Ecobuddhism has posted an article by Naomi Klein compiled from her remarks at a recent forum by by The Nation’s hosted by democracy now. As much as many of us would prefer that the Occupy movement remain inchoate for awhile longer — so as to allow for even more of our original ensouled selves to Occupy our bodies (to take up full residence within the body before flipping into the inevitably limiting forms of the mind) — it’s happening anyway, this flip from the body to the mind. Michael Moore, for example, offered up his views to Occupy a few weeks ago.
Naomi Klein is among the best of those who are beginning to frame up a larger context for economics that is rooted in ecology and re-localization. And it does appear that these are the two necessary root values that will reignite our communion within the larger consciousness of our beautiful plant Earth home.
I remember a talk by Gary Snyder back in the early ’80s. At one point, in answer to a question, he said something like this: “Pick a place, and stay there, root there. Find out how to live there, with others.” In other words, stop flitting about, here and there, rooted nowhere, like a rolling stone. I took his words to heart, though it took me many more years of gypsy wandering before I landed, here, in Bloomington, Indiana, this place I can finally call “home.”
December 2 (?), 2011
by Naomi Klein
Starting to Win
We can draw valuable parallels between the Occupy movement and transformative movements of the past. This is somehwat frightening, because it underlines the awesome responsibility of this political moment. This is the “no kidding around” moment. So much is riding on it, and we have to succeed. And that is thrilling, as well as terrifying. But I think these are wonderful emotions.
I think we are starting to win. It’s a strange feeling for me. We actually won something. I’m really not used to that. The White House announced that it is going to have a new environmental review for the Keystone XL pipeline. That review is going to take at least a year. And the company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada, has said that it can’t handle another delay, that their investors will lose faith. You know, investors don’t like economic uncertainty. And they’ve already dealt with a lot. The review is going to be looking at rerouting the pipeline around the Ogallala Aquifer. And TransCanada has also said that they can’t reroute it around the aquifer and still have this project be economically feasible.
So, it’s the victory that we wanted. We wanted Obama to kill the pipeline, because of what the pipeline is carrying, which is tar sands dirty oil, which is catastrophic, no matter how you pipe it, for the planet, for the climate. But we knew we weren’t going to get that. We knew we weren’t going to get that in an election year, because the right would have gone to town on Obama as a job killer. But we believe that this delay will kill the pipeline. And if it doesn’t, if this pipeline re-emerges after the election, people have signed pledges saying they will put their bodies on the line to stop it and that civil disobedience that I and 1,200 others engaged in outside the White House with the arrests in this fall, that this will become actions in front of bulldozers. I mean, people are ready to take that type of action. And so, we put them on notice.
But when we started this campaign, we—and this was just three months ago that the first protests happened outside the White House—we thought we had a very slim chance of winning, a 1% chance of winning. And when Occupy Wall Street happened, I had a conversation with Bill McKibben, who has just been the powerhouse behind this campaign, a hero. I said to Bill, “I think this is helping us. What do you think?” And he said, “I think it’s helping us, too.” The ground has shifted. The climate has shifted.
What it would mean now for Obama to cave in to this corporation, especially after we exposed all the cronyism going on between TransCanada and the State Department and TransCanada and the White House. This kind of corruption is precisely what’s on trial in parks and plazas around the world right now. You know, as Bill said, we’re occupying Wall Street, because Wall Street is occupying the State Department. So there’s been a clear connection and conversation between these campaigns. I don’t think we would have won without Occupy Wall Street. I can’t imagine how we could have. This is what it means to change the conversation. There are already victories happening.
I think there has been an ecological consciousness woven into these occupations from the start. I mean, you see that in the greywater system, the permaculture training, the composting, the fact that the food is coming from organic farmers. The food movement has been very involved from the beginning. Now—I just learned this today—the—originally, it was traditional generators that was powering Occupy Wall Street. Some people had the idea that they don’t actually want fossil fuels to power the laptops and the other energy needs of Liberty Square, so there was a move to bring in bicycle generators. This was starting, and then it got expedited, because the police came in and seized the generators. When I arrived at the park, I went over to the sustainability table to check in, and they had one functioning bicycle generator. When I left they had 14 functioning bicycle generators.
Corporate Capitalism on Trial, Again
I compare this moment to Seattle. That was the last time we were putting corporate capitalism on trial. September 11th kind of wiped that movement off the map in this country, and the anti-corporate movement went dormant after 9/11. We started fighting wars and torture and the whole Bush agenda. But the movement didn’t disappear. A lot of people put their heads down and started building the economic alternatives to that model that we were protesting in Seattle, in Washington, in Genoa and around the world. We’ve seen the explosion of farmers’ markets. We’ve seen the explosion of community-supported agriculture. We’ve also seen a lot of cities and towns seriously try to relocalize their economy, so that they were not dependent on a single corporation that could just pull out and do what Michael Moore documented in the case of Flint, Michigan.
Now there’s a track record. We’ve seen the track record of community renewable energy, which is just phenomenal, in creating real jobs, in providing real energy. So, 10 years ago, when they said to us, “What is your alternative?” that was the way they tried to discredit us. It wasn’t “What are your demands?” It was “What are your alternatives?” You know, we didn’t have a great answer to that question. We didn’t really have articulated alternatives with a track record to point to, close to home. Maybe we could talk about Mondragón in Spain or something similar. Now we have 10 years of those experiences–Cleveland’s green co-ops, things like that.
So, what I find exciting is the idea that the solutions to the ecological crisis can be the solutions to the economic crisis, and that we stop seeing these as two problems to be pitted against each other by savvy politicians, but that we see them as a single, single crisis, born of a single root, which is unrestrained corporate greed that can never have enough, and that is that mentality that trashes people and that trashes the planet, and that would shatter the bedrock of the continent to get out the last drops of fuel and natural gas. It’s the same mentality that would shatter the bedrock of societies to maximize profits. And that’s what’s being protested.
We need to have a coherent agenda here. We need to have a coherent narrative. The discussion is moving forward, to what we want to build in the rubble of this failed system. I think that’s the conversation, not “What are your demands?” but “What do we want to build in the rubble of this failed system?”
Obviously, the solutions have to have the ecological crisis front and center, once we realize that this is the same crisis. And these are where the jobs are. I mean, where else are you going to get millions of jobs but in building massive public transit systems and a smart energy grid and green co-operatives? I mean, where else is this going to happen? I’m hoping that this will emerge. I think it is starting to emerge. There are calls to occupy the food system, to occupy the rooftops for solar energy. It’s dispersed right now, but it’s starting to weave together. I think that will take this movement to the phase beyond outrage. We are in the outrage phase, but we need to get into a hope phase, being able to imagine another economic model.
The Solutions Have to Disperse Power
With respect to climate, I certainly believe we need strong state action and strong state intervention. But at the same time, I think that the kinds of action that we want from the state can systematically devolve power to the community level and decentralize it. I mean, that’s what’s exciting about all of these examples, whether it’s economic localization, community-based renewable energy, co-operatives…what they share in common is that they decentralize and devolve power, and, I mean, by their very nature. I mean, renewable energy, if you compare it with fossil fuels, you know, it’s everywhere. That’s the point. That’s why it is less profitable, because anybody can put a solar panel on their roof and have energy. And that’s why there’s such momentum against it from corporate America, because they want huge, centralized solutions, because they’re way more profitable, which isn’t to say that you can’t make a profit. You just can’t make a stupid profit. If we look at what there’s so much outrage over, it is that concentration of vertical power. I do think the solutions have to disperse power, but that we won’t get there without very strong intervention, national, international, local.
I think that the reason why the right is denying climate change now in record numbers—there are parts of this country where 80 percent of Republicans believe climate change is a hoax. Twenty percent believe it’s real. So you have this complete split, where 70 to 75 percent of Democrats and independents believe climate change is real, and almost no Republicans believe that it’s real.
Why is there this ideological split? If you listen to the climate change deniers, they believe this because they have looked at what science demands, they’ve looked at the level of emissions cuts that science demands, 80 percent or more by 2050, and they have said, “You can’t do that within our current economic model. This is a socialist plot.” Their entire ideology, laissez-faire government, attacks on the public sphere, privatization, cuts to social spending—none of it can survive actually reckoning with the climate science. Because once your reckon with the climate science, you obviously have to do something. You have to intervene strongly in the economy. You have to invest massively in the public sphere, along the lines that I was just talking about, these huge investments in infrastructure.
At the same time, just because you’re investing in infrastructure doesn’t mean that you can’t say that the transit system should be accountable to the people who ride it, right? This has been one of the great failures of the left–not understanding that state power can be just as alienating and just as corrupt as corporate power. And we have to have learned those lessons of the past.
Based on a panel discussion/interview on Democracy Now!