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

By Karri Munn-Venn

From the Catalyst, Summer 2015

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
By Naomi Klein
Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2014

Reviewed by Karri Munn-Venn

Author and activist Naomi Klein has done it again. This Changes Everything, is at once thick with academic research and deeply grounded in human narrative. It is a profoundly personal account of coming to understand that climate change is the issue of our time.

Klein clearly and compellingly makes the case that a failure to address rising global temperature and our collective reliance on fossil fuels puts all other progress at risk.

Her tremendously informative work has transformed how I see the challenges and opportunities related to climate change. She beings with an exploration of the far-reaching efforts of climate change deniers to conceal the reality of the climate crisis in pseudo-scientific rhetoric. Klein then goes on to expose the complicity of some mainstream environmental groups and eco-celebrities in exacerbating the problem and later outlines the extensive work and incredible resources poured into research on geo-engineering the atmosphere. Finally, she delves into the vast social movements that have emerged around the world in recent years – Greek grandmothers, Canadian and American First Peoples, Ecuadorian and Nigerian environmentalists, and farmers around the world – and the unlikely alliances that have been formed in the face of developments that feed climate change.

Scattered throughout her book, Klein offers example after example of modern cities and remote communities shifting towards renewable energy and vastly reducing their reliance on oil, gas, and coal. Together these examples demonstrate that another way is not only possible, but profitable.

While I wholeheartedly agree with Klein that climate change is an issue that requires ever-greater public awareness and engagement, I disagree with her singular emphasis on grassroots movement-building. Action to address climate change is required on such a scale that individual and community understanding and action must translate into political advocacy and, ultimately, policy change. We need our political leaders – at all levels – to take a fresh look at the science, the social impacts, and the economics of climate change, environmental degradation, and renewable energy. Coming together on these issues would indeed change everything.

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