Date finished: 16th June 2015
The environmental movement which first appeared on the scene in the 1960s after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and was exacerbated by the revelation later that decade that you could smoke a lot of Mother Nature’s produce, has seen a resurgence in recent years as the effects of climate change become more apparent and scientific predictions of our future become ever more bleak. The British Green Party gained over a million votes at the last election, and what to do about our impact on the Earth is becoming a bigger issue within conferences such as the G8 summit.
It’s also been a time for a revival of environmental media from the new Mad Max film to documentaries like Gasland. To reinforce the strength of a new green movement, we need a second Silent Spring that captures the hearts and minds of the general public.
A contender for such a title is This Changes Everything, the latest book by vocal social activist and owner of the world’s most impeccable hair, Naomi Klein.
At nearly 500 pages, it’s a somewhat hefty volume but, then there’s a lot that we have to discuss. Klein starts with the bad timing of the climate change movement. With neoliberalism presiding as the dominant economic ideology and the industries behind global warming some of the richest and most powerful on the planet, any green movement has a lot of obstacles to overcome.
This somewhat discouraging start segues into the proposed solutions to the environmental crisis and the flaws in some of the naive concessions proposed by groups with vested interests. A look at what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong.
In the final volume of the book, Klein moves onto the real solutions: what has already been done and what can be done. It’s a daunting prospect and much of what she concludes to be the answer sounds like moving mountains, but her logic is sound and her arguments compelling.
Overall, it’s an illuminating and intelligent book, a rallying call to arms, but it will never be the rallying call to the green movement and there’s a very simple reason for that: it’s just not accessible enough. Klein writes confidently but she gets bogged down in the details. The chapters headings have clear aims but when reading the actual content the aims sometimes get confused amid a sea of economic statistics and indigestible business analysis; the eyes begin to glaze over and the main message becomes lost.
This affliction is overcome in the latter half of the book but by then the damage is already done. The first 200 pages prove a slog and in this time it would be easy for Klein to lose a substantial number of readers. The next 200 are more optimistic, focused and engaging, but it’s unfair to ask readers to wade through the first half to get to this.
This Changes Everything is without doubt an incredibly important book on a gravely urgent subject with a great deal of wisdom, passion and enlightenment to impart, but its held back by unnecessary verbosity and heavy analysis that can prove physically tiring at times. It’s a book that requires a dedicated author with an established passion for the topic. It’s an essential work in the environmental canon but unfortunately its not the mainstream work that will capture the hearts and minds of the masses and drive the environmental movement to victory.