Monday 20 February 2017

'Trump is a complete buffoon' - author Naomi Klein

Canadian author Naomi Klein chats to us about the US elections, climate change and the Healy-Raes

Tanya Sweeney

Published 13/05/2016 | 02:30

Critics: Naomi Klein, who's written a book on global warming, is regularly trolled on Twitter.
Critics: Naomi Klein, who's written a book on global warming, is regularly trolled on Twitter.
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

The fact that Canadian author Naomi Klein - roundly hailed as one of the world's best-known intellectuals and public thinkers - has to contend with 'mansplainers' (men who like to explain things in a condescending way to women) is a ticklish concept.

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Since publishing her book This Changes Everything last year, she has placed herself front and centre of the debate around climate change and capitalism. Her third book is a seismic call to arms, encouraging a mainstream audience to take a hard look at the things they take for granted.

"I do get trolled on Twitter a little, but mainly I get things like climate change and policy 'mansplained' to me," Naomi Klein says with a wry laugh.

"We really are on a collision course," she says emphatically. "[Global warming] is a catastrophe that happened at the worst possible moment in human evolution."

Klein has noted how, despite world leaders congratulating themselves for hammering out a deal at Paris' Climate Conference last year, the movement is making little headway.

Standing in the way of progress are not just multinational corporations, who might consider joining the fight against climate change a conflict of vested interests, but politicians too, who aren't taking the issue seriously enough.

Already, the consequences of the world warming by just two degrees are writ large. Droughts in Africa are forcing millions into hunger; Klein's native Canada is on fire, namely in the dead centre of an oil patch in Fort McMurray, in Alberta causing thousands of locals to flee; Pakistan's mortuaries are overflowing after heat waves and natural disasters.

"What is cruel about climate change is that the people who have experienced it first and worst are the most vulnerable, and had little part in causing it," says Klein.

I ask her what she thinks the world will look like in 2050, and to her mind it's not a cosy picture.

"I'm motivated by having had these glimpses of dystopia when I go to places like Iraq, and I see the worst that humans are capable of in a disaster," she reveals.

"There isn't a scenario where things will look the same as they do in 2015. The only similar threat in terms of how much it will impact the world is nuclear war, and that will only really happen if someone pushes the button. But in the case of global warming, all we have to do is continue what we're doing."

A frightening prospect indeed, yet talk of global warming gets lost amid the cacophony of other red line issues, like homelessness, transport, health and education. Except, as Klein points out, climate change and all these other societal issues are interconnected.

"In the UK, where there were floods this year, a lot of people who had previously imagined themselves as safe realised they weren't safe," Klein explains. "The response was, 'let's cut foreign aid… why are we helping people who experience floods elsewhere?'. There's an intersection between xenophobia, racism and inequality and climate change."

Though Klein has a keen sense of social justice, she admits that it wasn't until Hurricane Katrina that the genesis of This Changes Everything was born.

"I was one of those people until Katrina (the ones who stood behind other causes)," Klein admits. "That's why I say there's a spectrum of climate change denial. It's easy to laugh when someone says that God dictates the weather, but people think 'I'm busy with more important things'".

At a packed talk in Dublin last week Klein made reference to Danny Healy-Rae's now-infamous contention that 'God above controls the weather'.

"I think God above is really pissed that we're blaming her for our screw-ups!" she retorted. The morning after, and Healy-Rae's comments are still on Klein's mind.

"You know, honestly, the sad thing is that this wouldn't even make the news in the US," she reflects. "It's pretty much the position of the Republican party. (Healy-Rae) is mixing some things in that are true: there are natural weather fluctuations, but these are supercharged by other changes. Climate change didn't cause the storms, but it did make them that much worse."

In cold countries like ours (and Klein's native Canada), people tend to be fairly sanguine about the idea of global warming.

In the main, the fight against climate change is down to governments to create greener policies and to divest carbon tax coffers towards investing in a post-carbon economy.

"We need to plug into local organisations to engage in this, but people can definitely start by thinking, 'maybe I'm part of the solution and I can act in my own sphere'," observes Klein.

Klein was just 29 when she wrote her first blockbuster book, No Logo. Radiohead have credited the book with inspiring two albums; among Klein's other celebrity acolytes are Russell Brand and Leonard Cohen.

I do wonder if Klein has a problem getting through to the Instagram generation; one often blamed as being narcissistic and apathetic.

"Well, look at (Democratic presidential hopeful) Bernie Sanders' campaign," she says. "It proves that millennials have tremendous appetite for systemic change. Sanders is treated like a rockstar, and it's a shame that we have a tendency to discount what good the younger generation is capable of.

"My fear around Hillary is her proximity to the banks and the fossil fuel companies," she explains. "Trump is a buffoon, but he's a celebrity, a CEO and now he wants to be president. I don't think he's going to win, what worries me about Clinton is that she could prove to be a very vulnerable candidate."

There's a lot of work to do, Klein concedes. The good news? The prospect of getting it done doesn't terrify her as much as it truly excites her. And she's only getting started.

'This Changes Everything' is out now. Naomi Klein was in Dublin ahead of the International Literature Festival, running from May 21-29.

Irish Independent

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