Activist Naomi Klein calls for unity.

Naomi Klein and Timothy Farnham, Director of the Miller Worley Center for the Environment.

Crisis is an opportunity for change—and this is our moment—internationally acclaimed author, journalist, and syndicated columnist Naomi Klein told an audience at Mount Holyoke College on September 29.

Klein, one of the world’s leading experts on the global climate crisis, delivered the 2015 Miller Worley Environmental Leadership Lecture before a standing-room-only audience at Chapin Auditorium. She called upon the audience of students, faculty, staff and community members to address environmental issues alongside racial, economic, and social justice concerns.

“It’s not a grandchildren issue,” she said, paraphrasing President Obama. “It’s a banging-down-our-door issue.”

A board member with the global grassroots environmental movement 350.org, Klein has written several celebrated books, including three that have been adapted into documentary films.

Drawing on her most recent book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, which was released in 2014 and is the basis for a course at Mount Holyoke, Klein argued that climate concerns present enormous dangers that the world will be unable to address unless leaders and activists also change capitalism as we know it.

In our culture of “frenetic consumerism,” there is a growing recognition of the need for connection and humanity, she said. “There is a desire for a shift of values, a shift in culture in talking about the underlying issues around inequality.”

Noting that “climate change and heavy weather that comes with it” disproportionately affects poor and immigrant populations that are already vulnerable, Klein connected the need to address them as a way to link solutions and create intersections where there was once competition.

“In a context where we are facing multiple and overlapping crises, from gender and racial inequalities and injustice to the corporate takeover of politics... it’s not about saying that climate change is so big, and so urgent and time is so short that it should trump everything else,” she said. “All of these issues are equally urgent.”

By uniting the climate change causes with other issues of justice, all movements will be strengthened, she said, adding that finding the commonality in our goals is not just the right strategy but “the winning strategy.”

While climate change presents significant challenges, Klein said, it is also a “moment of possibility.” She noted that Pope Francis, in his recent visit to the United States, made some strong statements about global climate change, showing that the world must act quickly. This summer, Klein was invited by the Pope to speak at “People and Planet First: the Imperative to Change Course,” a gathering to create an action plan around the Pope’s recent climate-change encyclical, Laudato Si’.

“It is an incredible opportunity to build a much better world than we have now,” she said.

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