"The climate crisis," Klein told me, "is the ultimate indictment of capitalism, certainly the model of capitalism that we have, and the solutions to the climate crisis are the same as the solutions to the economic crisis." That means restoring democracy and reinvigorating the public sphere, reining in and re-regulating corporations, re-localizing our economies, taxing polluters and the wealthy to put a stiff price on carbon and bring basic fairness into the system, and building alternatives to limitless profit and unsustainable growth. The book's argument, she said, is "an attempt to weave together disparate movements under the banner of rising to meet the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced."
To illustrate, she pointed to a community in El Salvador, one of the many places where she and Lewis have researched and filmed. Set in a floodplain, the residents now find themselves regularly inundated. "It's a community that was born out of the civil war, a community of refugees," she explained, "and they bring their revolutionary history — and their history of fighting for economic justice — to the climate fight. They're finding ways to respond to climate change that really transform their community in every way, from housing to health care." For Klein, it shows that the climate fight can and must be about "deepening democracy."
Indeed, Klein wants to see more young activists, inspired and galvanized by the Occupy movement, making the same connections.
"If I had a role in Occupy Wall Street, it was to try to push the climate issue," Klein said. She told me about Yotam Marom, one of the many OWS organizers she's met in New York. "Yotam, who's an amazing organizer, was one of the more resistant" to integrating climate into his worldview, she said. Not that he didn't think it's important, "but he just couldn't find a way to connect." She's found this fairly typical.
"For a really long time," said Klein, "lefties thought climate was the one issue they didn't have to worry about, because big, rich green groups had it covered. And now it's like, actually, they really don't. That was a dangerous assumption to make."
But she had just spoken to Marom again the day before. "Obviously, Sandy has changed the game for New Yorkers," she said. Marom told her he was writing an article that would be a kind of "12-point recovery program for leftists, about what they need to do to engage with climate."
"But he said something so insightful," she told me. "When he thinks about why he was resistant, he realized that if he accepted the reality of climate change, truly accepted it into his body, his soul, then he would have to drop everything he was doing. And he doesn't want to drop everything he's doing."
What Klein is trying to say to those like Marom is that they don't have to drop everything. "In fact," she said, "you need to do it even more."
"Climate change lends urgency to our fights for social justice, like nothing else before," Klein said. "We have to win these battles against free trade, we have to win these battles to re-localize our economies. This isn't just some little hobby.
"So it's not about abandoning all of those fights, it's actually about supercharging those fights, and weaving them all into a common narrative. That's the story we need to tell.