The New York Times reviewer of This Changes Everything described it as “A book of such ambition and consequence it is almost unreviewable …’ Arundhati Roy says “Naomi Klein’s work has changed the terms of the debate.”
In her usual ‘take no prisoners’ mode, Klein is relentlessly challenging, insightful and thorough. I had not read anything from her since No Logo (1999), and I was only a page or so into This Changes Everything before I remembered that, agree with her or not, she has an extraordinary capacity to change the way one sees the world. Buried on page 279 of the 550 pages (no I did not read every word), the guts of her message sits in a single sentence, “… the solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves.”
In this season of life I often find it hard to stay hopeful. It feels like there is so much wrong with the world. Political leadership is all about power instead of service. The potential of social media to connect us seems to have lost out to the compelling lure of ‘audience’. The victory of the ‘market’ seems to have gutted the services that form the foundations of a civil and fair society … I often say to Maria that opting out and living on the coast somewhere (with our heads in the sand) feels mighty attractive.
The thing that stays with me about Klein’s book is the underlying conviction that change is possible. On the one hand (as the title says), the world will change. We simply cannot go on consuming and living energy intense lives like we are now. Either the impacts of global warming will dramatically alter our way or life, or we will come to our collective senses and radically change the way we live. (the book systematically dismantles pretty much every solution you’ve heard to avoiding impactful climate change.)
Last week I blogged about how our thinking has been formed by our consumer culture; how we have this deep belief that somehow it will all work out OK. We have grown up knowing that when something breaks we can alleviate our grief by buying a new one, and the incredible advances in technology have brainwashed us into a faith that ‘someone, somewhere, will find a solution to whatever inconvenience we experience.’ Maybe.
And into this Klein says, ” … it is not about fixing the world, it is about fixing ourselves.” As I write this I’m sitting at Sorrento back beach watching the huge surf crash into the sandstone rocks. Few things remind us of the power of nature than big surf which reshapes coastlines with relentless ferocity. Klein invites us to stop treating the earth as if it is ours to control and realise that, on the contrary, we are the ones who are vulnerable and pitifully unable to manipulate circumstances however much we try.
I’m not sure humanity will rise to the challenge Klein articulates. At least, my experience of people and the dynamics of power does little to give me confidence that change will happen the way she envisions. But I do know that having taken the time to sit and listen to her (ie read her book) I cannot, in her words, continue to ‘look away’ and ‘cross my fingers’ (my words).