Climate change doesn’t just change everything. It frames and connects everything.
This really matters, since so many issues require our attention today: Racial discrimination, sexism, Ebola, war, terrorism, health care, poverty, public safety, privacy, immigration, food, education and housing, for starters, not to mention our own individual and family problems.
Those all demand consideration and solutions. We also need our diversions, from football to fashion to Facebook, just to stay sane. But it’s imperative that we recognize climate change is happening, and that we understand how climate change affects and frames all aspects of our life. Then, we must become part of the solution.
In her new book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” Canadian activist author Naomi Klein brilliantly brings the interconnections into focus as she calls out the economic and political forces behind climate change.
Klein shows how those entrenched and dominant forces, especially the most powerful fossil fuel corporations, have waged war on the climate for decades by exploiting people and natural resources around the globe to satisfy the greed of largely anonymous executives and shareholders.
With remarkable restraint, she resists sinking into blind anger, demonization or despair as she provides sobering details about how we came to this point and where we’re headed. Instead, the weapons Klein wields in this fight are eloquence, common sense and painstaking research.
The reader still reaches a low point about two-thirds of the way through the book, because it all seems so bleak. But then Klein pulls off another amazing writerly feat. While making clear the enormity, difficulty and urgency of the task, she illustrates how people around the world could actually work together to change the prevailing economic and political system.
Yes, we can. It will take a mass social movement built around worldwide economic equality. But if we build this local and global movement around love and respect for all the world’s citizens and all nature — as naive as that may sound to some — we can make these changes happen. I believe this, thanks to Klein’s persuasiveness.
“This Changes Everything” has dozens of compelling, sometimes gut-wrenching insights. These stood out:
▪ Klein’s introduction sets the stage, describing climate change as “a powerful message — spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions — telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet.” And time is not on our side.
▪ One way to slow down climate change is to drastically reduce extraction of fossil fuels. This means humans must leave much of the remaining coal, oil and gas in the ground. But fossil fuel companies, other corporate interests and governments have made it clear they will not allow that. They intend to maintain profits, which requires increasingly dicey extraction methods such as fracking, deepwater drilling and tar-sands mining.
▪ Because corporations have gained so much power, national governments can’t be counted on to save us. Although often showing their green side, even President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have “a hell of a hard time saying no to the fossil fuel industry,” Klein writes.
▪ Knowing how much they’re changing the climate, many corporate interests now insist the resulting problems can eventually be resolved or mitigated with geo-engineering and other high-tech solutions. Klein deftly deflates these one by one, exposing them as risky, unequitable shots in the dark. “If we stay on the road we are on,” she states, “we will get the big corporate, big military, big engineering responses to climate change — the world of a tiny group of big corporate winners and armies of locked-out losers that we have imagined in virtually every fictional account of our dystopic future, from ‘Mad Max’ to ‘The Children of Men’ to ‘The Hunger Games’ to ‘Elysium.’ ”
▪ Instead we must change course and “steer away not just from the emissions cliff but from the logic that brought us careening to that precipice… . The solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves.”
▪ But how? Klein shares examples of populist efforts you’ve probably never heard of, from Australia to South America to the frozen north. Indigenous people in Canada have shown they may be able to stop massive fossil fuel extraction projects by persuading the Canadian judicial system to enforce long-standing treaty rights. But Klein also cautions that we can’t expect Native people around the world, who usually have the most to lose, to continue making the greatest personal sacrifices on behalf of the rest of us.
▪ Other promising transformative solutions in progress include: the fossil fuel stock divestment movement on American college campuses; communities in Germany taking back formerly privatized electric utilities; and “agroecology,” where small-scale farmers use sustainable methods such as solar-powered drip irrigation and the interplanting of crops with shrubs and trees.
▪ Climate change messes with nature in ways we have barely begun to recognize, notably with fertility and reproduction cycles of wildlife. Although Klein rarely injects her personal life into this book, she briefly describes her own challenging pregnancy saga (using just the right tone, I thought) to bring home to the reader why it’s so vital to safeguard the future.
There’s so much more in “This Changes Everything.” Read it, and choose your own ways to take action on climate change and transform the world, individually and collectively.
Book Review - This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein