Reading Naomi Klein

This Changes EverythingUnlike the climate crisis story spoon fed to us in decreasing numbers of corporate media stories, in social media memes, and in fleeting conversations at community gatherings, in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, author Naomi Klein said there is a nascent, global movement preparing to take climate action.

“The climate movement has yet to find its full moral voice on the world stage,” Klein wrote. “But it is most certainly clearing its throat—beginning to put the very real thefts and torments that ineluctably flow from the decision to mock international climate commitments alongside history’s most damned crimes.”

If you haven’t read Klein’s 2014 book, you should. Not because of a desire to take sides in the public discussion of global warming and the need to keep global temperature increase to two degrees or less. But because a). reading a paper book can be good for us, and b). with Klein you can hear her broader story and learn new things. Here’s more on why you should pick up a copy at your library or bookstore if you haven’t already.

In Iowa, as home to the first in the nation caucuses, we are inundated with stories about politics. Elections matter, and we have seen how in the Republican awakening after Barack Obama’s 2008 election. Progressives hardly understood that Republicans, though in the minority in the Congress, would exercise such power that much of Obama’s agenda was sidelined from the beginning. Republican comebacks in 2010 and 2014 have turned the congress from Democratic to Republican, and right-wing hardliners have more input to the legislative process than their numbers warrant. Taking climate action in Congress has, for the most part, been a non-starter.

“It’s not just the people we vote into office and then complain about—it’s us,” Klein wrote. “For most of us living in post-industrial societies, when we see the crackling black-and-white footage of general strikes in the 1930s, victory gardens in the 1940s, and Freedom Rides in the 1960s, we simply cannot imagine being part of any mobilization of that depth and scale.”

“Where would we organize?” Klein asked. “Who would we trust enough to lead us? Who, moreover, is ‘we?'”

Klein’s book frames answers to those questions: People are organizing everywhere, resisting unbridled extraction of natural resources by corporations. “We” includes almost everyone.

This Changes Everything reviews the recent history of the climate movement. It covers extreme extraction of natural resources that leave behind waste heaps, fouled water and polluted air, then are burned and produce atmospheric gases that warm the planet. Everyone from fossil fuel companies to environmental groups have been involved in what Klein calls “extractivism.” There is a growing resistance, including environmental groups divesting from investments in the fossil fuel industry, indigenous people mounting court battles, and community groups violating international trade agreements to move to renewable energy sources. The book is a snapshot of where the climate movement currently stands.

While Klein has her point of view, she depicts the complexity of a global network of fossil fuel companies seeking to extract hydrocarbons scientists tells us must be left in the ground. While the resistance may not have found its full moral voice, Klein’s book makes the case it won’t be long and recounts the significant inroads indigenous people and communities near extraction sites are making.

When we talk about taking climate action, Naomi Klein’s work should be part of our conversation.

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