On Fire – Review

Author: Ed Beale | Date: 20 April, 2020 | Category: Book Reviews | Comments: 0

On Fire – The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, by Naomi Klein, September 2019. Allen Lane, Penguin Random House UK, ISBN: 978-0-241-41072-1, 309 pages. RRP: £20

In this follow-up to This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein confirms, with startling evidence, that we are in the midst of a global climate emergency with potentially catastrophic consequences. She not only highlights the current impacts of climate change but makes connections with other issues. Climate change acts as an accelerant to many social ills, including inequality, militarism and wars, racism, sexual exploitation and the growing number of climate refugees.

This crisis of environmental and social injustice has its roots in rampant free market capitalism which seeks perpetual economic growth and profit through globalisation, deregulation, consumerism and the plunder and waste of Earth’s diminishing resources. Klein describes this as economic imperialism, a colonial and dependent economy, where the powerful dominate by unfair trade deals and the creation of “sacrifice zones” where human beings and their environment suffer. The Earth is being consumed – it is on Fire!    

The crisis of climate change demands a radical change to the economic system and structures of society. Capitalism, the market, will not solve the crisis; it will only make it worse. The sad fact is that under the present economic system we have been “dominated by hierarchical and individualistic views and not egalitarian and communitarian views of the world”.  Klein argues that the only way out of the hole we have dug for ourselves is to establish a global Green New Deal, a holistic vision for social and economic transformation where the environmental needs of the planet and people are put before personal possessions and private profit. Corporations must be replaced by democratic and decentralised leadership to enable and empower communities to take back control of their lives and livelihoods, including renewable energy, local green jobs, plant-based proteins, sustainable transport and biodiversity restoration.  This Deal does not lead to austerity but to less quantity and more quality of life. As Klein says, “The health of the planet is the single greatest determining factor in the quality of all our lives”.

In one chapter, she challenges Christians to be in the forefront of this movement for creative change. She sees signs of hope in the 2015 Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis: “Our Care for Our Common Home. The Pope not only states that the climate crisis demands fundamental changes to our economic system and structures but also rejects the false theology of creation which encouraged human beings to dominate over nature and exploit it for their own selfish ends. Pope Francis implores Christians to care for Creation, which is a sacred gift and has value in itself. This involves more than stewardship. It means we must really care and protect and preserve God’s gift of Creation. Mirroring St Francis, he says: “Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother to open our arms to embrace us”. We must “recapture the Celtic tradition of seeing the Divine in Nature”.

Christians need to be committed to the Green New Deal. Its values and principles should be part of our faith and actions, for tackling Climate Change is “a moral and spiritual question as much as an economic and political one”.

David Penney


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