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Naomi KleinBack to OpinionNaomi Klein

From polar bears to people: Shifting the climate conversation

Bangalore, India Oct 10 2010. Photo:

Today I joined the newly formed Board of Directors of, coinciding with a range of exciting new changes at the organization. I have been a supporter of since I first heard about the wacky plan to turn a wonky scientific target into a global people’s movement, and I’m thrilled and honored to be officially joining the team.

In the past three years, we have all watched the number “350” morph into a beautiful and urgent S.O.S., rising up from every corner of the globe, from Iceland to the Maldives, Ethiopia to Alaska. In the process, helped to decisively shift the climate conversation from polar bears to people – the people whose island nations, cultures and livelihoods will disappear unless those of us who live in the high emitting countries embrace a different economic path.

What has always mattered most about that magic number is that we are already well past it. That means there is no time to waste on stalling tactics like action plans that only get serious in 2020 and shell games like cap-and-trade. Our single goal has to be radically cutting our emissions right here, right now – not a decade from now, and not by paying someone else to do it for us.

If there is one thing that the failure of cap-and-trade has taught us, it is that trying to win this battle by lobbying elites behind closed doors is a disastrously losing strategy. Not only did it fail to deliver even weak climate legislation in the U.S., it made climate action look like just another opportunity for cronyism, helping to alienate a large sector of the public.

As has known all along, the real task is to build the kind of mass movement that politicians cannot afford to ignore. That means showing how making the deep emission cuts that science demands is not some dour punishment that will destroy our economy (as the Koch-funded right is perpetually claiming) but rather our best chance of fixing an economic system that is failing us on every level. Shifting to renewable energy and re-localizing our economies could create millions of good new jobs, while leaving us with cleaner cities and a healthier food system. And as’s Global Work Party showed, a big part of averting climate chaos involves rebuilding and strengthening our frayed communities – and that is a joyful process.

But it’s not enough to dreamily imagine the world we want. We also have to confront, head on, the forces that are determined to use their power and wealth to stop us. Which is why just launched a campaign targeting the deeply anti-democratic influence that major polluters have over the political process in Washington, starting with the biggest fish of them all, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (

I see this campaign as a breakthrough moment in the history of the climate movement, recognition that the struggles for economic justice, real democracy and a livable climate are all profoundly interconnected. As founder Bill McKibben puts it: unless we go after the “money pollution,” no campaign against real pollution stands a chance. The same can be said for any progressive goal, from labor rights to net neutrality. As we recognize these (and many other) connections among our various “issues,” I am convinced that a new kind of climate movement will emerge, one that is larger, deeper and more powerful than anything we have seen yet. There is no question that will be helping to lead the way, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Naomi Klein is the award-winning author of the international bestsellers, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” and “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.” Follow her on Twitter @NaomiAKlein.



  • Paul von Hartmann

    What’s most desperately needed in the environmental movement is a commitment to objective truth. The irrational social prejudice against Cannabis agriculture has to end this spring. If you don’t understand why, then please read my blog.

    How bad do things have to get before all solutions are considered?

    Time is the limiting factor in the equation of survival.

  • Jaya Salzman

    I totally agree with what Naomi Klein says in her article. I believe it is necessary to begin with dramatic campaign financing reform so that politicians respond to the people that elect them, not the money that funds their reelection campaigns.

  • Meesto314

    Dear Naomi Klein,
    You, Linda Goodman, Ms Huevel and Ms. Flanders have more balls and integrity then all  the male and female high visibility journalists out there in media land! God Bless you and keep on keeping on! Like CS Lewis figured out – this is an epic battle of good over evil and you gals are not only good but brave. I am embarrassed to be a Man nowadays – where are the Lincolns’, Ghandis’, Martin Luther Kings or even Freedom Riders and protesters? What happen to us?

  • Allen Fitz-Gerald

    Only 3 comments on this inspiring article? Like most people, I assume, I don’t comment on the hundreds of articles I read, so to all the Naomi Kleins out there: Keep the faith. And sign up for emails!