The World Is On Fire, But There’s One Way Out

In her latest book, Naomi Klein makes the case for a Green New Deal.

Passaro/Fotogramma/Ropi/Zuma

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

The dire urgency of the climate crisis is now a global five-alarm fire. For the United States to begin to extinguish the flames, the country will need to completely restructure its social and political systems. That’s where the Green New Deal comes in.

Veteran activist and environmentalist Naomi Klein rejects the idea that climate solutions should be comfortable, or that they should work within existing capitalist structures, or that “infinite growth on a finite planet is an OK thing.” Her new book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, explains how those in power, on every level, have refused to act against impending peril—and how a Green New Deal could reinvigorate our climate while providing options for economic growth.

“When capitalism produces crises, it naturally lends itself to progressive breakthroughs,” Klein told Mother Jones Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffrey on stage at the First Congregational Church of Oakland late last month. “This is this is the way people logically respond when capitalism produces crises that create massive misery. Let’s have a different system.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s provides a groundwork for restructuring capitalism in today’s society. As Klein tells Jeffrey, the New Deal did more than revitalize the economy during the Great Depression by breaking up the banks and instituting Social Security and unemployment insurance. It also addressed the ecological crisis of the Dust Bowl by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps, which planted 2.3 billion trees.

“If you look at where FDR put the Civilian Conservation camps,” Klein said, “he seemingly deliberately put them in parts of the country that didn’t vote for him. You know, in rural areas that had voted Republican. And a lot of those areas flipped.”

So, hardcore climate deniers and eco-fascists aside, Klein thinks it’s possible to sell conservatives on a progressive agenda. But the feasibility of a Green New Deal doesn’t mean things are all bright and cheery.

“I’m terrified. I am grieving for so much that we’ve already lost, and it will never be OK that we lost it,” Klein said. “If we can see any path, no matter how narrow, it is where we could build a future that could have more real solidarity in it, much more humanity reconnecting with the natural world and with each other.”

Tune in to this week’s episode of the Mother Jones Podcast to hear Klein’s and Jeffrey’s wide-ranging discussion of the ecological challenges the United States faces today, the way the climate crisis is intertwined with countless other social issues, and, as a bonus, the merits of impeaching our current president.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate