Following award of prominent literary prize in Canada, author and activist says individuals have done much to respond to climate change — now it’s time for government and industry to do the same.
Author and activist Naomi Klein was awarded Canada’s top annual prize for non-fiction writing this week, the Hilary Weston Prize presented by the Writers’ Trust of Canada, for her recently published book, ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.‘
According to the citation offered by the jurors:
Klein’s This Changes Everything is a ground-breaking work on how climate change changes everything. Written with an elegant blend of science, statistics, field reports and personal insight, it does not paralyze but buoys the reader. The book’s exploration of climate change from the perspective of how capitalism functions produces fresh insights and its examination of the interconnectedness between our relationship with nature and the creation of better, fairer societies presents a radical proposal. Klein’s urgency and outrage is balanced by meticulous documentation and passionate argument. Heart and mind go hand in hand in this magisterial response to a present crisis.
Klein admitted being quite surprised by the award—saying from the podium that “this wasn’t suppose to happen.” Directly after receiving the award, the author explained the nature of her surprise to Brian Bethune at MacLean‘s by saying, “The book is a really radical thesis and this is an establishment prize.” Hilary Weston is a former liutenant governor of Ontario and is married to Galen Weston, who runs a food and retail empire in the country. The family is recognized as the second-wealthiest in Canada.
”I suppose I have [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper to thank for the book’s success,” Klein told Bethune. “Every day, he tells Canadians they have to choose between economic prosperity and environmental and climatic protection, and Canadians know that’s not true. They know they don’t have to make that choice. But we do have to talk about change; we need this conversation.”
In a post-award interview with CBC Books, Klein said that perhaps the award would allow “even people who disagree with my politics” to engage with the book. “For me, I want the book to stimulate debate, I don’t just want the book to entrench people’s positions,” she said.
In a subsequent televised interview with the CBC‘s Andrew Nichols on Wednesday, Klein said that while it was very nice to be recognized for her writing and the quality of the work—the prize is decided by a jury of writers—she thinks the real strength of the book, and readers’ attraction to it, ultimately hinges on its subject matter.
What the book is really calling for, explained Klein, is having a more “strategic economy” in which the sectors that are fueling climate change—with special focus on the fossil fuel industry—are wound down and the sectors that have lesser negative impacts on the planet’s natural systems are revved up. “We know what we need to do in the face of this crisis,” she said. “It’s just that we have an economic system that seems to be locking us into this one particular road. So we need to talk about that system, not just the carbon.”
And when Nichols asked if she was essentially advocating for a new economic system, Klein quickly answered, “I am.”