Photo: Kourosh-Kerishi

"Our planet is getting worse—and fast": Naomi Klein on Trump, Lennon, and the last book that made her cry

"When the system on which life depends starts to collapse, all other problems fit inside that problem"
June 20, 2017
First news/historical event you can recall?

John Lennon’s death in 1980. I hadn’t seen my mother cry so much before. It was confusing and interesting to me that she could feel so strongly about somebody whom she had not met.

The book you are most embarrassed you never yet read?

With great shame, I’m going to have to say James Joyce’s Ulysses. I say with great shame because I’m a huge Joyce fan and I’ve tried many times to get through it.

One bit of advice you’d give to your younger self?

To my younger book-writing self I would say: don’t be surprised when the empire fights back. Also it’s not worth getting a stomach ulcer over a student newspaper.

What is your favourite saying or quotation?

It’s something Wendell Berry, the poet, farmer, short-story writer and essayist once said to me. “Stop somewhere and begin the thousand-year process of knowing that place.”

Where do you want to be buried/have your ashes scattered?

I would like my ashes scattered in a little salmon stream that feeds into the Pacific Ocean, just off the coast of British Columbia. I’ve spent a lot of time there.

If you were given £1m to spend on other people, what would you spend it on and why?

I would give it to Medicins Sans Frontières whose boats have been rescuing people in the Mediterranean. They are doing work that governments should be doing, rescuing toddlers and babies from the waves. They’re heroes.

The talent you wish you had?

The one I feel most intensely is fiction-writing. I may yet try my hand but I don’t yet have it. I’m reading Arundhati Roy’s new novel right now and I totally love it. Listening to Roy talk about the different places fiction and non-fiction occupy in her life, makes me wish I had a fraction of her talent.

The best & worst presents you’ve ever received

The best present was a stand-up paddle-board—very cool. Paddle-boarding is an amazing meditative sport. Worst: a really high-end, beautiful box of milk chocolates. (I won’t say who gave it to me.) Although I love chocolate, I’m lactose intolerant.

What have you changed your mind about?

I think the most significant one is that I changed my mind about becoming a mum. For a long time I didn’t think I could handle the juggle. I changed my mind late in life, and I’m so glad I did.

What is the biggest problem of all?

I passionately oppose ranking political crises because I believe that so many of our biggest problems are intersecting and reinforcing—from war to hunger to migration, democratic and ecological collapse. That said I see climate collapse as a different sort of problem because when the system on which life depends starts to collapse, all other problems fit inside that problem.

Are things getting better or worse? 

It’s hard for me not to answer that through the lens of climate change especially as we have just learnt that Donald Trump is pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords. The capacity of our planet to continue to be a hospitable place for human beings is getting worse—and fast. But on the other hand there is the opportunity to make things better because of renewable technology. Overall things are getting both worse and better. It’s a race against time to see which side is going to win.

The last piece of music/play/novel/film that brought you to tears?

The City Always Wins by Robert Omar Hamilton, an Egyptian-American writer, out in the summer. It’s set during the Tahrir Square Revolution of 2011. I cried so many times reading it because it’s the most intimate portrayal of death alongside life. It’s really a profound meditation about what the living owe to people who die in the struggle. And it’s beautifully written.

Naomi Klein’s new book “No Is Not Enough,” is out now from Allen Lane