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    Review ------ “This may be the first truly honest book ever written about climate change.” -- Bryan Walsh, Time "The most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring.” -- Rob Nixon, The New York Times Book Review "This is the best book about climate change in a very long time—in large part because it's about much more. It sets the most important crisis in human history in the context of our other ongoing traumas, reminding us just how much the powers-that-be depend on the power of coal, gas and oil. And that in turn should give us hope, because it means the fight for a just world is the same as the fight for a livable one." -- Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and co-founder of 350.org “This Changes Everything is the work book for . . . [a] new, more assertive, more powerful environmental movement.” -- Mark Bittman "Naomi Klein applies her fine, fierce, and meticulous mind to the greatest, most urgent questions of our times. . . . I count her among the most inspirational political thinkers in the world today." -- Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things and Capitalism: A Ghost Story “Naomi Klein is a genius. She has done for politics what Jared Diamond did for the study of human history. She skillfully blends politics, economics and history and distills out simple and powerful truths with universal applicability.” -- Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “[A]robust new polemic. . . . Drawing on an impressive volume of research, Ms. Klein savages the idea that we will be saved by new technologies or by an incremental shift away from fossil fuels: Both approaches, she argues, are forms of denial. . . . Ms. Klein is aware of the intractability of the problems she describes, but she manages optimism nonetheless.” -- Nathaniel Rich, The New York Times "Klein is a brave and passionate writer who always deserves to be heard, and this is a powerful and urgent book." -- John Gray, The Observer (UK) “If global warming is a worldwide wake-up call, we’re all pretty heavy sleepers. . . . We haven't made significant progress, Klein argues, because we've been expecting solutions from the very same institutions that created the problem in the first place. . . . Klein's sharp analysis makes a compelling case that a mass awakening is part of the answer.” -- Chris Bentley, The Chicago Tribune “Gripping and dramatic. . . . [Klein] writes of a decisive battle for the fate of the earth in which we either take back control of the planet from the capitalists who are destroying it or watch it all burn.” -- Roy Scranton, Rolling Stone Read more ( javascript:void(0) ) About the Author ---------------- Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, columnist, and author of the New York Times and international bestsellers The Shock Doctrine, No Logo, This Changes Everything, and No Is Not Enough. A Senior Correspondent for The Intercept, reporter for Rolling Stone, and contributor for both The Nation and The Guardian, Klein is the inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University. She is cofounder of the climate justice organization The Leap. Read more ( javascript:void(0) ) Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. -------------------------------------------------------- This Changes Everything 1 ( notes.html#intnt1 ) “I love that smell of the emissions.” —Sarah Palin, 20112 ( notes.html#intnt2 ) A voice came over the intercom: would the passengers of Flight 3935, scheduled to depart Washington, D.C., for Charleston, South Carolina, kindly collect their carry-on luggage and get off the plane. They went down the stairs and gathered on the hot tarmac. There they saw something unusual: the wheels of the US Airways jet had sunk into the black pavement as if it were wet cement. The wheels were lodged so 3 ( notes.html#intnt3 ) Eventually, a larger, more powerful vehicle was brought in to tow the plane and this time it worked; the plane finally took off, three hours behind schedule. A spokesperson for the airline blamed the incident on “very unusual temperatures.”4 ( notes.html#intnt4 ) The temperatures in the summer of 2012 were indeed unusually hot. (As they were the year before and the year after.) And it’s no mystery why this has been happening: the profligate burning of fossil fuels, the very thing that US Airways was bound and determined to do despite the inconvenience presented by a melting tarmac. This irony—the fact that the burning of fossil fuels is so radically changing our climate that it is getting in the way of our capacity to burn fossil fuels—did not stop the passengers of Flight 3935 from reembarking and continuing their journeys. Nor was climate change mentioned in any of the major news coverage of the incident. I am in no position to judge these passengers. All of us who live high consumer lifestyles, wherever we happen to reside, are, metaphorically, passengers on Flight 3935. Faced with a crisis that threatens our survival as a species, our entire culture is continuing to do the very thing that caused the crisis, only with an extra dose of elbow grease behind it. Like the airline bringing in a truck with a more powerful engine to tow that plane, the global economy is upping the ante from conventional sources of fossil fuels to even dirtier and more dangerous versions—bitumen from the Alberta tar sands, oil from deepwater drilling, gas from hydraulic fracturing (fracking), coal from detonated mountains, and so on. Meanwhile, each supercharged natural disaster produces new irony-laden snapshots of a climate increasingly inhospitable to the very industries most responsible for its warming. Like the 2013 historic floods in Calgary that forced the head offices of the oil companies mining the Alberta tar sands to go dark and send their employees home, while a train carrying flammable petroleum products teetered on the edge of a disintegrating rail bridge. Or the drought that hit the Mississippi River one year earlier, push5 ( notes.html#intnt5 ) We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will very likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts. And we don’t have to do anything to bring about this future. All we have to do is nothing. Just continue to do what we are doing now, whether it’s counting on a techno-fix or tending to our gardens or telling ourselves we’re unfortunately too busy to deal with it. All we have to do is not react as if this is a full-blown crisis. All we have to do is keep on denying how frightened we actually are. And then, bit by bit, we will have arrived at the place we most fear, the thing from which we have been averting our eyes. No additional effort required. There are ways of preventing this grim future, or at least making it a lot less dire. But the catch is that these also involve changing everything. For us high consumers, it involves changing how we live, how our economies function, even the stories we tell about our place on earth. The good news is that many of these changes are distinctly un-catastrophic. Many are downright exciting. But I didn’t discover this for a long while. I remember the precise moment when I stopped averting my eyes to 6 ( notes.html#intnt6 ) Of course a Marshall Plan for the Earth would be very costly—hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars (Navarro Llanos was reluctant to name a figure). And one might have thought that the cost alone would make it a nonstarter—after all, this was 2009 and the global financial crisis was in full swing. Yet the grinding logic of austerity—passing on the bankers’ bills 7 ( notes.html#intnt7 ) Listening to Navarro Llanos describe Bolivia’s perspective, I began to understand how climate change—if treated as a true planetary emergency akin to those rising flood waters—could become a galvanizing force for humanity, leaving us all not just safer from extreme weather, but with societies that are safer and fairer in all kinds of other ways as well. The resources required to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and prepare for the coming heavy weather could pull huge swaths of humanity out of poverty, providing services now sorely lacking, from clean water to electricity. This is a vision of the future that goes beyond just surviving or enduring climate change, beyond “mitigating” and “adapting” to it in the grim language of the United Nations. It is a vision in which we collectively use the crisis to leap somewhere that seems, frankly, better than where we are right now. After that conversation, I found that I no longer feared immersing myself in the scientific reality of the climate threat. I stopped avoiding the articles and the scientific studies and read everything I could find. I also stopped outsourcing the problem to the environmentalists, stopped telling myself this was somebody else’s issue, somebody else’s job. And through conversations with others in the growing climate justice movement, I began to see all kinds of ways that climate change could become a catalyzing force for positive change—how it could be the best argument progressives have ever had to demand the rebuilding and reviving of local economies; to reclaim our democracies from corrosive corporate influence; to block harmful new free trade deals and rewrite old ones; to invest in starving public infrastructure like mass transit and affordable housing; to take back ownership of essential services like energy and water; to remake our sick agricultural system into something much healthier; to open borders to migrants whose displacement is linked to climate impacts; to finally respect Indigenous land rights—all of which would help to end grotesque levels of inequality within our nations and between them. And I started to see signs—new coalitions and fresh arguments—hinting at how, if these various connections were more widely understood, 8 ( notes.html#intnt8 ) And in a moment of candor, the weapons giant Raytheon explained, “Expanded business opportunities are likely to arise as consumer behaviour and needs change in response to climate change.” Those opportunities include not just more demand for the company’s privatized disaster response services but also “demand for its military products and services as security concerns may arise as results of droughts, floods, and storm events occur as a result of climate change.”9 ( notes.html#intnt9 ) This is worth remembering whenever doubts creep in about the urgency of this crisis: the private militias are already mobilizing. Droughts and floods create all kinds of business opportunities besides a growing demand for men with guns. Between 2008 and 2010, at least 261 patents were filed related to growing “climate-ready” crops—seeds supposedly able to withstand extreme weather conditions; of these patents close to 80 percent were controlled by six agribusiness giants, including Monsanto and Syngenta. Superstorm Sandy, meanwhile, has been a windfall for New Jersey real estate developers who have received millions for new construction in lightly damaged areas, while it continues to be a nightmare for those living in hard-hit public housing, much as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina played out in New Orleans.10 ( notes.html#intnt10 ) None of this is surprising. Finding new ways to privatize the commons and profit from disaster is what our current system is built to do; left to its own devices, it is capable of nothing else. The shock doctrine, however, is not the only way societies respond to crises. We have all witnessed this in recent years as the financial meltdown that began on Wall Street in 2008 reverberated around the world. A sudden rise in food prices helped create the conditions for the Arab Spring. Austerity policies have inspired mass movements from Greece to Spain to Chile to the United States to Quebec. Many of us are getting a lot better at standing up to those who would cynically exploit crises to ransack the public sphere. And yet these protests have also shown that saying no is not enough. If opposition movements are to do more than burn bright and then burn out, they will need a comprehensive 11 ( notes.html#intnt11 ) In truth, the intergovernmental body entrusted to prevent “dangerous” levels of climate change has not only failed to make progress over its twenty-odd years of work (and more than ninety official negotiation meetings since the agreement was adopted), it has overseen a process of virtually uninterrupted backsliding. Our governments wasted years fudging numbers and squabbling over start dates, perpetually trying to get extensions like undergrads with late term papers. The catastrophic result of all this obfuscation and procrastination is now undeniable. Preliminary data shows that in 2013, global carbon dioxide emissions were 61 percent higher than they were in 1990, when negotiations toward a climate treaty began in earnest. As MIT economist John Reilly puts it: “The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing.” Indeed the only thing rising faster than our emissions is the output of words pledging to lower them. Meanwhile, the annual U.N. climate summit, which remains the best hope for a political breakthrough on climate action, has started to seem less like a forum for serious negotiation than a very costly and high-carbon group therapy session, a place for the representatives of the most vulnerable countries in the world to vent their grief and rage while low-level representatives of the nations largely responsible for their tragedies stare at their shoes.12 ( notes.html#intnt12 ) This has been the mood ever since the collapse of the much-hyped 2009 U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen. On the last night of that massive gathering, I found myself with a group of climate justice activists, including one of the most prominent campaigners in Britain. Throughout the summit, this young man had been the picture of confidence and composure, briefing dozens of journalists a day on what had gone on during each 13 ( notes.html#intnt13 ) No matter how many times we have been disappointed by the failings of our politicians, this realization still comes as a blow. It really is the case that we are on our own and any credible source of hope in this crisis will have to come from below. In Copenhagen, the major polluting governments—including the United States and China—signed a nonbinding agreement pledging to keep temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius above where they were before we started powering our economies with coal. (That converts to an increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.) This well-known target, which supposedly represents the “safe” limit of climate change, has always been a highly political choice that has more to do with minimizing economic disruption than with protecting the greatest number of people. When the 2 degrees target was made official in Copenhagen, there were impassioned objections from many delegates who said the goal amounted to a “death sentence” for some low-lying island states, as well as for large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact it is a very risky target for all of us: so far, temperatures have increased by just .8 degree Celsius and we are already experiencing many alarming impacts, including the unprecedented melting of the Greenland ice sheet in the summer of 2012 and the acidification of oceans far more rapidly than expected. Allowing temperatures to warm by more than twice that amount will unquestionably have perilous consequences.14 ( notes.html#intnt14 ) In a 2012 report, the World Bank laid out the gamble implied by that target. “As global warming approaches and exceeds 2-degrees Celsius, there 15 ( notes.html#intnt15 ) In other words, once we allow temperatures to climb past a certain point, where the mercury stops is not in our control. But the bigger problem—and the reason Copenhagen caused such great despair—is that because governments did not agree to binding targets, they are free to pretty much ignore their commitments. Which is precisely what is happening. Indeed, emissions are rising so rapidly that unless something radical changes within our economic structure, 2 degrees now looks like a utopian dream. And it’s not just environmentalists who are raising the alarm. The World Bank also warned when it released its report that “we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world [by century’s end] marked by extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.” And the report cautioned that, “there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible.” Kevin Anderson, former director (now deputy director) of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has quickly established itself as one of the U.K.’s premier climate research institutions, is even blunter; he says 4 degrees Celsius warming—7.2 degrees Fahrenheit—is “incompatible with any reasonable characterization of an organized, equitable and civilized global community.”16 ( notes.html#intnt16 ) We don’t know exactly what a 4 degrees Celsius world would look like, but even the best-case scenario is likely to be calamitous. Four degrees of warming could raise global sea levels by 1 or possibly even 2 meters by 2100 (and would lock in at least a few additional meters over future centuries). This would drown some island nations such as the Maldives and Tuvalu, and inundate many coastal areas from Ecuador and Brazil to the Netherlands to much of California and the northeastern United States, as well as huge swaths of South and Southeast Asia. Major cities likely in jeopardy include Boston, New York, greater Los Angeles, Vancouver, London, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.17 ( notes.html#intnt17 ) Meanwhile, brutal heat waves that can kill tens of thousands of people, 18 ( notes.html#intnt18 ) And keep in mind that these are the optimistic scenarios in which warming is more or less stabilized at 4 degrees Celsius and does not trigger tipping points beyond which runaway warming would occur. Based on the latest modeling, it is becoming safer to assume that 4 degrees could bring about a number of extremely dangerous feedback loops—an Arctic that is regularly ice-free in September, for instance, or, according to one recent study, global vegetation that is too saturated to act as a reliable “sink,” leading to more carbon being emitted rather than stored. Once this happens, any hope of predicting impacts pretty much goes out the window. And this process may be starting sooner than anyone predicted. In May 2014, NASA and University of California, Irvine scientists revealed that glacier melt in a section of West Antarctica roughly the size of France now “appears unstoppable.” This likely spells doom for the entire West Antarctic ice sheet, which according to lead study author Eric Rignot “comes with a sea level rise of between three and five metres. Such an event will displace millions of people worldwide.” The disintegration, however, could unfold over centuries and there is still time for emission reductions to slow down the process and prevent the worst.19 ( notes.html#intnt19 ) Much more frightening than any of this is the fact that plenty of mainstream analysts think that on our current emissions trajectory, we are headed for even more than 4 degrees of warming. In 2011, the usually staid International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a report projecting that we are 20 ( notes.html#intnt20 ) These various projections are the equivalent of every alarm in your house going off simultaneously. And then every alarm on your street going off as well, one by one by one. They mean, quite simply, that climate change has become an existential crisis for the human species. The only historical precedent for a crisis of this depth and scale was the Cold War fear that we were heading toward nuclear holocaust, which would have made much of the planet uninhabitable. But that was (and remains) a threat; a slim possibility, should geopolitics spiral out of control. The vast majority of nuclear scientists never told us that we were almost certainly going to put our civilization in peril if we kept going about our daily lives as usual, doing exactly what we were already doing, which is what the climate scientists have been telling us for years. As the Ohio State University climatologist Lonnie G. Thompson, a world-renowned specialist on glacier melt, explained in 2010, “Climatologists, like other scientists, tend to be a stolid group. We are not given to theatrical rantings about falling skies. Most of us are far more comfortable in our laboratories or gathering data in the field than we are giving interviews to journalists or speaking before Congressional committees. Why then are climatologists speaking out about the dangers of global warming? The answer is that virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.”21 ( notes.html#intnt21 ) It doesn’t get much clearer than that. And yet rather than responding with alarm and doing everything in our power to change course, large parts of humanity are, quite consciously, continuing down the same road. Only, like the passengers aboard Flight 3935, aided by a more powerful, dirtier engine. What is wrong with us? 22 ( notes.html#intnt22 ) Yes, the threat of war seemed immediate and concrete but so too is the threat posed by the climate crisis that has already likely been a substantial contributor to massive disasters in some of the world’s major cities. Still, we’ve gone soft since those days of wartime sacrifice, haven’t we? Contemporary humans are too self-centered, too addicted to gratification to live without the full freedom to satisfy our every whim—or so our culture tells us every day. And yet the truth is that we continue to make collective sacrifices in the name of an abstract greater good all the time. We sacrifice our pensions, our hard-won labor rights, our arts and after-school programs. We send our kids to learn in ever more crowded classrooms, led by ever more harried teachers. We accept that we have to pay dramatically more for the destructive energy sources that power our transportation and our lives. We accept that bus and subway fares go up and up while service fails to improve or degenerates. We accept that a public university education should result in a debt that will take half a lifetime to pay off when such a thing was unheard of a generation ago. In Canada, where I live, we are in the midst of accepting that our mail can no longer be delivered to our homes. The past thirty years have been a steady process of getting less and less in the public sphere. This is all defended in the name of austerity, the current justification for these never-ending demands for collective sacrifice. In the past, other words and phrases, equally abstracted from daily life, have served a similar purpose: balanced budgets, increased efficiency, fostering economic growth. It seems to me that if humans are capable of sacrificing this much collective benefit in the name of stabilizing an economic system that makes daily life so much more expensive and precarious, then surely humans should be capable of making some important lifestyle changes in the interest of stabilizing the physical systems upon which all of life depends. Especially because many of the changes that need to be made to dramatically cut emissions would also materially improve the quality of life for the majority of people on the planet—from allowing kids in Beijing to play outside without 23 ( notes.html#intnt23 ) But we are not stopping the fire. In fact we are dousing it with gasoline. After a rare decline in 2009 due to the financial crisis, global emissions surged by a whopping 5.9 percent in 2010—the largest absolute increase since the Industrial Revolution.24 ( notes.html#intnt24 ) So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets. That problem might not have been insurmountable had it presented itself at another point in our history. But it is our great collective misfortune that the scientific community made its decisive diagnosis of the climate threat at the precise moment when those elites were enjoying more unfettered political, cultural, and intellectual power than at any point since the 1920s. Indeed, governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in 1988—the exact year that marked the dawning of what came to be called “globalization,” with the signing of the agreement 25 ( notes.html#intnt25 ) When historians look back on the past quarter century of international negotiations, two defining processes will stand out. There will be the climate process: struggling, sputtering, failing utterly to achieve its goals. And there will be the corporate globalization process, zooming from victory to victory: from that first free trade deal to the creation of the World Trade Organization to the mass privatization of the former Soviet economies to the transformation of large parts of Asia into sprawling free-trade zones to the “structural adjusting” of Africa. There were setbacks to that process, to be sure—for example, popular pushback that stalled trade rounds and free trade deals. But what remained successful were the ideological underpinnings of the entire project, which was never really about trading goods across borders—selling French wine in Brazil, for instance, or U.S. software in China. It was always about using these sweeping deals, as well as a range of other tools, to lock in a global policy framework that provided maximum freedom to multinational corporations to produce their goods as cheaply as possible and sell them with as few regulations as possible—while paying as little in taxes as possible. Granting this corporate wishlist, we were told, would fuel economic growth, which would trickle down to the rest of us, eventually. The trade deals mattered only in so far as they stood in for, and plainly articulated, this far broader agenda. The three policy pillars of this new era are familiar to us all: privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sector, and lower corporate taxation, paid for with cuts to public spending. Much has been written about the real-world costs of these policies—the instability of financial markets, the excesses of the super-rich, and the desperation of the increasingly disposable poor, as well as the failing state of public infrastructure and services. Very little, however, has been written about how market fundamentalism has, from the very first moments, systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change, a threat that came knocking just as this ideology was reaching its zenith. The core problem was that the stranglehold that market logic secured over public life in this period made the most direct and obvious climate responses seem politically heretical. How, for instance, could societies invest 26 ( notes.html#intnt26 ) With hindsight, it’s hard to see how it could have turned out otherwise. The twin signatures of this era have been the mass export of products across vast distances (relentlessly burning carbon all the way), and the import of a uniquely wasteful model of production, consumption, and agriculture to every corner of the world (also based on the profligate burning of fossil fuels). Put differently, the liberation of world markets, a process powered by the liberation of unprecedented amounts of fossil fuels from the earth, 27 ( notes.html#intnt27 ) The “free” market simply cannot accomplish this task. Indeed, this level of emission reduction has happened only in the context of economic collapse or deep depressions. I’ll be delving deeper into those numbers in Chapter 2, but the bottom line is what matters here: our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature. Fortunately, it is eminently possible to transform our economy so that it is less resource-intensive, and to do it in ways that are equitable, with the most vulnerable protected and the most responsible bearing the bulk of the burden. Low-carbon sectors of our economies can be encouraged to expand and create jobs, while high-carbon sectors are encouraged to contract. The problem, however, is that this scale of economic planning and management is entirely outside the boundaries of our reigning ideology. The only kind of contraction our current system can manage is a brutal crash, in which the most vulnerable will suffer most of all. 28 ( notes.html#intnt28 ) That’s tough for a lot of people in important positions to accept, since it challenges something that might be even more powerful than capitalism, and that is the fetish of centrism—of reasonableness, seriousness, splitting the difference, and generally not getting overly excited about anything. This is the habit of thought that truly rules our era, far more among the liberals who concern themselves with matters of climate policy than among conservatives, many of whom simply deny the existence of the crisis. Climate change presents a profound challenge to this cautious centrism because half measures won’t cut it: “all of the above energy” programs, as U.S. President Barack Obama describes his approach, has about as much chance of success as an all of the above diet, and the firm deadlines imposed by science require that we get very worked up indeed. By posing climate change as a battle between capitalism and the planet, I am not saying anything that we don’t already know. The battle is already under way, but right now capitalism is winning hands down. It wins every time the need for economic growth is used as the excuse for putting off climate action yet again, or for breaking emission reduction commitments already made. It wins when Greeks are told that their only path out of economic crisis is to open up their beautiful seas to high-risk oil and gas drilling. It wins when Canadians are told our only hope of not ending up 29 ( notes.html#intnt29 ) All this means that the usual free market assurances—A techno-fix is around the corner! Dirty development is just a phase on the way to a clean environment, look at nineteenth-century London!—simply don’t add up. We don’t have a century to spare for China and India to move past their Dickensian phases. Because of our lost decades, it is time to turn this around now. Is it possible? Absolutely. Is it possible without challenging the fundamental logic of deregulated capitalism? Not a chance. One of the people I met on this journey and who you will meet in these pages is Henry Red Cloud, a Lakota educator and entrepreneur who trains young Native people to become solar engineers. He tells his students that there are times when we must accept small steps forward—and there are other times “when you need to run like a buffalo.”30 ( notes.html#intnt30 ) Now is one of those times when we must run. Power, Not Just Energy ----------------------------------------------------------------- I was struck recently by a mea culpa of sorts, written by Gary Stix, a senior editor of Scientific American. Back in 2006, he edited a special issue on responses to climate change and, like most such efforts, the articles were narrowly focused on showcasing exciting low-carbon technologies. But in 2012 Stix wrote that he had overlooked a much larger and more important part of the story—the need to create the social and political context in which these technological shifts stand a chance of displacing the all too profitable status quo. “If we are ever to cope with climate change in any fundamental way, radical solutions on the social side are where we must focus, though. The relative efficiency of the next generation of solar cells is trivial by comparison.”31 ( notes.html#intnt31 ) This book is about those radical changes on the social side, as well as on the political, economic, and cultural sides. What concerns me is less the mechanics of the transition—the shift from brown to green energy, from sole-rider cars to mass transit, from sprawling exurbs to dense and walkable cities—than the power and ideological roadblocks that have so far 32 ( notes.html#intnt32 ) Will he ever see a moose? Then, the other day, I was slain by a miniature board book called Snuggle Wuggle. It involves different animals cuddling, with each posture given a ridiculously silly name: “How does a bat hug?” it asks. “Topsy turvy, topsy turvy.” For some reason my son reliably cracks up at this page. I explain that it means upside down, because that’s the way bats sleep. But all I could think about was the report of some 100,000 dead and dying bats raining down from the sky in the midst of record-breaking heat across part of Queensland, Australia. Whole colonies devastated.33 ( notes.html#intnt33 ) Will he ever see a bat? I knew I was in trouble when the other day I found myself bargaining with starfish. Red and purple ones are ubiquitous on the rocky coast of British Columbia where my parents live, where my son was born, and where I have spent about half of my adult life. They are always the biggest kid pleasers, because you can gently pick one up and give it a really good look. “This is the best day of my life!” my seven-year-old niece Miriam, visiting from Chicago, proclaimed after a long afternoon spent in the tide pools. But in the fall of 2013, stories began to appear about a strange wasting disease that was causing starfish along the Pacific Coast to die by the tens of thousands. Termed the “sea star wasting syndrome,” multiple species were disintegrating alive, their vibrant bodies melting into distorted globs, with legs falling off and bodies caving in. Scientists were mystified.34 ( notes.html#intnt34 ) As I read these stories, I caught myself praying for the invertebrates to hang in for just one more year—long enough for my son to be amazed by them. Then I doubted myself: maybe it’s better if he never sees a starfish at all—certainly not like this . . . When fear like that used to creep through my armor of climate change denial, I would do my utmost to stuff it away, change the channel, click past it. Now I try to feel it. It seems to me that I owe it to my son, just as we all owe it to ourselves and one another. But what should we do with this fear that comes from living on a planet that is dying, made less alive every day? First, accept that it won’t go away. That it is a fully rational response to the unbearable reality that we are living in a dying world, a world that a great many of us are helping to kill, by doing things like making tea and driving to the grocery store and yes, okay, having kids. Next, use it. Fear is a survival response. Fear makes us run, it makes us leap, it can make us act superhuman. But we need somewhere to run to. Without that, the fear is only paralyzing. So the real trick, the only hope, really, is to allow the terror of an unlivable future to be balanced and soothed by the prospect of building something much better than many of us have previously dared hope. Yes, there will be things we will lose, luxuries some of us will have to give up, whole industries that will disappear. And it’s too late to stop climate change from coming; it is already here, and increasingly brutal disasters are headed our way no matter what we do. But it’s not too late to avert the worst, and there is still time to change ourselves so that we are far less brutal to one another when those disasters strike. And that, it seems to me, is worth a great deal. Because the thing about a crisis this big, this all-encompassing, is that it changes everything. It changes what we can do, what we can hope for, what we can demand from ourselves and our leaders. It means there is a whole lot of stuff that we have been told is inevitable that simply cannot stand. And it means that a whole lot of stuff we have been told is impossible has to start happening right away. Can we pull it off? All I know is that nothing is inevitable. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us. Read more ( javascript:void(0) )
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    This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate