The Fight Against Climate Change is Down to US - The
Our movement differs from previous anti-
globalisation protests. To change society's
values we must stay together for years
By Naomi Klein
October 7, 2011
If there is one thing I know, it's that the 1% loves a
crisis. When people are panicked and desperate, that is
the ideal time to push through their wishlist of pro-
corporate policies: privatising education and social
security, slashing public services, getting rid of the
last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the
economic crisis, this is happening the world over.
There is only one thing that can block this tactic, and
fortunately, it's a very big thing: the 99%. And that
99% is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to
say: "No. We will not pay for your crisis."
That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to
Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made
its way to the square mile where the crisis began.
Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall
Street and the so-called anti-globalisation protests
that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That
was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralised
movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am
proud to have been part of what we called "the movement
But there are important differences too. We chose
summits as our targets: the World Trade Organisation,
the IMF, the G8. Summits are transient, they only last
a week. That made us transient too. And in the frenzy
of hyper-patriotism and militarism that followed 9/11,
it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in
Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a
fixed target. And no end date. This is wise. Only when
you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is
a fact of the information age that too many movements
spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off.
It's because they don't have roots. And they don't have
long term plans for how they are going to sustain
themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.
Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful.
These principles are compatible with the hard work of
building structures and institutions that are sturdy
enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith
that this will happen.
Something else this movement is doing right: You have
committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused
to give the media the images of broken windows and
street fights it craves so desperately. And that
tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again,
the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked
But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in
1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a
frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock
portfolios were bulging. The media were drunk on easy
money. It was all about start-ups, not shut-downs.
We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy
came at a price. It was damaging to labour standards.
It was damaging to environmental standards.
Corporations were becoming more powerful than
governments and that was damaging to our democracies.
But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled,
taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough
sell, at least in rich countries.
Ten years later, it seems as if there aren't any more
rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People
who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting
natural resources around the world.
The point is, today everyone can see that the system is
deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered
greed has trashed the global economy. And we are
trashing the natural world. We are overfishing our
oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater
drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on
the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. The atmosphere
can't absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into
it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is
serial disasters: economic and ecological.
These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant,
so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the
public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement
We all know, or at least sense, that the world is
upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is
actually finite: fossil fuels and the atmospheric space
to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are
strict and immovable limits to what is actually
bountiful: the financial resources to build the kind of
society we need.
The task of our time is to turn this round: to
challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can
afford to build a decent, inclusive society - while at
the same time respect the real limits to what the earth
What climate change means is that we have to do this on
a deadline. This time our movement cannot get
distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by
events. This time we have to succeed. And I'm not
talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes
on the rich, though that's important.
I am talking about changing the underlying values that
govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single
media-friendly demand, and it's also hard to figure out
how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being
difficult.That is what I see happening in this square.
In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each
other warm, sharing information freely and providing
health care, meditation classes and empowerment
training. My favorite sign here says "I care about
you". In a culture that trains people to avoid each
other's gaze, to say "Let them die," that is a deeply
We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic
and political forces on the planet. That's frightening.
And as this movement grows from strength to strength,
it will get more frightening. Always be aware that
there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets
- like, say, the person next to you. Don't give into
the temptation. This time, let's treat each other as if
we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many
years to come. Because the task before us will demand
Let's treat this beautiful movement as if it is the
most important thing in the world. Because it is. It
This is a version of a speech delivered on Thursday,
that first appeared in print in the Occupied Wall
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