Klein, a member of the board of directors for environmental activism group 350.org, opened her talk by recalling her experience visiting the sites of coral bleaching in Australia and what these signs of environmental degradation may imply for future generations. The event was sponsored by Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.
“Climate change is an issue of intergenerational justice. Our collective failure to respond to this crisis means that my son’s generation and the young people in this room, generations yet to come are being wronged of so much of the beauty and wonder that this world has to offer,” Klein said.
Klein specifically criticized the Trump administration’s environmental policies and what she refers to as a recent “regulatory assault” on agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“We see this merger, between the oil and gas industry and the Trump White House. I think it is fair to say that the US government is now wholly owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil and the Trump Organization of course,” she said.
Klein also criticized petroleum companies, whom she argued are largely culpable for anthropogenic climate change.
"It is not just that Exxon ignored [climate change], ignored its scientists, ignored its own peer-reviewed and published research, it lavished somewhere around $30 million that we know of on think tanks that systemically spread doubt and misinformation about the reality of climate science.”
Klein, who was born and raised in Canada, also spoke at length about Canadian politics, arguing that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not a proponent of the climate movement.
“He has also approved two major new tar sand projects, he’s been working on pipeline extension, he cheered when Trump was going to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” Klein said. “It also violated UN declaration of rights of the indigenous people because every single one of these projects was forcibly imposed on the indigenous people.”
The talk was briefly interrupted when members of the audience applauded Klein’s rebuke of Harvard’s investments in the fossil fuel industry. For Harvard affiliates, the University's ties to fossil fuels are troubling—last month, student activist group Divest Harvard blockaded entrances to University Hall, calling for a “moratorium” on the University’s investments in the coal industry.
“[Trudeau’s administration] is very like Harvard. They say all the right things, really good at diagnosing the problem, but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is and divesting from fossil fuels, not so much.”
Emphasizing the need for change, Klein called on individuals to mobilize in support of environmental protections.
“Trump controls one very powerful part of this country but not all of it. He does not control what cities do, he does not control what states do. He doesn’t control what schools do and he doesn’t control what universities do.” Klein said. “And he doesn’t control what we do as individuals.”
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