Ecology of Liberation: Naomi Klein on Overcoming Overburden

Naomi Klein was the keynote speaker at the convention launching a new union coalition in Canada. In her speech, Overcoming Overburden: The Climate Crisis and a Unified Left Agenda, she laid out some compelling arguments for climate activism becoming the glue that binds social and economic justice movements into a broad coalition demanding transformation. You can read the entire speech here. A few highlights

Even when there is mass resistance to an austerity agenda, and even when we understand how we got here, something is stopping us – collectively – from fully rejecting the neoliberal agenda.

And I think what it is is that we don’t fully believe that it’s possible to build something in its place. For my generation, and younger, deregulation, privatization and cutbacks is all we’ve ever known.

We have little experience building or dreaming. Only defending. And this is what I’ve come to understand as the key to fighting the Shock Doctrine.

We can’t just reject the dominant story about how the world works. We need our own story about what it could be.

We can’t just reject their lies. We need truths so powerful that their lies dissolve on contact with them. We can’t just reject their project. We need our own project.

On Extractivism:

It’s an approach to the world based on taking and taking without giving back. Taking as if there are no limits to what can be taken– no limits to what workers’ bodies can take, no limits to what a functioning society can take, no limits to what the planet can take.

In the extractivist mindset, labour is a commodity just like the bitumen. And maximum value must be extracted from that resource – ie you and your members – regardless of the collateral damage. To health, families, social fabric, human rights.

When crisis hits, there is only ever one solution: take some more, faster. On all fronts.

So that is their story – the one we’re trapped in. The one they use as a weapon against all of us.

And if we are going to defeat it, we need our own story.

On the centrality of climate change:

Far from trumping other issues, climate change vindicates much of what the left has been demanding for decades.

In fact, climate change turbo-charges our existing demands and gives them a basis in hard science. It calls on us to be bold, to get ambitious, to win this time because we really cannot afford any more losses. It enflames our vision of a better world with existential urgency.

What I’m going to show you is that confronting the climate crisis requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook — and that we do so with great urgency.

Anyway, great stuff from a real visionary. Give it a read in full and get inspired!!

P.S. After I read Klein’s speech, the next article in my news feed was about ranchers fighting the coal industry – a powerful tale that brings to life the ‘extractivism” Klein discusses in her speech, as well as the pushback from social movements that can have a real impact.

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