During the pandemic, Naomi Klein he spent a lot of time exploring the woods of British Columbia, Canada (his “happy place”) with his son Toma. “At one time, it was essential to be in tune with nature,” he tells a Vogue via Zoom. “Young people will have to fight for a better world – it’s pure reality. So the more those young people will be able to do it guided by love and not only by fear, the better it will be ”.
© Koroush Keshiri
At eight, his son is already aware of the climate change and he is “very distressed” by the idea that animals can become extinct. “As adults, we need to be honest with kids and not hide from them the fact that they are inheriting a world burdened with interconnected crises,” explains Klein. “What we need to do is give young people the tools to tackle these problems; we must respect their intelligence, and we must encourage them. “
That’s exactly what the internationally acclaimed writer intended to do in her latest book, How to Change Everything: The Young Human’s Guide to Protecting the Planet and Each Other (Penguin, 2021), written with children’s non-fiction author Rebecca Stefoff. As is typical of Klein, the work – the title of which recalls his famous book The world in flames: against Capitalism to save the climate (Feltrinelli, 2019) A revolution will save us. Because capitalism is not sustainable (Rizzoli, 2015) – does not shy away from difficult topics such as the harsh reality of climate change and social, economic and racial injustice, despite the young age of the readers it addresses.
Global Day of Climate Action, Berlin, 25 September 2020
© Jana Kießer
However, the book also tells exciting and motivating stories from climate activists around the world, people like Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate, Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti is Autumn Peltier. “The more young people hear about other young people who have made a huge impact, the more they get excited,” says Klein. “The message is: here’s what we can do about the climate crisis – and here’s the people doing something.”
With the publication of her new book, we spoke with Klein about how to support young people who are feeling overwhelmed by the climate crisis and why a new generation of activists gives her hope for the future.
Global Day of Climate Action, New York, 25 September 2020
© Rahim Fortune
How did you get the idea of writing How to Change Everything?
“When I published: The world in flames: against Capitalism to save the climate (Feltrinelli, 2019), I joined the Sunrise Movement for the book tour. I was really impressed with how young the activists were, and I heard from some of them that it would be nice to have material specifically designed for 10-14 year olds.
“People of all ages are doing great things, but I think the moral center of the climate movement is in middle and high schools. I was impressed by the energy that comes from young people – it’s incredible. So I wanted to do what I always want to do with my books, which is to make some ammunition available. I call it intellectual ammunition; some tools to help. “
Global Day of Climate Action, Stockholm, 25 September 2020
© Isak Berglund Mattsson Mårn
Why is it so important not only to inform children about the climate crisis but also to enable them to do something about it?
“Young people are learning about the climate crisis, either because they are watching a David Attenborough documentary or because they live in Texas and are having climatic conditions never seen before. We could not protect young people from the reality of climate change even if we wanted to.
The real problem for me is whether we are integrating that information, which is very alarming, with information on possible solutions that really give the impression to young people that they can do something ”.
Global Day of Climate Action, London, 25 September 2020
© Alfie White
Are you worried about the eco-anxiety that young people are experiencing? How can we support those who are feeling overwhelmed by the climate crisis?
“Young people are not protected by silence or by denying that there are reasons to be anxious. I believe that the best way to deal with anxiety is to help young people unite, to support them in creating a community of kids who have the same concerns as them.
“The story of Greta Thunberg is really symptomatic because when she began to learn about climate change she was assailed by fear, by the so-called”climate grief“. He looked around and saw that no one was doing anything to change and this worsened his mental health. And I see it in many young people.
“The message that needs to be conveyed is that fear and pain are absolutely reasonable and rational and that young people are not alone. The biggest problem for them is feeling alone with these sensations. ”
Global Day of Climate Action, Tokyo, 25 September 2020
© Houmi Sakata
He wrote part of This Changes Everything shortly after the birth of her son. Did becoming a mother change your perspective on the climate to some extent?
“I think it’s our lives that change us, the experiences we have. And since I’m a mom, and have been for eight years, obviously that affects it. Especially now during the pandemic, when my main interlocutor is an eight-year-old – we are a small family of three. So I think a lot about how to communicate with children; we always talk about difficult topics, like all parents right now.
But what about why I do this job and what drives me? I think it’s a deep feeling of protection for the places I love, and for the next generation. And not just for the human world – I also care about trees and salmon, and all the ecosystems that salmon make possible and are a part of here in British Columbia.
I don’t think you need to have children of your own to worry about the future. I was 42 when I had my son and I hated it when everyone in environmental circles started their observations with ‘From mother’. I thought, “Well what are you telling me? That since I have no children, then I don’t care about the future and nature? ‘”
There has been a lot of talk recently about the need for all of us as a society to slow down – do you think the pandemic could lead us to do what is necessary for the climate crisis?
“The pandemic has changed our perception of what kind of change is possible – we have all drastically changed the way we live; we have seen change on a large scale and on a small scale. We are still in the pandemic but we will get out of it. We need big plans to get the economy going again, and therefore it is perfectly plausible that the need to invest in public services, in job creation, in all sorts of economic stimuli, is linked to the need to do something for the climate. and redress racial injustices. We need a plan to build a better world. We have to solve many crises at the same time. “
Does the next generation give you hope that we can change everything?
“The biggest generational shift, I’d say, even just from millennials to generation Z, is that there is a huge desire for systemic change among post-millennial activists. My generation, and to a lesser extent also the millennials, still has a tendency to take care of their own problems, of their own backyard. Generation Z is intersectional – they make connections, go to the root of problems and are not afraid of profound change.
“Something truly exceptional is happening with this generation. I wouldn’t even say that change is on the horizon; it’s here. Young people are changing the world. ”
This interview has been cut and summarized for clarity.