The Climate Crisis: Which Way Out?
A recap of a panel that took place the night before The People’s Climate March with authors Chris Hedges and Naomi Klein, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Senator Bernie Sanders and Seattle Council member Kshama Sawant
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: On the eve of the historic People’s Climate March, authors Chris Hedges, Naomi Klein, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, and Seattle councilperson Kshama Sawant discussed the urgency of radical action on climate change. The event was moderated by WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, and Senator Bernie Sanders was the keynote speaker.
BERNIE SANDERS, U.S. SENATOR (I-VT): But if all over this country millions of people sense the potential to transform our energy system, why aren’t we doing it? Why aren’t we doing it? Well, this I know a little bit about because I sit in the United States Senate. So let me begin by telling you nothing passes the United States Congress without the approval of the oil companies, corporate America, and Wall Street. And unless we address that issue, we’re not going to address this issue.
NOOR: McKibben talked about some of the actions around the world being held in solidarity with the Climate March.
BILL MCKIBBEN, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST AND FOUNDER OF 350.ORG: This weekend there are 2,900 solidarity marches going on in 170 some countries around the world. The first pictures are already flowing in, and they are incredibly beautiful. There are thousands of people on the march in Ankara and Istanbul, in Bujumbura and Burundi, in Delhi, in Hyderabad, and in the /noʊgɪri/ Hills, in Papua New Guinea. The list is–the Flickr account’s already kind of overflowing.
NOOR: To stave off climate change, McKibben argued the march must be a launching point for a global grassroots climate movement.
MCKIBBEN: And I’d be lying to you if I told you that we’re going to sweep to victory. And, look, what really comes next for climate justice is an awful lot of pain and suffering for an awful lot of people. We’ve already raised the temperature one degree Celsius. We’re going to go to two degrees Celsius almost no matter what we do, it looks like. And on current trajectory, we’re going to raise the temperature of the planet four or five degrees Celsius, eight or nine degrees Fahrenheit, before this century is out. And if that happens, if we allow anything like that to happen, then we will have created not just the greatest crisis in human civilization–we may already be there–but the most profoundly unjust thing that has ever happened on this planet. The people who will suffer, are already suffering most and hardest, are those who did the least to cause this problem.
NOOR: Author Naomi Klein started off her remarks by sharing a quote from her new book, This Changes Everything.
NAOMI KLEIN, ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR: –in the book. It’s from /mijəjæʃiəˈtɑːni/, who is an incredible climate justice activist in the Bay Area in Oakland. She’s the executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. And I love this quote because it just really summarizes, I think, the way forward. So the climate justice fight here in the U.S. and around the world is not just a fight against the biggest ecological crisis of all time. It is the fight for a new economy, a new energy system, a new democracy, a new relationship to the planet and to each other, for land, water, and food sovereignty, for indigenous rights, for human rights and dignity for all. When climate justice wins, we win the world we want. We can’t sit this one out, not because we have too much to lose, but because we have too much to gain. We are bound together in this battle not just for a reduction in the parts per million of CO2, but to transform our economies and rebuild a world that we want today.
NOOR: Klein argues addressing the crisis requires upending austerity and neoliberal economic policies to address the crisis.
KLEIN: Austerity–how are we supposed to respond to a crisis that requires that we invest massively in the public sphere, when all we hear is that we have to cut back, when we need to invest massively in public transit? So we know what to do, but we are locked within an ideological system that tells us that we can’t. I’ll tell you who understands this: the climate change deniers at the Heartland Institute, people like Marc Morano, who I’m told is here tonight. They understand that if the science is true, if that science is right, then of course we need to break every rule in their idiotic playbook, because it is at war with life on earth.
NOOR: Author Chris Hedges says the Democratic Party cannot be relied upon to address climate change.
CHRIS HEDGES, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST: –to these self identified liberals within the establishment who have no capacity or desire to carry out radical reforms means we’re pouring energy into a black hole. And this is what the corporate state seeks. The Democratic Party, unlike the Republican Party, does speak to us rationally. The party says it seeks to protect civil liberties, regulate Wall Street, is concerned about the plight of the working class. But in all of these areas, like the Republican Party, it has sold out the citizenry for corporate power. To assume that Obama or the Democratic Party, simply because they acknowledge the reality of climate change while the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party does not, is better equipped to deal with the crisis is incorrect. Republicans appeal to one constituency, the Democrats appeal to another, but both parties have and will do nothing to halt the ravaging of the planet. If Sheldon Wolin is right–and I believe he is–then when we begin to build our mass movements–and we have to look at tomorrow’s march again as a prelude to acts of civil disobedience–.
NOOR: Again Chris Hedges:
HEDGES: I think everybody on the panel supports them, including the Flood Wall Street event that I know Naomi and I will be at on Monday morning. We have to understand that the corporate state, including the Democratic elite, will react the way all calcified states react. They will use the security and surveillance apparatus, they will use military police forces and, under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act, the military itself, to violently shut down dissent by force. We saw it in Occupy, the legal and organizational mechanisms that are now in place to, with the flip of a switch, put this nation instantly under martial law. And when acts of mass civil disobedience begin on Monday, including with Flood Wall Street, and later Occupy the UN, I am almost certain that the face of the corporate state, as it did during the Occupy movement, will reveal itself.
If the response of the corporate state is repression rather than reform, then our strategy and our tactics must be different. We will have to cease appealing to the system. We will have to view the state, including the Democratic establishment, as antagonistic to genuine reform, and we will have to speak in the language of overthrow and revolution.
NOOR: Seattle socialist councilmember Kshama Sawant says it’s important to look to grassroots movement, such as Seattle’s successful Fight for 15, as models for change.
KSHAMA SAWANT, SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: There are experiences from other social movements. Recently in Seattle, my organization, Socialist Alternative, helped put forward a demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers. Some at first dismissed this as unrealistic, but it was a demand that corresponded to the real needs of working people. We worked with others to mobilize a strong grassroots movement to win it. Corporations were always against it, but they had to concede in the face of growing mass support.
NOOR: Sawant says the environmental movement must fuel an independent political party and independent candidates for its voice to be heard.
SAWANT: Only an independent force of the 99 percent, a new party based on workers, young people, environmentalists, and labor, will be able to fight Wall Street and big business.
I don’t always agree with Bernie, I’ll be honest, especially his recent positions on U.S. foreign policy, but just for a moment, let us imagine the impact of a well-known and credible independent left challenger of the stature of Bernie running as a challenge to the two parties of big business in the 2016 elections.
NOOR: Reporting for The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor in New York.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.