This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
After writing two genre-defining books: No Logo, on the destructive power of advertising, and her damning critique of ‘disaster capitalism’, The Shock Doctrine, Canadian author and journalist Naomi Klein has returned with This Changes Everything, set to be another genre-defining book, this time on the subject of climate change. This Changes Everything is so important because it takes the current climate change arguments of the scientific and green communities and re-frames them; Klein argues that it is not about carbon, it is about capitalism.
Like many of us, Klein read the growing reports of climate change and global warming with a sense of fear and helplessness. What could she do? What could any of us, as ordinary citizens, really do to affect climate change? Weren’t things already too far gone, our habits too entrenched, big oil too powerful to counter?
In the introduction to her book, Klein describes the moment that her approach to global warning changed, when like many of us she stopped averting her eyes long enough to see the real danger of climate change – in her belief the greatest threat to humanity in human history – and realised that it could become a truly galvanising force for change, not just for our planet, but for our economies too, ensuring everyone is entitled to a safer, fairer future. In 2009 she met Angelica Navarro Llanos, Bolivia’s ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), who argued that we needed a ‘Marshall Plan for the Earth’, a massive citizen-led mobilisation to change the course of climate change, bigger than any collective response we have seen in human history. Yes, it would be costly (however cost did not seem to be an issue for governments waging various wars over the last decade or when bailing out the banking sector following years of professional impropriety) and yes, it would require all of us to significantly alter our lifestyles, buying habits and professional practices, but what use are possessions, houses or businesses when everything is 20 feet under water?
‘It is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when an elite minority was enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s.’ - Naomi Klein
Once we stop seeing climate change as merely an environmental problem, it changes everything. It is not just a way for us to alter our dependency on fossil fuels, it us a way for us to revolutionise our society, allowing us to invest in local economies, public infrastructure and green jobs, to build social justice and stop the endless, destructive march of free-market capitalism. In the last few years in the United Kingdom, the Green Party have been making this argument loudly and with increasing public support. The fight against climate change is a social revolution as much as an environmental one, and a greener government, committed to a better climate - both in terms of air quality and our quality of life – is essential for our survival as a species.
Reading This Changes Everything is not easy. There is a lot to suggest that big business and governments have simply not woken up to the reality of climate change, or they are not willing to confront it and make the necessary changes needed for the survival of the planet. However, it is ultimately a hopeful book. In citizen-led movements across the world, Klein sees things changing and improving little by little through the actions and beliefs of individuals, collectives and organisations. Reading it gave me hope too; hope that I could make a difference at an individual level, that I could contribute to collective change; that I could make my society a more responsible, prosperous and fairer society for all in the future. We can make the change we need.
‘The stakes are simply too high, and time too short, to settle for anything less.’ - Naomi Klein