Jan-Maat's Reviews > This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
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bookshelves: 21st-century, politics-and-polemic, science, non-fiction

A long book in a small font (view spoiler)

What I liked about this book is that she takes to heart her own dictum of never letting a good crisis go to waste and she says - when those on the political right criticise greening the economy on the grounds that it runs counter to 'invisible hand' "free" market ideologies, lets not be coy about it, let's own it and wear it as a badge of pride - seize the opportunity to save the ecology of the planet and take the opportunity to fight for equality, liberty and justice for all, let's embrace inconnectiveness and leave no one behind.

What I disliked was reading words to the effect of 'I have effectively summarised the resistance to saving the environment and rescuing us all from dying horribly, now I am going to spend the next four chapters going over it all again in detail spending the same amount of space on what an individual town in the USA has done as I spend on entire countries in the rest of the world in a small font'. Or alternatively - 'lets look more at the history of this', no lets not, I pleaded desperately, please just continue with the narrative, but no, cold hearted, she plunges on in a small font (view spoiler).

Essentially it is The Limits to Growth, plus politics and plutocrats. If you've read one and can imagine the others - say from reading Donald Duck or even How to read Donald Duck then I think this is largely skippable (view spoiler).

It is wide ranging from climate change, to pollution, that some large and wealthy environmental groups in the USA - shock, horror - themselves invest in fossil fuel companies, that 'Green' billionaires are not all their PR claims they might be (Duh!), the hubris of geo-engineering (view spoiler), divestment, activism and indigenous rights among other topics. In style it is was a bit magazine like, some sections could have been magazine articles (and perhaps they were in an previous life(view spoiler)), when she discussed in the final third of the book some resistance movements against the destruction of the environment I felt I would prefer to be reading this as a magazine rather than in a book when the story is going to be already half a year or so out of date even when hot off the press.

As to the audience for this book, well it is certainly not aimed at converting the unbeliever, equally if we accept that I am more or less in the choir here listening to her preaching, I found I had heard much of the sermon before and skipped faster and faster as I moved through the text and I don't think I missed anything worth while. In truth I don't read many books like this at but as I said above if you have read Limits to Growth and recall that money is power(view spoiler)there is not anything here to surprise the reader, Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front resonated far more with me.

I felt the book sharpened considerably when she discussed the difficulty she had conceiving as this dovetailed powerfully with the implicit argument that we are heading further into worsen ecological disasters through our hubris and belief that we can dominate nature, despite or perhaps precisely because, we don't understand that much about it, and that the alternative way of being is to work with ourselves and what we are rather than to overcome ourselves with chemicals when our difficulties many well be a perfectly reasonable and natural reaction to the environments we are living in. Fertility problems in humans and other animals are not just a medical challenge, but a warning.

The book centres on the Americas, Europe gets a bit of attention, Asia and Africa one or two mentions, the rest of the world even less. Truly it is about Capitalism in the Americas...and with regard to that I would say it is not so much about capitalism (view spoiler)versus climate, it is about the invisible hand versus the climate, the idea that in environmental terms our private vices can be public virtues, or that due to some invisible hand everything will work out fine in the end. The invisible hand metaphor comes to Adam Smith from Macbeth(view spoiler) - which ought always have been a bit of a warning, there's Macbeth in pursuit of his own self-interest and as you may recall that all ends happily ever after(view spoiler), as on the small stage, so too on the world stage.
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Reading Progress

September 23, 2018 – Started Reading
September 23, 2018 – Shelved
September 26, 2018 –
page 170
29.93% ""Extractivism ran rampant under colonialism because relating to the world as a frontier of conquest - rather than as a home - fosters this particular brand of irresponsibility. The colonial mind nurtures the belief that there is always somewhere else to go & exploit once the current site of extraction has been exhausted""
September 26, 2018 –
page 175
30.81% ""Coal was the black ink in which the story of modern Capitalism was written""
September 27, 2018 –
page 200
35.21% ""still, at the upper echelons of the climate movement, our soaring emissions are never blamed on anything as concrete as the fossil fuel corporations that work furiously to block all serious attempts to regulate emissions & certainly not on the economic model that demands that these companies put profit before the health of the natural systems upon which all life depends...""
September 27, 2018 –
page 267
47.01% ""succumbing to the logic of geoengineering does not require any change from us; it just requires that we keep doing what we have done for centuries, only much more so""
September 27, 2018 –
page 316
55.63% ""This is the Catch-22 of the fossil fuel economy:precisely because these activities are so dirty & disruptive, they tend to weaken or even destroy other economic drivers...rather than spark a popular backlash, this slow poisoning can end up strengthening the power of the fuel companies because they end up being virtually the only game in town""
September 27, 2018 –
page 438
77.11% ""before you can take care of another human being you have to take care of yourself"

which is pretty much the thesis of the whole book, if you can scale that up in your imagination to a planetary scale"
September 27, 2018 – Finished Reading

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