Naomi Klein on biotech industry opportunism
2.Klein warns of climate disasters
1.Biotech Companies Using Food Crisis as Opportunity for More GMO Crops
Disaster Capitalism in the News, April 21 2008
Soaring food prices and global grain shortages are bringing new pressures on governments, food companies and consumers to relax their longstanding resistance to genetically engineered crops....
With food riots in some countries focusing attention on how the world will feed itself, biotechnology proponents see their chance. They argue that while genetic engineering might have been deemed unnecessary when food was abundant, it will be essential for helping the world cope with the demand for food and biofuels in the decades ahead.
Opponents of biotechnology say they see not so much an opportunity as opportunism by its proponents to exploit the food crisis. "Where politicians and technocrats have always wanted to push G.M.O.s, they are jumping on this bandwagon and using this as an excuse," said Helen Holder, who coordinates the campaign against biotech foods for Friends of the Earth Europe.
2.Klein warns of climate disasters
by ANDREW WILLIAMS
Metro, May 20 2008
Naomi Klein is the brains behind worldwide best-seller No Logo, which raised awareness of globalisation. Her new tome, The Shock Doctrine, argues Western capitalists have exploited global crises from wars to natural disasters for their own economic benefit. The Shock Doctrine is out now, published by Penguin, GBP8.99.
What is the main point of your argument?
The book documents how, over the past 35 years, radical pro-corporate policies have required large-scale crises to advance.
How has this been done?
While New Orleans was under water there was aggressive lobbying not to rebuild the public school system but replace it with a privatised one. Not repair the public housing projects but replace them with hotels. The response to the disasters is also being privatised. The private company Blackwater USA showed up after the levees broke, playing the role of the police force. We’re seeing more examples of ‘disaster capitalism’ in the current food crisis. Agribusinesses are using the crisis to push through genetically modified crops in countries where they’re banned.
Where will it all end?
During the California fires last year, we saw the emergence of private fire fighters for the first time in more than a century in the US. This basic government service is now seen as a market opportunity. If we don’t avert climate chaos, disasters will become the new market opportunity. There is now VIP fire protection in wealthy areas, insurance companies send out private fire fighters if you pay the premium. It’s ending with a vision of disaster apartheid where response to the crises caused by the current economic model is the final frontier for privatisation. The way to get off this course is to get serious about tackling global warming, which will also reduce resource wars over oil, gas and water. We need to create a more sustainable economic model.
What impact can you have on that as an individual?
Put pressure on your political leaders. Changing your shopping habits isn’t enough. There’s bafflement as to why our leaders are so sanguine in the face of climate change and a global economy that creates serial crises. We need to respond as political beings.
Aren’t people cynical about politics? We’ve seen governments ignore huge public marches.
People are cynical and rightly so. However, the right wing exploits crises and responds to emergencies by putting through unpopular policies because they know if they don’t take advantage of these crises there will be a progressive response. After the Wall Street crash, people knew the market couldn’t regulate itself they saw mass poverty and hardship and didn’t just sit back and let politicians make changes for them. They organised social movements. The current crises can also be used to make social progress. The current economic model is an attempt by the elites to liberate themselves from the advances that cut into their profits. People are cynical about what a march or vote can do, that’s why we have to use sustained political pressure that organising change requires.
If we don’t take action to avert climate chaos, disasters will become the new market opportunity
Haven't the days of grass roots activism gone?
You can't effect change by going on a demonstration alone. It’s all interlinked. The economic model of the past 30 years doesn’t just create a divide between rich and poor, it wages war on organisations such as trade unions, which weakens society. We’ve been reduced to blogging or going on a march that’s different to organising a counter-power.
Are you hoping to politicise people with the book?
My goal was to track the strategy which takes advantage of disorientation after a crisis demonstrated by what happened after 9/11. The political leadership in the US expertly started hoarding power and privatised huge parts of the economy without any debate whatsoever. It’s a strategy that relies on us not knowing it happened. The process of understanding how it works means the next time this tactic is employed you don’t become disorientated. It makes people more able to organise in the face of a crisis.
Did No Logo make a different or was it just a fashion accessory for middle class lefties?
It was clearly not about saying 'don't buy this or that' it was a gateway for understanding how globalisation worked. There was very little literacy about what globalisation meant. I was talking about how these brands had become education tools, young people were learning how this baffling economic model worked by tracing the journey of their running shoes or Big Macs. I ended the book saying you don't change the world one brand at a time or by changing your shopping habits. Changing the system was about addressing the World Monetary Fund. The Seattle protest outside the World Trade Organisation happened in 1999, it changed the focus from individual companies to questioning the whole economic model. What happened after September 11th was that a lot of progressives became focussed on stopping wars. The economic model, which was fuelling the wars, fell off the agenda. I'm trying to connect the wars and economic agenda with the new book. They are intimately connected.