Naomi Klein interview: The 'No Logo' author and climate change activist talks compost, Cameron, and the irresistible humour of otters

The Canadian journalist and political theorist's latest book, 'This Changes Everything', suggests that the greatest threat to our planet is capitalism

Was there a particular event that led you to write This Changes Everything?

It wasn't one particular event. Unless it was Hurricane Katrina. My last book really begins and ends with Katrina. I really did have this powerful sense when I was in New Orleans after the storm of watching all these profiteers descend on Baton Rouge, to lobby to get rid of the housing projects and privatise the school system – I thought I was in some science-fiction experiment. This book is really a response to a question that I got when I was touring with The Shock Doctrine. That if we don't want that kind of future, then what do we do? This project is a seven-year response to this question. Which is how we can respond to climate change with solidarity and humanity instead of the kind of brutality described in The Shock Doctrine.

You discuss an "effervescent moment" when large-scale activism will take off. Do you see that happening any time soon?

I do believe that we are reaching a point where enough is happening and I think things could tip very quickly.

What sort of changes have you made to your own way of living to become more 'green'?

We live in a society that is powered by fossil fuels, but for the mean time we're in it. Maybe there's like five people living in the woods off-grid, but they're spending all their time maintaining that and they don't have much time left over for anything else. So there's an inherent hypocrisy with trying to get a message out that is questioning fossil fuels and capitalism in a fossil fuel- and capitalism-driven society. I embrace contradiction.

Do you fly a lot?

I've cut my flying to a tenth of what it was. I was flying a hell of a lot, way too much. Since the book has come out, I'm doing as much as I can by Skype and saying no to 90 per cent of what comes my way, but I'm still doing what I can to get the message out and that involves burning too much carbon, and feeling shitty about it.

I know a lot of people who recycle and make some compost, but are in denial about the scale and importance of the issue. What advice would you give them?

Approaching a planetary-scale issue as one person is a recipe for disillusionment. If you're biking more and walking more, you're going to be happier and healthier. And you'll probably feel better if you take out less garbage, as most of us feel pretty crappy about that. But I don't think we can mistake those acts for doing what it takes to address a crisis at a global level.

If you had five minutes with David Cameron, what would you say to him?

I think I would say that there is absolutely no way to reconcile an austerity agenda with climate action. Our political class needs to understand that the fight against austerity and the fight for climate action are the same fight.

How do you stay optimistic when faced with such an overwhelming issue?

I am part of this amazing growing movement and that is the only thing that keeps me optimistic. If I ever imagined that this was a campaign about me against the world I would be desperately depressed.

What's your favourite natural beauty spot?

The place that I feel most connected to is the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. That's where my family lives, where my son was born; it's where my husband and I were married.

And what's your favourite animal?

I'm a sucker for otters. They've got a good sense of humour.

Biography

Naomi Klein, aged 44, is a Canadian journalist and political theorist, whose international bestsellers include ‘No Logo’ and ‘The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism’. Her latest book, ‘This Changes Everything’, suggests that the greatest threat to our planet is capitalism

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