June 24, 2015

'This Changes Everything' changes, well, everything

VALOIS, New York - This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate is a fascinating book to read from a journalist's standpoint, full of amazing details about what we can expect - and not expect - in future years as humans grapple (and don't grapple) with the fallout of man-made changes from climate change.

From the standpoint of a citizen of earth, it's the kind of book that makes a person want to throw up their hands and give up.

Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein's book isn't without hope for humankind. But her descriptions of the obstacles we face to slowing down the warming of the earth from excess CO2 emissions nearly defy description.

But I will try, of course.

Right out of the publishing blocks, Klein jumps into her central thesis. Capitalism, with its madcap drive for growth (and increasingly voracious appetite for energy) is largely to blame for our current overhearing environmental predicament. Most of all, she blames the world's faith in the market to save the planet. The free market, she argues, is what got us into this mess - and continues to keep us from implementing solutions.

There are solutions to provide alternative energy and stop the aggressive expansion of fossil fuel extraction (and use). But she cites examples of how anytime these solutions get close to touching any kind of negative impact on corporate profits they disappear as quickly as trees and animals in the tar sands area of Alberta, Canada.

Klein also takes a solid whack at many of the supposedly green organizations which, it turns out, are heavily invested in oil and gas company stocks as part of their portfolios. And in most cases they defend the investments because of what they tout as the overall good service they are performing.

But Klein's most frightening - and depressing - section is about the potential use of geoengineering to solve the climate change crisis. Rather than try to lower emissions and use less heat-inducing technologies (like solar panels or wind turbines), many governments (and scientists) are exploring incredibly wild technological schemes that would make probably Gene Roddenberry (creator of the original Star Trek TV series) blush with disbelief.

These schemes are being considered seriously and quietly. But if I read Klein correctly, when we start experiencing even more severe weather events and climate-related catastrophes, expect to hear, for example, about shooting particles into the atmosphere to block the sun's rays and slow down warming.

What could possibly go wrong with that idea?

Klein's book is detailed, footnoted and written in a clever enough style that even though it sometimes can cause the reader to gasp with disbelief, it's never dull. Depression-inducing, absolutely. But never dull.

I liked the book enough that I ordered a copy to have in my library. Which means I will reread it so I can mark it up with a highlighter. I think some parts of it are likely to become part of my talk, "Fracking Fiction: You Can't Make This Stuff Up."

The book is on the new book shelf at the Watkins Glen Public Library.

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