein insists that our planet is on a trajectory toward environmental apocalypse.

Despite this, she maintains that her ideas are “not dangerous at all”.

But that: “our failure to act on them will be”.

Klein criticises a global economic system that pursues gargantuan and unlimited growth. She asserts that such a model does not support the necessary reduction of 8-10% in greenhouse gas emissions, if we are to keep the climate stable at 2015 levels. “No economist can tell us how we can grow an economy and achieve this level of reduction,” she states.

In the Q&A, that closes the session Klein answers questions ranging from the excruciatingly embarrassing to the down-right “OMG”.

And yet, the fiercely opinionated social activist, who opened the event by saying that she had “no intention of ceasing to publicly insult the (Australian) Prime Minister”, remains flawlessly contained and diplomatic.

“We have no absolute control over the earth and its people,”” Klein implores prior to closing. “We are facing a cosmic demotion. The Earth is taking back its own power. So we must take up our own power – and act”.

But what does that power look like, exactly?

Unfortunately Klein does not tell us. Her book may, but I’m yet to read it. That’s on my to-do list.

So how, as an individual can I act? And how could members of the audience, take meaningful action, as both individuals and as a group? The formation of action-driven communities, both at the hyper-local and global may be one solution. With 450 people present at Klein’s talk, plus wait-list, the energy and desire is clearly there.

Although I left the event inspired, I also felt an unwelcome and depressing heaviness. I wish I'd had the courage to ask Klein if she honestly believes that the future she is fighting for will come to pass.

Watching the trailer for Klein’s forthcoming documentary, due to be showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival, I feel a gnawing sense that mass dissent and anger against a system that benefits the wealthy few, will lead to increased social turmoil, war, poverty and terrorism - hardly the cohesion the world needs in order to halt an accelerating freight-train.

So in closing I ask: what action will YOU take in response to Klein’s appeal? Me, I’m not sure.

Whatever it is: selling my car, installing solar or adopting a vegan diet, I’m not sure it will be enough.

But collectively if we did this - would it be?

We must live in hope.

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