Capitalism vs. the Climate
* Book: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. By Naomi Klein.
1. D.R. Tucker:
"This Changes Everything deserves to be viewed not as one of the greatest nonfiction works of the 2010s, but as one of the greatest nonfiction works of all-time. Disregard that 2008 Obama speech—the publication of this book will truly mark the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and the planet began to heal. I write this filled with self-doubt; I’m not certain I can put into words the majesty, the power, the glory of this book. I grew covetous of her talent as I read it; how can one communicate so much truth so effectively, so clearly, so crisply?
“What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house?” Klein asks early on, before observing:
= I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.
As Klein observes, the twin demons of globalization and market fundamentalism began to possess the developed world in the late-1980s, and have yet to be exorcised. Only a powerful, determined, diverse, international, grassroots progressive movement can drive those demons out:
- The mainstream environmental movement…generally stands apart from…expressions of mass frustration, choosing to define climate activism narrowly—demanding a carbon tax, say, or even trying to stop a pipeline. And those campaigns are important. But building a mass movement that has a chance of taking on the corporate forces arrayed against science-based emission reduction will require the broadest possible spectrum of [progressive] allies.
Klein notes that climate-change deniers are so grotesque in their attacks on climate science because they know what’s at stake if concerned citizens take emissions seriously:
- More fundamentally than any of this, though, is [deniers’] deep fear that if the free market system really has set in motion physical and chemical processes that, if allowed to continue unchecked, threaten large parts of humanity at an existential level, then their entire crusade to morally redeem capitalism has been for naught. With stakes like these, clearly greed is not so very good after all. And that is what is behind the abrupt rise in climate change denial among hardcore conservatives: they have come to understand that as soon as they admit that climate change is real, they will lose the central ideological battle of our time—whether we need to plan and manage our societies to reflect our goals and values, or whether that task can be left to the magic of the market.
Klein holds nothing back, condemning the decision by certain prominent environmental organizations to play pattycake with polluters, faulting former Vice President Al Gore for being “largely responsible for getting so many Big Green groups on board” to support the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, exposing the chasm between the words and the deeds of Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg and President Obama on climate.
Klein notes that even the political center-left trembles at the implications of the climate crisis:
- This is where the right-wing climate deniers have overstated their conspiracy theories about what a cosmic gift global warming is to the left. It is true…that many climate responses reinforce progressive support for government intervention in the market, for greater equality, and for a more robust public sphere. But the deeper message carried by the [climate crisis] is a profound challenge to large parts of the left as well as the right. It’s a challenge to some trade unions, those trying to freeze in place the dirtiest jobs, instead of fighting for the good clean jobs their members deserve. It’s a challenge to the overwhelming majority of center-left Keynesians, who still define economic success in terms of traditional measures of GDP growth, regardless of whether that growth comes from rampant resource extraction.
The book is profoundly hopeful, praising the emergence of “a resurgent grassroots climate movement” opposed to tar sands mining, fracking, and the overall culture of contamination that the fossil-fuel industry has fought for decades to maintain, a movement that “is winning a series of startling victories against the fossil fuel sector as a result,” including victories on the divestment front. She notes that the fossil fuel industry’s obsession with sucking every last bit of dirty energy from the ground has awakened sleeping giants across the economic spectrum:
- …[T]he scope of many new extraction and transportation projects has created opportunities for people whose voices are traditionally shut out of the dominant conversation to form alliances with those who have significantly more social power…In the 1990s, it was trade deals that brought huge and unlikely coalitions together; today it is fossil fuel infrastructure.
Klein concludes by noting that in addition to resisting the abuse of the Earth by the fossil fuel industry, the new grassroots climate movement is “actively building an alternative economy based on very different principles and values” than the economy that gave birth to the climate crisis. Either this alternative economy is out future…or we won’t have a future.
- …[A]ny attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews, a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect. Because what is so overwhelming about the climate challenge is that it requires breaking so many rules at once—rules written into national laws and trade agreements, as well as powerful unwritten rules that tell us that no government can increase taxes and stay in power, or say no to major investments no matter how damaging, or plan to gradually contract those parts of our economies that endanger us all. Fundamentally, the task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—embedded in interdependence rather than hyperindividualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy. This is required not only to create a political context to dramatically lower emissions, but also to help us cope with the disasters we can no longer avoid. In the hot and stormy future, we have already made inevitable through our past emissions, an unshakable belief in the equal rights of all people and a capacity for deep compassion will be the only things left standing between civilization and barbarism." (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_09/damn_right_this_changes_everyt052173.php)
2. By ROB NIXON:
"To call “This Changes Everything” environmental is to limit Klein’s considerable agenda. “There is still time to avoid catastrophic warming,” she contends, “but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which is surely the best argument there has ever been for changing those rules.” On the green left, many share Klein’s sentiments. George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian, recently lamented that even though “the claims of market fundamentalism have been disproven as dramatically as those of state communism, somehow this zombie ideology staggers on.” Klein, Monbiot and Bill McKibben all insist that we cannot avert the ecological disaster that confronts us without loosening the grip of that superannuated zombie ideology.
That philosophy — neoliberalism — promotes a high-consumption, carbon-hungry system. Neoliberalism has encouraged mega-mergers, trade agreements hostile to environmental and labor regulations, and global hypermobility, enabling a corporation like Exxon to make, as McKibben has noted, “more money last year than any company in the history of money.” Their outsize power mangles the democratic process. Yet the carbon giants continue to reap $600 billion in annual subsidies from public coffers, not to speak of a greater subsidy: the right, in Klein’s words, to treat the atmosphere as a “waste dump.”
So much for the invisible hand. As the science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson observed, when it comes to the environment, the invisible hand never picks up the check.
Klein diagnoses impressively what hasn’t worked. No more claptrap about fracked gas as a bridge to renewables. Enough already of the international summit meetings that produce sirocco-quality hot air, and nonbinding agreements that bind us all to more emissions. Klein dismantles the boondoggle that is cap and trade. She skewers grandiose command-and-control schemes to re-engineer the planet’s climate. No point, when a hubristic mind-set has gotten us into this mess, to pile on further hubris. She reserves a special scorn for the partnerships between Big Green organizations and Immense Carbon, peddled as win-win for everyone, but which haven’t slowed emissions. Such partnerships remind us that when the lamb and the lion lie down together, only one of them gets eaten.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story In democracies driven by lobbyists, donors and plutocrats, the giant polluters are going to win while the rest of us, in various degrees of passivity and complicity, will watch the planet die. “Any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews,” Klein writes. “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.”
Klein reminds us that neoliberalism was once an upstart counterrevolution. Through an epic case of bad timing, the Reagan-Thatcher revolution, the rise of the anti-regulatory World Trade Organization, and the cult of privatizing and globalizing everything coincided with the rising public authority of climate science. In 1988, James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, delivered historic testimony at Congressional hearings, declaring that the science was 99 percent unequivocal: The world was warming and we needed to act collectively to reduce emissions. Just one year earlier, Margaret Thatcher famously declared: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.” In the battle since, between a collective strategy for forging an inhabitable long-term future and the antisocial, hyper-corporatized, hyper-carbonized pursuit of short-term growth at any cost, well, there has been only one clear winner.
But counterrevolutions are reversible. Klein devotes much of her book to propitious signs that this can happen — indeed is happening. The global climate justice movement is spreading. Since the mid-1990s, environmental protests have been growing in China at 29 percent per year. Where national leaders have faltered, local governments are forging ahead. Hundreds of German cities and towns have voted to buy back their energy grids from corporations. About two-thirds of Britons favor renationalizing energy and rail.
The divestment movement against Big Carbon is gathering force. While it will never bankrupt the mega-corporations, it can reveal unethical practices while triggering a debate about values that recognizes that such practices are nested in economic systems that encourage, inhibit or even prohibit them.
The voices Klein gathers from across the world achieve a choral force." (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/books/review/naomi-klein-this-changes-everything-review.html?_r=2)