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Climate Change Means Changing Capitalism: A Review of Naomi Klein's New Book 'This Changes Everything'

16/09/2014 14:48 BST | Updated 15/11/2014 10:59 GMT

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Naomi Klein's new book, 'This Changes Everything' asserts that unfettered capitalism is the key cause of global warming.

Once every seven years, Naomi Klein produces a book that changes our understanding of the world as it is unfolding in front of us. Klein's 2000 book, No Logo, examined the exploitation of workers by large multinationals. Her 2007 tome, The Shock Doctrine, examined the economic philosophy of neoliberalism and how it has allowed corporations to benefit from disasters, from wars to climactic upheavals such as Hurricane Katrina.

Both books became global bestsellers.

Readers will not be disappointed with Klein's much anticipated new book, This Changes Everything, which dissects and exposes the linkages between capitalism, climate change, and social justice, three issues that are actively shaping global societies.

Klein calls the new book "the hardest book I have ever written." Understandably so, given that climate change is considered by many to be the greatest challenge facing humanity. Not only that, Klein uses the book to boldly address and tackle the fundamental cause of climate change, unfettered capitalism, something so core to the structure of our current societies that it is hard for many to even voice its fundamental problems, including environmental devastation.

Klein is not the first to recognize this core problem of capitalism: Marx warned us long ago that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. But such an insight has gone relatively unaddressed in contemporary mainstream discussions of climate change. It goes without saying that it is an unpopular sentiment. As Klein writes: "people would rather accept climate change than try to challenge such a formidable system."

Klein has a point. Political ecologists, scientists, economists and climate change experts have long struggled with the uneasy challenge of how to publicly address capitalism as an instigator of climate change. Jim Hansen, former director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies who testified before congress in 1988 about global warming, has said that such an uncomfortable topic results in "dangerous reticence." Some, as Klein describes, have found that "changing the earth's climate in ways that will be chaotic and disastrous is easier to accept than the prospect of changing the fundamental, growth-based, profit-seeking logic of capitalism."

Others have taken aim at capitalism and ecological limits in recent years (such as Tim Jackson's Limits to Growth), but few have taken the bold, albeit small step of directly addressing the link between capitalism and climate change. And none have had the meticulous, informative style of Klein's work that delivers elegant explanations of seemingly intractable systems, resulting in a large mainstream awareness of uncomfortable truths.

What makes Klein's books so excellent is that she is able to tackle such seemingly intractable problems with control and precision, examining and making available their key contours to the interested reader. Klein is not paralyzed by enormous, fundamental, systematic problems. Instead, she excels at dissecting them. Such was true of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, and the same can be said with This Changes Everything. No one could have been better chosen to bring such an unsettling issue to the mainstream than Klein.

The result is an excellent and plausible balance between fear and hope, and a call for social activism as one means to begin to convince our governments to actively address the current climate crisis. As Klein writes: "Slavery wasn't a crisis for British and American elites until abolitionism turned it into one. Racial discrimination wasn't a crisis until the civil rights movement turned it into one. Apartheid wasn't a crisis until the anti-apartheid movement turned it into one." She urges her readers to declare climate change a crisis, now, too.

This Changes Everything will be available on bookshelves beginning September 16th. It is strategically being published a week before the United Nations' 2014 Climate Summit, which will be met by The People's Climate March, slated to be the biggest climate march in history.