Earlier this month, Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein released their new documentary film about the global struggle for climate justice, This Changes Everything, based largely on Klein’s 2014 book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism v. the Climate. As it happened, the film’s release coincided with the publication of another book by a Nation contributor, Wen Stephenson’s What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Climate Justice (much of which originated in The Nation, and which was excerpted in the October 26 issue). With two projects so closely related, and so closely connected to The Nation, appearing at the same moment, it seemed like an occasion for a dialogue. Stephenson exchanged e-mail with Lewis and Klein last week, and what follows here is their correspondence.
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Dear Avi and Naomi,
You’ve given the world a precious gift with This Changes Everything, a remarkably beautiful film, because you’ve not only given us the stories and words but also the faces and the living, breathing voices of people organizing and fighting for survival, and for some hope of justice, on this careening planet—people fighting not only for the earth, or for themselves, but for each other. As someone engaged in that struggle, and as a parent of two young children who face a deeply uncertain future of climate disruption, I can’t thank you enough for this. It has stirred and fortified my will to fight, and I’m certain it will do the same for many others.
There’s a moment in the film which took my breath away. In a sequence of images from Blockadia—that borderless and entirely real country, stretching across this continent, where people have laid their bodies on the line, in some cases risking everything, to confront and resist the fossil-fuel industry—I saw one of those faces, and it was a face I knew. It belongs to a young man named Matt Almonte, who grew up in New Jersey and Florida, and at the age of 21, after spending some time with Occupy Tampa, lit out for the territories and joined the Tar Sands Blockade in East Texas. I write at length about TSB, and briefly about Matt, in What We’re Fighting for Now Is Each Other, exploring what was learned in TSB’s dramatic yet failed campaign of nonviolent direct action, part of a genuine grassroots uprising, to stop the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline—which went operational in January 2014.
When Matt appears on the screen, he’s inside part of that pipeline in the predawn hours as it awaits construction. Matt and another activist named Glen Collins locked their arms to concrete-filled barrels placed inside the pipe, and to one another, in order to prevent construction of that section from going forward. When law enforcement proceeded to use heavy machinery to pull the pipe sections apart, Matt and Glen were almost gruesomely injured, possibly even killed. Basically, their arms could have been torn off. But their screams, and those of their support team, finally convinced the police to stop. Matt spent a month in jail.