Naomi Klein: This changes everything

On Friday, I joined 1,000 others at Knox United Church for An Evening with Naomi Klein.

Naomi Klein is a Canadian journalist who is touring in support of her latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.

I still haven’t read an entire book of hers (I started The Shock Doctrine fairly recently), but I’ve heard good things from my dad who heard good things from my uncle, so I figured the lecture would be something worth seeing (plus it made a great Christmas present for my dad).

I watched the documentary This Changes Everything, based on the book with the same name, a couple months back. There were tar sands. There were protests. There were goats. I learned. I enjoyed.

And I became famous for a night because Klein retweeted me.

Back to Friday — In the first part of the lecture, Klein discussed topics from her books, focusing mostly on climate change. She talked about the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference.

At this conference, countries signed on to the Paris Agreement. This agreement says they will keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 C compared to pre-industrial times, aiming for no higher than 1.5 C. Klein said a 2 C rise would be catastrophic in some areas around the world.

Klein said after the conference, countries made their own plans to do their part to reduce climate change. But she said if you look at these separate plans, it adds up to a global temperature increase of 3 to 4 C.

And she said if you look at how we’re doing so far, at this rate the temperature will rise by about 6 C.

So there seems to be quite a bit to work out still.

The second part of the lecture, Klein focused on the Leap Manifesto.

The Leap Manifesto has recommendations to address climate change. Klein talked about some people and organizations signed on to the Manifesto (Neil Young, Ellen Page, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, to name a few).

I could have read about this online. If I’m going to a lecture, I want to hear something I can’t read in books or online. When I walk away, I want to tell people something they can’t find anywhere else.

I liked Klein’s focus on Winnipeg. She mentioned the Winnipeg General Strike and talked a bit about the provincial election. She also talked about Winnipeg’s activist groups, touching on the younger generation of social activists who are “acting as if we all have to work together for a very long time.”

And then there were questions.

Some good. Some okay. Some not so good or okay.

The Q and A moderator, Clayton Thomas-Muller, had two or three people ask their questions in a row, then Klein would respond. I’m thinking this may have been so Klein could dodge questions that weren’t really questions or that were irrelevant.

This seemed to come in handy. There were a couple times she didn’t directly address questions, perhaps because she forgot about them since they were grouped together, or maybe because “Some of these weren’t actually questions, but they were good.” But I thought she did a good job of responding, even when the question was more of a statement.

Someone asked Klein’s thoughts on “voluntary population control versus climate enforced population control.” He continued, “Instead of the climate killing us all, why don’t we reduce our numbers to have less impact?”

I thought this was one she would avoid, but she did address it. I’m not sure if the person who asked the question was referring to not having children or suicide (it was a poorly worded question), but Klein offered an answer saying we should focus on consumption control, not population control.

Winnipeg, please work on your question asking skills.

There was another case of unscreened-questions-that-maybe-should-have-been-screened when I saw Jane Goodall at the University of Winnipeg last September. Someone asked Goodall’s thoughts on if we’re taking advantage of animals by using their image on milk cartons and gaining profit (or something along those lines). Goodall handled it well by saying that kind of thing isn’t her specialization so she didn’t have the authority to say.

I really enjoyed listening to Jane Goodall. (CBC’s Ideas was there to record the the talk.) I remember learning a lot, allowing me to form my own opinions, rather than feeling like I was being told to believe a certain thing.

I saw David Suzuki at the Burton Cummings Theatre in 2014. Suzuki spoke for a short time after a handful of other environmental activists. (The evening was part of the Blue Dot movement).

It was less informative and more “everything is terrible in the world, but we can fix it because we are great!” It was focused on spreading the word of the organizations involved, rather than spreading information on what’s happening around the world and why these organizations are doing what they are doing.

I didn’t learn a whole lot. Maybe that’s because I had studied similar topics at school, like in ecology, toxicology, and economics courses, that gave me a base understanding of environmentalism.

Klein did a mix of what I saw at Suzuki and Goodall (telling you how to believe versus telling you information), but I found the discussion part, the first part, more interesting.

Maybe that’s because I have a science background so enjoy facts to back up feelings. (I mean, feelings are important too. But for something like climate change, I think some people will continue to deny the problems until they know the facts).

Or maybe it’s because I like making my own decisions and opinions based on the information presented, rather than being told, “This is how you should feel.”

There was a slide at the end of the lecture, and I think it has good advice for activists of all types. For people of all types. No matter your background. No matter your interests.

“Now is the time for boldness. Now is the time to leap.”

And now I offer that advice to you.

CBC’s Ideas recorded the lecture, so keep your ears open for when that is released.


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