Naomi Klein Interview: "A 3-Day Week Will Help to Save Life on Earth"
Naomi Klein Interview: "A 3-Day Week Will Help to Save Life on Earth"
By Naomi Klein / bigissue.com

No Logo author Naomi Klein says we must revolutionise our working lives if we are to combat climate change and save the free world...

Imagine an ordinary, full-time working week, one that requires just 21 hours of hard graft. Imagine a less frantic existence – three days on, four days off. Imagine more time with the family, more time strolling round the park, more time listening to your favourite music while cooking at a leisurely pace. A lovely idea – but does it really stack up?

The phrase ‘three-day week’ might, for readers of a certain age, conjure up memories of the early 1970s: electricity blackouts and TV broadcasts stopping at 10.30pm. Yet a growing number of people are advocating a 21-hour working week as the solution to the 21st century’s most pressing problems.

Naomi Klein is the latest big thinker to back the idea of a shorter working week and sees it as part of a transition toward a low-carbon economy and a move away from “shitty” long-hour, low-paid jobs, as she outlines to The Big Issue…

When did you begin to think free-market economics are a threat to life on Earth? 

When I started hanging around with climate change deniers, it became clear they understood the current economic system could not survive if climate change was real. You can’t hold on to ideas like freedom from regulation and liberating profit in the face of a crisis like climate change, which clearly demands collective action and strong regulation. We need to cut our emissions so deeply that it threatens the whole growth model of free-market capitalism.

Some economists are now talking about moving beyond the idea of growth and our obsession with GDP. Is that a good thing? 

It’s exciting that people are talking about these things. We know chasing endless growth doesn’t deliver well-being or economic stability and is leading to widening inequality. So it’s much easier to challenge now. It’s really about having a strategic economy, focusing on parts of the economy we want to expand or extract.

You write about “selective degrowth” and ideas like a shorter working week and a universal basic income to discourage “shitty work”. Do you think people are ready for those ideas? 

I think people know they’re overworked. And overworking is intimately tied to a particularly wasteful model of consumption – you have no time after work to do anything other than grab a takeaway, and less time for low-consumption activities like cooking.

Does the environment movement need to become more radical? 

The environmental movement has a history of elitism. Not the entire movement – there have been grassroots outsiders engaging in confrontation tactics – but there’s a history of conservation and hunting clubs, bringing in royalty and so on. It’s not exactly been part of the left, which is why there’s been suspicion between progressive political movements and the environmental movement. There’s a lot of work to be done between natural allies.

So it’s time to stop pretending big companies are going to change everything? 

There’s been a bias among many big environmental organisations to build coalitions with other elite groups. You’d be amazed by how much time green groups in the US spend thinking about how to get the Pentagon using green energy. Really? Is that the best we can hope for?

The idea we’re all guilty is demobilising because it prevents us directing our anger at the institutions most responsible

And it’s time to get angry? 

Yes – I think people should be angry. A lot of environmentalist discourse has been about erasing responsibility: “We’re all in this together… We’re all equally responsible.” Well, no – you, me and Exxon (Mobil) are not all in this together.The idea we’re all guilty is demobilising because it prevents us directing our anger at the institutions most responsible.

Do you think working people will see the connection between climate change and their own pressing struggles? 

Most people don’t have good choices. They use fossil fuels because they have to – not because they love Exxon or Shell. We’re seeing an important discussion around fuel poverty. Fossil fuels aren’t delivering energy people can afford easily, if about a quarter of people in this country are choosing not to turn the heat on at times because they can’t afford the bills. I think people will start to see that action on climate change can address pressing issues.

How do you stay optimistic when the picture looks so bleak? 

I don’t think you can engage with this material without being on an emotional rollercoaster. Our elites have never treated climate change as a real crisis, they only pay lip service to it. But a wide social movement can change that. Pressure from below can force recalcitrant elites to respond.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, by Naomi Klein (£20, Allen Lane), is out now

4.2 ·
4
What's Next
Trending Today
The Reviews Are In: Conservatives Say the DNC Was 'Disaster' for the GOP
Katherine Krueger · 46,460 views today · Something strange happened on the last night of the Democratic National Convention. After the GOP nominee lambasted the Democrats on Twitter for displaying what he viewed as...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 30,328 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 27,962 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
Nina Turner's Timeless Message to the Democratic Establishment
2 min · 22,235 views today · "We are not going anywhere. We are here for the long term for ourselves and for generations yet unborn. We're going to stand up and make sure that not only is that platform...
This is One of the Most Powerful Music Videos Ever Made
5 min · 21,055 views today · Official video for Ahmed by Lowkey ft. Mai Khalil contains devastating truths about war, migration and the underlying systemic issues that surround them.
Jane Sanders: Why Bernie Voters Shouldn't Get Over It
Tessa Stuart · 14,025 views today · Bernie's wife discusses her proudest and most difficult campaign moments, the DNC email leak and the future of his revolution
Meet Some Sanders Delegates Who Plan to Turn Anger Into Positive Action
Isaiah Poole · 6,127 views today · Luz Sosa came to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a disappointed Bernie Sanders delegate. But she is leaving fired up to take on big political fights in...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 5,804 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Up to 28 Civilians Reportedly Killed in US-Led Strike in Syria
Andrea Germanos · 5,151 views today · Fresh strike took place in same area where US is said to have killed scores in airstrikes last week
This Video Dispels Every "Nature VS Nurture" Myth You've Ever Heard. The Implications are Profound.
31 min · 4,162 views today · If everyone watched this it could radically transform the world. This is a segment from Moving Forward (2011). Watch the full documentary online here.
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 3,521 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Capitalism and Mental Health: How the Market Makes Us Sick
22 min · 3,319 views today · Far from being a far-fetched pipe dream that human beings could never live under, pockets of anarchistic self-activity are what keep us sane in a profoundly insane world. This...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 2,441 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Comic: How Big Media Drowned Out the Rest of Us
Symbolia and YES! Magazine · 2,369 views today · Today, six corporations own most of our media—but we could be poised to take it back.  
Law Professor's Epic Response to Black Lives Matter Shirt Complaint
Social Design Notes · 2,245 views today · A first year law school student wrote a complaint about her professor having worn a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during class. The professor’s response is priceless. Scans of...
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 2,157 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
"Don't Owe. Won't Pay." Everything You've Been Told About Debt Is Wrong
Charles Eisenstein · 2,137 views today · With the nation’s household debt burden at $11.85 trillion, even the most modest challenges to its legitimacy have revolutionary implications.
42 Ways to Build a Liberated Society Beyond Capitalism
James Herod · 2,014 views today · It is time to try to describe, at first abstractly and later concretely, a strategy for destroying capitalism. At its most basic, this strategy calls for pulling time, energy...
Don't Let Bernie Endorsing Hillary Distract You From What Matters
Tim Hjersted · 1,712 views today · There's been quite a lot of anger, disappointment and attention on Bernie's decision to endorse Clinton the last couple weeks. But I've started to believe this attention on...
50+ Films About Women That Will Inspire You, Anger You, and Make You Want to Change the World
Films For Action · 1,638 views today · Here are 50 documentaries, short films and other videos that focus on women's issues, perspectives and struggles. We're hoping to expand this list over time so feel free to...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Naomi Klein Interview: "A 3-Day Week Will Help to Save Life on Earth"