Sunday, September 14, 2014

'This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate' - by Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (Credit: Click to visit.
If global warming is a worldwide wake-up call, we're all pretty heavy sleepers.  It's telling that 20 years after the United Nations acknowledged the threat of human-driven climate change, we're still basically at a loss for how to get going on the solution.  In fact, we're spewing more greenhouse gases than ever. Why is that? Ask 10 people — 10 self-identified environmentalists, even — and you're likely to get 10 different answers.

The real reason, argues journalist Naomi Klein in her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate," is the one thing that the political right has right: Transitioning quickly to a low-carbon society is going to hurt. Contrary to the mission statements of win-win industry partnerships championed by some green groups, Klein writes, wrangling greenhouse gas emissions to within a scientifically recommended level will not be painless. The issue unearths no less than "a much broader battle of worldviews," she says — "a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect."

In other words, the root of the carbon problem is capitalism, says Klein. Or at least the kind of unfettered, absolutist "disaster capitalism" that was the target of her previous effort, "The Shock Doctrine.  In that sense, the aptly titled "This Changes Everything" might be seen as the third volume in Klein's controversial and thoroughly researched challenge to neoliberal ideology.

The essence of her argument is that taking on climate change is a fleeting opportunity to right structural wrongs in political and socioeconomic systems that have stood largely unchallenged for decades.  Given the problem's size, Klein says, the only way forward is radical change.  So the political right's willingness to sow doubt about long-settled science and denounce climate moderates as nefarious communists belies not a willful ignorance so much as a recognition of the issue's real scope.

The implications are especially dire for fossil fuel companies.  Klein recounts what activist and author Bill McKibben called "global warming's terrifying new math":  the market valuations of the planet's most lucrative companies are based on reserves of carbon that are much more than enough to force climate change over even the most conservative point of no return. Basically, we have to start leaving carbon in the ground — a game changer for the global economic status quo.  Klein, among other things, calls for limiting corporate influence in politics, rewriting global free trade laws and redistributing wealth.

We haven't made significant progress, Klein argues, because we've been expecting solutions from the very same institutions that created the problem in the first place.

Review:  'This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate' - by Naomi Klein

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