By Sean Grisdale, October 16 2014 —
With This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein advances a critical arc established in her works No Logo and The Shock Doctrine. While those books investigate the consequences of a corporate globalization — undergirded by the young ideology of free-market fundamentalism — her latest work extends these arguments towards addressing what could be the most pressing concern of our generation: climate change.
This is a natural progression for Klein, as present concerns with climate change run up against a post-2008 “age of austerity” that sees environmental action dismissed for the sake of the economy. Klein seeks to challenge the central logic of this repeated dismissal, arguing any choice between a bustling economy and a healthy environment is fundamentally flawed. Alternately, she suggests there’s an argument to be made that our current economic system — that is, existing globalized capitalism — lies at the root of the climate crisis.
Beyond some initial stage setting, the book weaves a narrative flowing from the emergence of globalized free trade alongside an incompatible global commitment to sustainable development, to a critique of hollow, fossil-fuel-friendly solutions to climate change, to accounts of current initiatives that demonstrate legitimate alternatives to a fossil-fuel-based, free-market economy.
Unsurprisingly, Alberta’s tar sands provide a case study for Klein’s central thesis, a fulcrum for tense pipeline politics pitting the expansive economic demands of extractivist governments and corporations against the local concerns of communities across North America and a resurgent indigenous solidarity movement in Idle No More.
Her framing of the issues will bring anyone up to speed on climate politics. Even well-read environmentalists will find something new in these pages, from the extractivist moral tale of an obscure island nation’s devastating decline, to the surreal story of a major environmental organization’s ventures in oil extraction, to the self-proclaimed techno-wizardry of the geoclique, a group of “geoengineers” calling for massive technological interventions in the global climate to turn down our collective thermostat (among them former University of Calgary physics professor, David Keith).
While Klein’s thesis is hardly original, This Changes Everything offers a concise, contemporary and engaging overview of the progression of climate change politics up to the summer of 2014.
Having just won the 2014 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize, it’s likely this book will stand the test of time, included among those essential documents framing our current climate paradigm.