Saturday, December 31, 2011

SAM RIVERS (1923-2011): Multi-Instrumentalist, Saxophonist, Bandleader, And Composer

Richard Termine for The New York Times
Sam Rivers in 2007

David Redfern/Getty Images


Another great and iconic African American musician and composer is gone--the internationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, tenor saxophonist, and composer Sam Rivers. Thankfully, I was privileged to see and hear Sam perform many times in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Detroit from 1970 on. In 1972 he and the extraordinary bass player/composer Richard Davis (b. 1930) did an amazing year long artist-in-residency at my college alma mater in Michigan during my senior year there. During an astounding and highly varied six decade long career (!) Sam played and recorded with everyone from Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie to Billie Holiday, T-Bone Walker, Tony Williams, David Holland, Cecil Taylor,
David Holland, and Anthony Braxton among many others. He also organized and led a large number of his own ensemble groups in duo, trio, quartet, quintet, septet, octet, and orchestral big band settings. His legendary loft space for music and dance performance that he founded with his wife Beatrice in downtown Manhattan was called Studio Rivbea and was THE place to hear really original and dynamic avant-garde Jazz by a wide array of musicians and composers in New York in the mid and late 1970s and he also led a terrific anf highly influential Jazz orchestra of over 20 musicians throughout the '80s, '90s. and well into the 2000s. He was yet another real GIANT of the music in the post-1950s era. What an artist! What follows is an extended homage to and celebration of this man and his indelible music via words, visual images and of course SOUND. ENJOY! and RIP Sam...


Sam Rivers, Jazz Artist of Loft Scene, Dies at 88
December 27, 2011

New York Times

Sam Rivers, an inexhaustibly creative saxophonist, flutist, bandleader and composer who cut his own decisive path through the jazz world, spearheading the 1970s loft scene in New York and later establishing a rugged outpost in Florida, died on Monday in Orlando, Fla. He was 88.

The cause was pneumonia, his daughter Monique Rivers Williams said.

With an approach to improvisation that was garrulous and uninhibited but firmly grounded in intellect and technique, Mr. Rivers was among the leading figures in the postwar jazz avant-garde. His sound on the tenor saxophone, his primary instrument, was distinctive: taut and throaty, slightly burred, dark-hued. He also had a recognizable voice on the soprano saxophone, flute and piano, and as a composer and arranger.

Music ran deep in his family. His grandfather Marshall W. Taylor published one of the first hymnals for black congregations after emancipation, “A Collection of Revival Hymns and Plantation Melodies,” in 1882. His mother, the former Lillian Taylor, was a pianist and choir director, and his father, Samuel Rivers, was a gospel singer. They were on tour with the Silvertone Quintet in El Reno, Okla., when Samuel Carthorne Rivers was born, on Sept. 25, 1923.

Growing up in Chicago and on the road, Mr. Rivers studied violin, piano and trombone. After his father had a debilitating accident in 1937, he moved with his mother to Little Rock, Ark., where he zeroed in on the tenor saxophone. Joining the Navy in the mid-’40s, he served for three years.

Mr. Rivers enrolled in the Boston Conservatory of Music in 1947 and later transferred to Boston University, where he majored in composition and briefly took up the viola and fell into the busy Boston jazz scene.

He made an important acquaintance in 1959: Tony Williams, a 13-year-old drummer who already sounded like an innovator. Together they delved into free improvisation, occasionally performing in museums alongside modernist and abstract paintings.

By 1964 Mr. Williams was working with the trumpeter Miles Davis and persuaded him to hire Mr. Rivers, who was with the bluesman T-Bone Walker at the time, for a summer tour. Mr. Rivers’s blustery playing with the Miles Davis Quintet, captured on the album “Miles in Tokyo,” suggested a provocative but imperfect fit. Wayne Shorter replaced him in the fall.

On a series of Blue Note recordings in the middle to late ’60s, beginning with Mr. Williams’s first album as a leader, “Life Time,” Mr. Rivers expressed his ideas more freely. He made four albums of his own for the label, the first of which — “Fuchsia Swing Song,” with Mr. Williams, the pianist Jaki Byard and the bassist Ron Carter, another Miles Davis sideman — is a landmark of experimental post-bop, with a free-flowing yet structurally sound style. “Beatrice,” a ballad from that album Mr. Rivers named after his wife, would become a jazz standard.

Beatrice Rivers died in 2005. In addition to his daughter Monique, Mr. Rivers is survived by two other daughters, Cindy Johnson and Traci Tozzi; a son, Dr. Samuel Rivers III; five grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

Mr. Rivers pushed further toward abstraction in the late ’60s, moving to New York and working as a sideman with the uncompromising pianists Andrew Hill and Cecil Taylor. In 1970 he and his wife opened Studio Rivbea, a noncommercial performance space, in their loft on Bond Street in the East Village. It served as an avant-garde hub through the end of the decade, anchoring what would be known as the loft scene.

The albums Mr. Rivers made for Impulse Records in the ’70s would further burnish his reputation in the avant-garde. After Studio Rivbea closed in 1979, Mr. Rivers continued to lead several groups, including a big band called the Rivbea Orchestra, a woodwind ensemble called Winds of Change and a virtuosic trio with the bassist Dave Holland and the drummer Barry Altschul. With the trio, Mr. Rivers often demonstrated his gift as a multi-instrumentalist, extemporizing fluidly on saxophone, piano and flute.

Mr. Rivers tacked toward more mainstream sensibilities from 1987 to 1991, when he worked extensively with an early influence, the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. While touring through Orlando with Gillespie in 1991, Mr. Rivers met some of the skilled musicians employed by the area’s theme parks, who persuaded him to move there and revive the Rivbea Orchestra. He lived most recently in nearby Apopka, Fla.

The music made by his band in the 1990s and beyond was as spirited and harmonically dense as anything in Mr. Rivers’s musical history. And the trio at its core — Mr. Rivers, the bassist Doug Mathews and the drummer Anthony Cole — also performed on its own, honing a dynamic versatility distinct from that of any other group in jazz.

Mr. Rivers’s late-career renaissance was confirmed by the critical response to “Inspiration” and “Culmination,” two albums he recorded for RCA in 1998 with a New York big band assembled by the alto saxophonist Steve Coleman. In 2000, Mr. Rivers led the Orlando iteration of the Rivbea Orchestra in a concert presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center. The next year he served as the fiery eminence on “Black Stars,” an acclaimed album by the 26-year-old pianist Jason Moran.

This year saw the release of “Sam Rivers and the Rivbea Orchestra — Trilogy” (Mosaic), a three-CD set featuring recordings from 2008 and 2009. His last performance was in October in DeLand, Fla.

In 2006. the Vision Festival, a nonprofit New York event aesthetically indebted to the loft scene, honored Mr. Rivers with a Sam Rivers Day program featuring both his bands. The names of two of the bustling pieces performed were, appropriately, “Flair” and “Spunk.”

Sam Rivers, jazz sax great who hosted Village concerts, dead at 88

New Yorker played with Miles Davis, Billie Holiday and T. Bone Walker

December 28 2011

Sam Rivers played saxophone with some of the all-time jazz and blues greats, including Billie Holliday, Miles Davis and B.B. King.

Sam Rivers, a legendary jazz saxophonist who threw raucous jam sessions in his west Village loft, died of pneumonia in Orlando on Monday. He was 88.

Rivers was born in El Reno, Oklahoma in 1923. He was heir to a musical legacy that began with his grandfather Marshall W. Taylor, who in 1882 published an early classic of African-American folk music, “A Collection of Revival Hymns & Plantation Melodies.”

Rivers’ mother and father played together in a local quartet and encouraged their son to study music from an early age.

By age 13, Rivers settled on the tenor saxophone as his instrument of choice. He stuck with the sax for more than 70 years, cutting 35 albums and playing countless gigs with many of the greatest artists in jazz.

After a stint in the Navy as a young man, Rivers enrolled in the Boston Conservatory, where he would begin his career as a professional musician.

By the mid-1950’s Rivers was backing up Billie Holiday on the sax and acting as musical director for a number of great R&B acts including B.B. King and T-Bone Walker.

In 1964 he moved to New York and joined Miles Davis’s quintet, with whom he recorded the seminal live record “Miles in Tokyo.” In that year Rivers also began recording his own groups for Blue Note, eventually releasing four records as a band leader for the famed jazz label.

In 1970, Rivers and his wife Beatrice opened a jazz and dance performance space called Studio Rivbea in their Bond Street loft.

The freewheeling venue was a fixture of the Village’s art and jazz scene until 1979 when Rivers and his wife relocated to New Jersey.

Rivers moved to Orlando in 1991 and continued to record and tour until his death.

Rivers is survived by five children, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. His wife Beatrice Rivers died in 2005.

His family is holding a private funeral service and plans are being made for a public memorial concert to be held in his honor.

With News Wire Services

Sam Rivers: A Compelling Force

by Kofi Natambu

Detroit Metro Times

August 29, 1984

“You don’t pin me down. I am as general as a musician can be, general and open. I have the scope of the whole thing and I really try to do it that way with every composition.

—Sam Rivers

Everything about Samuel Carthorne Rivers defies traditional attempts to blithely categorize or pigeonhole. In fact, his entire life history as a black creative musician suggests there is something seriously wrong with most general notions about what “jazz” is (or is supposed to be). A brilliant multi-instrumentalist and composer who excels with world-class proficiency on tenor and soprano saxophones, flute and piano. Rivers is a musician for whom the extraordinary is quite commonplace. It is Rivers’s extensive background in all the major styles and concepts of Afro-American music (which is the mainstream of all American music), that allows him to create freely in a multitude of settings.

Rivers was born Sept. 25, 1923 in El Reno, Oklahoma. The other significant fact about his birth is that it literally took place on the road. You see, Rivers comes from a family of very talented musicians. His grandfather, the Rev. Marshall W. Taylor, is famous for the publication of a volume of slave folk songs and gospel tunes. Sam’s very early years were spent in Chicago until his father died and the family moved to Arkansas when he was seven.

Sam’s extremely varied training in music began then. He studied and learned how to play several instru­ments, beginning with piano and then violin and alto saxophone. He also sang with his brother and two cousins in a group called—and you won’t believe this—the “Tiny Tims.”

After a stint in the Navy, Sam enrolled at the Boston Conservatory of Music. While there, Sam studied composition and viola, in addition to violin. At night Sam played tenor saxophone in an improvisational music setting at a small bar and grill. This was in Boston during the early 1950s, and it was jumping with great music and musicians—Jaki Byard, Charlie Mariano, Nat Pierce, Quincy Jones (then a trumpet player), Joe Gordon, Gigi Gryce and, of course, Cecil Taylor were a few notables on the scene. As Rivers described it: “There were three or four bands a night—never a dull moment. They’d start at noon and go to midnight. Two bands during the day and two at night. I was lucky—we played from seven to ten, but it was seven days a week”

During this period Rivers was also a regular member of a big band called ‘The Beboppers” that played the bop classics (Bird, Dizzy, Dameron et al). Despite this, Rivers’ main influences were, as he says: “Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. Lester Young was my first influence, later Hawkins, Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis, people like that.” Even then Rivers, always an original and innovative stylist, did not imitate the styles of those he admired. He also consciously made a point of playing in a bebop vein without playing too many bop tunes.

The early 1960s marked a change in Rivers’ style and a turning point in his long career. He was still playing classical music and holding down a regular gig with blues groups and a Basie-like big band, but at the same time he was working with a new, more advanced group that included the then 16-year-old prodigy of the drums, the great Tony Williams. Hal Galper was on piano and Rivers on various reeds, Rivers took a never-look-back plunge into the so-called “avant-garde” of black creative music. Rivers states: “We were listening to Cecil Taylor’s music and Ornette Coleman’s music. So that opened the music up. It was a natural evolution for me.” Rivers had already been playing compositionswithout a preset chord structure before he heard Coleman and Taylor. Their bold innovations only confirmed the validity of his own experiments. Rivers considers this development in the music to be the most radical innovation in music in the last fifty years.

It was in 1964 after playing on the road with the legendary blues singer and guitarist T-Bone Walker that Rivers was first brought to the attention of a national audience when he was asked to play with the Miles Davis group. Though Rivers only played with Miles for six months, he made an indelible impression by playing some very fiery and wildly original tenor saxophone on a now-classic recording called Miles Davis Live in Tokyo (recently reissued by Columbia on a 1983 two-fer called Heard ‘Round the World). This recording identified Rivers as a major force to be reckoned with and put him in the upper echelon of saxophonists with the likes of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Rivers’ replacement with the Davis band, Wayne Shorter. Later, in 1970, Rivers opened what became a very famous and successful musicians’ loft Studio Rivbea. Named after Sam and his artist wife of thirty years, Bea Rivers, this studio became the spot to hear the new generation of innovative black creative musicians such as then unknowns Arthur Blythe, David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Olu Dara, Frank Lowe, and the dynamos from Chicago’s AACM: Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Leo Smith, Leroy Jenkins and others.

The loft and Rivers became central figures in what the media dubbed “Loft Jazz” as many similar sites. for playing contemporary black creative music began to spring up. In 1976 many of the major artists in the movement were documented on record in a five-album series for Douglas Records that Rivers co-produced called Wildflowers. Now out of print, this series is a real collector’s item. As a concert and rehearsal space, Studio Rivbea was a fantastic place to hear live music without any distractions whatever. Its absence (Rivers closed it in 1980) is sorely felt.

Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and into this decade. Rivers has recorded some amazing music. In the mid ­1960s, he did a series of classic recordings for Blue Note that featured a very fluid and dynamic style on tenor and a characteristically varied compositional approach. He also appeared as a sideman giving great perfor­mances on records led by Tony Williams, Larry Young and Andrew Hill. Rivers also performed and recorded with Cecil Taylor in the late 1960s, culminating in an exhilarating three-record set for wealthy European patron that was released in the U.S. as The Great Concert of Cecil Taylor, Rivers continued to play on and off with Taylor until 1973. After another brief stint with McCoy Tyner, Rivers really came into his own in the early 1970s.

It was during this phase that Rivers finally got an opportunity to record his orchestral music. Utilizing groups of between 10-25 pieces, Rivers extends the traditional big band concept through a distinctly melodic and rhythmic approach that relies on tonal density and textural richness to convey sound colors. There is a broad canvas of sounds to choose from in exploring the multidirectional movement of lines and rhythms. The first recorded evidence of this creative approach appears on a brilliant Rivers date for Impulse called Crystals from 1974. Since then Rivers has led outstanding large ensemble groups in various music festivals in the U.S., Europe, and Japan as well as continuing his unique uses of the small group idiom.

Ironically, despite the consistent high quality of Rivers’ work, he has only been able to make five recordings in America in the past eight years. Another glaring example of the music industry’s neglect of creative music. All of Rivers’ recent records (Duets 1 & 2 with the great bassist David Holland, Waves, Contrasts and his latest 1983 masterpiece for the Italian Black Saint label entitled Colours), are leading forces in contemporary creative music in the world today.

As Rivers says: “This music has developed at a very rapid pace over the last sixty years and has come to dominate the world music scene. The fine art music is jazz, now at its highest state, which we prefer to call creative music. We would like to change the name but the writers won’t allow it, they just keep saying ‘jazz.” I just let it go. It’s a category for me that covers all. I’ve played in symphony orchestras, blues bands, experimental groups, avant-garde groups, bebop groups, show bands; you name the music and I’ve pretty much done it. Saying that I’m a jazz musician means I play all kinds of music.”

On Friday, Aug. 31 at 8p.m., you will hear more than versatility, exquisite technical control and prowess, or even creative values at work. You will hear passion, strength, tenderness and love. What else can you expect from music?

Detroit Metro Times

August 29, 1984

Sam Rivers
By Kofi Natambu
Source: African American National Biography

Born: El Reno, Oklahoma, United States
25 September 1923
Activity/Profession: Saxophonist, Composer / Arranger, Pianist, Jazz Musician

Multi-instrumentalist (tenor, soprano, and alto saxophones, piano, and flute), composer, arranger, and teacher was born Samuel Carthorne Rivers in El Reno, Oklahoma, to a family of musicians. Rivers's grandfather the Reverend Marshall Wiliam Taylor published a famous book of hymns and African American folk songs in 1882 entitled A Collection of Revival Hymns and Plantation Melodies. His parents, both college graduates from Chicago, played and toured with the Silvertone Quartet, a gospel group in which his father sang and his mother accompanied on piano. When he was still an infant, Rivers and his family moved to Chicago, where from the age of four Rivers sang in choirs directed by his mother. He joined his father on excursions to famous South Side venues—namely the Regal Theatre and Savoy Ballroom—to hear the top African American big bands of the day, from Duke Ellington and Count Basie to Earl “Fatha” Hines. During this time Rivers also learned piano and violin, dropping the latter instrument a few years later to concentrate exclusively on piano.

After Rivers's father died in an automobile accident in 1937, his mother took a teaching position at Shorter College in Little Rock, Arkansas. Rivers continued to develop his musical talent, playing trombone in the marching band at age eleven, and two years later picking up a saxophone, which he found more to his liking and on which he then concentrated exclusively. By the time he graduated from high school in Little Rock at age fifteen, Rivers had learned the trombone, soprano saxophone, and baritone horn.

As a student at Jarvis Christian College in Texas, Rivers started improvising on the saxophone while learning the classic Coleman Hawkins tenor saxophone interpretation and improvisation on “Body and Soul” from transcription. Soon Rivers was fervently studying other major saxophonists, like Lester Young and Chu Berry. In the mid-1940s he heard the revolutionary innovations of “bebop” pioneers Charlie “Yardbird” Parker and John “Dizzy” Gillespie while working as a navy clerk stationed near San Francisco, California. He felt he had received his calling to become a professional musician. The 1945 Gillespie and Parker recording “Blue and Boogie” particularly intrigued Rivers. Rivers spent his off-hours moonlighting on gigs with singer Jimmy Witherspoon and participating in Bay Area jam sessions.

Inspired to further his musical training, Rivers enrolled in the Boston Conservatory of Music in 1947, studying composition and theory, and also attended Boston University. He occasionally worked with other artistically ambitious jazz musicians, including Jaki Byard, Nat Pierce, Charlie Mariano, Gigi Gryce, Herb Pomeroy, and Alan Dawson. In 1952 Rivers dropped out of Boston University, suffering from illness for the next few years. He spent some time composing, but he remained relatively inactive as a performing musician. After his recovery Rivers moved to Florida in 1955, working in Miami with his brother, bass player Martin Rivers, and touring the South with rhythm and blues bands. A few years later, he returned to Boston, supporting himself by writing advertising jingles before rejoining the Herb Pomeroy orchestra (1960–1962) and forming a quartet in 1959 with pianist Hal Galper, bassist Henry Grimes, and a phenomenal thirteen-year-old drummer named Tony Williams.

Williams and Rivers would meet again in the summer of 1964 when the saxophonist, upon Williams's ardent recommendation, joined the Miles Davis Quintet, replacing tenor saxophonist George Coleman. Rivers toured and recorded with the quintet in Japan and as part of the World Jazz Festival. After his six-month tenure was over, he discovered that most of his musical peers in Boston were so busy teaching and performing on their own that they could no longer play with him. Undaunted, Rivers decided to move to Harlem and signed a recording contract with Blue Note, making his 1964 debut as a bandleader with the recording Fuchsia Swing Song, which demonstrated his movement from a post-bop conception into “free jazz” playing. The recording was well received by critics, and Rivers followed this success with another Blue Note session, Contours, with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and pianist Herbie Hancock, which was much closer to mainstream jazz traditions. Rivers returned to free jazz in 1966 with Invocation.

Rivers grew increasingly interested in teaching, eventually conducting a workshop with his big band music at a Harlem junior high school. After touring and recording with the Cecil Taylor Unit Ensemble in 1969 (he played with the group from 1968 to 1973), and a six-month stint with pianist McCoy Tyner's group, in 1971 Rivers and his wife, Bea, opened Studio Rivbea, a performance and loft living space in lower Manhattan, for rehearsals and performances of his own original compositions as well as those of musicians interested in new, experimental work in the jazz tradition. One of the first major New York “loft spaces” to emerge during the 1970s, the studio became a nurturing ground and a live performance outlet for numerous improvisational musicians and composers in New York.

From 1972 to 1982, after working again with Miles Davis as well as Chick Corea's avant-garde ensemble Circle, Rivers performed and recorded regularly in duos, trios, quartets, quintets, and big bands, and he continued to foster and promote his studio. Throughout the 1980s Rivers composed for orchestral and smaller groups for Impulse Records and many minor labels. In 1991, after concluding four years of international touring with Dizzy Gillespie's quintet and big band, Rivers left New York to settle in Orlando, Florida, with his wife. While vacationing there, they had discovered a talented network of musicians working in theme parks and studios. Rivers formed his own record label (also called Rivbea) and wrote compositions for three Orlando-based ensembles: a sixteen-piece big band, an eleven-piece wind ensemble, and a trio, which was the orchestra's core rhythm section. He released two critically acclaimed albums for RCA, the 1999 Grammy Award–nominated Inspiration and 2000's Culmination. In the summer of 2000, Rivers released a double-CD on Rivbea, documenting his Orlando big band.

Further Reading

Davis, Francis. “At 75, a Maverick Has a Big Band ‘Talking,’” New York Times, 10 Oct. 1999.
Gettelman, Parry. “Rivers Keeps It Fresh,” Orlando Sentinel Tribune, 19 November 1999.
Hazell, Ed. “Big-band Bop: Sam Rivers's Inspiration,” Boston Phoenix, 5 Aug. 1999
Rubien, David. “Sam Rivers Jazz Original Reappears,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7 Nov. 1993.
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Dave Holland and Sam Rivers in Pisa , Italy 1980

Ending track from Sam River's "Fuchsia Swing Song" original album. Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on December 11, 1964. Originally released as BST (84184)

Sam Rivers (tenor saxophone); Jaki Byard (piano); Ron Carter (bass); Tony Williams (drums).

Roots - "Lester Leaps In"
[Salute to the Saxophone (1992, Panorama)

With Sam Rivers 1984 === Hamburg, Germany @ Funkhaus
Cecil Bridgewater (tp), Odean Pope (ts),Sam Rivers (ts, ss, fl), Tyrone Brown (b), Max Roach (dr)

Sam Rivers Biography Timeline Born: September 25, 1923 | Died: December 26, 2011 Instrument: Sax, tenor

Samuel Carthorne Rivers (born September 25, 1923, El Reno, Oklahoma) is a jazz musician and composer. He performs on soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, flute, and piano. Rivers was previously thought to have been born in 1930.

Rivers's father was a gospel musician who had sung with the Fisk Jubilee Singers and the Silverstone Quartet, exposing Rivers to music from an early age.

Rivers moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1947, where he studied at the Boston Conservatory with Alan Hovhaness. He performed with Quincy Jones, Herb Pomeroy, Tadd Dameron and others.

In 1959 Rivers began performing with 13-year-old drummer Tony Williams, who later went on to have an impressive career. Rivers did a brief stint with Miles Davis's quintet in 1964, partly at Williams's recommendation. This quintet was recorded on a single album, Miles in Tokyo. Unfortunately, Rivers' playing style was too free to be compatible with Davis's music at this point, and he was soon replaced by Wayne Shorter. Rivers was signed by Blue Note Records, for whom he recorded four albums as leader and made several sideman appearances. Among noted sidemen on his own Blue Note Records were Jaki Byard who appears on Fuschia Swing Song, Herbie Hancock and Freddie Hubbard. He appeared on Blue Note recordings of Tony Williams, Andrew Hill and Larry Young.

Rivers's music is rooted in bebop, but he is an adventurous player, adept at free jazz. The first of his Blue Note albums, Fuchsia Swing Song, is widely regarded as a masterpiece of an approach sometimes called “inside-outside”. The performer frequently obliterates the explicit harmonic framework (”going outside”) but retains a hidden link so as to be able to return to it in a seamless fashion. Rivers brought the conceptual tools of bebop harmony to a new level in this process, united at all times with the ability to “tell a story” which Lester Young had


Thursday, December 15, 2011

From Naomi Klein's Newsletter: Capitalism vs. Climate Change

In December's Newsletter:

Naomi's New Feature in The Nation: "Capitalism vs. the Climate"
New York Times Q&A: "Naomi Kleins Inconvenient Climate Conclusions"
Naomi's TED Talk, "Addicted To Risk," Makes Best of TED 2011 List
Watch Naomi, Michael Moore, and Others Discuss What's Next for OWS
Give To Combat Hunger and To Support Community Renewable Energy


The brilliant, inspiring, and prolific author, radical activist, political journalist, economic theorist, and social and cultural critic Naomi Klein continues to play a major international role in educating us all in the daunting global politics and horrific economic dynamics of 21st century corporate capitalism. By exhaustively documenting its profoundly destructive use and domination of the world's technical, scientific, and natural resources Naomi's extraordinary work and insight has served as a powerful intellectual and organizational instrument in combatting these forces and most importantly strongly advocating and fighting for real ideological, political, cultural and economic ALTERNATIVES to the criminal madness currently ruling our world...

Please carefully read this very important article and pass it on...


Capitalism vs. the Climate
by Naomi Klein
November 9, 2011
The Nation

There is a question from a gentleman in the fourth row.

He introduces himself as Richard Rothschild. He tells the crowd that he ran for county commissioner in Maryland’s Carroll County because he had come to the conclusion that policies to combat global warming were actually “an attack on middle-class American capitalism.” His question for the panelists, gathered in a Washington, DC, Marriott Hotel in late June, is this: “To what extent is this entire movement simply a green Trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?”

Here at the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, this qualifies as a rhetorical question. Like asking a meeting of German central bankers if Greeks are untrustworthy. Still, the panelists aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to tell the questioner just how right he is.

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who specializes in harassing climate scientists with nuisance lawsuits and Freedom of Information fishing expeditions, angles the table mic over to his mouth. “You can believe this is about the climate,” he says darkly, “and many people do, but it’s not a reasonable belief.” Horner, whose prematurely silver hair makes him look like a right-wing Anderson Cooper, likes to invoke Saul Alinsky: “The issue isn’t the issue.” The issue, apparently, is that “no free society would do to itself what this agenda requires…. The first step to that is to remove these nagging freedoms that keep getting in the way.”

Claiming that climate change is a plot to steal American freedom is rather tame by Heartland standards. Over the course of this two-day conference, I will learn that Obama’s campaign promise to support locally owned biofuels refineries was really about “green communitarianism,” akin to the “Maoist” scheme to put “a pig iron furnace in everybody’s backyard” (the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels). That climate change is “a stalking horse for National Socialism” (former Republican senator and retired astronaut Harrison Schmitt). And that environmentalists are like Aztec priests, sacrificing countless people to appease the gods and change the weather (Marc Morano, editor of the denialists’ go-to website,

Most of all, however, I will hear versions of the opinion expressed by the county commissioner in the fourth row: that climate change is a Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism. As conference speaker Larry Bell succinctly puts it in his new book Climate of Corruption, climate change “has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution.”

Yes, sure, there is a pretense that the delegates’ rejection of climate science is rooted in serious disagreement about the data. And the organizers go to some lengths to mimic credible scientific conferences, calling the gathering “Restoring the Scientific Method” and even adopting the organizational acronym ICCC, a mere one letter off from the world’s leading authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But the scientific theories presented here are old and long discredited. And no attempt is made to explain why each speaker seems to contradict the next. (Is there no warming, or is there warming but it’s not a problem? And if there is no warming, then what’s all this talk about sunspots causing temperatures to rise?)

In truth, several members of the mostly elderly audience seem to doze off while the temperature graphs are projected. They come to life only when the rock stars of the movement take the stage—not the C-team scientists but the A-team ideological warriors like Morano and Horner. This is the true purpose of the gathering: providing a forum for die-hard denialists to collect the rhetorical baseball bats with which they will club environmentalists and climate scientists in the weeks and months to come. The talking points first tested here will jam the comment sections beneath every article and YouTube video that contains the phrase “climate change” or “global warming.” They will also exit the mouths of hundreds of right-wing commentators and politicians—from Republican presidential candidates like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann all the way down to county commissioners like Richard Rothschild. In an interview outside the sessions, Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, proudly takes credit for “thousands of articles and op-eds and speeches…that were informed by or motivated by somebody attending one of these conferences.”

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank devoted to “promoting free-market solutions,” has been holding these confabs since 2008, sometimes twice a year. And the strategy appears to be working. At the end of day one, Morano—whose claim to fame is having broken the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth story that sank John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign—leads the gathering through a series of victory laps. Cap and trade: dead! Obama at the Copenhagen summit: failure! The climate movement: suicidal! He even projects a couple of quotes from climate activists beating up on themselves (as progressives do so well) and exhorts the audience to “celebrate!”

There were no balloons or confetti descending from the rafters, but there may as well have been.

* * *

When public opinion on the big social and political issues changes, the trends tend to be relatively gradual. Abrupt shifts, when they come, are usually precipitated by dramatic events. Which is why pollsters are so surprised by what has happened to perceptions about climate change over a span of just four years. A 2007 Harris poll found that 71 percent of Americans believed that the continued burning of fossil fuels would cause the climate to change. By 2009 the figure had dropped to 51 percent. In June 2011 the number of Americans who agreed was down to 44 percent—well under half the population. According to Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, this is “among the largest shifts over a short period of time seen in recent public opinion history.”

Even more striking, this shift has occurred almost entirely at one end of the political spectrum. As recently as 2008 (the year Newt Gingrich did a climate change TV spot with Nancy Pelosi) the issue still had a veneer of bipartisan support in the United States. Those days are decidedly over. Today, 70–75 percent of self-identified Democrats and liberals believe humans are changing the climate—a level that has remained stable or risen slightly over the past decade. In sharp contrast, Republicans, particularly Tea Party members, have overwhelmingly chosen to reject the scientific consensus. In some regions, only about 20 percent of self-identified Republicans accept the science.

Equally significant has been a shift in emotional intensity. Climate change used to be something most everyone said they cared about—just not all that much. When Americans were asked to rank their political concerns in order of priority, climate change would reliably come in last.

But now there is a significant cohort of Republicans who care passionately, even obsessively, about climate change—though what they care about is exposing it as a “hoax” being perpetrated by liberals to force them to change their light bulbs, live in Soviet-style tenements and surrender their SUVs. For these right-wingers, opposition to climate change has become as central to their worldview as low taxes, gun ownership and opposition to abortion. Many climate scientists report receiving death threats, as do authors of articles on subjects as seemingly innocuous as energy conservation. (As one letter writer put it to Stan Cox, author of a book critical of air-conditioning, “You can pry my thermostat out of my cold dead hands.”)

This culture-war intensity is the worst news of all, because when you challenge a person’s position on an issue core to his or her identity, facts and arguments are seen as little more than further attacks, easily deflected. (The deniers have even found a way to dismiss a new study confirming the reality of global warming that was partially funded by the Koch brothers, and led by a scientist sympathetic to the “skeptic” position.)

The effects of this emotional intensity have been on full display in the race to lead the Republican Party. Days into his presidential campaign, with his home state literally burning up with wildfires, Texas Governor Rick Perry delighted the base by declaring that climate scientists were manipulating data “so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.” Meanwhile, the only candidate to consistently defend climate science, Jon Huntsman, was dead on arrival. And part of what has rescued Mitt Romney’s campaign has been his flight from earlier statements supporting the scientific consensus on climate change.

But the effects of the right-wing climate conspiracies reach far beyond the Republican Party. The Democrats have mostly gone mute on the subject, not wanting to alienate independents. And the media and culture industries have followed suit. Five years ago, celebrities were showing up at the Academy Awards in hybrids, Vanity Fair launched an annual green issue and, in 2007, the three major US networks ran 147 stories on climate change. No longer. In 2010 the networks ran just thirty-two climate change stories; limos are back in style at the Academy Awards; and the “annual” Vanity Fair green issue hasn’t been seen since 2008.

This uneasy silence has persisted through the end of the hottest decade in recorded history and yet another summer of freak natural disasters and record-breaking heat worldwide. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry is rushing to make multibillion-dollar investments in new infrastructure to extract oil, natural gas and coal from some of the dirtiest and highest-risk sources on the continent (the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline being only the highest-profile example). In the Alberta tar sands, in the Beaufort Sea, in the gas fields of Pennsylvania and the coalfields of Wyoming and Montana, the industry is betting big that the climate movement is as good as dead.

If the carbon these projects are poised to suck out is released into the atmosphere, the chance of triggering catastrophic climate change will increase dramatically (mining the oil in the Alberta tar sands alone, says NASA’s James Hansen, would be “essentially game over” for the climate).

All of this means that the climate movement needs to have one hell of a comeback. For this to happen, the left is going to have to learn from the right. Denialists gained traction by making climate about economics: action will destroy capitalism, they have claimed, killing jobs and sending prices soaring. But at a time when a growing number of people agree with the protesters at Occupy Wall Street, many of whom argue that capitalism-as-usual is itself the cause of lost jobs and debt slavery, there is a unique opportunity to seize the economic terrain from the right. This would require making a persuasive case that the real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system—one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work and radically reins in corporate power. It would also require a shift away from the notion that climate action is just one issue on a laundry list of worthy causes vying for progressive attention. Just as climate denialism has become a core identity issue on the right, utterly entwined with defending current systems of power and wealth, the scientific reality of climate change must, for progressives, occupy a central place in a coherent narrative about the perils of unrestrained greed and the need for real alternatives.

Building such a transformative movement may not be as hard as it first appears. Indeed, if you ask the Heartlanders, climate change makes some kind of left-wing revolution virtually inevitable, which is precisely why they are so determined to deny its reality. Perhaps we should listen to their theories more closely—they might just understand something the left still doesn’t get.

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The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong. Before I go any further, let me be absolutely clear: as 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists attest, the Heartlanders are completely wrong about the science. The heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels are already causing temperatures to increase. If we are not on a radically different energy path by the end of this decade, we are in for a world of pain.

But when it comes to the real-world consequences of those scientific findings, specifically the kind of deep changes required not just to our energy consumption but to the underlying logic of our economic system, the crowd gathered at the Marriott Hotel may be in considerably less denial than a lot of professional environmentalists, the ones who paint a picture of global warming Armageddon, then assure us that we can avert catastrophe by buying “green” products and creating clever markets in pollution.

The fact that the earth’s atmosphere cannot safely absorb the amount of carbon we are pumping into it is a symptom of a much larger crisis, one born of the central fiction on which our economic model is based: that nature is limitless, that we will always be able to find more of what we need, and that if something runs out it can be seamlessly replaced by another resource that we can endlessly extract. But it is not just the atmosphere that we have exploited beyond its capacity to recover—we are doing the same to the oceans, to freshwater, to topsoil and to biodiversity. The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal—and acutely sensitive to natural limits, including the limits of human intelligence.

So in a way, Chris Horner was right when he told his fellow Heartlanders that climate change isn’t “the issue.” In fact, it isn’t an issue at all. Climate change is a message, one that is telling us that many of our culture’s most cherished ideas are no longer viable. These are profoundly challenging revelations for all of us raised on Enlightenment ideals of progress, unaccustomed to having our ambitions confined by natural boundaries. And this is true for the statist left as well as the neoliberal right.

While Heartlanders like to invoke the specter of communism to terrify Americans about climate action (Czech President Vaclav Klaus, a Heartland conference favorite, says that attempts to prevent global warming are akin to “the ambitions of communist central planners to control the entire society”), the reality is that Soviet-era state socialism was a disaster for the climate. It devoured resources with as much enthusiasm as capitalism, and spewed waste just as recklessly: before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Czechs and Russians had even higher carbon footprints per capita than their counterparts in Britain, Canada and Australia. And while some point to the dizzying expansion of China’s renewable energy programs to argue that only centrally controlled regimes can get the green job done, China’s command-and-control economy continues to be harnessed to wage an all-out war with nature, through massively disruptive mega-dams, superhighways and extraction-based energy projects, particularly coal.

It is true that responding to the climate threat requires strong government action at all levels. But real climate solutions are ones that steer these interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, whether through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.

Here is where the Heartlanders have good reason to be afraid: arriving at these new systems is going to require shredding the free-market ideology that has dominated the global economy for more than three decades. What follows is a quick-and-dirty look at what a serious climate agenda would mean in the following six arenas: public infrastructure, economic planning, corporate regulation, international trade, consumption and taxation. For hard-right ideologues like those gathered at the Heartland conference, the results are nothing short of intellectually cataclysmic.

1. Reviving and Reinventing the Public Sphere

After years of recycling, carbon offsetting and light bulb changing, it is obvious that individual action will never be an adequate response to the climate crisis. Climate change is a collective problem, and it demands collective action. One of the key areas in which this collective action must take place is big-ticket investments designed to reduce our emissions on a mass scale. That means subways, streetcars and light-rail systems that are not only everywhere but affordable to everyone; energy-efficient affordable housing along those transit lines; smart electrical grids carrying renewable energy; and a massive research effort to ensure that we are using the best methods possible.

The private sector is ill suited to providing most of these services because they require large up-front investments and, if they are to be genuinely accessible to all, some very well may not be profitable. They are, however, decidedly in the public interest, which is why they should come from the public sector.

Traditionally, battles to protect the public sphere are cast as conflicts between irresponsible leftists who want to spend without limit and practical realists who understand that we are living beyond our economic means. But the gravity of the climate crisis cries out for a radically new conception of realism, as well as a very different understanding of limits. Government budget deficits are not nearly as dangerous as the deficits we have created in vital and complex natural systems. Changing our culture to respect those limits will require all of our collective muscle—to get ourselves off fossil fuels and to shore up communal infrastructure for the coming storms.

2. Remembering How to Plan

In addition to reversing the thirty-year privatization trend, a serious response to the climate threat involves recovering an art that has been relentlessly vilified during these decades of market fundamentalism: planning. Lots and lots of planning. And not just at the national and international levels. Every community in the world needs a plan for how it is going to transition away from fossil fuels, what the Transition Town movement calls an “energy descent action plan.” In the cities and towns that have taken this responsibility seriously, the process has opened rare spaces for participatory democracy, with neighbors packing consultation meetings at city halls to share ideas about how to reorganize their communities to lower emissions and build in resilience for tough times ahead.

Climate change demands other forms of planning as well—particularly for workers whose jobs will become obsolete as we wean ourselves off fossil fuels. A few “green jobs” trainings aren’t enough. These workers need to know that real jobs will be waiting for them on the other side. That means bringing back the idea of planning our economies based on collective priorities rather than corporate profitability—giving laid-off employees of car plants and coal mines the tools and resources to create jobs, for example, with Cleveland’s worker-run green co-ops serving as a model.

Agriculture, too, will have to see a revival in planning if we are to address the triple crisis of soil erosion, extreme weather and dependence on fossil fuel inputs. Wes Jackson, the visionary founder of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has been calling for “a fifty-year farm bill.” That’s the length of time he and his collaborators Wendell Berry and Fred Kirschenmann estimate it will take to conduct the research and put the infrastructure in place to replace many soil-depleting annual grain crops, grown in monocultures, with perennial crops, grown in polycultures. Since perennials don’t need to be replanted every year, their long roots do a much better job of storing scarce water, holding soil in place and sequestering carbon. Polycultures are also less vulnerable to pests and to being wiped out by extreme weather. Another bonus: this type of farming is much more labor intensive than industrial agriculture, which means that farming can once again be a substantial source of employment.

Outside the Heartland conference and like-minded gatherings, the return of planning is nothing to fear. We are not talking about a return to authoritarian socialism, after all, but a turn toward real democracy. The thirty-odd-year experiment in deregulated, Wild West economics is failing the vast majority of people around the world. These systemic failures are precisely why so many are in open revolt against their elites, demanding living wages and an end to corruption. Climate change doesn’t conflict with demands for a new kind of economy. Rather, it adds to them an existential imperative.

3. Reining in Corporations

A key piece of the planning we must undertake involves the rapid re-regulation of the corporate sector. Much can be done with incentives: subsidies for renewable energy and responsible land stewardship, for instance. But we are also going to have to get back into the habit of barring outright dangerous and destructive behavior. That means getting in the way of corporations on multiple fronts, from imposing strict caps on the amount of carbon corporations can emit, to banning new coal-fired power plants, to cracking down on industrial feedlots, to shutting down dirty-energy extraction projects like the Alberta tar sands (starting with pipelines like Keystone XL that lock in expansion plans).

Only a very small sector of the population sees any restriction on corporate or consumer choice as leading down Hayek’s road to serfdom—and, not coincidentally, it is precisely this sector of the population that is at the forefront of climate change denial.

4. Relocalizing Production

If strictly regulating corporations to respond to climate change sounds somewhat radical it’s because, since the beginning of the 1980s, it has been an article of faith that the role of government is to get out of the way of the corporate sector—and nowhere more so than in the realm of international trade. The devastating impacts of free trade on manufacturing, local business and farming are well known. But perhaps the atmosphere has taken the hardest hit of all. The cargo ships, jumbo jets and heavy trucks that haul raw resources and finished products across the globe devour fossil fuels and spew greenhouse gases. And the cheap goods being produced—made to be replaced, almost never fixed—are consuming a huge range of other nonrenewable resources while producing far more waste than can be safely absorbed.

This model is so wasteful, in fact, that it cancels out the modest gains that have been made in reducing emissions many times over. For instance, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences recently published a study of the emissions from industrialized countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol. It found that while they had stabilized, that was partly because international trade had allowed these countries to move their dirty production to places like China. The researchers concluded that the rise in emissions from goods produced in developing countries but consumed in industrialized ones was six times greater than the emissions savings of industrialized countries.

In an economy organized to respect natural limits, the use of energy-intensive long-haul transport would need to be rationed—reserved for those cases where goods cannot be produced locally or where local production is more carbon-intensive. (For example, growing food in greenhouses in cold parts of the United States is often more energy-intensive than growing it in the South and shipping it by light rail.)

Climate change does not demand an end to trade. But it does demand an end to the reckless form of “free trade” that governs every bilateral trade agreement as well as the World Trade Organization. This is more good news —for unemployed workers, for farmers unable to compete with cheap imports, for communities that have seen their manufacturers move offshore and their local businesses replaced with big boxes. But the challenge this poses to the capitalist project should not be underestimated: it represents the reversal of the thirty-year trend of removing every possible limit on corporate power.

5. Ending the Cult of Shopping

The past three decades of free trade, deregulation and privatization were not only the result of greedy people wanting greater corporate profits. They were also a response to the “stagflation” of the 1970s, which created intense pressure to find new avenues for rapid economic growth. The threat was real: within our current economic model, a drop in production is by definition a crisis—a recession or, if deep enough, a depression, with all the desperation and hardship that these words imply.

This growth imperative is why conventional economists reliably approach the climate crisis by asking the question, How can we reduce emissions while maintaining robust GDP growth? The usual answer is “decoupling”—the idea that renewable energy and greater efficiencies will allow us to sever economic growth from its environmental impact. And “green growth” advocates like Thomas Friedman tell us that the process of developing new green technologies and installing green infrastructure can provide a huge economic boost, sending GDP soaring and generating the wealth needed to “make America healthier, richer, more innovative, more productive, and more secure.”

But here is where things get complicated. There is a growing body of economic research on the conflict between economic growth and sound climate policy, led by ecological economist Herman Daly at the University of Maryland, as well as Peter Victor at York University, Tim Jackson of the University of Surrey and environmental law and policy expert Gus Speth. All raise serious questions about the feasibility of industrialized countries meeting the deep emissions cuts demanded by science (at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050) while continuing to grow their economies at even today’s sluggish rates. As Victor and Jackson argue, greater efficiencies simply cannot keep up with the pace of growth, in part because greater efficiency is almost always accompanied by more consumption, reducing or even canceling out the gains (often called the “Jevons Paradox”). And so long as the savings resulting from greater energy and material efficiencies are simply plowed back into further exponential expansion of the economy, reduction in total emissions will be thwarted. As Jackson argues in Prosperity Without Growth, “Those who promote decoupling as an escape route from the dilemma of growth need to take a closer look at the historical evidence—and at the basic arithmetic of growth.”

The bottom line is that an ecological crisis that has its roots in the overconsumption of natural resources must be addressed not just by improving the efficiency of our economies but by reducing the amount of material stuff we produce and consume. Yet that idea is anathema to the large corporations that dominate the global economy, which are controlled by footloose investors who demand ever greater profits year after year. We are therefore caught in the untenable bind of, as Jackson puts it, “trash the system or crash the planet.”

The way out is to embrace a managed transition to another economic paradigm, using all the tools of planning discussed above. Growth would be reserved for parts of the world still pulling themselves out of poverty. Meanwhile, in the industrialized world, those sectors that are not governed by the drive for increased yearly profit (the public sector, co-ops, local businesses, nonprofits) would expand their share of overall economic activity, as would those sectors with minimal ecological impacts (such as the caregiving professions). A great many jobs could be created this way. But the role of the corporate sector, with its structural demand for increased sales and profits, would have to contract.

So when the Heartlanders react to evidence of human-induced climate change as if capitalism itself were coming under threat, it’s not because they are paranoid. It’s because they are paying attention.

6. Taxing the Rich and Filthy

About now a sensible reader would be asking, How on earth are we going to pay for all this? The old answer would have been easy: we’ll grow our way out of it. Indeed, one of the major benefits of a growth-based economy for elites is that it allows them to constantly defer demands for social justice, claiming that if we keep growing the pie, eventually there will be enough for everyone. That was always a lie, as the current inequality crisis reveals, but in a world hitting multiple ecological limits, it is a nonstarter. So the only way to finance a meaningful response to the ecological crisis is to go where the money is.
That means taxing carbon, as well as financial speculation. It means increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, cutting bloated military budgets and eliminating absurd subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. And governments will have to coordinate their responses so that corporations will have nowhere to hide (this kind of robust international regulatory architecture is what Heartlanders mean when they warn that climate change will usher in a sinister “world government”).

Most of all, however, we need to go after the profits of the corporations most responsible for getting us into this mess. The top five oil companies made $900 billion in profits in the past decade; ExxonMobil alone can clear $10 billion in profits in a single quarter. For years, these companies have pledged to use their profits to invest in a shift to renewable energy (BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” rebranding being the highest-profile example). But according to a study by the Center for American Progress, just 4 percent of the big five’s $100 billion in combined 2008 profits went to “renewable and alternative energy ventures.” Instead, they continue to pour their profits into shareholder pockets, outrageous executive pay and new technologies designed to extract even dirtier and more dangerous fossil fuels. Plenty of money has also gone to paying lobbyists to beat back every piece of climate legislation that has reared its head, and to fund the denier movement gathered at the Marriott Hotel.

Just as tobacco companies have been obliged to pay the costs of helping people to quit smoking, and BP has had to pay for the cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico, it is high time for the “polluter pays” principle to be applied to climate change. Beyond higher taxes on polluters, governments will have to negotiate much higher royalty rates so that less fossil fuel extraction would raise more public revenue to pay for the shift to our postcarbon future (as well as the steep costs of climate change already upon us). Since corporations can be counted on to resist any new rules that cut into their profits, nationalization—the greatest free-market taboo of all—cannot be off the table.

When Heartlanders claim, as they so often do, that climate change is a plot to “redistribute wealth” and wage class war, these are the types of policies they most fear. They also understand that, once the reality of climate change is recognized, wealth will have to be transferred not just within wealthy countries but also from the rich countries whose emissions created the crisis to poorer ones that are on the front lines of its effects. Indeed, what makes conservatives (and plenty of liberals) so eager to bury the UN climate negotiations is that they have revived a postcolonial courage in parts of the developing world that many thought was gone for good. Armed with irrefutable scientific facts about who is responsible for global warming and who is suffering its effects first and worst, countries like Bolivia and Ecuador are attempting to shed the mantle of “debtor” thrust upon them by decades of International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans and are declaring themselves creditors—owed not just money and technology to cope with climate change but “atmospheric space” in which to develop.

* * *

So let’s summarize. Responding to climate change requires that we break every rule in the free-market playbook and that we do so with great urgency. We will need to rebuild the public sphere, reverse privatizations, relocalize large parts of economies, scale back overconsumption, bring back long-term planning, heavily regulate and tax corporations, maybe even nationalize some of them, cut military spending and recognize our debts to the global South. Of course, none of this has a hope in hell of happening unless it is accompanied by a massive, broad-based effort to radically reduce the influence that corporations have over the political process. That means, at a minimum, publicly funded elections and stripping corporations of their status as “people” under the law. In short, climate change supercharges the pre-existing case for virtually every progressive demand on the books, binding them into a coherent agenda based on a clear scientific imperative.

More than that, climate change implies the biggest political “I told you so” since Keynes predicted German backlash from the Treaty of Versailles. Marx wrote about capitalism’s “irreparable rift” with “the natural laws of life itself,” and many on the left have argued that an economic system built on unleashing the voracious appetites of capital would overwhelm the natural systems on which life depends. And of course indigenous peoples were issuing warnings about the dangers of disrespecting “Mother Earth” long before that. The fact that the airborne waste of industrial capitalism is causing the planet to warm, with potentially cataclysmic results, means that, well, the naysayers were right. And the people who said, “Hey, let’s get rid of all the rules and watch the magic happen” were disastrously, catastrophically wrong.

There is no joy in being right about something so terrifying. But for progressives, there is responsibility in it, because it means that our ideas—informed by indigenous teachings as well as by the failures of industrial state socialism—are more important than ever. It means that a green-left worldview, which rejects mere reformism and challenges the centrality of profit in our economy, offers humanity’s best hope of overcoming these overlapping crises.

But imagine, for a moment, how all of this looks to a guy like Heartland president Bast, who studied economics at the University of Chicago and described his personal calling to me as “freeing people from the tyranny of other people.” It looks like the end of the world. It’s not, of course. But it is, for all intents and purposes, the end of his world. Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. There is simply no way to square a belief system that vilifies collective action and venerates total market freedom with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that created and are deepening the crisis.

* * *

At the Heartland conference—where everyone from the Ayn Rand Institute to the Heritage Foundation has a table hawking books and pamphlets—these anxieties are close to the surface. Bast is forthcoming about the fact that Heartland’s campaign against climate science grew out of fear about the policies that the science would require. “When we look at this issue, we say, This is a recipe for massive increase in government…. Before we take this step, let’s take another look at the science. So conservative and libertarian groups, I think, stopped and said, Let’s not simply accept this as an article of faith; let’s actually do our own research.” This is a crucial point to understand: it is not opposition to the scientific facts of climate change that drives denialists but rather opposition to the real-world implications of those facts.

What Bast is describing—albeit inadvertently—is a phenomenon receiving a great deal of attention these days from a growing subset of social scientists trying to explain the dramatic shifts in belief about climate change. Researchers with Yale’s Cultural Cognition Project have found that political/cultural worldview explains “individuals’ beliefs about global warming more powerfully than any other individual characteristic.”

Those with strong “egalitarian” and “communitarian” worldviews (marked by an inclination toward collective action and social justice, concern about inequality and suspicion of corporate power) overwhelmingly accept the scientific consensus on climate change. On the other hand, those with strong “hierarchical” and “individualistic” worldviews (marked by opposition to government assistance for the poor and minorities, strong support for industry and a belief that we all get what we deserve) overwhelmingly reject the scientific consensus.

For example, among the segment of the US population that displays the strongest “hierarchical” views, only 11 percent rate climate change as a “high risk,” compared with 69 percent of the segment displaying the strongest “egalitarian” views. Yale law professor Dan Kahan, the lead author on this study, attributes this tight correlation between “worldview” and acceptance of climate science to “cultural cognition.” This refers to the process by which all of us—regardless of political leanings—filter new information in ways designed to protect our “preferred vision of the good society.” As Kahan explained in Nature, “People find it disconcerting to believe that behaviour that they find noble is nevertheless detrimental to society, and behaviour that they find base is beneficial to it. Because accepting such a claim could drive a wedge between them and their peers, they have a strong emotional predisposition to reject it.” In other words, it is always easier to deny reality than to watch your worldview get shattered, a fact that was as true of die-hard Stalinists at the height of the purges as it is of libertarian climate deniers today.

When powerful ideologies are challenged by hard evidence from the real world, they rarely die off completely. Rather, they become cultlike and marginal. A few true believers always remain to tell one another that the problem wasn’t with the ideology; it was the weakness of leaders who did not apply the rules with sufficient rigor. We have these types on the Stalinist left, and they exist as well on the neo-Nazi right. By this point in history, free-market fundamentalists should be exiled to a similarly marginal status, left to fondle their copies of Free to Choose and Atlas Shrugged in obscurity. They are saved from this fate only because their ideas about minimal government, no matter how demonstrably at war with reality, remain so profitable to the world’s billionaires that they are kept fed and clothed in think tanks by the likes of Charles and David Koch, and ExxonMobil.

This points to the limits of theories like “cultural cognition.” The deniers are doing more than protecting their cultural worldview—they are protecting powerful interests that stand to gain from muddying the waters of the climate debate. The ties between the deniers and those interests are well known and well documented. Heartland has received more than $1 million from ExxonMobil together with foundations linked to the Koch brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife (possibly much more, but the think tank has stopped publishing its donors’ names, claiming the information was distracting from the “merits of our positions”).

And scientists who present at Heartland climate conferences are almost all so steeped in fossil fuel dollars that you can practically smell the fumes. To cite just two examples, the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels, who gave the conference keynote, once told CNN that 40 percent of his consulting company’s income comes from oil companies, and who knows how much of the rest comes from coal. A Greenpeace investigation into another one of the conference speakers, astrophysicist Willie Soon, found that since 2002, 100 percent of his new research grants had come from fossil fuel interests. And fossil fuel companies are not the only economic interests strongly motivated to undermine climate science. If solving this crisis requires the kinds of profound changes to the economic order that I have outlined, then every major corporation benefiting from loose regulation, free trade and low taxes has reason to fear.

With so much at stake, it should come as little surprise that climate deniers are, on the whole, those most invested in our highly unequal and dysfunctional economic status quo. One of the most interesting findings of the studies on climate perceptions is the clear connection between a refusal to accept the science of climate change and social and economic privilege. Overwhelmingly, climate deniers are not only conservative but also white and male, a group with higher than average incomes. And they are more likely than other adults to be highly confident in their views, no matter how demonstrably false. A much-discussed paper on this topic by Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap (memorably titled “Cool Dudes”) found that confident conservative white men, as a group, were almost six times as likely to believe climate change “will never happen” than the rest of the adults surveyed. McCright and Dunlap offer a simple explanation for this discrepancy: “Conservative white males have disproportionately occupied positions of power within our economic system. Given the expansive challenge that climate change poses to the industrial capitalist economic system, it should not be surprising that conservative white males’ strong system-justifying attitudes would be triggered to deny climate change.”

But deniers’ relative economic and social privilege doesn’t just give them more to lose from a new economic order; it gives them reason to be more sanguine about the risks of climate change in the first place. This occurred to me as I listened to yet another speaker at the Heartland conference display what can only be described as an utter absence of empathy for the victims of climate change. Larry Bell, whose bio describes him as a “space architect,” drew plenty of laughs when he told the crowd that a little heat isn’t so bad: “I moved to Houston intentionally!” (Houston was, at that time, in the midst of what would turn out to be the state’s worst single-year drought on record.) Australian geologist Bob Carter offered that “the world actually does better from our human perspective in warmer times.” And Patrick Michaels said people worried about climate change should do what the French did after a devastating 2003 heat wave killed 14,000 of their people: “they discovered Walmart and air-conditioning.”

Listening to these zingers as an estimated 13 million people in the Horn of Africa face starvation on parched land was deeply unsettling. What makes this callousness possible is the firm belief that if the deniers are wrong about climate change, a few degrees of warming isn’t something wealthy people in industrialized countries have to worry about. (“When it rains, we find shelter. When it’s hot, we find shade,” Texas Congressman Joe Barton explained at an energy and environment subcommittee hearing.)

As for everyone else, well, they should stop looking for handouts and busy themselves getting unpoor. When I asked Michaels whether rich countries have a responsibility to help poor ones pay for costly adaptations to a warmer climate, he scoffed that there is no reason to give money to countries “because, for some reason, their political system is incapable of adapting.” The real solution, he claimed, was more free trade.

* * *

This is where the intersection between hard-right ideology and climate denial gets truly dangerous. It’s not simply that these “cool dudes” deny climate science because it threatens to upend their dominance-based worldview. It is that their dominance-based worldview provides them with the intellectual tools to write off huge swaths of humanity in the developing world. Recognizing the threat posed by this empathy-exterminating mindset is a matter of great urgency, because climate change will test our moral character like little before. The US Chamber of Commerce, in its bid to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions, argued in a petition that in the event of global warming, “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” These adaptations are what I worry about most.

How will we adapt to the people made homeless and jobless by increasingly intense and frequent natural disasters? How will we treat the climate refugees who arrive on our shores in leaky boats? Will we open our borders, recognizing that we created the crisis from which they are fleeing? Or will we build ever more high-tech fortresses and adopt ever more draconian antiimmigration laws? How will we deal with resource scarcity?

We know the answers already. The corporate quest for scarce resources will become more rapacious, more violent. Arable land in Africa will continue to be grabbed to provide food and fuel to wealthier nations. Drought and famine will continue to be used as a pretext to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt. We will attempt to transcend peak oil and gas by using increasingly risky technologies to extract the last drops, turning ever larger swaths of our globe into sacrifice zones. We will fortress our borders and intervene in foreign conflicts over resources, or start those conflicts ourselves. “Free-market climate solutions,” as they are called, will be a magnet for speculation, fraud and crony capitalism, as we are already seeing with carbon trading and the use of forests as carbon offsets. And as climate change begins to affect not just the poor but the wealthy as well, we will increasingly look for techno-fixes to turn down the temperature, with massive and unknowable risks.

As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed. And it will only get colder, as theories of racial superiority, barely under the surface in parts of the denial movement, make a raging comeback. These theories are not optional: they are necessary to justify the hardening of hearts to the largely blameless victims of climate change in the global South, and in predominately African-American cities like New Orleans.

In The Shock Doctrine, I explore how the right has systematically used crises—real and trumped up—to push through a brutal ideological agenda designed not to solve the problems that created the crises but rather to enrich elites. As the climate crisis begins to bite, it will be no exception. This is entirely predictable. Finding new ways to privatize the commons and to profit from disaster are what our current system is built to do. The process is already well under way.

The only wild card is whether some countervailing popular movement will step up to provide a viable alternative to this grim future. That means not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—this time, embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance and cooperation rather than hierarchy.

Shifting cultural values is, admittedly, a tall order. It calls for the kind of ambitious vision that movements used to fight for a century ago, before everything was broken into single “issues” to be tackled by the appropriate sector of business-minded NGOs. Climate change is, in the words of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, “the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen.” By all rights, this reality should be filling progressive sails with conviction, breathing new life and urgency into longstanding fights against everything from free trade to financial speculation to industrial agriculture to third-world debt, while elegantly weaving all these struggles into a coherent narrative about how to protect life on earth.

But that isn’t happening, at least not so far. It is a painful irony that while the Heartlanders are busily calling climate change a left-wing plot, most leftists have yet to realize that climate science has handed them the most powerful argument against capitalism since William Blake’s “dark Satanic Mills” (and, of course, those mills were the beginning of climate change). When demonstrators are cursing out the corruption of their governments and corporate elites in Athens, Madrid, Cairo, Madison and New York, climate change is often little more than a footnote, when it should be the coup de grâce.

Half of the problem is that progressives—their hands full with soaring unemployment and multiple wars—tend to assume that the big green groups have the climate issue covered. The other half is that many of those big green groups have avoided, with phobic precision, any serious debate on the blindingly obvious roots of the climate crisis: globalization, deregulation and contemporary capitalism’s quest for perpetual growth (the same forces that are responsible for the destruction of the rest of the economy). The result is that those taking on the failures of capitalism and those fighting for climate action remain two solitudes, with the small but valiant climate justice movement—drawing the connections between racism, inequality and environmental vulnerability—stringing up a few swaying bridges between them.

The right, meanwhile, has had a free hand to exploit the global economic crisis to cast climate action as a recipe for economic Armageddon, a surefire way to spike household costs and to block new, much-needed jobs drilling for oil and laying new pipelines. With virtually no loud voices offering a competing vision of how a new economic paradigm could provide a way out of both the economic and ecological crises, this fearmongering has had a ready audience.

Far from learning from past mistakes, a powerful faction in the environmental movement is pushing to go even further down the same disastrous road, arguing that the way to win on climate is to make the cause more palatable to conservative values. This can be heard from the studiously centrist Breakthrough Institute, which is calling for the movement to embrace industrial agriculture and nuclear power instead of organic farming and decentralized renewables. It can also be heard from several of the researchers studying the rise in climate denial. Some, like Yale’s Kahan, point out that while those who poll as highly “hierarchical” and “individualist” bridle at any mention of regulation, they tend to like big, centralized technologies that confirm their belief that humans can dominate nature. So, he and others argue, environmentalists should start emphasizing responses such as nuclear power and geoengineering (deliberately intervening in the climate system to counteract global warming), as well as playing up concerns about national security.

The first problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t work. For years, big green groups have framed climate action as a way to assert “energy security,” while “free-market solutions” are virtually the only ones on the table in the United States. Meanwhile, denialism has soared. The more troubling problem with this approach, however, is that rather than challenging the warped values motivating denialism, it reinforces them. Nuclear power and geoengineering are not solutions to the ecological crisis; they are a doubling down on exactly the kind of short-term hubristic thinking that got us into this mess.

It is not the job of a transformative social movement to reassure members of a panicked, megalomaniacal elite that they are still masters of the universe—nor is it necessary. According to McCright, co-author of the “Cool Dudes” study, the most extreme, intractable climate deniers (many of them conservative white men) are a small minority of the US population—roughly 10 percent. True, this demographic is massively overrepresented in positions of power. But the solution to that problem is not for the majority of people to change their ideas and values. It is to attempt to change the culture so that this small but disproportionately influential minority—and the reckless worldview it represents—wields significantly less power.

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Some in the climate camp are pushing back hard against the appeasement strategy. Tim DeChristopher, serving a two-year jail sentence in Utah for disrupting a compromised auction of oil and gas leases, commented in May on the right-wing claim that climate action will upend the economy. “I believe we should embrace the charges,” he told an interviewer. “No, we are not trying to disrupt the economy, but yes, we do want to turn it upside down. We should not try and hide our vision about what we want to change—of the healthy, just world that we wish to create. We are not looking for small shifts: we want a radical overhaul of our economy and society.” He added, “I think once we start talking about it, we will find more allies than we expect.”

When DeChristopher articulated this vision for a climate movement fused with one demanding deep economic transformation, it surely sounded to most like a pipe dream. But just five months later, with Occupy Wall Street chapters seizing squares and parks in hundreds of cities, it sounds prophetic. It turns out that a great many Americans had been hungering for this kind of transformation on many fronts, from the practical to the spiritual.

Though climate change was something of an afterthought in the movement’s early texts, an ecological consciousness was woven into OWS from the start—from the sophisticated “gray water” filtration system that uses dishwater to irrigate plants at Zuccotti Park, to the scrappy community garden planted at Occupy Portland. Occupy Boston’s laptops and cellphones are powered by bicycle generators, and Occupy DC has installed solar panels. Meanwhile, the ultimate symbol of OWS—the human microphone—is nothing if not a postcarbon solution.

And new political connections are being made. The Rainforest Action Network, which has been targeting Bank of America for financing the coal industry, has made common cause with OWS activists taking aim at the bank over foreclosures. Anti-fracking activists have pointed out that the same economic model that is blasting the bedrock of the earth to keep the gas flowing is blasting the social bedrock to keep the profits flowing. And then there is the historic movement against the Keystone XL pipeline, which this fall has decisively yanked the climate movement out of the lobbyists’ offices and into the streets (and jail cells). Anti-Keystone campaigners have noted that anyone concerned about the corporate takeover of democracy need look no further than the corrupt process that led the State Department to conclude that a pipeline carrying dirty tar sands oil across some of the most sensitive land in the country would have “limited adverse environmental impacts.” As’s Phil Aroneanu put it, “If Wall Street is occupying President Obama’s State Department and the halls of Congress, it’s time for the people to occupy Wall Street.”

But these connections go beyond a shared critique of corporate power. As Occupiers ask themselves what kind of economy should be built to displace the one crashing all around us, many are finding inspiration in the network of green economic alternatives that has taken root over the past decade—in community-controlled renewable energy projects, in community-supported agriculture and farmers’ markets, in economic localization initiatives that have brought main streets back to life, and in the co-op sector. Already a group at OWS is cooking up plans to launch the movement’s first green workers’ co-op (a printing press); local food activists have made the call to “Occupy the Food System!”; and November 20 is “Occupy Rooftops”—a coordinated effort to use crowd-sourcing to buy solar panels for community buildings.

Not only do these economic models create jobs and revive communities while reducing emissions; they do so in a way that systematically disperses power—the antithesis of an economy by and for the 1 percent. Omar Freilla, one of the founders of Green Worker Cooperatives in the South Bronx, told me that the experience in direct democracy that thousands are having in plazas and parks has been, for many, “like flexing a muscle you didn’t know you had.” And, he says, now they want more democracy—not just at a meeting but also in their community planning and in their workplaces.

In other words, culture is rapidly shifting. And this is what truly sets the OWS moment apart. The Occupiers—holding signs that said Greed Is Gross and I Care About You—decided early on not to confine their protests to narrow policy demands. Instead, they took aim at the underlying values of rampant greed and individualism that created the economic crisis, while embodying—in highly visible ways—radically different ways to treat one another and relate to the natural world.

This deliberate attempt to shift cultural values is not a distraction from the “real” struggles. In the rocky future we have already made inevitable, an unshakable belief in the equal rights of all people, and a capacity for deep compassion, will be the only things standing between humanity and barbarism. Climate change, by putting us on a firm deadline, can serve as the catalyst for precisely this profound social and ecological transformation.

Culture, after all, is fluid. It can change. It happens all the time. The delegates at the Heartland conference know this, which is why they are so determined to suppress the mountain of evidence proving that their worldview is a threat to life on earth. The task for the rest of us is to believe, based on that same evidence, that a very different worldview can be our salvation.

Watch Naomi, Michael Moore, and Others Discuss What's Next for Occupy Wall Street Movement: Sponsored by The Nation magazine at The New School in New York: November 12, 2011

Naomi Klein
The Nation

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist, fellow at The Nation Institute and author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Published worldwide in September 2007, The Shock Doctrine is slated to be translated into seventeen languages to date. The six-minute companion film, created by Alfonso Cuaron, director of Children of Men, was an Official Selection of the 2007 Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals and a viral phenomenon as well, downloaded over one million times. Klein's previous book No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies was also an international bestseller, translated into more than twenty-eight languages, with over a million copies in print. A collection of her work, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate, was published in 2002. Klein's regular column for The Nation and The Guardian is distributed internationally by The New York Times Syndicate. In 2004 her reporting from Iraq for Harper’s Magazine won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. The same year, she released a feature documentary about Argentina’s occupied factories, The Take, co-produced with director Avi Lewis. The film was an official selection of the Venice Biennale and won the best documentary jury prize at the American Film Institute’s Film Festival in Los Angeles. Klein is a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics and holds an honorary Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of King’s College, Nova Scotia.