This Changes Everything
By Naomi Klein
Review by Tim (PPE)
The main reason I applied for PPE was that I wanted to study something that would give me the skills and knowledge to tackle global issues. Climate change is becoming the central issue of our time, precisely because it ties into so many others like wealth inequality, economic growth, justice, and power. This Changes Everything highlights those links and made me really think about what I wanted to contribute to the world.
Klein analyses the role of the environment in modern politics and economics on the way challenging concepts are embedded into society. For instance, she criticises the idea that growth is the fundamental goal of a healthy economy, instead arguing for the prioritisation of an equitable distribution of wealth and a circular, reciprocal relationship with nature. She points to Indigenous cultures and their valuable role in making legal challenges to large-scale extraction projects on Indigenous land. While you can, and should, think critically about the author’s vision of a grassroots climate revolution, her interaction with people of different cultures provides a fascinating contrast to attitudes taken for granted in developed countries.
The topics addressed in this book are supported by ample research. Klein presents a roadmap of how the switch to renewable energy can work, pointing to studies and real-world examples of publicly owned energy in German cities, Denmark, and Canada. She proposes ambitious policies to cut emissions, from a variety of taxes designed to hit the biggest polluters to social programmes like minimum income. In doing so, Klein highlights how the climate crisis is providing the opportunity to forge a fairer, more sustainable world. The ethical issues raised are particularly interesting, such as the responsibility of historical emitters like Britain to pay back their “climate debt” by financially supporting developing nations. There is plenty to develop your own views about and read further into.
Klein analyses different perspectives on the environment, from outright climate deniers to those who prioritise free trade and industry to grassroots climate activists. The book’s strength is that it doesn’t simply dismiss those of a different viewpoint as ideological enemies, it assesses their motivations and shows how different groups can find common ground in wanting to protect the environment. Klein highlights local examples of direct resistance to fossil fuel extraction, providing a rallying cry for such activists across the world to form a powerful environmental coalition. Following the mainstream attention of protests like Fridays for Future, such a vision seems even more relevant today.
Despite the seemingly overwhelming subjects that the book deals with, it makes them really accessible and interesting to follow. I came across it myself on Staircase 12, and 8 years after it was originally published, I think its value has only grown; its warnings seem more relevant, and its message is more motivating than ever. For students passionate about the environment or simply interested in global issues and how they tie together politics, economics, history and ethics, I highly recommend this book!
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
Read more reviews on our Reading Bank.
Published: 11 April 2023