This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate is the powerful new book from Naomi Klein. It follows 2001’s No Logo, which examined the anti-worker practices of big multinational corporations like Nike and 2007’s Shock Doctrine, which detailed how corporations profit from disasters. Both books made a huge impact on their subject matter, and it looks like this new one is set to follow in their footsteps.  


Klein divides the book into three sections. The first focuses on how, after the economic crisis of 2007, governments and industry were successfully able to legitimate their anaemic climate policies through austerity. She details how large right wing organizations such as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute have successfully lead the charge in convincing many Americans—and to a lesser extend other Western countries—of the uncertainty of the science behind climate change. She gives one striking statistic that in 2007 71 per cent of Americans believed that burning fossil fuels damaged the environment. In 2011 that statistic was just 44 per cent.


In the second section Klein moves on to debunking the “Magical Thinking” of the technical fixes for climate change. She explains how the merger of Big Business and “Big Green” only serves to greenwash the destructive actions of businesses. The interests of capitalist industry, she claims, are necessarily anathema to those of the environment, and the systematic overhaul that we need cannot come from within.


In the last section, “Starting Anyways,” Klein advances certain strategies that can work for battling climate change and its deniers. On an international scale, she advocates for countries paying their “Climate Debt.” This means that developed nations, who have been polluting longer, take more responsibility. She is also a big proponent of divestment, in which large organizations—universities, faith groups, municipal governments—sell the financial holdings they have in fossil fuel companies.


Klein argues that it is divestment that has resonated as the most powerful strategy yet. To date, over 40 faith groups and 25 universities in the United States are in the process of divesting their fossil fuel interests. One of the largest victories came when Stanford University announced it was selling its coal stocks. The University of Toronto currently has around $20 million invested in fossil fuel industries. There is currently a petition submitted by 350.org for U of T to divest. Futher information on this campaign can be found at toronto350.org/divest.

 

Throughout the book, Klein argues the need for collective sacrifice—that either way we can’t expect our current lifestyles to last. While this is usually the part that scares people off, we really shouldn’t see it as that much of a challenge. We make sacrifices all the time for what we are told is the public good. We are told over, and over again that our countries can’t survive if we don’t tighten our belts and do our bit. We sacrifice our pensions and our healthcare. We accept that public education means ludicrously large class sizes and not enough textbooks. We accept that public universities leave students in debt for years. We accept the rising costs of public transit at the same time as service cuts. This is the language of austerity and collective sacrifice is exactly what we’re doing. We ask the 99% to sacrifice so the 1% can make exorbitant profits, and that’s exactly what happens. If we can sacrifice so much for the sake of so few people, it really shouldn’t be that hard to come together and sacrifice for everyone’s well being.





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