Is it trendy to review a book over a year after its release? If so, then I’m spot on. Here is my book review and reflection on This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein. It’s a book that has been a companion through two moves, two elections, dozens of life crises and more “Are-we-screwed-What-can-I-do” moments than I can count.
Rather than my introductory words, please enjoy the trailer to the partner film This Changes Everything as an effective backgrounder:
This Changes Everything is an engaging read. Klein takes magnificently complex topics and wrangles them into a readable and captivating work. The first striking feature was the accessibility of the text. When I opened its pages, the weight of the book felt daunting. Though an engaged citizen and environmentalist, I was worried that the book would read above my head and I would be left behind after the first chapter. Perhaps this was a silly assumption on a work from an accomplished journalist who writes for the public, but the title pushed my thoughts to an impenetrable manifesto. However, Klein guides the reader through each topic in a way that allows the gravity of each fact to be understood, while wrapped in a human-scale story.
Though the book was readable, I obviously read it slowly. A year is a long time to consume one book. I attribute this duration in part to my difficulty with non-fiction reads, in part to the fact that if I hadn’t completed the book, I could justify taking it with me to my next home, and in part to the wild ride on which the book took me.
The book was a roller-coaster. Within Part One: Bad Timing, I would feel that gnawing sensation in my belly filled with concern over the conservative state of climate change politics and perception. Then my hopes would rise with the stories of grassroots historical activism and current trends. The ride pitched down again after diving into Big Green non-profits and their sliding values based on corporate influence and collaboration. And on it went. Each new chapter illustrated some of the best examples and worst offenders in climate action. There were times I would feel such deep dread, I would have to put the book aside. There were times that I would re-read incredible statistics or stories (both good and bad) and close the book to let them digest.
With a global topic of climate change, the breadth of subject matter is vast. It’s appropriate that it is the product of a five-year project. The book is clearly impeccably researched. The text is a testament to this research backed up by the intentionally succinct Notes section and the impressive names within Acknowledgments. Though the book tackles such diversity of subjects with deep research, the argument of Capitalism vs. the Climate is kept clear and is powerfully built up throughout the book. It’s an all-inclusive read on understanding the current status of climate change and the broader societal changes needed to truly address it.
This Changes Everything argues that climate change presents a dire but extraordinary opportunity to fix the injustices of the modern world. Global warming is not just, but our response can be. Economic arguments are important but the basic shift of our viewpoint on capitalist societal priorities is more important still. My words provide a hollow echo to an immensely powerful book. I, very obviously, would recommend this read.
In the year since its publication, there has been significant changes. No, not everything, but much has changed. The price of oil has plunged. The Paris Agreement provided great precedent. Grassroots actions have grown. As I finished the Conclusion and closed the book, I felt the gravity of our point in history, but also hope for great change. I am buoyed by the words Klein wrote in my copy after speaking at the Winspear Centre in 2014. Simple, but powerful: