Naomi Klein’s new book about how to combat the climate crisis is well-timed. Not only are Canadians increasingly concerned about the global temperature, but the country is also currently in the midst of a federal election campaign, which according to Klein is unprecedented in terms of how the climate crisis is being addressed.
“I think politicians in Canada have finally gotten the message,” the Canadian journalist, activist and author told HuffPost Canada. “A lot of Canadian voters feel a tremendous sense of urgency about the climate crisis, which is really different from [the previous] sort of ’casual caring.”
In the past, she said, “the message that was sent to political parties who were running as climate champions was that there wasn’t going to be a political cost if they didn’t follow through.” Now, though, “I think political leaders understand that there is a price to be paid.”
Her book On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal calls for collective and radical action to combat the climate crisis.
Watch: Naomi Klein explains the climate crisis. Story continues after video.
This sense of urgency has not been an overnight process. According to Klein, Canadians have long had trouble talking about climate change resolutions, due to the deep-rooted ideologies about Canada and its vastness in natural resources.
“This ideology of limitless splendour on which our nations are built is, I think, really the reason why it’s so seemingly impossible for elites, who have grown up immersed in these national narratives that equate Canada with the God-given right to exhaust nature, just cannot accept where we are at,” she said.
“And that’s how you end up with Justin Trudeau positioning himself as a super progressive climate leader, and then buying the tar sands pipeline and marketing its massive expansion as a project of ‘nation building.’”
So given that climate change continues to be a prevalent concern for Canadians, what are some of the policies that voters should look for when deciding who to elect?
Klein believes policies that cater to socioeconomic issues in addition to green technology are key.
“Elites, who have grown up immersed in these national narratives that equate Canada with the god-given right to exhaust nature, just cannot accept where we are at.”
“We are in a moment of multiple overlapping and intersecting crises. It makes no sense to try to pit them against each other or try to rank them,” she said. “Seeing as we [already] have to have huge changes in how our economy works and how we live, why wouldn’t we battle systemic injustices and exclusions at the same time?”
Those injustices play in to the way people will be affected by climate change, she said.
“The truth is that the people who fight the hardest for change are the people who have the most to gain from change. Those are not white middle class people who have pretty good lives. It’s actually people who don’t have water in their communities and have polluting industries in their backyards and are bearing the toxic burdens of this economy in their bodies and on their lands. And it’s Indigenous people, Black people, immigrants, the most vulnerable and systematically excluded communities in the country.”
Klein also believes that electing Members of Parliament who have these intersectional policies could result in a minority coalition, which in her opinion, is the best possible outcome for resolving the crisis.
“That’s where we’ll get the most done. I think the Liberals have shown us that when they have a majority, they do not [care] ... giving them that kind of immunity has not worked for us. Obviously we do not want to hand this election to Andrew Scheer … so I think our best outcome is a minority government that takes the best of each of the platforms and that is open to pressure from social movements on the outside.”
And while voting in this election is one way to combat this issue, continuing to create collective action is also important, according to Klein.
“So many of the young people I meet are carrying this huge weight on their shoulders … What worries me is that we live in a culture that is constantly saying one person can make a huge difference and is always telling stories of the individual hero,” she said. “If you look at Greta Thunberg — her sense of empowerment is not because she changed her lifestyle, although that’s part of it. It’s because she helped build a huge global movement.
“This has been part of a process of people coming together and breaking through that sense of isolation. It doesn’t mean no longer feel grief or fear; it means you no longer have to do it alone. I think that says that we have to see how more powerful we are when we act together.”