WASHINGTON — A pair of massive protests in New York this week brought together climate change, Wall Street and the need for regulation as concern about the future of the planet melded with a sense that capitalism without rules poses an existential threat.
“None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria,” is what no less a personality than actor Leonardo DiCaprio told world leaders assembled for the U.N. climate summit on Tuesday.
DiCaprio, who took part in the People’s Climate March on Sunday that drew an estimated 300,000 protesters, addressed the group “not as an expert, but as a concerned citizen.”
“As an actor I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems,” DiCaprio said. “I believe humankind has looked at climate change in that same way: as if it were a fiction, happening to someone else’s planet, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.”
After Sunday’s March, a smaller protest on Monday, Flood Wall Street, resulted in more than a hundred arrests after protesters at the end of the day ignored police orders to disperse.
One of the speakers at Monday’s protest, Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, has cast the debate over climate change as a clash between “deregulated capitalism” and the welfare of mankind in her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, which was published last week.
“We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism,” she writes in the book, “the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis.”
Of course Klein, author of an earlier book called Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, is an avowed opponent of neoliberalism in general for what she sees as its pernicious effects on society, but that is not the reason she blames if for the lack of action on climate change.
“It’s part of the same story, the same logic,” she said on MSNBC last week. It is the result of an ideology, she says, “that values nothing but profit.”
Effective action against climate change requires the type of government regulation that undermines the free market ideology currently driving companies, Wall Street, and — to the extent that politicians are hostage to big-money interests — Washington.
“We need to break a whole bunch of the free market rules that these guys hold very dear,” she told Chris Hayes in the television interview. “We need to regulate.”
This was DiCaprio’s message to the UN assembly as well.
“To be clear, this is not about just telling people to change their light bulbs or to buy a hybrid car,” the actor said. “This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries, and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action.”
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