Why are you publishing this book now?
I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face. A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans. These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.
The book collects essays from the last decade, have you changed your mind about anything?
When I look back, I dont think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. Its more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, thats always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.
Whats stopping the left doing this?
In a North American context, its the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, weve got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage whats left, weve got to share equitably it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, were not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there are going to be benefits: well have more livable cities, well have less polluted air, well spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.
Do you feel encouraged by talk of the Green New Deal?
I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That were not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. Were talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why were in this period of such profound political destabilisation that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders so why dont we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism. Because what really terrifies me is what we are seeing at our borders in Europe and North America and Australia I dont think its coincidental that the settler colonial states and the countries that are the engines of that colonialism are at the forefront of this. We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism. We saw it in Christchurch, we saw it in El Paso, where you have this marrying of white supremacist violence with vicious anti-immigrant racism.