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Book Review: This Changes Everything

January 7, 2015 – I want to tell you about a book I just read, by Naomi Klein, called This Changes Everything.  Klein’s book is about climate change, and how very close we have now come to exchanging our world for a place that’s nearly unlivable.

She begins with dogged conjecture regarding why we appear to want to change our world in such a manner.  We don’t, of course, so we engage in various degrees of climate change denial.  I’ll interject here that looking away and pretending everything will be just fine is essentially mandatory, at least from time to time, if we’re to continue living in this world without going mad.  Draconian measures are required, as all non-Republicans are now aware.  In the words of Angelica Navarro Llanos, “We need a Marshall Plan for the Earth.”  All good Republicans know what that means: the United States will get stuck with the bill.  And that terrifies them.

Except that now, China has admitted that it must do something to greatly reduce coal-burning emissions.  So have we, for that matter.  What terrifies all of us is that radically reducing fossil fuel use isn’t anywhere near enough to make things right with the world.  In the developed world, we must change everything about the way we live.  We must revive local economies.  We must end “Citizens United” corporate-style influence buying in the United States.    We must end trade deals with poor countries that allow them to believe they can enjoy a western-style standard of living, if only they will pollute their way out of poverty.  We must invest in mass transit. 

We must take back ownership of essential services like energy and water.  We must re-invent our agricultural model.  In my opinion, we must also stop spending obscene amounts of money on wars we consistently lose.  The good news, according to the author, is that in changing the way we live, we can change the world for the better.  The much better.  All manner of new jobs will be necessary, thereby helping to close the gap between rich and poor.  As a result, power will once again be more equally dispersed to the many, rather than consolidated in the hands of the rich few.  With a rejuvenated democracy, fairer policies can be enacted that will benefit rich and poor alike.

Where do we stand right now?  Based upon preliminary data collected during 2013, global carbon dioxide emissions were 61 percent higher then than in 1990.  How much time do we have to get CO2 emissions under control?  Estimates vary, from zero to ten years.  A full-blown transition to renewable energy must happen right away.  The public sphere must once again belong to all of us.  Taxes must be raised on the wealthy.  Regulations must be re-instated across the board.  These actions, while extremely threatening to an elite minority, must take place if we are to save ourselves.  There is no savior on the horizon.  We must help ourselves or accept the consequences.

As Klein herself puts it, “So we are left with a stark choice: allow climate disruption to change everything about our world, or change pretty much everything about our economy to avoid that fate.”  It’s a hell of a choice, but we’ve done this to ourselves. 


Start changing everything.  Today.

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