Reaction Paper: This Changes Everything – Chapter 13 and Conclusion
Naomi Klein finishes her book about climate change by sharing information about herself, her life experiences, and her motherhood, tying it all within the context of the topic she chose. Her book is supposed to serve as a call for action, a harsh accusation of rampant capitalism, and enlighten the masses about climate change and factors that play an important factor in it. While Klein does a good job of presenting an accurate picture of what is going on in the world and why it is so, the finishing part of her book leaves room for improvement.
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There are two main ideas that the author tried to convey to the readers in the final chapters of her book – that pollution negatively affects the fertility of humans, plants, and animals, and that for the planet to survive, the society must take control. Massive social changes, riots, protests, and demonstrations are the key to victory, according to Klein. She quotes Werner, saying that the battle for Mother Earth “includes direct environmental action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by Indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists, and other activist groups.”
As it was mentioned in the past essays, Naomi Klein’s points about the impact of extraction and capitalism on our biosphere are all accurate and trustworthy. One does not need to look far for proof – the incident with British Petroleum was the greatest ecological catastrophe since Chernobyl. Numerous researches reflect on how growing ecological distress affects our daily lives, and there is no point in arguing that. While there are still some individuals who would, the majority will not. They know it to be true. The conclusion section is the weakest part of the book, however, since here the author is forced to step away from the comfort of research articles and newspapers and venture into the unknown territory of opinions and ideas that were never tried out in real life. To validate her concepts, Klein uses parallels with fighting against slavery and colonization, which took a great deal of direct action from the masses. As she states in continuation of her concluding chapter, “both of these transformative movements forced ruling elites to relinquish practices that were still extraordinarily profitable, much as fossil fuel extraction is today.”
I find this parallel to be inaccurate when considering the issue of climate change. In the situations described above, the masses had everything to gain and nothing to lose, while the elites had everything to lose, and almost nothing to gain. Klein attempts to present the battle for climate change as the battle of the masses against the elites, while in reality, it will be a battle of the society against itself. Interestingly, the author leads up to this with a chapter dedicated to fertility and children while omitting certain crucial factors from her narrative.
Extractions, technological advancements, and human fertility are interconnected. Death rates were significantly reduced due to advancements in medicine, and advancements in agriculture and industry helped sustain all these people. Current levels of fossil extraction, while certainly outstanding due to overconsumption, are largely motivated by the size of the world’s population and the current standards of living. Even the poorest of the poor nowadays are living better than they did roughly 100 years ago. While energy-efficient technologies, green energy, filters, and other measures would certainly improve the situation, they will only slow down the degradation of our planet, and not outright stop it. Drastic measures would have to be taken, like introducing limitations on the number of children per family, similar to China, and reducing the quality of life, since eco-friendly technologies will never be as efficient as technologies not limited by such constraints.
I believe this is why Klein omits to mention these things in her book – that the battle for Mother Earth will take its toll on not only evil fossil fuel corporations, jet companies, and the like – they will take a toll on the regular people as well. These measures, while necessary for the overall survival of the race, raise several important ethical questions. How many children would a family be allowed? What families would be prohibited from having children? Would the so-called “baby factories,” as Klein labeled them, be prohibited too? Who will make these decisions? All of these measures are likely to hit the poor more so than the rich, as the rich would have the resources to provide for their children. Throughout the entire book, Klein exposed the evils of the corporation, with the book ending representing a clear call for all social movements to unite in the name of saving Earth. These questions, however, do not fit into the narrative. They are left unanswered, as answering them would put a seed of doubt in regards to the solution.
While Klein opposes geoengineering and other technological solutions, and for good reasons too, I believe that it will be technological breakthroughs and not social movements alone that would improve the situation with climate change. Direct action, debate, conversation, and other tools of changing public opinion are slow on the uptake. It took us more than 100 years to completely abolish slavery and segregation. That is the time that humanity does not have.