Follow the Soapbox
 
Picture
“You know your government has failed when your grandma starts to riot”: A Review of Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014). ISBN: 978-1-4516-9738-4

--Reviewed by Kim Scipes

Naomi Klein has once again mobilized her impressive journalistic and writing skills, this time to address the issue of climate change in her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. The timing of her new book is precipitous, coming out in the same month as the Global Climate March in New York City, and 2700 demonstrations worldwide the same day. It should be seen as another important arrow to be added to the quiver of the global movement for life.

Klein’s clarity is striking, as is her ability to cut through the nonsense and obfuscation of not only the mass media, but of those of corporate and governmental “leaders” who are in the process of killing the atmosphere (or those denying it is being murdered), and thus, each of us. She reports that a nonbinding agreement signed in Copenhagen by the major polluting countries to keep the rise in the Earth’s temperature below 2 degrees Celsius is a joke: “[greenhouse gas] emissions are rising so rapidly that unless something radical happens within our economic structure, 2 degrees now looks like a utopian dream.” [Note: a 2 degree Celsius temperature increase in the Earth’s average temperature from that of the year 1750—the beginning of the industrial revolution—has been long seen as the most the planet can tolerate before we start having major negative ramifications in natural systems that sustain human and animal life as well as that of many plants; 2 degrees today is generally seen by climatologists and other earth scientists as an increasingly inadequate standard, being too high.]

Klein reports that even the World Bank recognizes we’re on the track for a 4 degree warmer world—by the end of this century—and then quotes Kevin Anderson of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research: “a 4 degrees Celsius warming—7.2 degrees Fahrenheit—is ‘incompatible with any reasonable characterization of an organized, equitable and civilized global community’.”

With this knowledge, why haven’t the peoples of the world mobilized to curtain greenhouse gas emissions? “I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because these things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism...”; “the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold
over our economy, our political process, and most of our media outlets.”

Klein proceeds to detail what’s going on, writing a (brilliant) chapter on the climate change deniers, especially the Chicago-based Heartland Institute. But she does let the liberal-left off the hook, either: “So here’s my inconvenient truth: I think these hard-core ideologues understand the real significance of climate change better than most of the ‘warmists’ in the political center, the ones who are still insisting that the response can be gradual and painless and that we don’t need to go to war with anybody, including the fossil fuel companies.” Further, “[t]he deniers get plenty of the details wrong ...
but when it comes to the scope and depth of change required to avert catastrophe, they are right on the money.”

Ultimately, Klein recognizes that we need to challenge the very cultural worldview of those killing the planet: “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.”
---
Klein spends the rest of the book strongly supporting her case. She debunks myths, such as that some “enlightened” capitalist, such as Richard Branson, will save us, or that a technological “fix” will do the trick. (Unfortunately, she missed Bon Joon Ho’s recent movie, “Snowpiercer,” which shows if we don’t get changes right, the result will be chaos.) She eviscerates the idea that fracking is safe, pointing out its extensive release of methane, which is even more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon
dioxide. Her arguments are bold, cogent and to the point. She’s not willing to let people off the hook, and criticizes “magical thinking.”

The third part of her book—the part that focuses on those fighting back as well as those fighting for change—is inspirational. This is the section that gives hope; the realization that those joining the struggle today do not have to start from scratch, but with the knowledge there is a global movement for social and environmental justice. Klein reports from places such as Rumania, Greece, Latin America as well as Native American reservations, and the increasing development of cross-sectoral alliances such as “Cowboys and Indians” on the North American plains.

In this section, she draws attention to something I believe is extremely important: it used to be the extraction industries (mining, oil and gas, etc.) could get their way by limiting the impact to those who were dependent on that industry, especially for jobs. That’s no longer true today, as their search for minerals expands widely, they are now affecting many who are not dependent on their “largesse.” This also means the resistance can expand, as people not dependent on industry can fight back, as well as
support those who are still trapped.

It’s difficult to critique such a powerful book that one thinks should be widely read, but there are two things to which attention should be drawn. First, although she alludes in various places, and even mentions its’ name several times, there’s no real explanation of what she means by “capitalism.”

Most activists will get the hint; for those who come across her book without that prior understanding, however—and especially with her subtitle—this is never explained.

Second, she overwhelmingly focuses her attention on economic processes at the heart of her concern, and I think that is necessary, but I argue it’s not sufficient. Surprisingly, at least to me, there is no discussion of power and the wars in the Middle East that revolve around control of oil. Klein is aware of this, I’m sure, but still, she doesn’t address it. I assume it’s because her work is already over 500 pages (with notes), but future analyses must incorporate this understanding along with that of economics.

This is an important book that deserves to be widely read. Klein’s not willing to put up with the bullshit—are we?
---
Kim Scipes, Ph.D., is a long-time activist who has been teaching a course on “Sociology of the Environment” at Purdue University North Central in Westville, Indiana since 2006. Dr. Scipes can be reached through his web site at http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes .

 


Comments

Justin Gerringer
09/28/2014 3:33pm

Great article and I don't doubt global warming or climate change. Yet I question if something further is manipulating it, whether or not the desired effects are happening. In states that snow such as MI it has increased. Scientist have for decades easily manipulated weather in labs. Should we not wonder if it is larger scale now? It is only a hypothesis but would be far from a first government cover up which all begin as hypothesis. Although global warming is true, could they not be trying to combat it with poor results?

Reply
06/17/2015 12:49am

I always looks like these type of blog. this is much informative and useful for everyone.

Reply
06/17/2015 2:08am

I appreciate your blog its a interesting and it attract other peoples to read this blog.

Reply

Nice Blog, Thanks for share. I like your lovely post. Keep it up...

Reply
06/22/2015 10:25pm

Really your work is very nice and i like this article.

Reply
06/24/2015 6:08am

It is really difficult to find such a fantastic content with some useful information.

Reply

It will be valuable to everyone who uses it, including myself. Thanks a lot!

Reply

Thanks for the great share and keep up this great work! All the best to you.

Reply

Thanks for the great share and keep up this great work! All the best to you.

Reply
06/30/2015 3:13am

Thank you a lot for taking the time for you personally to share such a nice info.

Reply

I like that a awesome blog and say thanks for that amazing blog.
Read more at http://fabwealth.net/2/post/2015/02/social-marketing-i-fabwealthnet.html#u9drqwgMyLIjtZ2E.99

Reply

I like that a awesome blog and say thanks for that amazing post.

Reply
07/30/2015 10:46pm

Really your work is very nice and i like this article.Thanks for share.

Reply
06/08/2016 1:13pm

Thanks for the great share and keep up this great work! All the best to you

Reply
06/08/2016 1:14pm

It is really difficult to find such a fantastic content with some useful information

Reply

Reading your post is just like reading an official journal. It's clearly structured and have covered all issues. Great job man, I am really enjoyed to be here.

Reply
09/16/2016 10:34pm

We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work.

Reply
09/17/2016 12:44am

think this is one of the most important information for me. And i’m happy reading your article.

Reply
09/17/2016 1:55am

This blog nice and helps to overcome form all troubles…

Reply
09/17/2016 3:18am

I’m glad that you shared this helpful information with us.

Reply
09/19/2016 12:16am

I Surfing many website but I had never this type of website… it very awesome.

Reply

I am very happy to read this article..thanks for giving us nice info

Reply
09/19/2016 4:49am

Good post. It is really help to us. Its give us lots of interest and pleasure. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy. Its really a good article. It gives me lots of pleasure and interest!

Reply
09/20/2016 6:11am

Great blog with fantastic advice

Reply



Leave a Reply