What We're Reading: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

This month, the Seaside Sustainability Book Club read This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein, a 2014 non-fiction book about climate change told through an economic lens.

The book is written for an audience familiar with the details of the ongoing climate crisis. As a result, the author does not spend significant time outlining the specifics of climate change’s impact and its causes. Rather, she dedicates the book to argue in favor of a grand shift in our economic system: specifically, an overthrow of capitalism.

According to Klein, before we can make positive environmental change, we need to change the structure of our society which continues to operate on a system that is dedicated to the exploitation of resources. This is a different view than is often discussed within environmentalist movements, and is worth considering as we continue to work to minimize climate change.

Klein acknowledges that this shift is not easy. Capitalism works so that people define their self-worth based on what they are able to purchase, contributing to the “free market”. Klein argues that no real climate progress will be made until this is no longer the common narrative, and humankind regains a sense of humility for nature.

Klein does a great job of balancing the examination of policies that have gotten us to our current situation, and exploring steps that would need to be taken going forward to minimize further damage. The steps are small-scale: rebuilding our local economies, strengthening local democracies, and minimizing corporate power.

Key Takeaways:

Klein’s overarching argument is that climate change is a wake-up call for modern civilization. She says that our current way of living is not sustainable, and will not save the ongoing climate crisis: it is time for drastic reformation and change. This argument takes a drastic turn from other environmentally-oriented books, which often emphasize more systematic changes rather than a reconstruction of the system altogether. Klein suggests that there can be no restructuring of our current system, and society is going to need to do a lot of work to combat the damage done to our environment.

This book offers a fresh perspective on a very current issue. We recommend it to anyone looking to broaden their horizons and listen to new insight around how we proceed from our current climate situation. You can find the book here, or at your local bookshop.