THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane, 2013)
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding” – Upton Sinclair.
Alternative titles to this brave and important book could have been ‘Everything Must Change’, ‘Everything is Fucked’ or even more despairingly, The End Is Nigh.
Whatever way you look at the situation that Naomi Klein presents, it is clear that humanity is well and truly up shit creek climate-wise.
It would nice to report that this book also provides us with some metaphorical paddles but, sadly, this is not the case.
Klein presents the scale of the problem but in terms of solutions ultimately offers only a faith in the essential resilience of the human spirit.
In Italian the title has been translated as ‘Una rivoluzione ci salvarà’ (A revolution will save us) which offers an olive branch of hope which frankly I fail to see. It’s not that Klein sets out to be a prophetess of doom but. the signs of change that she identifies always seem to be too little too late. And, make no mistake, time is not on our side on this issue. Indeed, the tipping point may already have been reached.
What she argues is, for instance, that we need “heavy-duty interventions, sweeping bans on polluting activities”. We’re not talking here about some minor adjustments to market mechanisms, what all this illustrates is that the capitalist model itself is unsustainable.
Klein writes: “we will need to confront a logic even more entrenched than free trade – the logic of indiscriminate economic growth”. On this basis she calls for “visionary long-term planning” to counteract “humanity’s tendency towards selfishness and shortsightedness”.
All this would involve a fundamental shift away from private companies, and large corporations towards smaller scale community-orientated economic structures based on regeneration not domination; a “politics based on reconnection”. This is a pipe dream; a beautiful one, but a pipe dream just the same.
The best chapter in this book is called ‘No Messiahs – The Green Billionaires Won’t Save Us’. Here Klein applies all her thorough and meticulous research skills to produce a damning exposé of Richard Branson. She ridicules the Virgin Boss’ “power point epiphany” when a presentation by Al Gore convinced him that something could, and should, be done by wealthy entrepreneurs like him.
In 2006, Branson pledged to plough $3 billion of profits into tackling global warming; in other words he put big money where his big mouth is. As Klein shows, this pledge quickly turned into a ‘gesture’ and an empty one at that.
It may not have begun as another of his shameless publicity stunts but that is essentially how it turned out. Branson’s feeble attempts to weasel out of the promise are ruthlessly exposed by Klein : “it began as a targeted quest for a miracle green fuel, then expanded to become a search for clean technologies, then, apparently, eco-anything”.
After the wealth of irrefutable evidence and revealing case studies presented in this book, Klein’s conclusion is as simple as it is daunting. Geo-engineering won’t save us, capitalism won’t save us, green parties won’t save us; when push come to shove “The solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves”.
The first step you should take, if you haven’t already done so, is to read this book. It truly is essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of the planet.
After that, it’s down to us to radically change everything about the way we produce, consume, travel and live.
And therein lies the rub!