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Naomi Klein on fracking, Indigenous rights and Canada's federal election

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"But one of things with fracking in Canada is that it’s happening very remote areas, and it’s getting almost no media coverage like it had in Quebec. Major cities there were in the bulls-eye (for fracking), and so people got mobilized. That’s been the vulnerability of that sector from the start -- resource sectors are still banking on remoteness.”

Klein said the problem with this way of thinking was that it was closely related to colonial history, of exploiting other people's land and resources for profit.

“The whole concept of the frontier is connected to the history of fossil fuels,” she said. “That we needed to identify — that it is possible to power our economies without sacrifice zones. If we don’t identify that as a problem, it’s easy to say nuclear is the solution despite the fact that it has huge risks at every stage and has a huge sacrifice zone mentality. 

“If we don’t talk about more than just carbon, we are going to have natural gas presented as clear alternative to coal, nuclear presented as the clean alternative to natural gas, and replicating the pattern of sacrifice zones."

“I think what gives me most hope is the fact that this crisis is being increasingly understood not just as an economic criss but really as a spiritual crisis. The idea of humans having a divine right to dominate the earth and being outside the community of living things and living systems is at the heart of the crisis.”

Our relationship with nature must change

“As Indigenous people take a leading role in resisting the extractive industries — which is happening obviously most powerfully in BC - there’s also an important cross-pollination of ideas that is not just about opposing a pipeline but is also about a shift in how we see ourselves and our relationship to nature,” Klein said.

“The allure of fossil fuels is the promise that you can transcend the natural world. That’s always been the intoxicating promise. You know, the quotes I have in the book about when the commercial steam engine is that you can build factories and no longer be at the mercy of winds. No longer be at the mercy of moving water to power your water wheels. This was always an illusion. 

In her book, Klein writes about the Earl of Liverpool, who penned in a meeting to memorialize James Watt in 182: “Be the winds friendly or be they contrary, the power of the steam engine overcomes all difficulties...Let the wind blow from whatever quarter it may.. you have the power and the means, by the Steam Engine, of applying that force in the proper time and in the proper manner."

But Klein argues that this transcendence of the natural environment was always an illusion. 

“We were never free from nature. We’ve always been a part of it and in dialogue. It’s just that what fossil fuels created was a delayed response so that the impact of our actions are now coming to us centuries after that first carbon was burned, right?," she said.

"It does necessitate a new understanding — or an older understanding — of our role in the world. One that says, no, we were never free from nature, nor should we be. We are of nature, we are of community and we need relationships that are founded on that premise.

"So I think that leadership coming from First Nations should be about something much more profound than that understanding that First Nations have legal power. It’s also that - there’s a shift in the world view that has been possible because of these cross pollination of ideas.

"I think the power of the First Nations sovereignty movement here is really at the forefront of a global moment. What gives me most hope is the way in which the discussion over Indigenous land rights has evolved over the last decade, since the Delgamuukw case, when Indigenous land right were reported as a 'threat', like 'they’ are taking our fish, or 'they' are taking our logs."

"But now, there’s a much deeper understudying that the Indigenous rights that allow them to traditionally hunt and fish are the same rights that allow them to say 'no' to tar sands pipelines. It’s been incredibly exciting to watch that understanding emerge...it’s not to say there isn’t any deep racism against First Nations, but there’s been a shift."

"Among US activists there’s definitely a sense that Canada is further along in understanding the power of Indigenous land rights to catalyze transition to another economic world view. Canadian activists are respected for this in the world -- as opposed to the Canadian government."

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