Expansive and visionary, This Changes Everything demystifies the climate debate and exposes capitalism as the greatest threat to a sustainable future.
Across three wide-ranging parts Klein urges that bold, structural changes to the global economy must be made if greenhouse gas emissions are to be lowered and cataclysmic climate change avoided. Fueled by the brazen quest for private profit at any public cost, the author insists, the fossil fuel industry has gotten out of control; extraction emissions are soaring, and unless governments across the world begin to tax polluters, subsidize green energy, and redistribute wealth, an unstable, unjust world seems certain.
In lucid prose Klein begins the book by overviewing how neoliberal policies have wrecked havoc on the public sphere and environment over the past four decades, intensifying already-rampant inequality and industrial pollution. Austerity’s eviscerated public services and convinced people their beliefs hold less value than corporate interests, while deregulation’s given industry a free pass to pollute as it pleases. Swiftly surveying countries across the globe, Klein establishes the sinister means by which late capitalism’s annihilated its opposition and put the world on a path to dystopia.
Embedded within the first part’s social history are critiques of incrementalist approaches to climate change. With painstaking attention to detail Klein maps out how, until recently, the environmentalist movement all too often has capitulated to the demands of capital, acquiescing to pollution, daring only to fight for small legislative achievements, and placing faith in the ever-shrinking hope that a free market magically would lead the world toward sustainable energy.
The second part shifts to deconstructing this toxic mythology in full force. Klein takes to task the notion that benevolent billionaires’ green tech initiatives will substantially impact emissions, and she exposes the many ways “Big Green” organizations, more preoccupied with preserving capitalism than the environment, have in fact colluded with the fossil fuel industry for profit. Klein’s as thorough as she is incisive, and breaks down complex concepts clearly.
Adopting a brighter tone, the final section puts forth a wide array of imaginative proposals on how social and environmental justice might be pursued. Referring to real-world examples, past and present, Klein makes clear that there are several ways out of this mess: raising taxes on the wealthy, nationalizing industries, passing ambitious climate legislation, reinvesting in the public sphere through green public works projects, and more.
At a dizzying pace the author also examines recent environmental victories, focusing on how indigenous communities are leading the struggle for eco-justice. Klein vividly illustrates the ingenious ways in which areas affected by the fossil fuel industry’s greed, from Standing Rock to Bolivia, are fighting back and increasingly framing their activism as part of a global anti-capitalist resistance movement aiming to build a new world.
The book’s thesis contends that our current crisis is rooted in what these activists identify as Western extractivism: “a nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with the earth, one purely of taking . . . the opposite of stewardship, which involves taking but also taking care that regeneration and future life continue.” The profit-obsessed mindset that’s okay with blowing up a mountaintop to mine for coal is the same that’s comfortable with subjecting people to dangerous, underpaid work.
Arguing that only the shift toward a more humane economy can avert climate catastrophe, This Changes Everything already has deeply impacted American politics, informing resolutions like the Green New Deal. International and inclusive, the book is at once accessible, extensively researched, and well worth (re)reading ahead of the release of Klein’s new work On Fire.