"the denigration of collective action and veneration of the profit motive..has infiltrated virtually every government on the planet, every media organisation, every university, our very souls."
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: CAPITALISM VS THE CLIMATE
Naomi Klein (Simon &Schuster)
SINCE THE publication of No Logo in 2000 Naomi Klein has commanded a global audience that few of her contemporary left wing writers and activists can command. Her books invariably top bestseller lists around the world, she speaks to packed meetings everywhere and she is in demand for interviews from a mainstream media generally unsympathetic to people who hold similar views to that of Klein.
All of this highlights why she has become a poster girl for the left, a description that Klein herself would not be comfortable with. But there she is - in an interview in the August issue of Vogue magazine no less.
But her embrace by the mainstream media has not been a result of Klein watering down her politics to be more 'palatable'. She has never tried to second guess what the media or public wants. Indeed, her new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate sees Klein move to a more consistent critical position on capitalism. While some 'left wing' writers are keen to keep capitalism off the agenda of discussion - 'move on, nothing to see here' - Klein places it at the heart of her book. There is no compromise.
Klein signalled her intentions for her new book in several articles and interviews preceding its publication. She says that we must move on from endless ideological debates. Klein's view is straightforward: the life support systems of the planet are being destabilised and dismantled by capitalism and we must act now.
This is a view that won't sit well with that section of the environmental movement that still thinks a environmentally friendly capitalism is possible, a view held by the New Zealand Green Party. One of its co-leaders. Russel Norman, recently declared he was 'more pro market' than the National Party. He'd have little to talk about with Klein.
In her book she devotes a chapter to false solutions to the ecological crisis proposed by people like Norman including carbon trading, geo engineering and alliances between the environmental movement and big business. Her views on why 'green billionaires' like Bill Gates won't save us are thoroughly researched, inexorably logical and demolish the myths of a 'green capitalism'.
Writes Klein: "In virtually every country,the political class accepts the premise that it is not the place of government to tell large corporations what they can and cannot do, even when public health and welfare — indeed the habitability of our shared home — are clearly at stake. The guiding ethos of light-touch regulation, and more often active deregulation, has taken an enormous toll in every sector.... It has also blocked commonsense responses to the climate crisis at every turn."
Klein's alternative is for a systematic and radical break with free-market orthodoxy. This would include large scale investment in the public sector in such areas as transport, housing, infrastructure and services. But it would be a mistake to assume that Klein is simply calling for mild Keynesian-inspired reforms, a more 'regulated' capitalism. A simple 'tweaking' of the system won't do. She says that "dealing with the climate crisis will require a completely different economic system'
Klein quotes climate expert Kevin Anderson that we might have been able to avert catastrophe using “significant evolutionary” strategies if we had acted at the time of the 1992 Earth Summit or as late as the year 2000, but now only “revolutionary” strategies will work.
If people are unclear clear as to who the planet's real enemies are, Klein makes it abundantly clear: 'an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process and most of our major media outlets'. She goes on to say that the ''denigration of collective action and veneration of the profit motive..has infiltrated virtually every government on the planet, every media organisation, every university, our very souls'.
The politicians have failed the planet and the solutions must come from...us. She writes: “It is slowly dawning on a great many of us that no one is going to step in and fix this crisis, that if change is to take place it will only be because leadership bubbled up from below.” The emancipation of the planet must be achieved by the people of the planet.
She writes vividly of grassroots resistance around the world from the fight of the Northern Cheyenne to prevent coal mining on their Montana reservation, to the villagers in Greece's Skouries forest to oppose open cast mineral mining.
On a recent The Colbert Report, Klein told host Stephen Colbert: “Capitalism is a machine based on short-term profit and growth and the climate needs us to contract.So you have this tension between a system that needs to grow, grow, grow indiscriminately, and a planet going, ‘Guys, I have had it.’”
This Changes Everything is not only a book that demands to be read but one that demands to be acted on.