Sunday, October 5, 2014

This Changes Everything

About two weeks ago, best-selling author, Naomi Klein's new book, This Change Everything was released by Simon and Schuster.  It debuted at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

I've been a fan of Naomi Klein for a long time. I read her first book, No Logo, when it came out about 20 years ago.  Then, her book The Shock Doctrine was released in 2007.  In a nutshell, it focused on the predatory, morally bankrupt nature of neoconservative economics; the brand of capitalism that's dominated since the days of Ronald Reagan.   I wrote a review of that book about two years ago. The link is  

I just finished reading This Changes Everything.  In it, Naomi Klein makes a powerful case that we are at the end of our rope with climate change.  If we continue, business as usual, running our world on oil, coal, and natural gas, the catastrophic consequences will be unprecedented in all of human history.

Klein shows that big coal and oil and the banks that underwrite them are the most lucrative businesses in all of history. Moreover, the billions in profits these corporate giants generate have allowed them to control the media  and manipulate our political system to get the tax and regulatory policy they want, no matter the consequences.

The primary cause of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels    That pollution has caused a warming of the Earth's atmosphere that is already driving profound changes to our environment, including the melting of Earth's icecaps and glaciers, rising sea levels, and a large increase in highly destructive weather extremes.  In order to achieve anything close to a soft landing for humanity, scientists say that atmospheric temperature rise must be limited to two degrees Celsius. To do that,  we need to limit the additional carbon air pollution to 500 gigatons.  The problem is, as Klein points out,  fossil energy producers claim to have nearly 3,000 gigatons of  carbon in found, yet to be extracted, reserves of coal, oil, and gas.  That amounts to trillions of dollars in potential profits to energy companies that are only interested in generating income for their stakeholders. As Klein puts it, "...they're determined to burn five times more fossil fuel than the planet's atmosphere can begin to absorb.'

Here's another very unsettling nugget from Klein..."In 2013, in the United States alone, the oil and gas industry spent just under $400,000 a day lobbying Congress and government officials."

So, it's clear, big fossil energy is not about to back down and forgo trillions in profit. It's also clear, if they are allowed to have their way and burn all the dirty energy they claim to have, waiting and ready to dig up, the consequences for life on Earth will be disastrous to the extreme.

As Klein points out, we have the technologies to end our dependence on fossil forms of energy and revitalize human society with a transition to a whole range of proven, clean energy technologies. To some extent,  it's already happening.  

Wall Street and the big energy players are not about to let their largess of carbon to become stranded assets. They are using their money and influence to aggressively resist any threat to their political dominance and their obscene profits.

Blunting the power of corporations requires a fundamental change to our economic system, and to do that we must first remake our political system to remove the undue money and influence.  That's a tall order.  Klein believes only an unprecedented grassroots effort can prevail.  She presents ample evidence that just such an effort is possible, though the window for massive action is closing.

Naomi Klein's worldview is entirely compatible with my own. I think she is one of the most important voices for reason and positive change in public life.

I bought This Changes Everything at Powell's Bookstore in Beaverton the day after it was released. I then learned that on Wednesday, October 1st,  Naomi Klein was scheduled to appear at that same bookstore.   Of course, I was determined to get my copies of This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine signed.  Then, I had an inspiration and what happened subsequently was much more than just getting the author's autograph.  Stayed tuned, for my follow-up blog entry on Naomi Klein and This Changes Everything.

Oh, and for the record, This Changes Everything gets my highest recommendation. 

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