Library Blog

"This Changes Everything" - Book review by Brookie McIlvaine

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The title of Naomi’s Kline’s most recent book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate encapsulates her argument: it is too late to be apathetic or inactive; either we as a global community embrace radical change, or radical change will happen to us. This book is not just about conservation and climate change. It examines the roots and consequences of almost all social issues through the lens of our economy and political system. By discussing said issues in conversation with each other, Klein enables a complete understanding of where and how change needs to happen. Everyone should read This Changes Everything especially those who are voting in the upcoming election, as we are the ones Klein is addressing, and the changes will affect us, no matter what.

 

Klein argues for collaboration and empathy on many different levels. She points to our political system’s adherence to prescribed party beliefs as evidence of how individualistic and hierarchical our society is. As opposed to treating over 90% of the world’s climatologist’s findings as scientific evidence, deniers claim the climate crisis is merely a pretense for a socialist revolution. As described by Robert Manne, a professor of politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne, “climate science is for many conservatives an affront to their deepest and most cherished basic faith: the capacity and indeed the right of ‘mankind’ the Earth and all its fruits and to establish a ‘mastery’ over Nature” (41). Ironically, many typically “conservative” ideals are threatened by the consequences of climate change. Joe Romm, popular climate blogger, notes that, “if you hate governmental intrusion into people’s lives, you’d better stop catastrophic global warming because nothing drives a country more towards active government than scarcity and deprivation… Only Big Government- which conservatives say they don’t want- can relocate millions of citizens, build massive levees, ration crucial resources like water and arable land, mandate harsh and rapid reductions in certain kinds of energy- all of which will be inevitable if we don’t act now” (54).  Dwindling resources have already created problems for global and local communities. In poorer areas, there isn’t money, attention, or technology to prevent water and air pollution, costing billions of dollars in healthcare. In places like the Middle East, conflict arises from lack of resources, and this is only the beginning of a decline in oil and water. In conclusion, both liberals and conservatives should examine climatologists findings critically, as every person, despite affiliation, is threatened by the potential of climate change.

 

From an economic standpoint, Klein describes how our economy thrives on a mindset of consumption and excess. Even in the past forty years, the amount of “stuff” in the average American household has increased exponentially. Fashion dictates a new wardrobe every season, resulting in cheaper materials, worse working conditions, and simply more, just to keep up. This is only one example of how this mindset cannot be sustained. The projected rise in sea levels alone (from three to eight feet) would cost over billions of dollars annually. Developed countries use considerably higher percentages of the world’s resources than developing countries, and the American corporate world has started acknowledging how diminished resources and extreme weather patterns will affect their businesses. However, these concerns are not addressed with any type of climate action: “just because companies are willing to acknowledge the probable affect of climate change does not mean they support the kinds of aggressive measures that would significantly reduce those risks by keeping warming below two degrees” (50). However, while Klein believes corporate concern useless without subsequent action, I am hopeful. Acknowledging both the reality of resource depletion, and the affect that it will have on every aspect of our economy is a step forward.

 

Finally, how humans respond to climate change reflects how we treat each other, and how we see ourselves and our place in the world. Instead of acknowledging the total price of natural services (soil nutrient, clean air…), humans narcissistically assume we can find a way out of rising sea levels, hostile crop environments, and extreme weather, with technology. Ironically, technology and advancement contribute greatly to climate change, so looking to them as solutions further demonstrates our denial. Klein argues that drastic changes to our political system, economy, and general mindset are in order. While I am not sure whether I agree about the extent of her militancy, I admire the sense of urgency she instills in all types of people, whether you are interested in socioeconomic equality, politics, healthcare, conservation, the list goes on. Anyone will enjoy and learn from this book; I find it one of the most relevant pieces for 21st century citizens. Her argument indicates that this really is humanity, as a whole’s, problem, and only together can we solve it.

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