The bold moral leadership of newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has me feeling more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years. But a whole lot of things need to happen very quickly if the political tide is going to shift in time — including finding new ways to engage the public in this fight. In this hopeful moment, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the few politicians who has consistently focused on this issue — Sen. Bernie Sanders. We spoke at the Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington, Vermont, this weekend.
Tonight, Sanders will host a town hall on climate change with guests, including Ocasio-Cortez, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, activist and “Big Little Lies” star Shailene Woodley, climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel, activist and musician Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Mayor Dale Ross of deep-red Georgetown, Texas. The event will be streaming live in partnership with progressive media outlets, including The Intercept. You can watch on our Facebook page from 7-8:30 p.m.
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Progressive journalist and activist Naomi Klein urged sweeping change that tackles the climate crisis, capitalism, racism and economic inequality in tandem on Friday in Burlington, Vt. If that seems challenging, add the fact that the clock is ticking and there might not be another chance.
“We need to have started yesterday,” Klein said at the three-day Sanders Institute Gathering on a panel moderated by environmental activist Bill McKibben. “What all of us who follow the science know is that we just can’t lose these four years,” she said, referring to the presidency of climate change denier Donald Trump. The conference, organized by the think tank founded by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane, is aimed at forming bold progressive agendas for the future.
Progressives are looking to incoming Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for leadership as she galvanizes a grassroots effort by the youth-led climate change group Sunrise Movement to reduce fossil fuel dependence. Eighteen members of Congress support the idea of creating a House select committee to look at making a realistic plan by January 2020.
“This is not just about a Green New Deal, this is about a New Deal for the United States of America,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday. “Because in every moment when our country has reached the depths of darkness, in every moment when we were at the brink, at the cusp of an abyss and we did not know if we would be capable of saving ourselves, we have.”
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent report outlined what Klein called “a terrifying 12 years” to cut fossil fuel use nearly in half by 2030.
The climate crisis is embedded in nearly every aspect of the issues you see on the front page of the newspaper, but it is rarely framed that way. Mass migration is often fueled by climate instability and food insecurity, while experts predict rising sea levels will leave even more people unrooted in the future. Politicians who take campaign donations from oil and gas companies are more likely to push policies that support them. The sweeping military-industrial complex has a dependence on fossil fuels.
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Author and journalist Naomi Klein arrives for a news conference at the Vatican in 2015. (Andrew Medichini / AP)
When Nikki Haley resigned this week as the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, seemingly the political press’ first question was whether Donald Trump would name his daughter Ivanka as her replacement. Trump did little to discourage this speculation. “[It’s] nothing to do with nepotism,” he told reporters at the White House, barely concealing a smile. “But I want to tell you that the people that know, know that Ivanka would be dynamite.”
For “The Shock Doctrine” and “No Is Not Enough” author Naomi Klein, that the president’s offspring would even be considered for such a post is evidence enough that we’ve entered a frightening new era of capitalism—one in which the 1 percent so dominate our institutions that they consider political power to be their natural birthright. In her latest essay for The Intercept, she dubs it the “Age of the Pampered Princeling”:
The Koch brothers were raised in luxury and inherited Koch Industries from their father (who built his fortune constructing refineries under Stalin and Hitler). [Richard Mellon] Scaife was an heir to the Gulf Oil, Alcoa Aluminum, and Mellon Banks fortunes and grew up in an estate so lavish it was populated with pet penguins. [The late John M.] Olin took over his father’s weapons and chemicals company.
And so it goes, right down to Betsy DeVos, who was raised by billionaire Edgar Prince and married into the Amway fortune—and who has devoted her life to dismantling public education, now from inside the Trump administration. And let’s not forget Rupert Murdoch, who inherited a chain of newspapers from his father and is in the process of handing over his media empire to his sons. Or relative newcomer Rebekah Mercer, who has chipped off a chunk of her father Robert’s hedge fund fortune to bankroll Breitbart News, among other pet projects. In short, these people are Downton Abbey lords and masters, playacting as Ayn Rand heroes.
Klein urges her readers to consider the mental gymnastics required for our nation’s scions to convince themselves not just that they’re self-made, but that their attacks on the social safety net are inherently righteous.
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