This Changes Everything
We’ve been hearing about the perils of climate change for decades now. The first alarms began to ring about greenhouse gases back in the 1980s; more recently, protests and marches for climate action have been growing in frequency and number. Official climate reports reveal stark data and dire warnings. But still, the politics and policies don’t really seem to change much. Fossil fuel extraction continues unabated. Carbon is still being added to our atmosphere at staggering rates. Is it just that the climate deniers have too much political power?
No, says author Naomi Klein. The fundamental problem is our economic system itself—capitalism.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Klein’s new book published in September, is described in a New York Times review as bringing together “the science, psychology, geopolitics, economics, ethics and activism that shape the climate question. The result is the most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring.”
Klein’s earlier works No Logo (2000) and The Shock Doctrine (2007) led to her being called “the most visible and influential figure on the American left.” (Klein is, however, actually Canadian, born of American parents who fled to Canada as war resisters during the Vietnam War).
In This Changes Everything, Klein shines a harsh light on the effects of global capitalism and consumerism on our planetary support systems, but in a manner that also illuminates a path forward. In this, perhaps humanity’s greatest crisis, she sees an opportunity for society to address the “unfinished business of liberation.”
“If treated as a true planetary emergency,” she writes, climate change could become “a galvanizing force for humanity, leaving us all not just safer from extreme weather, but with societies that are safer and fairer in all kinds of other ways as well.”
“When its full economic and moral implications are understood, [climate change] is the most powerful weapon progressives have ever had in the fight for equality and social justice,” Klein states. This is our big chance, she argues, to change everything.
“Climate change,” she adds, is “not an ‘issue’ for you to add to the list of things to worry about it. It is a civilizational wake up call.”
"Climate change isn’t just a disaster. It’s also our best chance to demand— and build—a better world. Change or be changed."
Klein also criticizes mainstream environmental groups for redirecting attention away from the big, systemic changes that are needed and instead focusing on minor—even frivolous—lifestyle changes that have not made a significant impact on carbon emissions.
“[W]e have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things conflict with deregulated capitalism…our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on Earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.”