Our grassroots movement needs to think bigger
by Alex Mulcahy
When rethinking the economy, small steps won’t cut it. That’s one of the critical points made by the indispensable Naomi Klein in her latest book, “No Is Not Enough.” She argues that a vision needs to be offered that is radically different from what we currently have, and it must provide a blueprint for a society that could work. I know, who has time for vision when everything we value is under daily attack and must be defended? But as the name of the book states, it isn’t enough to just try to play defense. We have to take the time to flesh out an alternative.
This takes work. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about energy, housing, farming or education. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. And the answers won’t come from one person, or from the top down. While it may be tempting to imagine a kindhearted, larger-than-life billionaire such as Oprah coming in and saving the day, the truth, Klein argues, is that it just won’t work. We don’t need a savior. We need a framework, a values-based vision.
In 2015, Klein, a Canadian, was one of the conveners of a diverse group of activists and thinkers determined to hash out what this vision could be. The goal was to connect the dots between Black Lives Matter, the anti-fracking movement, indigenous peoples’ rights, clean air and water activists, labor rights advocates and farmers. Did such disparate groups have enough in common to form a plan?
According to Klein, some difficult conversations occurred, but the answer was a resounding “yes.” Collaboratively, they drew up something called the Leap Manifesto. It is a relatively brief but extremely powerful document. It simply and clearly lays out the priorities of the movement, and the subhead of the document says it all: “The Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another.” With some minor tweaks, this could be the Declaration of Independence for the 21st century.
Find a copy of the Leap Manifesto and feel inspired. I’d like to key in on onesection, and that is the recommendation that we shift our economy to low-carbon jobs that include caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public interest media. In the U.S., for every dollar that is spent on education, over $6 is spent on the military. What if those dollars were split equally between those two pursuits? (Actually, if you really want to fill your heart with joy, imagine if the military and education budgets were flipped!) Just imagine what the teachers and schools that we feature in our cover story could do with better funding. Not only would our schools (and students) benefit, but the pollution produced by the military would be significantly diminished. The United States military is, after all, the largest polluter on the planet.
What if the intention of most people’s jobs was to help other people? Yes, healthcare and childcare and education would be a big part of it, but what if other services such as nutrition, personal training, music and art instruction were affordable to all? Imagine how rich and healthy our lives could be.
Before you write this off as the fever dream of a delusional optimist, keep this in mind: The Leap Manifesto was drawn up because we are facing a climate catastrophe. We have very little time to make an about-face with our lifestyle. Half measures will not work. For change to happen, we need to have a vision. Let’s be bold.
I’d like to publicly recognize the wonderful job that our outgoing editor-in-chief, Heather Shayne Blakeslee, did from 2015 to our January issue this year. The editorial thrived under her stewardship, and her contributions to the magazine went well beyond the stories you read. Thank you, Heather. We hope to see you back in the pages of Grid soon.