BOOK REVIEW of Naomi Klein's 'This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate' '...You know your government has failed when your grandma starts to riot... Naomi Klein's new book

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's book The Shock Doctrine was read by both the founding people of CORE and by the Substance staff in 2009. Now in 2014, Klein's newest book challenges those organizing against the neoliberal monster to move on climate change.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.

Kleins 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 Earths 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 Earths average temperature from that of the year 1750the beginning of the industrial revolutionhas 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 were on the track for a 4 degree warmer worldby the end of this centuryand then quotes Kevin Anderson of the UKs Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research: a 4 degrees Celsius warming7.2 degrees Fahrenheitis incompatible with any reasonable characterization of an organized, equitable and civilized global community.

With this knowledge, why havent 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 catastropheand would benefit the vast majorityare 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 whats 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 heres 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 dont 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 humanitys 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 its 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 Hos recent movie, Snowpiercer, which shows if we dont 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. Shes not willing to let people off the hook, and criticizes magical thinking.

The third part of her bookthe part that focuses on those fighting back as well as those fighting for changeis 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 Romania, 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. Thats 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.

Its 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, theres 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 its 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, Im sure, but still, she doesnt address it. I assume its 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. Kleins not willing to put up with the bullshitare 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 .


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