Naomi Klein on the crackdown against COP21 protesters and why “system change not climate change” is more than a slogan.
Last year, the Canadian journalist and activist Naomi Klein trained her focus on climate change with her book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. In the past year, she’s also been busy launching the Leap Manifesto, a document signed by scores of prominent Canadians that lays out a plan to wean the country off fossil fuels.
So with world leaders assembled in Paris to hash out a climate accord, what are Klein’s thoughts regarding how things stand in the battle against global warming?
Frank Barat, a human rights activist based in London, recently sat down with Klein at COP21. In the following interview, originally conducted for the French publication Ballast, Klein discusses the crackdown on protesters in Paris, the bleak prospects for a good deal, and why “climate change is the best argument against austerity that you are ever going to have.”
We’re here in Paris. I live in Brussels. Two of the most talked about cities of the last few weeks. Both cities are under what governments call a “state of emergency.” Our security is paramount to everything else apparently. The French and Belgian governments are now discussing passing laws that are very similar to what the Patriot Act is in the US. Less civil liberties and more surveillance. How close are we to a new type of shock doctrine?
It is not that new. We are in it, not close to it. Some of what we are seeing is worse than what happened after 9/11. Bush did not ban marches and protests across the board. There were certainly increased police presence and more restrictions, but this idea of just a complete blanket ban of demonstrations in cities — I don’t remember ever seeing that in North America. What Brussels has experienced is so extreme.
So I think this is very familiar, using a crisis and using people’s fear to push through policies that they already wanted to push through like restrictions on privacy, on movement for people, restricting refugee entry, all of this. It’s a pretty classic example.
The fact that it is unfolding in Paris during the climate summit is really exposing the subjectivity of what gets declared a crisis and what does not. We are here to discuss an existential crisis for humanity, and it has never received crisis treatment from elites. They give loads of wonderful speeches, but they do not change laws. It is exposing the double standards in a very naked way.
In the name of security, they would do almost anything, but in the name of human security, of protecting life on earth, there are loads of talk but no serious regulations of polluters, and even the deal themselves they want not to be legally binding. So we are actually moving backwards. The Kyoto Protocol was legally binding, and now we are moving towards more volunteer, meaningless, non-regulations.