This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs The Climate
By Naomi Klein
566 pages/Allen Lane/$25.68 with GST from Books Kinokuniya's online store, or on loan from the National Library Board under the call number English 363.73874 KLE
The crash of Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 exactly two weeks ago has been blamed on weather so extreme that it tossed the plane about and froze its controls. The search for its ill-fated passengers' remains has been similarly hampered by white-out clouds, whipping winds and a whirling sea.
This tragedy has since put many people off flying. That change of heart towards what has become a way of life is just what Canadian journalist Naomi Klein hopes more people will have now.
That is because, as she canvasses in her new book This Changes Everything, humanity has exacerbated extreme weather and global warming to such an extent with hyper-consumption that civilisation itself may be going the way of the dodo.
The "This" in the title refers to climate change, which comes from the ever-increasing burning of fossil fuels to run everything from factories to cars and, yes, planes.
The burning sends carbon dioxide into the air, which not only traps heat that then warms the earth, but hangs around in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Small wonder, then, that in 2012, Greenland saw its mega ice sheet melting for the first time in history.
As she notes in the book, by 2013, global carbon emissions were 61 per cent higher than in 1990, the year generally considered to be the start of the current wave of globalisation. The trouble is, as she says again and again in her book This Changes Everything, people keep "looking away" from climate change because they either believe it is a Trojan Horse for anti-capitalists or simply because nobody cares to wean themselves off luxuries, recycle stuff and cycle to work just to save the planet, as it were.
In this, she stresses, she is not advocating that everyone goes back to living in caves; it is enough just to live as if one were in the 1970s, when everyone made do with just enough and were into do-it-yourself projects.
You might think her suggestion all too predictable when you learn that she is the daughter of hippies, with their "make love not war" stance and fondness for all things natural. But Klein, an award-winning journalist who has covered environmental tragedies like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, used to be obsessed with designer brands, decking herself out in them in silent protest against her parents' earth-loving ways. She was also, for years, a climate-change sceptic, averting her eyes whenever anyone spoke or wrote about the subject.
What changed her mind and led to her spending five years writing this book was a conversation with a Bolivian ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) who showed her how fighting climate change was also a way to redistribute the world's income, if rich polluters gave money to poor "climate creditors" like Bolivia, to help them buy and use green technologies and grow their economies sustainably.