In a public lecture delivered last week and published online Tuesday, award-winning Canadian author and social justice activist Naomi Klein argues the dire situation of climate change, coupled with failing political and economic systems, is creating a world where nobody will be left unaffected.
"It is not about things getting hotter and wetter but things getting meaner and uglier, unless we change the corrosive values that are pitting people against each other," Klein said last Wednesday as she gave the 2016 Edward W. Said London Lecture at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
The talk is held each year in honor of Palestinian literary critic and political activist Edward Said, who died in 2003 after a lifelong commitment to teaching history and literature while professing social justice for the world's vulnerable people.
In its review of the lecture, RT.com noted how Klein took "inspiration from Said’s famous observation that vast swathes of humanity have been classed as 'the other' – or less than human – she warned the climate crisis is entrenching inequality across the globe."
In her construction, the many neglected populations — either left behind or exploited by global capitalism's rapacious appetite for growth and profit—reside in what she refers to as 'sacrifice zones' in which pollution, extreme weather events, endemic poverty, and political disempowerment have all become commonplace.
But it won't just be the poor and disenfranchised who pay the price. "Wealthy people think that they are going to be OK, that they will be taken care of. But we all will be affected," Klein said.
In her remarks, Klein returned to one of the central premises of her most recent book, This Changes Everything, by reminding the audience that even as global warming and its attendant crises present perhaps the great challenge humankind has ever confronted, the situation should also be seen as a great opportunity.
"Indeed," Klein said, "the climate crisis, by presenting the species with an existential crisis and putting us on a firm and unyielding science-based deadline, might just be the catalyst we need to knit together the great many powerful movements bound together by the inherent worth and value of all people, and united by the rejection of the 'sacrifice zone' mentality."
Because of the intersecting and overlapping nature of the crises the world faces, Klein added, "we need to design and fight for policy solutions that radically bring down emissions, create huge numbers of well-paying jobs that pay a living wage, that are unionized, and that bring justice to the 'sacrifice zones' and to the frontlines of climate impacts."
In an effort to continue and broaden the conversation on these issues, Klein and her husband Avi Lewis on Thursday are hosting a live Facebook chat on the topic of "global trade, climate, and the collision course" of both human and planetary systems.
Watch the full lecture: