This Changes Everything is arguably the most important non-governmental contribution to a crucial year for climate change, building up to UN talks in Paris in 2015. To Klein, climate change is a wake-up call to civilisation. In the face of the vested interests of capital and our collective indifference towards the planet, she attempts to do something as laudable as it is politically astute: repackage a global ecological crisis into a golden opportunity to transform our economy and society for the better. Infiltrating the Heartland Institute, the den of America’s most powerful climate change deniers, she smokes out the crisis at the heart of neoliberalism. As Lord Stern has commented, “climate change is a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen”. Emissions are rising so rapidly that we are now on track for a temperature rise of 4C by the century’s end. Yet capital’s thirst for fuel and resources remains as unquenchable as it is unsustainable.
But Klein showcases the alternative voices who point the way to the zero-carbon economy we need: the divestment movement; anti-fracking campaigners in New York and Balcombe; indigenous peoples; Chinese anti-pollution activists and grandmothers on anti-mining rallies on the Greek island of Ierissos. These are the countervailing forces which Richard Wilkinson also addressed in his recent Fabian pamphlet A Convenient Truth. Like Wilkinson, Klein heralds spaces of community-based, participatory democracy (the Transition Town, the trade union meeting) as important sites of resistance to the corporate-state power nexus.
Will climate change activists be able to unite these social movements under a comprehensive political strategy? Despite her optimism, Klein doesn’t quite succeed in pulling together the many threads. But she puts climate change back on the political agenda and shows that it’s a fight we can win.
Anya Pearson is assistant editor at the Fabian Society