Naomi Klein spoke at the Vatican yesterday introducing People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course at a high-level meeting to explore Pope Francis’ encyclical, which was released on June 18.
Here's the video of the full press conference. Other speakers included Prof. Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Bernd Nilles, secretary general of the International Alliance of Catholic Development Organisations.
Here are the prepared remarks by Naomi Klein:
Thank you. I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and to CIDSE for hosting us here, and for convening this remarkable 2-day gathering that I’m very much looking forward to.
It’s also a real honour to be here supporting and indeed celebrating the historic publication of the Pope’s encyclical.
Pope Francis writes early on that Laudato Si’ is not only a teaching for the Catholic world but for “every person living on this planet.” And I can say that as a secular Jewish feminist who was rather surprised to be invited to the Vatican, it certainly spoke to me.
“We are not God,” the encyclical states. All humans once knew this. But about 400 years ago, dizzying scientific breakthroughs made it seem to some that humans were on the verge of knowing everything there was to know about the Earth, and would therefore be nature’s “masters and possessors,” as René Descartes so memorably put it. This, they claimed, was what God had always wanted.
That theory held for a good long time. But subsequent breakthroughs in science have told us something very different. Because when we were burning ever larger amounts of fossil fuels—convinced that our container ships and jumbo jets had leveled the world, that we were as gods—greenhouse gases were accumulating in the atmosphere and relentlessly trapping heat.
And now we are confronted with the reality that we were never the master, never that boss—and that we are unleashing natural forces that are far more powerful than even our most ingenious machines. We can save ourselves, but only if we let go of the myth of dominance and mastery and learn to work with nature—respecting and harnessing its intrinsic capacity for renewal and regeneration.
And this brings us to the core message of interconnection at the heart of the encyclical. What climate change reaffirms—for that minority of the human species that ever forgot—is that there is no such thing as a one-way relationship of pure mastery in nature. As Pope Francis writes, “Nothing in this world is indifferent to us.”
For some who see interconnection as a cosmic demotion, this is all too much to bear. And so—actively encouraged by fossil-fuel funded political actors—they choose to deny the science.
But that is already changing as the climate changes. And it will likely change more with the publication of the encyclical. This could mean real trouble for American politicians who are counting on using the Bible as cover for their opposition to climate action. In this regard, Pope Francis’s trip to the U.S. this September could not be better timed.
Yet as the encyclical rightly points out, denial takes many forms. And there are many across the political spectrum and around the world who accept the science but reject the difficult implications of the science.
I have spent the past two weeks reading hundreds of reactions to the encyclical. And though the response has been overwhelmingly positive, I have noticed a common theme among the critiques. Pope Francis may be right on the science, we hear, and even on the morality, but he should leave the economics and policy to the experts. They are the ones who know about carbon trading and water privatization, we are told, and how effectively markets can solve any problem.
I forcefully disagree. The truth is that we have arrived at this dangerous place partly because many of those economic experts have failed us badly, wielding their powerful technocratic skills without wisdom. They produced models that placed scandalously little value on human life, particularly on the lives of the poor, and placed outsized value on protecting corporate profits and economic growth.
That warped value system is how we ended up with ineffective carbon markets instead of strong carbon taxes and high fossil fuel royalties. It’s how we ended up with a temperature target of 2 degrees which would allow entire nations to disappear—simply because their GDPs were deemed insufficiently large.
In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality. Because if we agree that endangering life on Earth is a moral crisis, then it is incumbent on us to act like it.
That doesn’t mean gambling the future on the boom and bust cycles of the market. It means policies that directly regulate how much carbon can be extracted from the earth. It means policies that will get us to 100 per cent renewable energy in 2-3 decades—not by the end of the century. And it means allocating common, shared resources—like the atmosphere—on the basis of justice and equity, not winners-take-all.
That’s why a new kind of climate movement is fast emerging. It is based on the most courageous truth expressed in the encyclical: that our current economic system is both fueling the climate crisis and actively preventing us from taking the necessary actions to avert it. A movement based on the knowledge that if we don’t want runaway climate change, then we need system change.
And because our current system is also fueling ever widening inequality, we have a chance, in rising to the climate challenge, to solve multiple, overlapping crises at once. In short, we can shift to a more stable climate and fairer economy at the same time.
This growing understanding is why you are seeing some surprising and even unlikely alliances. Like, for instance, me at the Vatican. Like trade unions, Indigenous, faith and green groups working more closely together than ever before.
Inside these coalitions, we don’t agree on everything—not by a long shot. But we understand that the stakes are so high, time is so short and the task is so large that we cannot afford to allow those differences to divide us. When 400,000 people marched for climate justice in New York last September, the slogan was “To change everything, we need everyone.”
Everyone includes political leaders, of course. But having attended many meetings with social movements about the COP summit in Paris, I can report this: there is zero tolerance for yet another failure being dressed up as a success for the cameras. Until a week later, when those same politicians are back to drilling for oil in the Arctic and building more highways and pushing new trade deals that make it far more difficult to regulate polluters.
If the deal fails to bring about immediate emission reductions while providing real and substantive support for poor countries, then it will be declared a failure. As it should be.
What we must always remember is that it’s not too late to veer off the dangerous road we are on—the one that is leading us towards 4 degrees of warming. Indeed we could still keep warming below 1.5 degrees if we made it our top collective priority.
It would be difficult, to be sure. As difficult as the rationing and industrial conversions that were once made in wartime. As ambitious as the anti-poverty and public works programs launched in the aftermath of the Great Depression and the Second World War.
But difficult is not the same as impossible. And giving up in the face of a task that could save countless and lives prevent so much suffering—simply because it is difficult, costly and requires sacrifice from those of us who can most afford to make do with less—is not pragmatism.
It is surrender of the most cowardly kind. And there is no cost-benefit analysis in the world that is capable of justifying it.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
We have been hearing these supposedly serious-minded words for more than two decades. For the entire lifetime of today’s young climate activists. And every time another UN summit fails to deliver bold, legally-binding and science-based polices, while sprinkling empty promises of reshuffled aid money, we hear those words again. “Sure it’s not enough but it’s a step in the right direction.” “We’ll do the harder work next time.” And always: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
This, it must be said inside these hallowed walls, is pure nonsense. “Perfect” left the station in the mid-1990s, after the first Rio Earth Summit. Today, we have only two roads in front of us: difficult yet humane—and easy yet reprehensible.
To our so-called leaders preparing their pledges for COP 21 in Paris, getting out the lipstick and heels to dress up another lousy deal, I have this to say: Read the actual encyclical—not the summaries, the whole thing. Read it and let it into your hearts. The grief at what we have already lost, and the celebration of what we can still protect and help to thrive.
Listen, too, to the voices of the hundreds of thousands who will be on the streets of Paris outside the summit, gathered simultaneously in cities around the world. This time, they will be saying more than “we need action.” They will be saying: we are already acting.
We are the solutions: in our demands that institutions divest their holdings from fossil fuel companies and invest them in the activities that will lower emissions.
In our ecological farming methods, which rely less on fossil fuels, provide healthy food and work and sequester carbon.
In our locally-controlled renewable energy projects, which are bringing down emissions, keeping resources in communities, lowering costs and defining access to energy as a right.
In our demand for reliable, affordable and even free public transit, which will get us out of the cars that pollute our cities, congest our lives, and isolate us from one another.
In our uncompromising insistence that you cannot call yourself a climate leader while opening up vast new tracks of ocean and land to oil drilling, gas fracking and coal mining. We have to leave it in the ground.
In our conviction that you cannot call yourself a democracy if you are beholden to multinational polluters.
Around the world, the climate justice movement is saying: See the beautiful world that lies on the other side of courageous policy, the seeds of which are already bearing ample fruit for any who care to look.
Then, stop making the difficult the enemy of the possible.
And join us in making the possible real.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
A rare yellow penguin has been photographed for what is believed to be the first time.
- World-Renowned Photographer Documents Most Remote ... ›
- This Penguin Colony Has Fallen by 77% on Antarctic Islands ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Stuart Braun
We spend 90% of our time in the buildings where we live and work, shop and conduct business, in the structures that keep us warm in winter and cool in summer.
But immense energy is required to source and manufacture building materials, to power construction sites, to maintain and renew the built environment. In 2019, building operations and construction activities together accounted for 38% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, the highest level ever recorded.
- Could IKEA's New Tiny House Help Fight the Climate Crisis ... ›
- Los Angeles City-Owned Buildings to Go 100% Carbon Free ... ›
- New Jersey Will Be First State to Require Building Permits to ... ›
By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.