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Naomi Klein Comes to Michigan

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This article was co-authored by James Kim, a junior at Troy High School in Michigan.

"Transition is inevitable, justice is not"--words, by Quinton Sankofa, that hung in the air at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts in East Lansing, on Monday, April 4, during Naomi Klein's talk about climate crisis. She spoke urgently about the need to move from an extractive to a regenerative culture and made a parallel between our extractivist culture that both strips our planet of its natural resources as well as assaults our democracy, as we have seen in Michigan with emergency management laws, the Flint Water crisis and the Detroit water shutoffs. She asserts that our response to climate change "can't be no" but must be "holistic" and include "a vision for a new economy"--an economy, and political system, Klein says, that puts front line communities first, disrupts institutionalized racism, rights historical wrongs, and renews our relationships with one another and the natural world.

Throughout her talk, Naomi Klein referenced her book "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate"--required reading for the informed citizen. In her book, she makes the case that capitalism can no longer exist in its current form without causing irreparable damage to our world. She does so by directly exposing the gross corruption which pervades high levels of business and government and asserting the reality that current environmental efforts are not moving at even an iota of the pace and scale required to keep global temperatures under somewhat manageable conditions. In 2009, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen set a 2 degree limit for global warming, a necessary cap on industrial filth that humans have been hurtling towards at ever accelerating speeds since the industrial revolution. This two degree target was agreed on as an unbreachable ceiling, as anything more than this would mean millions of floods in coastal regions across the world, islands becoming uninhabitable because of rising sea levels, and any plethora of unforeseeable natural disasters. Events expected to occur in at least a century are already here; the number of major floods worldwide is 13 times greater than than 1950 as calculated by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; Glacier National Park has no glacier; and the last 9 years have all been consecutive warmest years on record. On March 4, the global temperature officially rose more than 2 degrees above average, but this never saw headlines as the media was somehow more attracted to the childlike tantrums of Trump. We are at a crisis point that requires transforming our economic and political system and shifting our institutions, culture, and values in a way that addresses the root of how we got here in the first place.

Naomi Klein, on Monday evening, made the point that we have seen an increase in the appetite for system change over the past decade with movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Fight for 15, and Blockadia. She urges us to see institutionalized racism, mass incarceration, economic inequality, and climate change as parts of the same systemic problem. The solutions to these issues will not be found in piecemeal policy changes but rather in a holistic approach that creates an opportunity to address racial and economic injustice through a green economy that puts front line communities first. In "This Changes Everything," Klein delineates how momentous change consistently starts with grassroots organizing The effects can be seen everywhere from Pungesti, Romania, where common villagers decided to take a stand against the oily monolith of Chevron and succeeded in blocking their fracking efforts, to Detroit, where urban farms are bringing together generations in an effort to stave off corporate dependency. Indigenous groups have been at the forefront of climate change resistance and movement building and have won significant victories. Don't be mistaken, the Keystone XL pipeline was not shut down because of any moral revelation on congress' part; it was the organization of the tribes whose land would be (and has historically been) ravaged by such an atrocity. Battling climate change means challenging capitalist ideals and creating a new set of values, Klein expressed on Monday, and that process needs to be inclusive, shared, collectively owned and led by front line communities.

The task at hand is large--but possible. Research from Stanford Environmental Engineering professor Mark Jacobson and UC Davis research scientist Mark Delucchi have officially concluded that it is indeed economically possible to convert to 100% renewable energy by the year 2030. And, yes, they have a plan to get us to that number, but the political will for enacting change of this kind and on this scale is something we can only create with the voice of the masses. In the words of Jim Morrison, "It's got to happen inside first." Are you stirring?

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