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Naomi Klein: Capitalism vs The Climate

Klein's fundamental argument is simple: in order to prevent global warming, we need an ideological shift away from neo-liberalism towards a fairer, greener and more egalitarian form of society

Global warming is a myth invented by the left-wing in order to bring down the foundations of modern capitalism. Famous Bolsheviks like Barack Obama, David Cameron and a surfeit of climate scientists - roughly 97% of those practicing in the field - are some of the many who seek to abolish the wonderful ideals of the free market through the promulgation of the myth of climate change. It is the proliferators of this myth - not global warming itself - that will end the world as we know it.

Or so the argument goes. The right - or at least a certain faction of the right - have made some pretty foolish statements over the years, but their obstinate denial of climate change goes beyond foolishness. Global warming, according to the vast majority of scientists, incontrovertibly exists. The great deniers are academically outnumbered, often ill-informed and constantly have to resort to shamelessly hyperbolic rhetoric in an attempt to disprove the experts. It would be funny if we weren't, you know, threatened with some pretty dire consequences.

The challenge that we, as inhabitants of this earth, have to confront is precisely what we can do to prevent the near certain catastrophes of global warming. Well, the first thing we can do, perhaps before anything else, is to learn about the situation. Naomi Klein's new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs Climate Change, is a pretty good place to start.

Klein's fundamental argument is simple: in order to prevent global warming, we need an ideological shift away from neo-liberalism towards a fairer, greener and more egalitarian form of society. This means, among other things, a regulated economy that works for the public and the ecological good, less freedom for profit-driven corporations - the main contributors of greenhouse emissions - and an unhindered form of global co-operation in the pursuit of a greener future. Such an ideological shift should be welcomed, Klein suggests, for social as well as ecological reasons. The procedures implemented to tackle climate change could revive local economies, block harmful trade deals, create jobs and take back ownership of the essential means of production.

Such an ideological shift is necessary, Klein argues, as the approaches to tackling climate change that conform to rampant capitalism have failed miserably. Klein offers some startling examples of corporations that have manipulated movements, billionaires that have broken seemingly ambitious promises - Richard Branson's Gaia capitalism being a particularly striking example - and governments that have perpetually prioritized profits over people. Klein argues that we can't keep trying to convince ourselves that the current form of capitalism is somehow compatible with the protection of our planet. Each broken promise and each failed experiment results in more damage to our environment. The clock, as they say, is ticking and we haven't the luxury of biding our time.

So how does Klein propose that we achieve such an ideological shift? How can we attempt to slow down the world's most foreboding clock? Unsurprisingly, the ideological shift must be instigated by the people. The climate change issue is important enough to mobilize great swathes of the population. We must, therefore, create a culture where the average human being becomes an activist.

All the great social movements share this idea in common. The civil rights movement, the feminist movement and the LGBT movement all gave a voice to previously silent, sometimes apolitical, individuals. Activism, during such times, isn't restricted to those radical freedom fighters silently plucking away at the strings of heterodoxy. Activism becomes about normal folk - you, me, us - who seek to fight against a dominant hegemony that is deemed utterly unacceptable. To tackle climate change, we need a more inclusive mass movement - achieved through unity with and support for other social movements - that seeks to shift the ideological consensus away from rampant, carbon-burning capitalism.

Klein's book is successful precisely because it could, in small part, help garner support for the climate change movement. Those who were previously unconcerned about the effects of global warming - such as myself, for example - may begin to reconsider their role in the great debate. If the climate change movement is to gather speed, if we are to mobilize the masses, we need previously unconcerned folk to join the battle. Only then can we challenge the avaricious men and women who are ravaging our resources. Only then can we attempt to shift the ideological consensus. Only then can we look towards a better, more sustainable environment and a fairer, more egalitarian form of society.

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