The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core "free market" ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.
In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical chan ges will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.
In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn't just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It's an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not--and cannot--fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.
Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift--a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.
Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.
"In her introduction to This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein says that "climate change isn't an 'issue' to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake-up call....telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet." That Klein would be looking at climate change through the lens of economics won't surprise anyone familiar with her previous book, The Shock Doctrine, nor should her new book's taking 5 full years to complete. What surprised me was how much her experience as a new parent (her son being born during the latter half of those 5 years) informs her writing now, giving it a passionate, but measured urgency... Urgency she backs up with her trademark meticulous research introducing us to proponents and critics of geoengineering, mining the tar sands and other methods to enable the continuance of a worldwide business-as-usual mindset, all the while, connecting the dots between economic globalization and melting glaciers, social justice issues, environmental degradation and the historical human psychology of learned helplessness/isolation in the face of such interconnected problems. She does all this and still includes compelling reasons to be optimistic and proactive about reconnecting with each other and with this amazing planet that sustains us... and reminds us of the underutilized strengths we have as a species, primarily those that can ignite a creativity capable of shedding behaviors that perpetuate violence by adopting a stance of dominion over rather than cooperation with living systems.
Klein's term, "shock doctrine", has become part of the political lexicon of our time to describe the opportunism hailed by Milton Friedman's fundamentalist free market ideology, which utilizes moments of extreme instability/vulnerability to push through what Klein calls a "policy trinity - the elimination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations and skeletal social spending" at historical junctures that can be seen from Pinochet's coup in Chile in '73 to the Soviet Union's collapse in '91 to 9/11 and the "War on Terror" or post-Katrina's New Orleans. In this new book, Klein adds another dimension of depth to her critique on how the economic monoculture of 'free markets' has not lifted all boats or been the perfect expression of humankind's highest aspirations, regulating itself without a hitch, but in fact has triumphed much more in deepening the problems of corruption, widening disparities, escalating conflicts and impoverishing ecosystems. What she is calling for is no less than what many others are calling for: a reinvention of who we are on this planet... and a collective realization that we humans are capable of more than just competition, violence and selfishness.
Klein chose the following quote by Martin Luther King from his speech, "Beyond Vietnam", to start her conclusion:'We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented society' to a 'person-oriented society'. When machines and computers, profit-motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.'
Reminding us of mass movements in human history, Klein argues that the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, the social safety nets of the New Deal, the civil rights movement and the climate change march have all been expressions of the human capacity to care for one another and for the prospects of all life, contrary to the assumption that our species' default is just to continue on as mere capitalistic consumers and producers locked into a mindset that unwittingly runs counter to those interests. This Changes Everything is both a hugely ambitious and very humble read; ambitious because it attempts to illuminate- Big Picture -the human role in improving or worsening the intimate relationship between economies and ecologies, and humble because of the frequent admission that ethics, indigenous lifeways that are mindful of future generations and the natural world have a great deal to teach us if we will just include them in the conversation.
The title refers not only to the catastrophic potential of the earth's weather to put our species in peril, and to the human-caused exacerbation of that problem through continued fossil-fuel use and extraction despite its potential to destroy the next generations' chances for life on a livable planet. Klein also encourages us to ask ourselves what a deeply-considered change to our cultural mindset (a change that has ebbed and flowed for at least centuries as humans have worked to refine our abilities to harmonize with our planetary home) might mean for altering our trajectory so that we can as a species better face whatever comes next with a less stuck concept of what it means to be human and, therefore, a key component of the biosphere."