Hey, Tom Switzer, who are you calling a ‘watermelon’?

Naomi Klein. Photo: Peter Boyle

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed the August 31 episode of Q&A on the topic “Cheating, Climate, War & Democracy”.

It was thanks to three solid lefties from overseas, Naomi Klein, Laurie Penny and Tariq Ali, who were in Australia for the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Festival for Dangerous Ideas in Sydney.

The right-winger on the panel, US Studies Centre academic Tom Switzer, had a go at red-baiting Klein. Here is their exchange:

“TOM SWITZER: I think most climate change activists — and they’re very sincere about reducing carbon emissions — but they are, if you like, watermelons. You know, they conceal their socialist agenda beneath green skins. What you are hearing here from ...

“NAOMI KLEIN: I’m not concealing.

“TOM SWITZER: What you’re hearing from Naomi is that she is quite frank that if we really want to decarbonise the global economy, we need to change the economic structure that has been in place for generations and she is being intellectually honest.

“Now, my disagreement with her would be that this is a radical agenda. It is bad politics because it stands virtually no chance of gaining widespread support, not just here in Australia but around the world, especially in those developing countries that are chugging along the smoky path to prosperity and I think it’s bad economics because, as unfashionable as it is to say so, history shows that capitalism, for all its flaws, is responsible for lifting many people out of poverty and if you undermine the capitalist system, you’re going to entrench poverty, you’re going to hurt malnutrition, preventable diseases and many people would rightly say that is not just immoral but wicked.

“NAOMI KLEIN: Wicked? Look there’s a reason why climate change denial is so strong on the right side of the political spectrum.

“All the polls show that overwhelmingly those who adhere to a world view which doesn't see a role for government, that believes that the market is always right, that people essentially deserve what they get, are people who overwhelmingly deny the reality of climate change or say it's not such a big deal and they’re not concerned about it. The reason for that is that if the science is true, then their world view collapses.

“So, thank you for saying I’m intellectually honest. You know, I think that the right needs to be a lot more scientifically honest because just because the science is inconvenient to your ideology...”

You nailed it, Naomi Klein!

Right-wingers like to think they can intimidate society out of having the big discussion it needs to have about the urgent need to remove the major block to addressing the climate change crisis: capitalism.

As Klein explained elsewhere on the program: “This economic system we have, which is very brutal, is failing us on a lot of different fronts. It's prescribing absolutely untenable austerity on large parts of the world. It's waging war on labour rights, on pensions, on social services. I mean, this is why people are rising up in Europe and electing anti-austerity governments.

“But this system is also waging war on life on earth. When you have an economic system that is built to pursue short term profit and growth at all costs, then you also have a system in which corporations grow more and more powerful and then they’re able to rig the rules more and more in their interests so that it’s harder and harder to regulate them, harder and harder to tax them, harder and harder to have parts of our societies that are not private and so what I show in the book is that this triumph of capital has systematically stood in the way of what we need to do in the face of climate change.”

Well, that’s the argument that Green Left Weekly has been making since its launch in 1991. The global warming crisis was not so widely appreciated back then but GLW was on to it. And we didn't conceal the fact that we were ecologists and socialists — hence the name of our publication.

So, we're no “watermelons” and if you agree with us and you are to stand up to the “watermelon” baiting from the likes of Tom Switzer, then you ought to support this project.

Donate today to the GLW Fighting Fund on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia). Donations can also be made to Green Left Weekly, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account no. 00901992. Alternatively, send a cheque or money order to PO Box 394, Broadway NSW 2007.

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