By Chet Yarbrough
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate
Written by: Naomi Klein
Narration by: Ellen Archer
A change of book titles comes to mind in reviewing Naomi Klein’s book, “This Changes Everything”. A first thought is a title like “Beat the Drum.” On second thought, it is the question “Who Gets to Decide?” Ninety seven percent of “…actively publishing climate scientists” say climate warming trends are likely due to human activity.
Deniers think current weather phenomena are a natural aberration that will be corrected by time. Others are apathetically fatalistic and call global warming a myth. But almost universally, science is saying climate warming is real.
A “Beat the Drum” title is meant to convey appreciation of Naomi Klein’s studied effort to awaken the general public to the truth of global warming. (She is not a scientist but a writer, researcher, and social activist.) However, the title “Who Gets to Decide?” is meant to convey a monumental weakness in Klein’s spun presentation on solutions for the problems of global warming.
Klein’s argument that global warming is a consequence of capitalism is false. Global warming is a consequence of human nature. To date, democratic capitalism is the only economic form of government that offers a degree of freedom for all Peoples subject to rule of law. Democratic capitalism unleashes the power of human nature, both good and bad. Until some better form of governance is created, the best chance for a global warming solution is captialism. History shows freedom, subject to rule of law, is essential to a deliberative process that will provide best-case solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
Global warming solutions lie in politics and science; not one or the other, but both.
Einstein and fellow scientists prove that energy and mass are always equal. That scientific proof leads to Nagasaki and Hiroshima’s atom bombs just as 97% of the scientific community’s proof leads to earth’s climate bomb.
Great Britain, France, Russia, and Germany were worn down by WWII. American democratic capitalism makes the decision to end the war by using the atomic bomb. One may argue that this decision is morally reprehensible but it ended a war that would have continued without definitive action based on the deliberative process of a democratic capitalist country. The same may be said for a pragmatic solution for global warming.
The world is suffering from a global warming war. Eventually, that suffering will create a political consensus for something to be done to combat its consequence. Evidence of something being done is everywhere. By beating the drum Klein is creating sense of urgency about global warming. What is misleading and spun by Klein is discounting of rich entrepreneurs, like Gates, Bloomberg, Branson, and Buffett, who are taking self-interested steps to curb global warming. Yes, they are self-interested steps but self-interest is not inherently bad. Self-interest is in the fight to abate global warming.
Klein suggests Branson expands his airline to make more money at the cost of further pollution. (In truth Branson did sell his airline in 2016.) Branson is a pariah to Klein because of his self-interest in vertically integrating research for alternative fuels for plane travel.
Klein explains Branson is only spending two to four hundred million dollars for research on alternate fuels while having pledged three billion dollars over ten years. One wonders, how many rich have spent one million dollars, let alone two to four hundred, on alternate fuels. Klein infers Branson is all show and no go by reaping publicity benefit while raping the global environment. Whatever Branson’s motive may be, two to four hundred million dollars for a less polluting fuel is better than doing nothing.
Klein vilifies Buffett for buying railroads because they are transporting coal. Klein offers no suggestion that railroads are a more energy-efficient than some other forms of material transportation. Klein infers Buffett made the railroad investment out of self-interest. He probably did but that is not proof of a lack of concern about global warming. Klein infers Buffett’s investment decisions should be dictated by whom? Who gets to decide?
Because people like Klein are beating the drum, the largest coal producer in the world has lost 95 percent of its stock value. The investing public finds that the industry misleads investors on its liability as a climate polluter. This is democratic capitalism in action.
Self-interest, good and bad, is the nature of human beings. Klein and others need to continue to “Beat the Drum” but decisions on what is to be done will be from a political consensus and action from leaders of the world and the scientific community. It is not what Klein says so much as how she says it. Money, power, and prestige are human nature’s motivations. It will be a matter of competing self-interests that reach a consensus on the preservation of life.
Klein and others should continue to raise awareness and sense of urgency, but it is self-delusion to think human nature will change within the time frame of this world’s declining environment.
In a free society, all realize they have “skin in the game”. Those governments that validate individual freedom offer the best hope for a global warming solution. The answer to the question of “Who gets to decide?” is best left in the hands of nation-states that validate individual freedom. America is one that holds the hope for a solution to global warming, in spite of its democratic capitalist leaning and today’s inept Executive and Legislative branch leadership.