System Change, Not Climate Change

System Change, Not Climate Change
Scene from This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate
Scene from This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate

By Tench Phillips


Who we are as Americans has been formed by stories told and retold from the pulpit, in the classroom, and by the media. We have come to share many of the same unquestioned beliefs – that science and technology will solve everything, that we fight wars and have a massive military empire because we have no other option, that corporate capitalism is the fairest and most efficient of all economic systems, that we have the world’s greatest democracy. In this age of media saturation we have become the most propagandized people in the whole of history. And its given rise to a particularly chronic case of American exceptionalism.

So how then to explain the perceived moral downfall of our country? We’ve always been told that humanity is innately greedy and selfish. This characterization is used to justify our country’s need for mass incarceration, economic injustice, and a police state mentality. To substantiate this claim, the discourse coming through the mainstream media is about the decline in individual morality. But what about the ethics of war, the fraud on Wall Street, the secret surveillance state, and the legalized bribery in government? The issues are seldom connected in media’s narrative and the system perpetrating these transgressions is rarely examined.

Regardless, there is a growing consensus that democracy isn’t working too well within our capitalist framework. The interest of the many have been subjugated to the special interests of the very few. This has been compounded by worldwide disruptions resulting from climate change. And so many of us are learning about other economic systems such as democratic socialism. Our efforts are being supported and inspired by such respected voices as Pope Francis and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Both are pleading for a compassionate response for the world’s poor and for the care of the earth.

The upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will soon convene in Paris. It will be the 21st annual international conference initiated in 1995 in Berlin – and has been billed as the final meeting. The Kyoto Protocol was signed at COP3 where countries agreed to set limits on carbon emissions, but sustained progress has been obstructed since then. The fate of the earth comes down to this final Paris Conference where countries must achieve a universal agreement on keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

There will be many attempts at the Conference to spin a successful narrative to placate the world’s peoples who are demanding reform. This will include pie-in-the-sky talk about new sequestration technologies and geo-engineering projects that can solve the carbon problem while being able to continue economic growth and lenient regulations.

But any further band aid solutions for climate change that might come out of the Conference won’t save us. And the world’s governments are just not capable of reversing carbon emissions. Why? They are beholden to the fossil fuel industry, giant agribusiness, and international banking. All those 25,000 representatives from around the world jetting into Paris will not be allowed to deal with the underlying problem — a rigged economic system that places the interest of corporations above those of people and the planet.

We now know that 80% of fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground in order to have any chance of keeping world temperatures from rising more than the agreed upon limit in this century. But the policies proposed over the years by most governments at previous conferences reflect the interests of the Big Energy conglomerates. And they are still betting on extracting all that dirty fuel out of the ground – with little concern about the ever more risky methods of oil fracking and deep water offshore drilling that will be required.

But it’s different this conference. Opposition to business-as-usual has mushroomed and thousands of people will be in the streets in Paris. And with the exception of white Southern Republicans, the overwhelming consensus is that any greater temperature rise will have catastrophic effects on sea level rise, species extinction, and climate change. The world’s governments see the writing on the wall. An imperative is now necessary – development of new drilling must be stopped and a massive conversion to renewable energy directed by responsible government is of the utmost urgency.

When there are enough informed, compassionate people who are mobilized into action to combat corporate and government inaction, then there is the possibility of system change. The first step is to vote in more responsible political representation that’s not beholden to Big Oil and Wall Street. Find out more about local issues and the political candidates who are running for the Virginia legislature in November by going to And find out more about national issues by switching to independent web media like Democracy Now!

We can find out more about important climate movements in other parts of the world in the new film This Changes Everything from author Naomi Kline and filmmaker Avi Lewis. It shows here on Wednesday, Nov 4 in our ongoing series ‘New Non-Fiction Film.’ The team has traveled the world to embed in citizen action initiated by ordinary people who must rise up against environmental attacks brought on by corporatism, neo-liberalism, and rigged international trade treaties. Stories featured in the film include: the fight against the coal Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada; the resistance in the U.S. against the Keystone XL Pipeline, the sea blockade in the state of Washington to Arctic drilling by Shell Oil, and the divestment movement by colleges and institutions that has removed trillions of dollars from the pool of capital that invests in dirty energy.

Through her book and new film Naomi Kline has woven a new narrative for our time. “A great deal of the work of deep social change involves having debates during which new stories can be told to replace the ones that have failed us. Because if we are to have any hope of making the kind of civilizational leap required of this fateful decade, we will need to start believing, once again, that humanity is not hopelessly selfish and greedy—the image ceaselessly sold to us by everything from reality shows to neoclassical economics.”

Climate scientists have been warning us that we are now in that crucial decade: our last, best chance to get our emissions under control, and to decisively change the course of our fossil fuel dependent civilization. There is no option. We must re-imagine a future that will encompass the well-being of all life on our planet.


Upcoming Film Events at Naro Cinema

Classic Horror Double-Feature The great British actors Christopher Lee and and Peter Cushing star in two of the best British horror films of the 1950s from Hammer Studios, The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. Hosted by the always entertaining Rob Floyd of Fantasmo Cult Cinema Explosion. Shows Sat, Oct 17.


LEONARDO: From The National Gallery London

This is a high-definition film tour of the largest ever collection of Leonardo’s surviving paintings assembled for a unique exhibition, ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Painter in the Court of Milan’. Art historian and broadcaster Tim Marlow offers his insight into the great masterpieces and invites the opinions of the museum’s curators and conservators. Interwoven are an insightful biography and fascinating behind-the-scenes footage. (81 mins) ‘Exhibition On Screen’ is presented with The Chrysler Museum. Shows Tues, Oct 20.



At the moment when the Sudan, the continent’s biggest country, is being divided into two nations, an old pathology of Western Powers re-emerges of colonialism, the clash of empires, and new episodes of bloody (and holy) wars over land and resources. The Academy Award nominated director of Darwin’s Nightmare takes us on this African adventure in his tiny, self-made, tin and canvas flying machine. Chinese oil workers, UN peacekeepers, Sudanese warlords, and American evangelists ironically weave common ground in this extraordinary film. (110 mins) Presented with Outreach Africa: Lost Boys of Sudan Foundation. Shows Wed, Oct 21.


TerrorTease Live Burlesque Show

Beautiful girls perform live on the Naro stage in this sensuous burlesque tribute to classic horror movies. Rob Floyd of Fantasmo Cult Cinema Explosion hosts a talented cast that includes Ellie Quinn, Scarlet Starlet, Elsie Nouveau, Empress de Nast, and more. Sunday, Oct 25 at 8:00pm.



The first woman to lead the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Guatemala is Claudia Paz y Paz. A country that has been ravaged for years by a devastating civil war, in which nearly 200,000 Mayan Indians were systematically massacred with the direct backing of the United States. Claudia initiated a frontal attack against corruption, drug gangs and impunity – and arrests the former dictator Efraín Rios Montt on charges of genocide. His subsequent conviction has led to the impeachment and indictment of the sitting president, Otto Perez Molina on charges of corruption. (77 mins) Shows Wed, Oct 28 with speakers and discussion.



In the vein of All the President’s Men, James Vanderbilt’s new movie tells the true story of “Rathergate” in the days leading up to the 2004 presidential election. Veteran newscaster Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and CBS News head Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) chose to air a segment on 60 Minutes accusing President Bush of avoiding the draft to Vietnam by joining the National Guard and then later going AWOL. When the story blew up in their face due to contentious evidence, the ensuing scandal ruined Dan Rather’s career, nearly changed a U.S. Presidential election, and almost took down all of CBS News in the process. Based on the book ‘Truth and Duty’ by Mary Mapes. (125 mins) Opens Friday, Oct 30.



Let’s do the time warp again! With movie and live cast on the Naro Stage. Multiple showings on dates around Halloween.


THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Capitalism vs The Climate

What if confronting the climate crisis is the best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world? Filmed over four years in nine countries and five continents, This Changes Everything is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change. Directed by Avi Lewis, and inspired by Naomi Klein’s international non-fiction bestseller This Changes Everything, the film presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond. ( mins) Presented with Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club and Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Shows Wed, Nov 4.


Tench Phillips is co-owner of the Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk. He resides in Virginia Beach.