Time magazine is famous for the ‘Person of the Year’ who adorns its cover each January, but in 1988 it decided to feature instead ‘Planet of the Year’: Endangered Earth. The image is of an embattled-looking Earth held together with twine. The precious Earth is frayed. The accompanying article, written by Thomas A. Sancton, is entitled ‘Planet of the Year: What on EARTH Are We Doing?’ These words could almost have been written today: “Now, more than ever, the world needs leaders who can inspire their fellow citizens with a fiery sense of mission, not a nationalistic or military campaign but a universal crusade to save the planet. Unless mankind [sic] embraces that cause totally, and without delay, it may have no alternative to the bang of nuclear holocaust or the whimper of slow extinction.” – Time, January 2, 1989. [tinyurl.com/time-what-on-earth]
By 1989, Bill McKibben’s book The End of Nature was spelling out the unfolding crisis of climate change. NASA climate scientist James Hanson had already told the US congress that greenhouse gas emissions were increasing as a result of the burning of fossil fuels and that this must stop. At the same time, trade deals were being signed and governments were more and more being asked by corporations to sideline climate-mitigation projects. So-called neo-liberalism and the advent of the outright hostility of extreme corporate capitalism (as well as Soviet-style communism) towards Nature and social justice has at its core the inability to end this climate emergency. We must recognize this! Thus it was that the 1992 Rio Summit turned into one more world conversation that ultimately did not move governments to act on solutions to save our endangered planet.
Naomi Klein’s new book, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, documents the unswerving attempts by corporate power to hamper efforts to ultimately save our planet and our last chance to find a just response to corporate greed through the Green New Deal that is being heralded by many as a solution for many of our ills. Here we are at the end of 2019, and fires are ravaging Australia. Australia’s government ‘leaders’ refuse to discuss the clear connection between climate breakdown and those deadly fires. On Fire also looks at our ingrained behaviour that fosters a constant reaffirmation and perpetuation of globalization and capitalist greed as well as the rise of the far-right nationalism, racism and ecocide of ‘Trump and company’: “Climate change demands that we consume less, but being consumers is all we know. Climate change is not a problem that can be solved simply by changing what we buy — a hybrid instead of an SUV… At its core, it is a crisis born of overconsumption by the comparatively wealthy, which means the world’s most manic consumers are going to have to consume less so that others can have enough to live.” With Black Friday (November 29) a few weeks away, the world is about to enact the grim spectre of overconsumption in hyper-mode. To counter this frenzy of buying things, Buy Nothing Day was conceived. And I’m told there are plans here in Sherbrooke to have some creative responses to Black Friday’s gluttony.
Naomi Klein’s first book, No Logo, chronicles the rise and power of the brand name — Nike, for instance — and the iniquity of the foreign sweat shops that make our clothes as well as everything else, while her book Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism graphically details how corporations profit when a disaster happens — New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, for example. Over the span of 20 years, her books have documented the growing dangers to the world’s peoples and to biodiversity.
So what is the Green New Deal? It was inspired by President Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1930s America and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after the second world war. Both schemes helped to give employment to millions of people. The Green New Deal aims to build on these successes to combat the war that is being waged against us and literally inflames the entire Earth. It is a response to the excesses of plutocracy that have led to the real possibility of climate chaos. What started with a few young and newly elected US congresswomen and an equally enthusiastic Sunrise Movement pressuring Washington Democrats has blossomed to unite many eco-socialist movements worldwide in demanding the end of racial and gender inequalities, protection of vulnerable workers, and universal health coverage, while we repair the damage of unlimited growth ideologies/market-based solutions and at the same time have a speedy climate-friendly transition to 100% renewable energy. The war on Nature, fanned by hideous austerity ventures by Donald Trump and his buddies, can be replaced by a Green New Deal that can rejuvenate democracy and end the climate crisis.
For more details about the Green New Deal, please see dataforprogress.org/green-new-deal-report