This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate – Review
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, by Naomi Klein, September 2014. Allen Lane, 566 pages, ISBN 978-147679-114-2. RRP £20 (hardcover)
Journalist Naomi Klein researches climate change. This is not a comfortable book, it one where the science and the consequences of the deniers are laid bare. It also exposes the double standards of those who accept the dangers of climate change yet expand airlines, drill in reservations and frack gases. “The nature of the moment is… whether industrialised countries can deeply cut our emissions over the next decade expecting China and India to cut emissions over the following decade…. The environmental crisis supercharges each one with urgency.” Already climate change is happening, 1 degree centigrade is already warming our planet and 2 degrees is inevitable. 4 degrees must be avoided. 400ppm of CO2 is now and rising. The contemporary movement could not only heal the planet, but also our broken economies. There is a climate justice fight for a new relationship with the planet as well as mitigating and adapting to the tipping points already passed.
There are new fighters on the block which she calls Blockadia; new climate warriors opposing mining and drilling for hydrocarbons. Some are First Nation peoples preserving their reservations and way of life, others are activists against climate change, transition towns are beacons of opportunity for community. She discusses the prospective uncertain geoengineering solutions and finds them scary.
In the final section of the book she tries to be hopeful that nations will adopt the changes, “for the status-quo is no longer an option”1. There must be an international agreement based on the deliberations which failed at Copenhagen and are now being discussed at New York and Paris. Can we humans consume less, using less energy to drive, fly, heat our homes and develop local economies using renewable and sustainable energies? GDP is polluting so we need to find other acceptable green measures of progress. There are answers, but can a selfish/unselfish humanity adopt them? We need to liberate science from economics and stand by the conclusions, however uncomfortable. Globally, human beings need a complete social change.
There are signs of hope, one of which is this book, one of the best books on climate change, its opportunities and threats, that I have ever read. A powerful economic opposition is active in developing and using the buried hydrocarbons for profit. These, if we are to live equitably with the Earth, must be kept in the ground. There are alternatives.
There are no religious discussions here, unlike the Skidelsky’s book2 on Enough. This is a book about science and politics and the urgent need to change. Others have written of the need to change, few have done it so comprehensively and cogently.
This book offers a new view of the planet, not the romantic view of the blue orb in space, but the reverse, a view grounded in the Earth itself. Nature is not bottomless. Humanity must change, and must learn how the economics of the Earth must live within its ecological limitations. Our future could be either dire or glorious, it is hard to be more precise. Naomi Klein offers us the two visions – change or collapse. She tries to have hope. The future that my grandchildren and her son inherit may yet be good. Let us as Christians hope so.
By John Smith
1 Stern, Nicholas. Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, 2006.
2 Skidelsky, Robert and Skidelsky, Edward. How Much is Enough. Allen Lane, 2012.