About This Changes Everything:
Capitalism vs. The Climate

To: Detroit Workers' Voice mailing list
October 8, 2014
RE: Naomi Klein on capitalism vs. the climate

Naomi Klein's new book, "This changes everything: capitalism vs. the climate", deals with the climate disaster that is already beginning. It is a vigorously written book, and its best sections discuss issues glossed over in tamer presentations, such as the faults of the Big Green, the looming threat of geo-engineering, and the failures of market solutions. Among the issues taken up in the book:

* the environmental crisis isn't just another cause, but will increasingly be connected with the whole range of economic and political problems facing us. It will involve not just some minor tinkering with some items in government budgets, but major social, economic, and political changes. It will require the end of market fundamentalism and unregulated capitalism, a turn towards regulation and planning, a reorientation of agriculture, changes in the social and economic position of the masses, and different relations between the developed and developing countries;

* the environmental cause must be connected to the struggle for welfare of the masses, such as the provision of jobs;

* it denounces market solutions such as carbon trading, carbon offsets, and carbon markets, and points to their insufficiency or even harmfulness. But, unfortunately, Klein prettifies the carbon tax, and does not recognize it as a market measure, no better than the rest of them;

* it castigates "Big Green" (the major bourgeois environmental groups) for its connections to corporations including oil companies like BP, Chevron, and Shell Oil. Big Green includes, among others, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Wildlife Federation, and the World Resources Institute. One of the book's chapters is entitled "The Disastrous Merger of Big Business and Big Green".  This is a merger that has even been institutionalized in coalitions such as the United States Climate Action Partnership. Klein writes that "The big, corporate-affiliated green groups don't deny the reality of climate change, of course--many work hard to raise the alarm. And yet several of these groups have consistently, and aggressively, pushed responses to climate change that are the least burdensome, and often directly beneficial, to the largest greenhouse gas emitters on the planet--even when the policies come at the direct expense of communities fighting to keep fossil fuels in the ground. ... The 'market-based' climate solutions favored by so many large foundations and adopted by many greens have provided an invaluable service to the fossil fuel sector as a whole." (pp. 198, 199)

* it exposes the nature of the frightening geo-engineering solutions that are being proposed: space mirrors; spaying seawater into the sky; alternatively, spraying sulfate aerosols into the sky; fertilizing the ocean with iron; covering deserts with vast white sheets; etc.

* it surveys the struggle and views of the more militant section of the environmentalists. One chapter, for example, is "Blockadia: The New Climate Warriors". Indeed Klein's book represents something of the consensus view of many climate warriors, thus reflecting both the strengths and weaknesses of their views.

Some of the book's weaknesses are that it evades such major questions as the attitude the movement should take to the Democratic Party or to the trade union bureaucrats; it doesn't really put forward a new plan for how to build an effective movement separate from Big Green; while talking of challenging capitalism, it dwells far too much on capitalism's bad philosophical ideas rather than on what the alternative is; and it sometimes overlooks the capitalist class, such as when it attributes Obama's betrayal of his environmental promises to his ideological ideas, rather than to his being the political leader of the bourgeoisie. Klein also seems to think that better moral appeals will build the movement. And if she denounces the bourgeois revulsion at overall planning, she nevertheless capitulates to the fashionable reformist idea that decentralization is a panacea.

This book raises important issues that deserve a more detailed look, and I hope to follow up with additional comments devoted to some of them.

Joseph Green, editor, Communist Voice <>

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Modified on November 13, 2014.
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