“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.” – Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate
Forget about blue states / red states; Democrats vs. Republicans. There is only one distinction to be made going forward: Do you support an “Extractivist” or do you advocate for a “Regenerative” energy policy? You can’t equivocate. There’s not time.
Naomi Klein has made the convincing argument that we have now reached “Decade Zero” of the climate crisis. Planet Earth cannot endure temperatures rising more than two degrees Celsius from further carbon emissions. The door to reach two degrees is about to close; not next decade, but in 2017 it will be closed forever. No room for any additional increase in emissions.
“In short, it means changing everything about how we think about the economy,” Klein underscores, “so that our pollution doesn’t change everything about our physical world.” Klein challenges us to live “nonextractively” relying overwhelmingly on resources that can be continuously regenerated.
In his November 9, 2014 review for The New York Times, Rob Nixon noted this “is a book of such ambition and consequence that it will be almost unreviewable.” I’m figuring this could take several blogs to convey the depth and breadth of Klein’s reporting and imploring. Nixon concludes it is “the most momentous and contentious environmental book since “Silent Spring.” I think it is the most significant political analysis and call to action that I have ever read.
I’ll save for a future blog any further comments on the 114th Congress. But Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, threw a snowball on the Senate floor February 26th to disprove what he sees as alarmist conclusions about man-made climate change. It would make a great Saturday Night Live skit. Unfortunately, we can no longer afford to laugh at such pitiful leadership.
Klein walks us through several climate change battlegrounds. Most timely is the Keystone XL Pipeline, with President Obama’s veto awaiting the114th Congress. The extractivist industry has been pushing this pipeline because the Alberta tar sands will be producing more high-carbon oil than current capacity can handle. The Keystone XL Pipeline is not an American jobs bill. Whatever the real number of construction jobs would be created, more jobs would be generated by rebuilding our country’s bridges and expanding public transit.
The Keystone XL Pipeline is simply about corporate profits to the detriment of our planet’s health. Klein reminds us that it is clear how much carbon can be burned and global warming still kept below 2 degrees Celsius. Yet the extractivist industry wants to burn five times more fossil fuel than our planet can absorb. If we are serious about protecting Earth’s future, approximately 80% of those reserves would be “useless, stranded assets.”
Fracking is another fight going on state by state. Klein cites Cornell University’s game-changing study that fracked gas has a “greater greenhouse gas impact than oil and may well have as much of a warming impact as coal when the two energy sources are examined over an extended life cycle.” New York State’s ban trumps Illinois’ current gridlock over regulations.
In Chapter 8 “Dimming the Sun,” Klein explains the latest in geoengineering which assumes political inaction will condemn us to a future of global warming that will then require spraying aerosols into the atmosphere. A report released in February by the National Research Council called for more research into reversing climate change through such a process called albedo modification. A subhead in this chapter asks: “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” So what if we lose blue skies, we’ll have redder sunsets.
In Chapter 9 “Blockadia,” Klein introduces the new climate warriors from indigenous Canadian tribes to activists in Nigeria, Ecuador, and Greece. The common demand: “stop digging.” The term was coined in August 2012 by the direct-action group Tar Sands Blockade during an 86-day blockade challenging Keystone’s construction in East Texas. “Fighting a giant extractive industry on your own can seem impossible,” Klein observes, “but being part of a continent-wide, even global, movement that has the industry surrounded is a very different story.”
Klein is a board director of 350.org which launched the fossil fuel divestment movement. She accentuates “Don’t Just Divest, Reinvest.” Smart reinvestment strategies can provide communities at the front lines of extraction alternatives. “Real solutions to the climate crisis are also our best hope of building a much more stable and equitable economic system,” Klein advocates. “If there has ever been a moment to advance a plan to heal the planet that also heals our broken economies and our shattered communities, this is it.”
If there has ever been a book you should read, this is it.
With thanks to Naomi and just a tweak to Garth’s lyrics, this week’s addition to the U2Cando playlist:
I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not just the world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me
Garth Brooks, The Change