On this day last year, I won a competition – 5 signed books from Triodos Bank. They sat on my Unread shelf for a while, and eventually I shelved them properly (still unread). This morning I have pulled one out – This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. So far I have only read a few pages of the introduction, but it’s neatly tying in to things that I have been thinking lately, which bodes well.
Years ago, I read Ms Klein’s No Logo, which investigated how corporate branding was turning everything into a marketing opportunity, and drowning out any non-commercial messaging. Since then she’s written Shock Doctrine, which I haven’t read, but which is about the way that capitalism capitalises on disaster, selling off public assets or reducing government oversight (e.g.) in its wake, and isn’t above generating disaster when the world has been too long without one. Ms Klein is an investigative journalist of the highest order, contemplating complexity and distilling it into readable prose for the rest of us. In This Changes Everything she has turned her attention to the climate change crisis, and why so many people are so intent on ignoring it, but also to the opportunity it presents for us to change the world for the better.
She begins by looking at some of the horrendous events that climate change has caused over the last few years – epic flooding, extensive droughts, temperatures so hot that a plane sank into the runway in Washington D.C. – and how we continue to use fossil fuels at ever-increasing rates, so that we now have to explore horrifically damaging extraction methods such as fracking to get our fix. She extrapolates from that to a future where humanity spends a great deal of time fleeing from the weather, or recovering from what we would now consider extreme events. All we have to do to reach that future is carry on as we are now.
[*If you’re reading this blog you are probably more environmentally-conscious than most, and no doubt have a lower carbon footprint as a result. But we can’t kid ourselves – those of us in developed nations can do a lot to reduce our personal footprint, but changing our infrastructure footprint needs wider action, and it would be very difficult for a Western person to reduce their carbon footprint to the necessary level without those wider changes taking place.]
Klein carries on to talk about the way in which cash-strapped governments always find a way to pay for the latest ‘crisis’: a recent UK example is the ‘magic money tree’ coughing up £2bn for No Deal Brexit preparations, because our government is intent on running out the clock so that MPs are forced to accept the current (unpopular) deal or risk a No Deal Brexit. This at a time when a school has been forced to open a food bank, because the government has cut public services to the point where our children are starving.
As Klein points out, climate change has never been perceived as a crisis situation, even though it has the power to destroy lives on a global scale. Politicians are refusing to declare it a crisis.
But they’re not the only ones with the ability to do so. Much of the social transformation of the past century has come about through mass movements of regular people – the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, feminism, gay rights and the anti-apartheid movement have all forced governments into action on issues they were blissfully ignoring. Klein suggests we do the same for climate change; if we decide that it is a crisis that requires a massive response, the political class will have to respond.
Klein is talking about a vision of the future that goes beyond surviving or enduring climate change, beyond mitigating its affects of adapting to them, and involves us collectively using the climate crisis to create a genuinely better world.
Of course, it could all go the other way, and at the moment it seems like we’re in a downward spiral. Hopefully as the book goes on Klein will deliver on her promise of providing a positive vision of a global mobilization that will stop climate change in its tracks and create a better world. In the meantime, here are some links to organisations who are part of the solution. You may be familiar with some of them, they have been around a long while. But if, like me, you’ve lost touch with them a little bit, it’s worth getting to know them again:
- The Permaculture Association
- The Transition Movement
- Community Action Groups (Oxfordshire)
- Incredible Edible
- The Soil Association
- Friends of the Earth
- Extinction Rebellion
- Garden Organic
Which organisations would you add to the list?
Yesterday Extinction Rebellion organised a ‘Reclaim the BBC’ event, which aimed to force the broadcaster to put climate change centre-stage. Protesters caused a lockdown at New Broadcasting House, an event which has not received wide coverage. I took part virtually, taking the opportunity to complain to the BBC online about their ongoing weak coverage of the climate change threat. Although the event is over, you can still file a complaint if you feel the same way, it only takes a few minutes.