This Changes Everything, Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 7 and 8 of Naomi Klein’s book are dedicated to two different topics that fit well into the topic’s overall agenda. They address the issue of billionaires funding green projects, and geoengineering introduced as a panacea against any potential complications brought upon the world by condensing gasses, uncontrollable drilling and excavation, and other calamities that could be triggered by careless human activity.
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First, let us address the evidence that Naomi Klein uses in this chapter and throughout the book and these two chapters specifically. The author often cites newspapers such as The New Yorker, and other publically-available sources of information, including interviews, videos, news recordings from BBC, and the like. This is understandable and makes the evidence more relatable to the reader. However, when talking about atmospheric effects, pollution, emissions, and other related issues, she omits using actual numbers and talks in general terms. The only numbers she uses are years, dates, and sometimes sums of money spent by corporations on supporting climate-friendly innovations. This indicates that while her book is backed up by numerous periodical sources, it lacks factual information from scientific journals.
The main idea of chapter 7 that Klein offers to her readers is that multi-billionaires cannot be trusted with their allegations of promoting green technology and helping combat climate change and reducing emissions, as they would always choose profits before ecology, no matter how well-natured their claims are. To support her case, Klein presents several convincing stories, particularly considering Knight, Bill Gates, and Branson – the director of Virginia Airlines. All three have made claims to care about the Earth and nature, and even allocated funds towards developing efficient green technologies, but never stopped from expanding their businesses, be that by adding more airlines, or investing into oil and coal refineries. According to Klein, “when Virginia’s various expansions are tallied up, around 160 hardworking planes have been added to its global fleet since Branson’s epiphany with Al Gore and quite possibly more than that.” The author accuses the billionaires of dishonesty, in using environmental rhetoric to promote good PR of themselves and their companies while doing very little to support environmental projects.
While the author acknowledges the rules of capitalism and the “Grow or die” doctrine, I do not think I entirely agree with her rhetoric in regards to corporations expanding, and damaging the environment with emissions while doing so. Business expansion happens according to laws of supply and demand, and competitors will quickly fill the empty places. So, had Virginia Airlines not expanded their routes, their competitors would have likely done so instead. It is an inevitable part of the capitalist world, and should not be viewed as “betrayal.” Virginia Airlines made a promise to help develop a new fuel for jets, not curb their businesses. Still, the point made by the author is strong, as it shows that while some businesses may be willing to commit to reducing their emissions by some margin, it would never be enough to turn the tide.
The eighth chapter is dedicated to geoengineering, which is labeled as a panacea to global warming. Klein cites numerous ways in which it can be counteracted – through releasing sulfur into the atmosphere to triggering volcano eruptions to create “artificial shade” and reduce the amount of sunlight coming through the atmosphere. Klein presents several convincing arguments as to why considering such actions is a bad idea. First, viewing geoengineering as a panacea will give a card blanch to all corporations to avoid reducing emissions with an argument that “geoengineering is going to fix everything.” In regards to the idea of creating screening layers of sulfates in the atmosphere, the author states “the biggest problem with the Pinatubo Option is that it does nothing to change the underlying cause of climate change, the buildup of heat-trapping gasses, and instead treats only the most obvious symptom – warmer temperatures.” The second argument is that geoengineering is not quite as reliable and predictable as we are lead to believe, and the results of a failed experiment, even on a local scare, might have far-reaching consequences. Lastly, Klein states that while geoengineering is a feasible option for desperate times, the world did not even try using softer measures to help reduce the overall emission level.
I agree with the author’s concerns voiced in this chapter. While I am not terrified of the idea of humanity “playing God,” at our current technological level the results may be too unpredictable. Humanity has not yet developed a full-proof way of predicting the weather, as weathercasts are often wrong. Prediction of results and weather patterns is necessary for any such projects to succeed. However, I believe that geoengineering is the future of our world, as no amount of green technology will be able to reduce emissions completely. Humanity’s population is around 7 billion people, and it keeps growing. Emission-reducing measures will only slow down the process of global warming, but not solve it completely. Once our technology evolves and becomes more reliable, local geoengineering and atmospheric modification tests will have to be conducted at some point, as without field tests any technology is prone to failure. It is a risk that humanity will eventually have to take. The clock is ticking.