"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."

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.


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