This changes everything?

You know that feeling when you are really excited about something but then… nothing?

That’s kind of how I left Tuesday’s ‘A special night with Naomi Klein’, one of the events at this year’s IDFA festival and hosted by the John Adams Institute. I had been looking forward to this evening since I heard about it through a friend as it would focus on her latest book This Changes Everything on the link between climate change and capitalism.


I should note a disclaimer here: I have not yet read the book. Everything below is only based on what I saw at the event tonight.

I was expecting an evening of inspiration, of being reminded once again why it is important to me to make certain choices in my life, of being excited again to work in the field of sustainability to try to make some impact. The evening was announced as ‘the hottest ticket in town’. And yet it feels strange writing this blog, talking about all the things the evenings wasn’t.

While I am quite sure – without having read the book – that I agree with most of Naomi Klein’s arguments and ideas, none of that inspiration hit me tonight while I was listening to her.

She spoke about the enormous challenge ahead of us on climate change and that this connects to everything else in our world. However, responding to this challenge in an effective way is made impossible because of the economic system in which this world operates. Business as usual is not an option, but business as usual is the only thing we know to do. It is time for leaps, not just small steps such as improving a company’s CSR policy. And it is time for everyone to act, not just the environmental movement.

I can’t argue with any of this. I agree with all of it, but it is also not new. Tonight, I suppose I was expecting something that would tie all of these together in a well thought through storyline, that will also convince the sceptics, the non-believers. The mainstream, basically, that isn’t aware of the urgency of the problems we are facing and what we can do about it.

And that story didn’t come out. If anything, it was a little rambling, not very coherent, and not challenged by a moderator who was clearly on Naomi Klein’s side as well.

I missed hearing about action: what can we do, what can our governments do, what can companies do to make a difference? Naomi Klein mentioned her best hope: divestment from fossil fuels. But there must be more? Where is the call to action to start doing something?

I missed hearing about how to reach all of those people outside of that large Tuschinski room. The people reading the Daily Mail on a London metro, as Joris Luyendijk asked. How can this message get to them?

And then the public speaker inside me kicked in as well. It is never a good sign when I am more interested in analyzing what a speaker can do better (and there was a lot) to make their message stronger than listening to the actual content itself. As a bit of a content-girl myself, I like to believe that content is always king.

Unfortunately, content is only king when it is presented well. It almost always loses out when that same content is presented badly.

It probably isn’t the job of Naomi Klein to convince the masses that we need to start acting by leaps and bounds instead of small changes to be able to remain below a 2C increase. Maybe it isn’t her job to bring us solutions. And maybe it isn’t her job to find that all powerful delivery that will change people’s minds.

After all, it is up to all of us. It is now time for us, collectively, to start making changes.

But getting a little inspiration for that sometimes from great thinkers makes life a lot easier and a lot more exciting.

Or maybe the conclusion after this evening should just be that a good writer doesn’t automatically make a good speaker.

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