Author Naomi Klein discusses climate change, capitalism at Buffett Center event


Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Author Naomi Klein talks about capitalism’s connection to climate change at an event hosted by the Buffett Institute. Klein authored “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate,” a book on climate change how it is connected to other social issues.

Matthew Choi, Assistant Campus Editor

Climate change goes far beyond planetary science, said author Naomi Klein at an event hosted by the Buffett Institute for Global Studies on Wednesday night.

“Capitalism vs. The Climate,” co-sponsored by NU Community on Human Rights and the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at NU, was the second talk of a three-part series on human rights hosted by the Buffett Institute. Klein, who authored “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” discussed climate change and the forces working to both address and profit from it. During the talk, Klein commended efforts both at NU and in the Chicago area in addressing climate change. Nearly 600 people attended the event in Leverone Hall, which was followed by a Q&A with the audience.

Klein, who was in Paris during the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, began by discussing the efficacy of its resolutions. Though the conference outlined goals necessary for the planet’s survival, Klein said, the conference did not provide ways to reach those goals.

“It was a diplomatic breakthrough seen from its own logic, and it is simultaneously an ecological disaster,” Klein said. “And that’s the moment we find ourselves that we’ve waited for so long and procrastinated for long, that we can actually see some pretty bold action from our politicians and it still be wholly inadequate from a scientific perspective.”

Neoliberal capitalism — the variety of free market capitalism popularized in the 1980s that promotes deregulation, privatization and low taxes — now allows private corporations to benefit from natural catastrophe, Klein said.

Following Hurricane Katrina, for example, private investors used the destruction to close public housing and 90 percent of public schools and replace them with residential developments and private schools, she said, disproportionately affecting black residents of the city.

“It’s become a little trendy on colleges to speak about intersectional politics,” Klein said. “I really want to speak up about intersectional politics here. We have to get out of our silos and see how climate change, racism, economic inequality, mass incarceration, austerity are all interconnected and how the road we’re on leads to the deepening of all of these crises.”

Some people are working to address these problems. Klein commended Fossil Free NU for its campaign to encourage the University to divest from fossil fuels. She called on the audience to discuss solutions to climate change that are socially responsible.

“Don’t take no for an answer,” Klein said. “We are right up against the deadline, and half measures are not good enough.”

Bringing Klein to NU so soon after the Paris Climate Change Conference was timely in creating dialogue on climate change, said political science Prof. Brian Hanson, director of programs, research and strategic planning at the Buffett Institute.

“One of our missions is to promote discussion on important issues of the day and it’s hard to imagine one more than climate,” Hanson said. “People may agree or disagree with Naomi Klein and her position, (but) what I hope people do is talk to one another about this issue and how it affects their lives, our world and what they might want to do in order to address the issue.”

Weinberg junior Alex Kirschner, who is involved in Fossil Free NU, said he appreciated Klein’s message of socially responsible change.

“Climate shouldn’t just be about action on climate change but on justice in general,” Kirschner said. “We’re going to switch away from fossil fuels eventually, but if it’s not just, then we won’t create the world we want to create.”

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