Last Updated on October 4, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 411
In her fourth book, This Changes Everything, Canadian sociopolitical powerhouse Naomi Klein takes on contemporary paradigms related to climate catastrophe and our contributions to it.
The crux of Klein's argument is that under prevailing global (but especially Western) ideologies, nothing significant (or sufficiently substantial) is being done to address the climate crisis. Indeed, nothing can be done unless we drastically alter our economic systems. The systems in question are named variously as unfettered capitalism, corporatism, neoliberal market fundamentalism, and free-market neoconservatism. These terms are broadly synonymous and refer to the current fundamental economic belief underpinning global economic behavior, which is twofold: markets rule, and markets will save us.
As such, this is not so much a book about environmental disaster—though that is the current topic—as it is about capitalism.
Klein investigates a plethora of ongoing actions being carried out by corporations around the world in the name of profit. She visits and explores the issues surrounding the Alberta Tar Sands, located in her home country. Despite being told repeatedly that the markets will save us from cataclysm and that society would not function without free markets, Klein posits that, in fact, it is those very markets that are plunging the world into climate chaos. In this way, she explores and exposes the lies and disinformation that are constantly disseminated by large corporations in order to subdue and win over the general public.
Klein celebrates grassroots actions, like those of the thousands of individuals who protested the Keystone oil pipeline system in Canada and the United States.
After analyzing the global and national trends which pertain to the themes of capitalism and ecology, Klein provides an overview of actions being taken in order to preserve and conserve our climate. This latter part of the book highlights, again, the inefficacy of such gestures. Klein's discussion of geo-engineering, for example, is critical; her stance is that we are allowing the safety of our planet to fall into the hands of budding entrepreneurs. Engineers and political figures are putting our collective fates in the hands of capitalists, whose motivations exist in the form of banknotes. Instead, she argues, we should work toward a shift in consciousness from exploitative to harmonious.
At its core, This Changes Everything is a critique of capitalism through the lens of ecological disaster. While it explores the reasons to panic in depth, it also outlines some of the things we, as a species, can do to save the planet.