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The Positive Power of Emergencies

The Positive Power of Emergencies

Seth Klein discusses his new book on tackling the climate crisis like we’ve fought wars — and now the pandemic.

Seth Klein spends a lot of time thinking about emergencies. Earlier this spring, the former director of the B.C. office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives had just finished writing a book drawing lessons for fighting climate change from the country’s Second World War experience when the coronavirus hit. “Talk about awkward timing,” Klein recalls in A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency, which will be published on Sept. 1.

But Klein quickly realized that the global pandemic made his book’s central argument more relevant than ever. Whether it’s a war against Nazi aggression, a deadly and infectious virus or a climate emergency irreversibly changing our country, collective dangers require swift and transformative action. They are opportunities to overhaul conventional wisdom.

“Once emergencies are truly recognized,” Klein writes, “what seemed politically impossible and economically off-limits can be quickly embraced.”

In a recent interview with The Tyee about his forthcoming book, which is currently available for pre-order, Klein expands on that argument, explaining how Canada’s $250-billion response to COVID-19 has shattered mainstream conceptions about what’s feasible for climate action. He discusses what the Second World War can teach us about reducing social inequality in the face of a crisis, and the crucial role Indigenous people have played in both our wartime efforts and our current battles on climate change.

Geoff Dembicki: Where does the interest in WWII come from? Because it doesn’t seem like you’re that much of a war person.

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