By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Naomi Klein
Narration by: Ellen Archer
A choice of titles comes to mind in reviewing Naomi Klein’s book, “This Changes Everything”. A first thought is a declaration like “Beat the Drum.” A second thought 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. But almost universally, science is saying climate warming is real.
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. Democratic capitalism unleashes the power of human nature, both good and bad. History shows freedom, subject to rule of law, is essential to a deliberative process that will provide best-case solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems. Chances for successfully resolving global warming are better with democratic capitalism than other known forms of government.
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 a deliberative process of a democratic capitalist country.
The world is suffering from global warming. Eventually, that suffering will create a political consensus for something to be done to combat global warming. 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 what is being done. Klein attacks 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. It does not mean that their self-interest is not meant to abate global warming.
Klein suggests that Branson expands his airline to make more money at the cost of further pollution. Branson is a pariah to Klein because of his self-interest in vertically integrating research for alternative fuels for plane travel. Klein notes 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 million, on alternate fuels. Klein infers Branson is all show and no go by reaping publicity while raping the global environment.
Klein vilifies Buffett for buying railroads because they are transporting coal. Klein offers no evidence or statements noting that railroads are more energy-efficient than other forms of land-based material transport. 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 the greater good. 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 liabilities 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 among leaders of the world and the scientific community. It is not what Klein says but the naivety of an inferred belief that turning back industrialization will change human nature. 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 argues that people must change their behavior by consuming less but abstinence is not a solution. It is unlikely to come about without being mandated by a dictatorial government because it is contrary to the nature of human beings. Klein gives the example of rationing during war but ignores the reality of a black market that subverted rationing’s intent. Human nature is as uncontrollable as mother nature.
Klein and others should continue to raise awareness and sense of urgency but it is self-delusion to think human nature will change. 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; e.g. America is one of those nations, in spite of its democratic capitalist leaning.