Ep. 26 - Bernie vs. the Rest (with Naomi Klein & Xiuhtezcatl Martinez)

Ep. 26 - Bernie vs. the Rest

(with Naomi Klein & Xiuhtezcatl Martinez)

Briahna Joy Gray: Here's a little tune you've been hearing since the very beginning of primary season.

News Montage: A lot of the issues you were talking about in 2016 are now mainstream in the Democratic Party, but do you still think that you are the leader on those ideas or are you concerned that other candidates in this race have taken over that mantle?

You've got candidates now who- who sound like Bernie Sanders, so why do you need to run?

A lot of the other candidates are doing Bernie covers now-

Crowd: [Laughs].

Speaker 3: ... so it works out. It's like, "Hey, I know that song. That's Bernie's."

Crowd: [Laughs].

Briahna Joy Gray: In short, in the Democratic race to 2020, everyone now sounds like Bernie Sanders has been sounding since circa 1978 or earlier, and often implicit in that take is, well, if everyone now sounds like Bernie, then Bernie's job is done. Bravo. Pass the torch. Take a gold watch, pack it up, and call it a day.

But the thing about that argument is that it is complete and total nonsense. Even if you trust all the candidates for president to follow through on their campaign promises, what they're promising differs quite a bit from what Bernie's promising, not to mention how they propose to get there.

For one, Bernie Sanders has a hundred pages of healthcare legislation that will fully insure every American within four years with no deductibles, no co-pays, and no premiums. Joe Biden's plan, by contrast, would leave 10 million people uninsured, and Americans would still be subject to paying up to 8.5% of their annual income on premiums and $1,000 deductibles. Bernie Sanders has a plan to cancel the medical debt held by 79 million Americans. No one else does. So that's an easy one.

So is student debt cancellation. Our campaign is canceling all of it. The next best policy? Well, it will cancel only $50,000 of your debt, and that's if you earn less than $100k. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate with a plan to end homelessness, and while others take aim at the housing crisis, proposing the housing shortage gap be closed somewhat, only Bernie has a plan to close it completely, building, rehabilitating, or preserving the 7.4 million houses needed to help resolve the affordable housing crisis. Only Bernie has a plan to fund public defenders for tenants to help them stand up to exploitative landlords in court. Only Bernie has an approach that says, "We're not just going to do incrementally better. We're going to leave no one behind."

Nowhere are the distinctions between Bernie and the other candidates in the field more distinct than with respect to climate change. Bernie Sanders, to be frank, isn't playing around. It's easy to say climate change is an existential threat, but it's harder to act like it. Only Bernie has put forward a comprehensive, $16.3 trillion proposal to meet the last-ditch, world-saving target of achieving 100% sustainable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 at the latest and to fully decarbonize the economy by 2050. It's a plan that takes the fossil fuel industry head-on, massively raising taxes on corporate polluters' and investors' fossil fuel income and wealth, and suing the socks off the fossil fuel industry for the damage it has caused. It's a plan that understands we move forward by withdrawing our military from defending oil routes at the cost of billions of dollars, not by making the military industrial complex green. And he gets that you can't solve a $44 trillion problem with a $1.7 trillion outlay.

This is Hear the Bern, a podcast about the people, ideas, and politics that are driving the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and the movement to secure a dignified life for everyone living in this country. My name is Briahna Joy Gray and I'm coming to you from campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C.

It is because Bernie is so serious about climate change that so many of the country's most well-respected climate activists have thrown their support behind his plan. This week, I had the honor of speaking to Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a 19-year-old indigenous American climate activist, hip-hop artist, and Youth Director of Earth Guardians, a worldwide conservation organization. He endorsed Senator Sanders back in April, writing about Bernie in Teen Vogue, "He gets it." And this week, he spoke frankly with me about how the inaction of older generations looks from his perspective. I was also thrilled to speak with Naomi Klein, author of six books including This Change Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate. In 2016, she won the Sydney Peace Prize for her activism on climate justice, and she's a board member of the climate activist group, 350. Naomi, an expert, was clear. Climate change is a global problem, and only those with global solutions are going to be able to address it sufficiently.

I'm so excited to be joined today by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a climate activist, a hip-hop artist, and all-around cool guy who has been involved in some of the most interesting moments in the surge of climate interest and activism right now. Thank you so much for joining me.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, can you tell people a little bit about how you got involved, first, in climate activism?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: 100%. I think the... we all have these- these stories of, like, what was that pivotal moment where you got involved in politics or in activism or in whatever cause, and, um, I think my relationship with that is just different, I think, than a lot of people that you'll see in this conversation. I think part of that is because I think just a lack of highlighting of indigenous stories in these spaces and- and I think that's changing and I think, as native youth, we are kinda reclaiming it more and more. And so, for me, that will and that drive to- to protect, uh, my community, our water, my generation, that is- is inherently something that I was born with. You know, from the ages of three, four, five, six years old, a lot of the teachings, um, around... and principles that- that were, like, woven into the fabric of- of my identity-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... were about our responsibility to protect and preserve the world and- and- and the beautiful parts of our culture and our language in honor of our ancestors and in honor of those to follow. So as native peoples, this idea of, like, activism being an external use of energy is not really a thing 'cause it's, like, inherent. It's like our existence is our resistance. I think it's a beautiful way to look at it and I think something that a lot of our allies in humanity can learn from is, like, we oftentimes view this work as, like, an external cause, something that has... o- outside of us, when in reality it's all around us. It is our lives and our culture and the things we interact with on a daily basis that we are truly fighting for.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, with that perspective, what do you make of the older generations who for so long have been mum on this issue, who have treated climate change like it's negotiable? You know, we- we hear that, that half of, uh, all climate emissions we've created in the whole history of the industrialized world have occurred within the last 30 years or so. And then your generation comes up and is treating that like the crisis it is. What do you- what do you say? What do you think of people who are older who are just now kinda waking up and treating this like a serious political issue?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah [laughs], it's tough 'cause, like, we also have a very strong teaching in- in my family and in my culture of- of respecting our elders and, you know... and at the same time, it's like-

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... well, they've been messing up for, like, generations. And I think if we look back at- at the roots of- of what the climate crisis really is going back to colonization and colonialism and- and white supremacy and many of these different things that have laid the foundation for the injustice and for us to be able to turn a blind eye to the conversation and people just now hopping on board, especially older people, they oftentimes even entreat and look at our activism as youth as, you know, a [tokenizing] thing and- and, like, "We're so inspired by what you're doing. You're gonna save the world," without recognizing that, yeah, they're late to the game, but it doesn't mean that they're excused from playing their part.

Briahna Joy Gray: What other kinds of activism, though... because I'm thinking also about, you know, Greta Thunberg who is around in the last couple of weeks participating in a lot- lot of the climate events here in the States, you know, there are so many people... She participated in the school walkout, um, that's happening. There are a lot of people who aren't gonna be able to take advantage of normal political levers, let's say, but who are still very invested in effecting the outcome politically in- in 2020. So, I'm curious, you know, can you tell people a little bit about what you're hoping to accomplish outside of the electoral realm, the lawsuit that you're involved in-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: [inaudible] .

Briahna Joy Gray: ... and other kind of things that are going on?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah, I think now is such a critical moment in the climate space where there's no room for us to claim that, like, one pathway and avenue of engagement is the right way because it's really gonna take, I think, a variety of different sectors engaging and tapping in from, you know, corporate and business to- to individual lifestyle changes to political involvement and electing elected officials, um, that will re- represent, you know, a lot of the ideals that we're pushing for, um, to mobilizing in the streets and in our courts. So, it's like... I think it's gonna be a plethora of different manifestations of this energy of our generation pushing more than anyone ever has to treat this as the defining issue of our time. Um, and so for me, I guess, what that looks like and what that is manifested in is... one of which is a lawsuit myself and 20 other youth filed against the federal government to demand that the- that the courts force the federal government to place a climate recovery plan-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... for their violation of our Constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, for knowing about inadequately perpetuating the climate crisis... um, effectively perpetuating the climate crisis for the last 50 years while knowing the impacts and the harms that burning fossil fuels is having on our future. That case began in 2015 against the Obama administration-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... It passed on to Trump and now whoever becomes our president is gonna carry on, uh, the responsibility to address this case. So we're really looking to see, too, like, how that's gonna manifest in the election that comes and for us this is also taking a tactic outside of necessarily waiting for political leadership to change and really calling on the- the judicial branch to play its- its role in helping, I think, enforce, you know, a lot of these Constitutional rights that have been violated for so long. And that's the place that that stands now after four years of moving through the courts, almost five now, as we are waiting for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to pretty much decide the- the fate of the case-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... and whether or not we are gonna be able to proceed to trial. And it's been a journey and we've been to the Supreme Court twice and to the 9th Circuit Court, like, three or four times and every single time we've had rulings in our favor.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Uh, and the Trump administration continuing to try to slow down the lawsuit and, uh, file, you know, legal motions from writ of mandamus to motions to dismiss to, um, you know, challenging our grounds. Uh, we have really persevered in a way I think a lot of people didn't expect.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah. It's interesting. I... you know, in a previous life, I was a lawyer and a lot of cases that are about standing, which is, you know, whether or not you have the right to sue... Um, you have to have some relationship to an issue to be allowed to sue. I can't just, like, randomly sue Mitsubishi because they hurt somebody else.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: You know?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Right. Of course.

Briahna Joy Gray: Um, though a lot of them are environmental cases because there have been people over the course of the history of this country who have said, "Okay, I'm invested in the survival of this wildlife preserve. I'm invested in the idea that these... this species of wolf should be able to survive-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mmm.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... and I'm gonna bring cases, and the government... the courts ha- have at various times in various cases come out different ways about whether or not your relationship to that wild park or that wolf or whatever it is... that coastline is sufficiently close-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: ... for you to be able to bring a claim.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Gotcha.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, I'm really kind of inspired by the fact that you've gotten this far and that-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: ... on some level the courts have recognized that, yes, a whole generation of people, um, has standing-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... to challenge the government for its inaction on this existential issue.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: 100%. In 2016, the groundbreaking ruling from Judge Ann Aiken in this said that... essentially said we have a Constitutional right to a stable climate that can sustain human life.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: And that was something that was really monumental for us because I think the pillars of this case are both, you know, the legal aspect and we have an incredible legal team. On top of that, working with some of the top climate scientists on the planet to create a subscription for a climate recovery plan to have a- a complete science-based analysis and... on what responding to this can look like. And the third piece, which I think is- is the heart of the case, is the stories of these young people-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... who are... for us, climate change isn't, like, an abstract future of- of melting ice and rising seas. It's for us something that we are experiencing on the daily, and more and more we're hearing those stories and more young people can relate to that. And that's terrifying.

Briahna Joy Gray: Can you talk a little bit about that, because I feel like my generation, if I can say that I'm somewhere in between-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: ... young and old, you know, growing up in, like, the '90s, it was a lot about, you know, acid rain. We got that fixed [laughs]. Like, the hole in the ozone layer, handled.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Y'all done some good work.

Briahna Joy Gray: I mean-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Respect.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... We managed [laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: For real.

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs]. The fourth-grade me really-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: [Laughs]-

Briahna Joy Gray: ... participated in all that. But there was a lot of posters of, like, polar bears and ice caps-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Right, right, right.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... and it was kinda this abstraction.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: And I don't know that we... there certainly wasn't the connection between, um, weather events and climate change that we've had, I would argue, since Hurricane Katrina.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: So, when you say that for your generation, it's, you know... it's visceral. It's our daily li-... lived experiences-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: ... uh, can you help, you know, older generations understand what you mean by that and why it feels, like, something that's, like, non-negotiable?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: I think for us also it has to do with our identities.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: As a generation, we are more diverse and a larger generation and more education generation, so we understand, um, this whole, you know, buzzword and idea of intersectionality, but we truly understand how our identities connect us to many of the communities and many other people that are fighting in various struggles from gender equality to racial justice, um, and LGBTQ+. And that gives us, I think, this understanding that, in the context of the climate crisis, that threatens everything else we fight for and everything else we- we are connected to. Um, as an indigenous person, as an- as a Latino, as a brown person, as a mixed race person, um, as someone who comes from a low-income family, all those different things that have kind of in different ways identified, um, and- and kinda determined what my life looks like, all of that is connected to climate. It's so much more than weather events, and I think one thing that Hurricane Katrina did is it really showed how environments of racism is gonna be very heavily perpetuated by climate... by the climate crisis.

And so, as a generation, we are seeing that the climate crisis is less so of an isolated weather event or an issue. It's like... It is an umbrella that will encompass everything that our generation is caring about, whether it's, you know, violence, access to education, food quality, um, uh, immigration, you know, like, all these huge things-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... that are really shaping the landscape of what young people are thinking and talking and feeling about. Um, the climate crisis is gonna exacerbate everything that we are- are fearful of.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Um, and at the same time, it can be a place for opportunity for us to bring forth solutions that don't just say, "Let's remove carbon from the atmosphere. Let's just change our energy infrastructure," but we're actually changing the roots of these issues that are, uh, fundamentally unjust, that go much further than just driving cars or burning oil. It's actually about the injustices that have created the situation for us to live completely disconnected from one another, completely disconnected from the earth, to view, uh, natural resources and human resources as- as, you know, an- an infinite resource we can continue to exploit. And that's that... like, your- your essentially colonial mentality that came in 1492 and has been perpetuated ever since that my ancestors experienced.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: But we are experiencing that today worldwide, especially, um, marginalized communities, especially indigenous peoples and people of color, women and children. Um, so for us, I think we see the connections more, and-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... that's what I've enc- encouraged people to look at.

Briahna Joy Gray: The... That reminds me of an episode of Mad Men. Did you watch?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-mm [negative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: A little before your time [laughs]. Uh-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: [Laughs]-

Briahna Joy Gray: ... where the family goes to this really idyllic picnic in the park-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: They're, like, a perfect, little Norman Rockwell painting of a family, and then they stand up and they just, like, throw their trash on the hill and walk to their car, and it's supposed to be a moment that shows how far our sensibilities have moved since the 1950s, about our expectations that the world being, um, you know, completely an unlimited resource. Right?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: There was... used to be a sense of, "Oh, you just throw things," and there was unlimited oil in the ground and there's unlimited water and you can just throw your trash and nothing's gonna accumulate. And so, we've obviously made some progress, but there is still... if you look at the various amounts of money that various candidates have put behind their climate plans and so many of them have still, you know, refused to ban fracking... There's a lot of apologies that are still be made for preserving the system as it is.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: You know, how... you know, what do you think... uh, how do you differentiate... how do you, um, you know, uh, make a decision between all of these people's plans? I don't know if you watched the climate debate.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: Like, what do you make of all the different approaches where people are forced to recognize, "Yes, we have a problem," but they don't necessarily, um, embrace the kind of systemic changes-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: ... that we're talking about when we're going after the fossil fuel industry-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Right.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... um, going after some of the big- the big polluters as opposed to talking about the, you know, interpersonal things that we can do-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Right.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... straws, et cetera.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah, it's- it's been crazy. I mean, D.C. is wild. Like-

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... [Laughs]. I've been out here, um, you know, speaking to different representatives and- and senators-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... um, around the climate lawsuit, around kind of just this moment that we are in as- as a generation pushing for these huge school walkouts, um, really looking at what the back-end of this movement looks like. Um, and it gets- it gets me, you know, thinking, like, what- what are these next steps? How is this leading up to the 2020 elections? Um, I think a huge piece of- of your question, I think, is really answered by what, uh, has- has captured my attention about- about Bernie- Bernie Sanders and- and- and his campaign, and I guess just a history of the true recognition of that systemic injustice that he's been challenging his whole life. Um, and I- and I feel that, you know, in- in s-... and, like, seeing... And it's- it's funny 'cause, like, when I see old photos of- of him, you know, doing demonstrations and- and, you know, uh, being really politically active, you know, at- at a very... much older age than when I got started actually, but I think about that, too, and I'm like, "Man, even for me, that's, like, such a throwback to, like, when I got involved and, like, those roots are so strong and clear and present."

Um, and I think that's something that a lot of these political, uh, candidates are- are- are lacking-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... is- is that foundation. And, uh, what became very clear to me, uh, in Colorado is that it is not about, you know, electing democrats or republicans. It's about electing people that are gonna fearlessly fight for our future. And that wasn't the case in even most democrat, uh, you know-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... candidates and- and [I saw that] in- in the ways that, you know, former Governor Hickenlooper was active... We called him Frackenlooper because-

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... he was actively endangering our communities, our-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... air quality, our water by, um... by allowing this industry to have free rein over our resources in Colorado. And I had families and- and homies in- in cities nearby that were getting so sick from this industry and it's like he was takin' money from the industry and it was- it was a whole- it was a whole mess. He was a puppet in the same way that I thought, you know, was something we saw mostly on the Republican side... was like, "No, this is across the board."

And so, when I see kinda these different people that are- that are hopping on this bandwagon of, like, "Oh, okay. The people that are gonna be voting for me care about the climate crisis. I need to make that a part of my platform," it's like, "Well, who's been doing the work of understanding what that really means." And that's why I'm excited about 2020. That's why I'm excited about Bernie honestly.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah. If- if I can speak just as, uh, someone who was an anonymous Bernie supporter in 2016, for me, the silence of the broader Democratic field on, um, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the fact that Bernie Sanders spoke up and gave a statement [laughs] in advocacy, um, of the water protectors, it was meaningful to me because it was such a no-brainer of a moral issue. And It begged the question, "Why wouldn't you open your mouth and say something?" and really highlighted the extent to which-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: ...moneyed interests, the interest of the fossil fuel industry, is driving the political rhetoric and the political action that we see coming out of these campaigns.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Briahna Joy Gray: And, you know, he was someone who in 2016 said, "What's the biggest foreign policy threat to the country?" and said, "Climate change" and was literally laughed at-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mmm.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... by the commentators and the news hosts the next day. And now that question gets asked in this news cycle and everyone-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Everybody's hopping on it.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... you know, everyone says the same-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... answer, right?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: Um, and so to me that's what leadership looks like and that's the kind of integrity, um, you can trust, but let me put my spokeswoman hat back on for-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: [Laughs].

Briahna Joy Gray: ... a minute. I- I don't... I'd be remiss not to ask you about also your, um, career as an artist.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: And I'm curious, you know, how, um, you're able to meld those interests and whether you see music and art as a way to spread this message of climate act- advocacy?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah, it's funny. I spend so much time on this- on this work and- and the movement, um, in the trenches and think, like, "Dang, like, what would it be if we just didn't have to worry about this?"

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: I could just be an artist. My rap game would be, like, through the roof-

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... but, um, it's cool. It's- it's a journey. They've, like, mutually supported each other, uh, as- as interests and as passions of mine. And music, I think, has- has always played a role in- in, uh, really telling the story of the people, um, you know, from- from Tupac Shakur to- to Bob Marley to John Lennon. Uh, artists reflect the times and the authenticity of the times when many times politicians fail to do so. Many times, you know, companies and- and just... There- there was that silence. You know, there was that fear of- of truly reflecting, like, what the people felt and where we were at. And as a hip-hop artist, that, you know, my- my journey as- as an artist has, like, evolved from performing at protests on a bullhorn, rapping about fracking, to, like, playing for thousands of people all over the world. Um, it's been amazing to see how it brings a different energy to the space, more... different 'cause... and I've al- also been, you know, a public speaker since I was, like, six years old on a lot of these issues, on the education and- and environmental work in working with- with Earth Guardians or the organization to build a platform to young people worldwide and just to feel that- that energetic shift that happens when you use art and music to tap into people's emotions. And, like, that changes hearts-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... Um, and I think it's- it's cool to see Bernie who has, like, you know, homies with Killer Mike and-

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... like, just different people in- in hip-hop because I think hip-hop also is- is kind of a- a little bit of a... it... I think the figures in hip-hop who continue to authentically, I think, talk about and- and demonstrate through their art what the culture and the... what the art has always been about, um, are also have... are really paying attention to politics and are pay- paying attention to that, how that's affecting our communities, and our people and- and, you know, the real artists out there are fighting for their people and are representing their people. And so, for me, it's like I think that the leverage that we can use as musicians and as artists brings in another conversation of not just political shift, but of cultural change, um, that it's gonna take more than just politicians. It really is more than just the United Nations, more than just bringing fossil fuels back into the earth and sequestering carbon, and transitioning to new energy infrastructures, but how do we really reach the masses?

And I think that's breaking down these, like, preconceived ideologies of what creating change looks like from the activist and the political perspective and saying that artists need to be at the table of that conversation. You know, indigenous wisdom-keepers need to be at the table of that conversation. We need entrepreneurs. We need storytellers. You know? And that that's... you know, that- that's that, I think, cultural shift that I think goes beyond just changing, you know, who is in office, that, um, I think we can catalyze and we can mobilize and I think people s-... and artists support Bernie because they believe in that- that- that energy of being able to ha-... you know, kind of piggyback off of and- and use that political platform that he's helped build, um, to create a cultural change that is... that goes deeper than just politics.

Briahna Joy Gray: I think that's very well-said and absolutely right. Um, is there anything that you would want to tell people who are watching? Any websites they should go to or links they should click on to help support your [crosstalk] -

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Mix tape dropping soon.

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: [Laughs].

Briahna Joy Gray: What's it called? Do you know yet?

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Oh, for real? For real. We-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah!

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... We have an album dropping soon. It's called Voice Runners, um, and we're working on finishing that up right now. So, keep your eyes open for that.

Briahna Joy Gray: Can't wait.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: But further than that, um, being in this for so long, for, like, 13 years, um, I've been to a lot of these- these marches and these moments and these... you know, been there for the release of a lot of these environmental documentaries and- and these books that have been published on the topic. Um, the lack of having a back-end has always been a bummer.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Um-

Briahna Joy Gray: What do you mean by "back-end?"

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: So, there's, uh, a gathering point, The People's Climate March, Power Shift, I Matter March... Like, whatever moment in history you want to take and there's a mass mobilization of- of bodies on the ground worldwide and then there's, um, not a call to action. There's not, like-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... a follow-up. There's not something that is... Oftentimes, it's like, "Do one thing."

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: "Play your part." And that's, like... that's not enough for me and that's not enough for where the world is at right now. Um, and so my whole way over the next year and a half is gonna be what is the back-end of this movement?

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: And how can we construct that in a way that is really supportive of and- and really addresses the urgency of the- of the time we are in? So, we just launched a company called NOW-

Briahna Joy Gray: Hmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... and, um, a recent study came out that said there's 71 million people in the States that would give $10 a month to reverse the climate crisis.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: And the U.N. recently came out and said that the quickest, most cost-effective, and best way to address the climate crisis is to plant a trillion trees in the next 10 years. So, in addition, with keeping fossil fuels in the ground, um, transitioning our energy infrastructure, um, political action and willpower to implement these, um, massive, uh, plans to address the climate crisis, we need to be doing stuff now. And things can't even wait 'til 2020.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Um, and so we essentially are launching a company that is a carbon drawdown plugin that can be implemented anywhere from ticketed events like concerts and sporting events to product collaborations, which are funneling money into the reforestation of the planet. Um, and one of the things we're launching with is a subscript- a subscription service. Um, and it's a very simple concept where you... like Netflix, but instead of funding the next season of Stranger Things, you're putting money into, uh, reversing the climate crisis and reforesting the planet.

Briahna Joy Gray: Hmm.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Um, and so we are working with partners all over the world to, uh, pretty much, uh, work on the most effective methods of- of tree planting from a combination of human and drone tree planting worldwide, working with indigenous communities and seeing how we can really tap into... um, have environmental justice, and decolonization kind of at the forefront of what this company is gonna be about. And so, it's really exciting. It's very new. I guess I'm an entrepreneur in a-

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... low-key now. And so that is- that is out. So, you can subscribe. If you got five, ten bucks a month to be tapping in... Again, this is not like a huge, sweeping, different idea. In a sense this is a layer... a very low-barrier, uh, of entry way that anybody can... anybody that has those means can tap in, um, to engage in this work that can actually be removing carbon from the atmosphere actively while we're doing the other work, while we're marching in the streets, while we're, you know, calling our elected officials and demanding for change in- in policy, and while we're waiting for this case to go to trial.

Um, and at the forefront of this company is really the... pushing that cultural change. So we're working on creating a community of artists, entrepreneurs, designers, people in- in the fashion industry and the agriculture, food industry, um, and building a community of people that can offer and leverage their platforms and say, like, "We are gonna continue to do our work as touring artists or as fashion designers, and we're just weaving carbon reduction into that," um, so that it's more, like, climate action becomes something that is ubiquitous in our culture-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]-

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... that is woven into everything we do, not some external use of energy or not, um, you know, something that we affiliate with a political party, but it's something that is all around us regardless of who we are, where we're from. Um, so check out Generation... What's the website, bro? GenerationNow.com? .org? Generation-Now-

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: ... dot com.

Briahna Joy Gray: [Laughs].

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Generation-Now.com.

Briahna Joy Gray: Okay. Got it. I love the idea of using small dollar funding, um, because I think that it is a really good reminder that we do... you know, we are up against some really powerful special interests with a lot of money, but we do... They have money. We have people, as AOC sometimes says. Um, and that, of course, is a motto of this campaign as well. So, I would also... to have my, um, campaign hat back on, encourage everybody who's watching this to make sure that you're registered to vote. It's coming up and we gotta be aware of these things. And I know when I was in college, I didn't really think about absentee ballots and things like that until it was too late. So, I encourage everybody to start thinking about that and acting on it now because, as Xiuhtezcatl says, this stuff really, really matters.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Briahna Joy Gray: You're an absolute delight.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez: Cheers.

Briahna Joy Gray: I'm so glad to be joined today by environmental activist, writer, Naomi Klein. Thank you so much for joining me and let's hop right into it. So, Bernie has put forward a 16-point, $3 trillion plan, and there are some folks that are saying that's just too much money and it's unrealistic. Do you agree or do you think that that amount of money is commensurate with the threat that we're facing right now?

Naomi Klein: So, if we believe what we say about the need for a green New Deal, we are not talking about a narrow climate policy. We are talking about transforming the bones of our economy, right? We're talking about transforming where we get our energy from, how we live [particularly in cities, the kind of buildings we live in], how we move ourselves around [the extent to which we are in private cars versus public transit]... We're really talking about changing everything, so yeah, it costs a lot of money. It is also going to save us huge amounts of money because we are already seeing the enormous costs of superstorms, of droughts, of sea level rise.

But I think the truth is we have to spend what it takes [laughs]. We have to spend what it takes because there's something morally bankrupt about even doing a cost-benefit analysis because what we're really talking about is whether or not we are gonna save hundreds of millions of lives, and you can't put a price tag on that.

So what we have to do is honestly cost it out and we have to design the transformation in a way that is just, that puts justice at the center, that says that no worker can be left behind in this transition, that workers need to be guaranteed the same wages and benefits as they had in their previous jobs. They need to be democratic participants in the transition, and the front-line communities, which are overwhelmingly black and brown communities who have borne the toxic burden of our addiction to fossil fuels, need to be first in line to benefit from this transformation. And that is what matters.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, you mentioned front-line communities and often kind of racial justice issues and environmental justice issues get siloed so they're separate and apart from one another. Can you talk to me a little bit about why it's important to actually think of these things intersectionally?

Naomi Klein: So, look. We are all inside the climate. It is the ultimate big tent, the earth's atmosphere, and it is in crisis. Our house is in crisis, and when your house is in crisis, everything inside your house gets worse, goes into deeper crisis. So, this is a fundamentally intersectional crisis. Whatever is in crisis without climate change spirals into even worse crisis with climate change, and we see this in the aftermath of devastating storms like Hurricane Maria. What cost thousands of lives in Puerto Rico was not falling debris after Hurricane Maria. It was the impact of decades of brutal economic austerity that systematically underfunded and privatized the healthcare system, that was... had stripped the public utility trying to get it ready for privatization, then the storm hits and the whole system breaks down and people are unable to plug in their oxygen machines, their dialysis machines. It becomes a public health emergency.

Anybody who understands how the climate crisis actually plays out on the ground understands that you can't pry apart healthcare and the right for every single person to have free, great healthcare. The idea that this is somehow an add-on [laughs] is absurd because this is actually what costs lives.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, you've written a book called Capitalism vs. the Climate. Can you talk about why those things are in conflict with each other?

Naomi Klein: There are a bunch of reasons why the economic system that we currently have is in a fundamental conflict with the things we need to do if we're gonna take the climate crisis seriously. We have an economic system that tells us we need to leave everything to the market. So, if we're gonna do something about climate change, we should put in a sort of a gentle market mechanism and then get out of the way of the market.

First of all, we don't have enough time for that. We have procrastinated for so many decades that, now, the transformation that we need is so deep and it is so rapid that these kinds of market mechanisms, while they may play a role, absolutely can't get the job done. What we need is to break the rules of the free market fundamentalist project, which told us we can't invest in the public sphere. We should privatize the public sphere. We should cut taxes for the wealthy. We should pay for them by attacking the public sphere. We have to break all of those rules. And we need to invest massively in the public sphere. We actually need to reverse many privatizations, particularly of energy, because we need the levers in our hands to transform our energy system.

There are other reasons as well that this economic system is fundamentally in conflict with what we need to do in the face of the climate crisis because, ultimately, we have a system that defines progress as economic growth in any form, profit-making in any form. And the truth is we need to move away from a disposable culture, we need to move away from a culture that treats people and things as disposable, and we need to expand those parts of our economy that actually bring us quality of life, stronger communities, and are already low-carbon, like teaching kids, caring for the elderly, making art... These are all actually low-carbon sectors. Yes, it is somebody putting up a solar panel in a hard hat. Um, yes, it is somebody building energy-efficient, affordable housing. We need all that, but we also need to value the low-carbon work that is overwhelmingly done by women, overwhelmingly done by women of color, and that is so systematically undervalued and underappreciated in our economy.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, you mention moving away from a profit-driven model, which reminds me of how Bernie Sanders often talks about New Deal programs like the TVA and how those are models for how we could go forward right now. Can you talk a little bit about what that looks like?

Naomi Klein: So, a fundamental tenet of the climate justice movement has been energy democracy, which is the idea that if we are gonna transform where we get our energy from, moving from fossil fuels to renewables, why wouldn't we build a fairer and more democratic economy in the process? The thing about fossil fuels is that they lend themselves to highly centralized, monopolistic control, actually whether in the hands of the state or, now, in the hands of private corporations. The reasons for that is that fossil fuels are concentrated in particular locations, it costs a lot of money to dig them up. It costs a lot of money to transport them, and it costs a lot of money to refine them.

The beautiful thing about renewable energy is that it is distributed. It is wherever the sun shines. It is wherever the wind blows. It is wherever you can create water from waves. So, you have this amazing opportunity to have a distributed economic model as well because we know we have a crisis not only of climate disruption, but also of extreme economic inequality. So, as we transform our energy grid, our energy system, to this more distributed model, we can also create policies that encourage the ownership, the distributed ownership, of the generation of that electricity. It can be owned and controlled by communities. We can design it to make sure that front-line communities who have been poisoned by fossil fuels are first in line to benefit from the profit generation, the skills training, the job creation, and then we can only do that if there is community control.

So, you know, some people say, "Well, you know, why are we making it harder?" Actually, this makes it easier because what we found in countries like Denmark and Germany when they have taken an energy transition seriously is that, if they want to move fast, they need to create mechanisms for communities to own and control their own renewable energy. In Germany, there have been hundreds of cities and towns that have remunicipalized, taken back control over their energy grids because the private energy producers were standing in the way of the transition. Why? Because when you have distributed renewable energy and people have solar panels on their rooftops and they're able to feed their energy back into the grid, they are no longer just customers. They are producers. They become the competitors of the private utilities.

So, of course, the private utilities don't like it, and they have systematically blocked it in the United States. So, this isn't about ideology. This is about how do we do this quickly? How do we get the barriers out of the way because we don't have time for those barriers? The other thing we've seen is that there has been a lot of local resistance to big wind farms when all of the profits for those wind farms go to individual private players. You know, one land owner just puts up a wind farm and it changes the landscape for everybody, whereas when there is community ownership over the renewable energy and everybody benefits because everybody shares in the profits, everybody is helping design it, making sure that the jobs remain locally, then you have community buy-in and so that resistance to it breaks down and we're able to move really, really quickly.

So, this isn't about ideology. It's about practicality and how we're actually gonna get the job done.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, some folks say, "Gosh, I don't want to trust the government with our energy needs." What would you say to those folks about why we should trust the government as opposed to private industry in this realm?

Naomi Klein: When we talk about energy democracy, we're not talking about a centralized government that's- that's controlling all the renewable energy. We're talking about designing policies at the federal level that systematically encourage decentralized, local ownership, cooperative ownership, municipal ownership... all different ownership models that put the priority on doing everything possible to get to 100% renewable energy in a decade as opposed to doing everything possible to make profits for shareholders, which is what private companies are designed to do.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, in some ways, it feels like the U.S. has hit the jackpot with respect to climate resources. We have glaciers and a lot of water and big lakes and Alaska and we're in the Northern hemisphere. What do you say to people who might think, "Okay, we can hunker down and weather this out.”? Is that naïve?

Naomi Klein: The U.S. is already being rocked by climate disruption, and the same kind of unequal impacts that we see between relatively wealthy countries in the North and poorer countries in the global South are playing out within the borders of the United States, so you have incredibly unequal impacts in a city like... I- I started writing about climate change after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. And you saw what is now being called "climate apartheid" where if you had money and resources and, in New Orleans, that overwhelmingly meant if you were white, you got the warnings, got into your car, drove out of the city, checked into a hotel, called your insurance company... Nobody wants to be hit by a hurricane, but the resources were there to deal with it. If you needed there to be a functioning government, if you needed there to be a real evacuation plan, if you needed to be rescued and, in New Orleans, that overwhelmingly meant if you were poor and black, you were literally abandoned on rooftops, in the Superdome, and then you were vilified on Fox News, you know, accused of looting. There were vigilantes, white vigilantes in the streets of New Orleans just looking for people to shoot.

I mean, this is what it looks like to have these incredible unequal impacts. We are seeing it again and again and again, in Houston after Harvey, in Puerto Rico after Maria. So the idea that the U.S. is somehow safe, I think, is, you know, it comes from, I think, an idea that very wealthy people feel that they can buy their way out of this disaster, that they're gonna be able to build their sort of gilded fortresses, that they're gonna be able to move to higher ground, and that they may be able to profit from it. I mean, it's not for nothing that Donald Trump wants to buy Greenland. He wants to buy Greenland because the ice in the Arctic is melting and it is opening up possibilities to drill for new oil and gas reserves and to have new trading routes. There are definitely profits to be made in a warming world, but it's not like the U.S. as a whole is gonna be okay. The vast majority of people in the United States are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and it is a very, very small minority, the same people who benefit from Trump's deep corporate tax cuts, who would benefit in the short term from a warming world.

Briahna Joy Gray: Can you explain what the impact of global warming is going to be on climate refugees?

Naomi Klein: There are so many reasons why we need to do everything possible to get to 100% renewable energy because the impacts of climate change are so severe and really so unthinkable. But there's evidence all around of the immediate costs of our addiction to fossil fuels, including the fact that so many of the endless wars that the United States military's engaged in around the world have to do with protecting fossil fuels. We're seeing it play out right now with S- Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen. What is this all about? It is all about oil. It is so often all about oil. And, you know, this idea that- that we can solve the climate crisis by kind of greening the military, you know, is one of the things that I have the most trouble with because the fact is so many of the wars that we are fighting is over continued access to fossil fuels. War itself is an ecological disaster. And now we are seeing the intersection of the fallout from oil wars intersecting with drought because so many of the countries that have the most oil also have the least water. And so, as drought intensifies, it leads to... or it's one of the drivers of civil war in places like Syria. And then that leads to mass migration, and then we have the Trumps of the world using that mass migration to fuel their politics of hate.

We need a completely different approach. Climate disruption is a reminder that our fates are profoundly interconnected. This is a crisis that is global in nature, it plays out in profoundly unequal ways, and there will be no response to it that is not fundamentally internationalist and based on s- solidarity and based on valuing every single human being and their right to safety. We're not gonna solve this through a nationalist framework. We're gonna solve this through an internationalist framework, and we have to demand that all the candidates understand that and don't try to sell us nationalist solutions to a fundamentally international crisis.

Briahna Joy Gray: Some of our listeners might be familiar with the concept of "pinkwashing," which is when you take something like fighter jets, per se, paint it plain pink, and say, "This is now feminist" or "This is pro-women" while ignoring that the underlying thing is still very bad for women all over the world. You know, it doesn't matter when you get droned, if you get droned by a pink plane or not. And now we have this new concept of "greenwashing," where there's a way that some folks are talking about making the military green as part in parcel of this climate project.

Can you talk about why you think that that is an- an ill-founded approach?

Naomi Klein: The U.S. military is the single largest consumer of fossil fuels, and wars are ecological disasters as well as humanitarian disasters. There is no such thing as a green war. And this transition is gonna be really expensive. I think finally we're starting to be honest that we're talking about trillions of dollars. So we have to move some money from places that are destructive and move them to places that are constructive, and the hugely outsized spending in the United States on the military is one of the areas where we need to transition resources away from an economy that is destroying lives and destroying ecologies around the world, and move it to this transformation where we are rehabilitating land, where we are creating productive, dignified, unionized jobs, and bringing the communities along in this transition. But I think more broadly, uh, when we think about how we're gonna finance this huge transition, there's some money that can just be spent in the same way that we spend bailing out the banks, but there is also... there are also resources that we need to move, that we need to move from polluting sectors, polluting industries, into this transition.

And I think, as we design the financing, justice has to be at the center because we often hear that Americans are not willing to make changes or not willing to sacrifice. The truth is that Americans have a very keen sense of justice, and this is true around the world where we've seen that when there are climate policies that put the burden of transition onto working people who are already facing huge economic stresses in an economy that keeps piling on more stresses onto families, more precariousness, uh, more insecurity, and then you say, "And you know what? You need to pay more at the pump." Or "You need to pay more for your electricity to deal with climate change." And then folks look around and they see that millionaires and billionaires are getting tax breaks, that the polluters are not being asked for anything. They're not being asked to pay for the clean... to clean up their messes. They're not being asked to pay more in royalties. And people rightly, I think, say, "This is a really raw deal."

If we look at what happened during World War II in a period of tremendous transition, and Senator Sanders has talked about how quickly the U.S. economy changed during World War II to fight fascism, it was absolutely central that that transition was not just rapid, but fair, which meant that corporations had to make sacrifices, which meant that very wealthy people had to make sacrifices. The slogan was "Share and share alike." And so, you know, what we see from history is that, if a transition is seen as fair and that fundamentally means that it is not just working people who are asked to change and asked to make some sacrifices, but also the very rich, then that is key to people accepting it. If it is not fair, if it is an unjust transition and people see the injustice, then they will reject it and we will not do what we need to do in the very short time that we have left to safeguard a habitable planet.

Briahna Joy Gray: So as voters are trying to choose between this big field of candidates and voters are prioritizing climate change, are there any particular features you think that folks should focus on in order to make an informed decision?

Naomi Klein: When I'm assessing a climate justice plan, here are a- a few of the planks that I look for. Front-line communities. Are front-line communities helping to design the plan? Are they first in line to benefit? Workers. Workers in high-carbon sectors. Is no worker being left behind because no worker can be left behind?

Another thing I look for: Are we celebrating investing in low-carbon work that is overwhelmingly the work of care and repair, work that is done by women, and work that is gonna make us more resilient and more caring as we face the climate shocks to come? And that means are we investing in education? Are we investing in healthcare?

And the final thing that I look for is are the polluters paying because justice is not just about making sure that the people who got the worst deal are benefiting from the transition. It is also about making sure that the people who profited from the destruction are also paying to clean up the mess.

Briahna Joy Gray: Some folks, when they talk about climate change, there is this capitalistic approach that they maintain, right, where they say, "Well, we can just make corporations pay enough for what they extract from the earth and they can burn it all down and if we... we can disincentivize them through capping trade and things like that kind of purely." But you've written this book that says that capitalism isn't the way out. What would you say to folks who still think that you can accommodate this problem with kind of conscientious capitalism?

Naomi Klein: The intergovernmental panel on climate change told us a year ago that we have to cut global emissions in half in 12 years. So that was last year, so now it's 11 years. By the time there's a new administration, it will be just one decade. There is not an economist on this planet who can tell you how it is possible to cut emissions in half globally in one decade with a carbon tax or with capping trade. We're talking about an industrial transformation. We're talking about building a new economy. So yeah, you can have a carbon tax, a progressive carbon tax, that is one part of this transformation, but the much more important part of it is how you are gonna build new infrastructure. And the protagonists of this really have to be the workers who are gonna benefit from it, the people living in cities who are gonna benefit from low-carbon, energy-efficient, affordable housing, who are gonna have affordable public transit that actually gets them to where they need to go on time.

This is not a story of just putting in a few mechanisms and getting out of the way. It is not serious, even though the people who talk about this are very good at pretending to be very serious in splitting the difference. They have not engaged with the science. They are dressed up like serious people, but they are fundamentally unserious.

Briahna Joy Gray: Thank you so much, Naomi. This has been a real pleasure.

That's it for this week. Let us know what you think at [email protected] You guys haven't been writing me comments as much on iTunes, and I gotta say I miss them. Let us know what you think about the new direction the podcast is taking with the Best of Bernie episodes and what else, if anything, you'd like to hear from us. Send us a tweet with the #hearthebern. You know I'm always on Twitter.

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'Til next time.