Naomi Klein and How the Shock Doctrine Applies to America Right Now


He listeners. It's been a rough couple of weeks I hope everyone is staying safe out there I'm bringing you today in interview that I actually did a few months ago. With Naomi Klein, the author of shock doctrine, I had some technical difficulties, but the files and then time got we for me so coming a little bit later than I expected it to, but it actually completely fits with the time that we're in right now. We're seeing the shock doctrine. Play out in the government and the fossil fuel industries response to both the coronavirus pandemic and the protests and Ao me. We'll talk a little bit about what exactly that means, and how it reminds her of what happened in the aftermath of Katrina. We also got into how all of that plays into her thoughts on the green new deal in general on the climate movement, and what needs to be done to move it forward. Hope you enjoy our conversation. That's coming up in just a minute after a message from this APP assode 's sponsor. I'm Amy Westervelt and this is drilled. Hiney Omi thanks so much for being here. I really appreciate it. I'm really excited to talk to you. So I wanted to start with maybe getting a little bit of your kind of origin story when it comes to climate. How did you find your way to the climate crisis? So I'm not somebody who has been writing about the climate crisis, my entire career. I began certainly for for the first more than decade focusing on economic injustices, human rights abuses when I wrote my first book, No logo which came out in twenty years ago. I was tracking the rise of the globalization of labor and this kind of newish way of producing the products that fill our lives, which used to be focused in a factory. You're where the whole production process would take place often that factory would be relatively close to where the products were consumed. We started to see this a rage four outsourcing in the nineteen nineties where our products were being made. Made now through a web of global contractors and subcontractors, and so while I was focused on the effects on on workers and driving down of labor standards I was certainly aware that it was also an incredibly high carbon way to produce our goods live our lives, but it wasn't my focus, and the turning point for me was really when I was in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I wasn't there. Out of a concern for for climate change to be perfectly frank with you I was there because I was working on on the shock doctrine, which is a book about a phenomenon that I called disaster capitalism. In the aftermath of these shocking events like wars, economic crises and increasingly natural disasters, there is a kind of corporate feeding frenzy, and that was certainly the case in New Orleans after Katrina so I went there because Haliburton was there in and Blackwater was there and Bechtol was there and the charter school movement was there and all of these private real estate developers were there, and it was just like this insane feeding frenzy before the water had even drained from the streets. There was this talk of how they were going to turn. New Orleans into this laboratory for a privatized. Frankly, racially cleansed city, and so that's what I was focusing on, but when I was there I definitely had this feeling that I was looking at. Our, collective future, if we stay on the road, where on that it that we would be facing a future with more of these kinds of climate shocks, intersecting with a week and neglected public sphere overlaid with systems of white supremacy, and then disaster capitalists, swooping in with plans to make it all more unequal, and that was the moment where I was like okay. I can't keep deferring this issue and telling myself that you know. The environmentalists are handling it. This is an economic rights issue. It's a racial justice issue. It's a IT'S A. A human rights crisis and we all need to be involved. They feel like that leads into a lot of the discussion around the green new deal I'm curious to hear your take on how the green deal has been discussed in the media so far and I'm really curious to hear what you think about specific policies that can be brought forth in the deal framework. Sure I mean first of all I think it's important to understand that that pretty much anything can be brought forward in a green new dell framework because it isn't. It isn't simply a climate policy. It's a framework for the next economy that we're going to have right. It's an umbrella that pretty much. Every issue has to fit within, and so you know it starts with the science and the fateful. IBC report that came out in in two thousand nineteen, the one point five report that said we need to cut global emissions in half in twelve years now eleven, and that in order to do so require. Transformation of pretty much every aspect of society I mean that's their words right so if we need to transform housing, building, construction, transportation, energy, agriculture, and on and on and on. Why wouldn't we at the same time as we transform it to get it? Two zero emissions transform it to make it a hell of a lot fairer on every front. Because the climate crisis isn't the only crisis that we face, we face multiple overlapping and. And intersecting crazy, so that's the way I see the green new deal and I think we should think about it as as expansively as possible and not be afraid of that, because if you're talking about new ways to live, you shouldn't be afraid to be making connections. Most of my critique serve of the green new deal and I have my own to do things that are left out as opposed to the way, it's so often. Discussed in the in the you know you asked about media coverage. You know I'd say that. It's been really really bad. In the sense that we have right wing media, you know we have this sort of Fox and the echo chamber around it just lying about it, but lying about it a lot like talking about it all the time, right And and completely misrepresenting it. Shamelessly right and just scaring their viewers and listeners and readers depending on the media outlet about how it is all going to be about loss, right? It is all about people taking things away from you and making your life crappy and the reason why they do that is because this has been a very successful way to defeat climate policies in the past, and they know that actually over the past couple of decades many of Of the ways that states and national governments did try to tackle the climate crisis within a very sort of market, neoliberal framework did actually increase the burden on working people. You had renewable energy plans. That didn't make sure that low income can. Consumers didn't face increases in in their electric bills in France. You. Had you know Emmanuel? McCall introducing a fuel tax at the same time as he's handing out tax breaks for for millionaires. Millionaires and corporations at the same time as he's attacking trade unions at the same time as he's imposing austerity policies, all of which is making life for workers harder and then, and then he says Oh, and the way to the way to solve climate change is just for you ought to pay more for gas, and so this message you know that that Fox's pounding away on. You know in responding to climate change is going. Going to make your lives harder has been a really successful strategy all around the world in order to beat back neoliberal climate policies. They don't talk about all the jobs. That's GonNa that are going to be created. They don't talk about the protections for union jobs, and and the guarantees that workers will maintain their salary levels. They just talk about all the things you're GONNA lose and the problem is that if you turn on? CNN or MSNBC. You aren't getting corrective to that. You mainly aren't hearing about the green new deal. And the main way that it's been covered in like sort of serious liberal print media has been to sort of soberly claim in our bed after bed that it's not pragmatic. It's not realistic because you know it. Attach is all of these things that are unrelated like healthcare and childcare jobs guaranteed without making any effort to figure out how they might be connected. Connected right and so yeah, it's been a big fail because you've got the you've got the lies which we shouldn't be surprised by which we will continue to see and you don't have real similarly kind of high profile attempts to debunk lies. I know it's so interesting to hear so called liberal media talking about how you can't solve all the social problems. And also just not understanding the fact that climate really does intersect with all these other justice issues, and being very explicit about it right like you. We can't afford to deal with just now. It hasn't just been the New York. Times. Michael Man wrote that in nature I. It's interesting that there's being so explicit about like. You're weighing us down by making. Making this about justice. We don't have time and I mean there's a couple of things about it like I mean first of all. If that's true, give us an example of a narrow carbon based approach to the climate crisis that has worked at the speed and scale that we need right because what we're actually seeing is when you introduce these market based. based. Approach is like a carbon tax or cap and trade. They often spark a popular backlash, and you lose the policies, and that's what happened in France. Netcom was forced to repeal his inadequate gas tax in the face of this huge popular backlash, and I'm Canadian. I'm living in the states now, but in Ontario we had a liberal government that introduced carbon policies that were widely perceived to have increased the price of energy in their big debates about whether that's true, and why that isn't. If it's really about the the renewables, push, or whether it's about various Bloomberg goals that they got themselves in meshed in, but but the point is is that it was perceived to be just increasing cost of living. And now we have a right wing populist government. WHO's very first act in office was to repeal it right. So you have a lot of people posing as very very serious people who know how to get things done, but if you look at the track record, it doesn't get the job done. Whereas linking climate policies with actually much more popular policies like Medicare for all and job creation, you know protecting labor rights that hasn't been tried you know, and it's certainly worth a try, because it might actually work I. Know I don't understand. Understand? Why people think that the same approach that we've been trying for thirty years and approach that hasn't worked is GONNA. Be The thing that solves this problem you know it also kind of feels like the folks who are making these arguments needs to spend a little bit more time on the ground in disaster zones, because as a journalist like I, come to this from just being in the place, it has right and. There's just no way to say with a straight face. Like what is healthcare have to do with climate? You know in it unless you have never been in a disaster zone, you know every and I. You know I. Admit you know I I run to the fire. That's what I do is a journalist and you know whether it's New Orleans whether after Katrina. Whether it's New York after Sandy, a whether it is Puerto Rico after Maria in all these cases. What you see is a total breakdown of the healthcare sector, right? What Killed People Post Maria and it wasn't falling debris. It was a and this is what all the research shows right. It was the people who couldn't plug in their oxygen machines and their dialysis machines. And that you know that the intersecting. Collapse of the `electricity system and the healthcare system right that had both been systematically underfunded partially privatized, and just left in such a state of decay that when the winds blew, the whole thing collapsed, and then, of course you have all these interests are that. Don't WanNa get them back up and running you viet. The the only hospital and back is still closed two years after Maria. I'm so people are still dying because of it, and this is why I just i. just find it maddening that that we that we would not see the connections we. We had an event just at rutgers where I teach called care workers climate work. I wanted to ask you about that because I saw the announcement for it, and I was really excited to see it, because I've written for a long time about both gender and climate, which a lot of times people don't understand how those things intersect on a really basic way, but then I would often have editors kind of ask you know what is care work after do with climate staff and it was really toying so happy to see this event so annoying because these. Nurses homecare workers. Teachers have become first responders in the midst of disasters. Right know whether it's driving their students on school buses through wildfires in Alberta or California, or whether it's homecare workers who have died in fires with their patients, who they refused to abandon I mean there's so many examples of this, but it's also low-carbon work it doesn't. It doesn't take a low carbon to just take care of each other. These are sectors. Sectors where we can expand and this is. This is a really important response to the Fox News talking point of it's all going to be pain. It's all going to be suffering right like let's identify the parts of our economy that we can have a Sunday. It's in right, and where we can make sure that these jobs which have been systematically devalued because it's women's work, because it's work overwhelmingly done by immigrant women. How do we make them? Good Jobs, right? and so that was just it really fruitful discussion among teachers and nurses and homecare workers and disability rights, advocates and it was. Abundantly clear that of course they are. They're already on the front lines of the climate crisis. You know what we got schools that. In in this country that are having to send kids home because they're so hot and they're failing. Infrastructure can't cope with the heat. There's no air circulation their AC either doesn't work or doesn't exist and in some of the schools in communities of color. There's lead in the water, so you've got students who are choosing between dehydration and getting poisoned from drinking from the Water Fountain Right. And this of course schools should be at the center. Of the green new deal and at the end of the panel, I just ask you know the everybody I said you know it seems so clear that this is connected. Why do you think you haven't been included in so many of the discussions around the green deal and several of the speakers said this was the first time anyone asked them to reflect on it or to to share ideas, and they all have ideas about how to green their various sectors. Wow and emily comber of the speakers she She's kind of a legend because she led the West Virginia teacher, strike. You know in red state West Virginia coal country right connected the dots between the fact that the oil and gas. You don't they don't pay their taxes to the fact that their schools were falling apart and said pay your taxes, you know emily said you were left out because it's women's work. Yeah, and you know. They also pointed out that the original new deal excluded domestic workers because it was overwhelmingly black women doing that work and we just can't do this again exactly. Yes, I'm curious just as someone WHO's watched corporations. Kinda behave worse and worse over the years. What you think needs to be done with the fossil fuel industry in order to implement some of the ideas around the green new deal. Yeah, I mean obviously you know and your listeners that we have a really big problem with the fact that their business model is incompatible with. Any definition of an organized civilisation because they will lead US straight to four to six degrees of warming. And they're quite open about that that they that they see a future of business as usual for themselves, and even increased demands. They are laughing non-binding targets set at the United Nations. They think they can get around it and the reason. They think they can get around. It is because of all the money they have. This is a very very profitable business model that requires constant expansion of the fossil fuel frontier in order to not go into crisis. They have you know what's called the reserve replacement ratio that to worry about which is telling their investors that they have more in reserve than they have in production, or at least as much and given that what we know. Is that if we are to have any hope of keeping warming below one point five degrees Celsius, we need a managed decline of existing production. We just have a fundamental incompatibility. What these? What, these businesses need to not go into crisis, and what we as a species need to not spiral into into crisis. It's not resolvable. And that's why the strategy of to create a crisis. A market crisis for these companies you know has has been a very important, and that's the fossil fuel divestment movement has been about, but it's not like to me. The fossil fuel divestment movement has never been about an idea that we were gonNA. Actually have bankrupt them just by getting people to pull their funds and I've. I've said this to students over the years when I go to campuses and meet a wonderful group of divestment, you know great fossil fuel divestment group who's been added for you know four years, and their university won't just won't listen to them and is completely intransigent, and and there's many cases like Harvard and I mean there's lots of cases where it's been really tough, right? And what I always say to them is you? Yeah, we want your university to divest like it is good when that happens, and it's great that the UC system just just just announced finally seven years that they're going to today, yes. That's a huge win, but you know what I say to them is every time you go out there and make the argument that this is a rogue business that you're basically turning them into a kind of a pariah. The way the way tobacco companies were you are helping to create the political space that we need to tax them increase their royalties, and if they really resist us. US nationalize them. Because making that argument for why there is, there is a fundamental incompatibility between our health, and there's the more you create that political space and I think it's because so many young people have been out making that argument that they've also been able to pivot to the demand that politicians not take their money, right and many many of the people who are doing that. That now through the sunrise movement started in the fossil fuel divestment movement. There's a there's a lot of folks who's who as university activists of Varsha is one of them at. Will Lawrence's another of them you know these are some of the CO founders of sunrise. They started in the fossil fuel divestment movement, and now their focusing on getting politicians not to take their money and that's. That's that's really significant. Because if we can get politicians to divest, it's going to be a lot more likely that they are willing to propose policies that we actually need instead of fake solutions that are that are doing things like presenting natural gas bridge fuel, the other side of it is like fossil fuel companies, and all of their excess cash from their from their illegitimate business model. They've always had the carrot and the stick right like the carrot is, we will fund your campaign and help you directly. If you give us the policies that we want right and the stick is. If you don't, we will take out all of these attack ads and destroy and your opponent right, and so the getting Democrats to divest and demo getting DEMOC- democratic politicians to divest deals with the carrot right, but it doesn't deal with the stick because they can still even if you get politicians. Politicians not to take their money, and they start being willing to entertain real climate policies like a green new deal and bans on fracking and so on. They're still going to be afraid that these companies can spend unlimited funds buying TV ads attacking them, and that's where amy your work spin so important right because we need to really really really talk about media divesting. Because you know in the same way that we don't turn on CNN and see ads for Marlboros, why should we turn on CNN and see ads for Exxon and if we can, if we can cut off these two streams because we have in fact, turned this into a pariah industry, you know the streams going directly to politicians and the streams that allow them to buy the attack ads I actually think we buy ourselves some significant policy oxygen rate. Thank you, we've. We've been working on that ally. This idea of pushing media to take some responsibility here we might be enabling especially outlets that go the extra step, and actually make oil companies ads for them the thing. I think people need to remember is that these companies are not advertising product. It's not the same as other types of advertising. They're advertising ideas you know and this I started driving me. Not Surround the keystone fight where we would have a hell of a time. GETTING ON MSNBC YOU know for two minutes to explain why we were opposed to the pipeline, and when you would manage to do it at you know, and it would just be silly gets. We got so little airtime to make the case against keystone, but then it would just. Be followed by a much longer you know Exxon ahead. What mostly their advertising? The opposite of their product right like their advertising like wind turbines and solar power point solar panels that are point three percent of their businesses. Yes, exactly yeah, yeah, I mean if and if you look at this, what's happening at the state level where when you know whenever there's a resolution or some kind of referendum on local climate policy, the amount of money that is that is being spent it to t to defeat these measures and the met. The plans are getting better like Washington. State's latest attempt at carbon pricing was know that should have one and the. Didn't win was because of this gusher. and. We may not be able to keep these companies from being rich, but we I think we can keep them from having access to the airwaves. And destroying democracy in this way you know, and then maybe we can firefight. Okay, the last thing I wanna get your take on is just how the climate movement has evolved in recent years from your perspective, and where you think it needs to go next. Yeah, I mean. There's no doubt that there's some good indicators. Seven million people worldwide, participating in in the global climate strikes over a period of eight days, and I think what's really significant about that is not just that it's like the largest climate mobilization that we've ever seen, but how quickly it came together. You know you had the. The People's climate march in two thousand fourteen, which was amazing, and it was four hundred thousand people, but that was like a year in the making you know, and it was a lot. It was many many millions of dollars from different groups, and you know busloads of people. And it was, it was just huge effort right, and and and these strikes were huge efforts to, but really only got moving in August right, and like in Montreal there were six hundred thousand people, which is two hundred, thousand more than at the at the People's climate. March and I think that what that speaks to is. You're just tapping into his guys like everybody in the city wants to come. You know so as opposed to like we need to like. Move our troops. You know I'm we're seeing in the polling as you know right that it's that the sense of urgency is way different than what it was even two years ago. When people you know, even Democrats who said they cared about climate change would result at the bottom of their list of priorities, and now you know it's up there with healthcare and jobs. I still think it's completely ridiculous. Ask people to rank their issues like that and that we should think he would think. That yeah. We have to figure out how we can you know merge these issues because we shouldn't have to to rank and shoes, but still you know that unfortunately is what it takes to get the attention of politicians, because when you say you care about an issue, but the nineteenth twentieth on a list, then what that tells your elected representatives is well can I can throw this one under the bus and not pay a political price, and that's what they did, and that's what they've consistently done. So I think that is why we have these much bolder plans on the table, an incredible mobilization from groups like sunrise building on. The intellectual and grassroots group grassroots work of of of a a network of environmental justice organizations who have been putting these ideas out there and and putting them into practice in their communities and the climate, Justice Alliance deserves a huge amount of credit in my book. I talk about how many of these ideas really come from the global south from places like Ecuador and Bolivia Nigeria where you've had really really dirty drilling for an and massive environmental disasters, and you have a moot movements. Movements many of them led by digits people who have been talking about the notion of ecological debt of climate debt, and how you know and I quote, and how it can Avar Oh and his speech. She made exactly ten years ago at the U.. N. Yeah calling for a Marshall Plan for planet, Earth and mobilising funds on a scale, never seen before to help countries like hers leapfrog to clean energy. Leave their forest intact, so you know when I think about where we are. Amy Like I haven for mixed emotions. I feel like an Halacha had been listened to ten years ago. Maybe maybe Brazil's forests wouldn't be on fire right now, and maybe they'd have more of a chance of protecting their glaciers. You know on which you know. Millions of people depend for freshwater. We have lost so much and we're not going to get it back and we are on such a tight deadline, so we need to just move. We need like a kind of a scale of change that. Is a term I I heard from Leeann Simpson. WHO's an amazing artist? Now? Bay writer thinker, in Canada, and she talks about punctuated transformation right that things need to shift very quickly, and it needs to be a paradigm shift and. So when I think about how we get there, it's I. Think we can't think about this something that is about the climate movement I think the climate movement is part of this, but I think it has to be about really engaging people who are outside of any definition of what the climate movement is now, but who have shown that they are able to organize large numbers of people immobilized large numbers of people you know. Know the migrant rights movement it should be central to this debate, and the reason they are not is not because people doing that organizing. Don't understand that they're also on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Of course they know right. It's because they are in a nonstop state of emergency, dealing with family, separation and human rights atrocities on the border, and so we have I think we really need to focus on. How do we? Just really rethink this, and this is why we had that event on camera work right and thinking about. How do we tap into this wave of teacher mobilizations? You know like I said when we had. This panel of folks were saying. This is the first time anyone's asked us about the green deal you know. It's all crazy and. And so it just it can't just be the climate movement. We have to look who's WHO's kicking ass out their teachers. Are you know nurses are migrant rights? Organizers are and and on and on and on the poor people's campaign is, and it's like. How do we turn all of these streams into like a rushing river that is going in the same direction, and is really about transforming the economy because I don't think we have time to think about. How do we just build out the climate movement? I think it's about how. How do we get all of these streams together and I think we have to be honest about the fact that part of the reason that this hasn't happened is because a lot of the ways that folks get funding key encourages us to stay in our sort of issue silo, and in our little narrow lane, and we don't have a lot of infrastructure like movement infrastructure that creates spaces for people to kind of get to face to face, and and do that sort of hard work of getting on the same page and. And dealing with you know difficult history and past mistakes. We spend a lot of time online, less and less of it face to face, so this is I think the work and you know I don't feel sanguine about it. I feel like Gosh. We have a hell of a lot to do not a lot of time. What I feel you pull about is that I feel like the appetite for transformational change is greater than at any point in my lifetime. I think there's a widespread understanding that you know we shouldn't be afraid. Afraid of deep change because this sort of safe centrism is what has produced the kind of radicalism of trump so espe especially with younger folks. You know I I really see a difference like when I speak to people it to audiences like the younger folks in the audience are like really up for it. They're not afraid of the connections. They want an intersectional movement. They love making the connections the more the better and it's sort of you know my generation and older who are just like really. Are you making this harder? Right, you would think that building a broader movement is generally something movements want. And, if that's not the case like what is going on kind of ideologically, and what's the subtext of that? Like? What are you afraid of? Who are you afraid of? And you know a lot of it like I think some of it is like kind of the legacy of McCarthyism. Adding A in this country has been through various wars on the left right, and that's part of what put people into their sort of issue silos right where it's like you know we don't want. We don't want to change society. We just want to change this one thing right like we want this one group to have better access or whatever it is, and there's sort of a fear when you start talking about systems and like a shift in actually the operating system that's governing society, and there's a history to that. Fear that I think maybe needs to be made visible and legible before. We actually will be willing to build the kind of movement that we need. That's great. Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it and it was great it was. Great talking to you so much doing this for all your work. Okay that's it for this time. THANKS FOR LISTENING I! WanNa give a little shout out to our most recent Patriot supporters. They are Darcy. 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