The Ethical Activist Book Group: This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Today’s post is this year’s second book from the Ethical Activist Book Club. You can find the reading list for 2017 here, and you can find the first review in this series here. Read along at your own pace, and add your thoughts to the conversation in the comments on each post at any time of the year. 

If there is one thing that we learn from Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything it is that our current economic system has to change. If not, our civilisation will simply not survive. Capitalism, in it’s current form at least, is completely at odds with a sustainable existence, and the economic system as it stands does not require business and companies to pay for the damage that they cause to environment, the precious common resource that we all need in order to survive.

I have previously discussed Naomi’s important work in my article on 5 books that will inspire you to act. This is what I previously wrote:

When you start reading this book there is a good chance you will feel overwhelmed. Naomi Klein lays bare the cold hard facts about the state of the climate, and the trajectory that our economic system has us on. It makes for sobering reading. And if you don’t read the whole book, it could scare you even deeper into the quagmire of inaction. But keep reading. I promise it gets better. Not because the reality of climate change becomes any less worrying. But because you will be encouraged by the social and political movements that climate change is inspiring in communities across the globe. Farmers teaming up with Indigenous communities to fight mining projects. Grandmothers linking up with young activists to protect forests. Communities coming together to demand an economic system that takes care of people and planet.

If you want to know why we need action, this is the book to read. If you want to know how the world is taking action, this is also the book to read. Let yourself feel afraid about the future for a moment. Then let yourself feel encouraged that collectively we have it within us to change the world. But only if each and every one of us is brave enough to act. Let the reality of climate change be your reason and your inspiration to act.

Klein’s book does make for terrifying reading. If you are suffering from eco activist overwhelm and burnout, as I do from time to time, then you probably should give yourself a bit of time before you tackle this tome. But is an important read, and it is one that should be tackled when you have the emotional bandwidth to take it on.

It is perhaps even more important now that Trump is in the White House. However, Trump is far from the only problem when it comes to fighting climate change. Here in Australia, our own federal and state government (Queensland) are pushing for a new mega coal mine which would threaten any global attempts to keep warming below 2 degrees. Not to mention that the waste water and sedminent form the mine would directly threaten the Great Barrier Reef. Similarly, Justin Trudeau, the darling of progressive politics worldwide, is pursuing tar sands developments in Canada that would be a disaster for the climate. As Bill McKibben points out, we need to stop swooning over Justin Trudeau, the man is a disaster for the climate. It is very worrying indeed when progressive governments are failing to genuinely tackle climate change, and leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Whilst Klein deftly and comprehensively shows us that things are grim, the book does leave us with cause for hope. The final sections of the book are dedicated to the myriad of ways that people are banding together, often in unlikely partnerships, to fight for the environment. Bringing people together in localised actions, that are connected to a global movement, is the only way that we can defeat climate change. Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything gives us cause for hope. People are coming together to fight, and we are gaining in strength and momentum. It is my hope, and I believe it is Klein’s hope as well, that we can be encouraged, emboldened and resolute in our fight. It is going to be a long and difficult road. But I believe that we, as a species, have the strength, tenacity and courage to win out over greed and destruction in the end.

Thanks for being a part of this fight.

What about you? How did you feel about the book? Leave your thoughts in the comment below.

  • Hella Lynggaard

    Hi Summer.
    I came across your bookclub by coincidence, and as I’m already reading the book this was quite a delightful discovery. Still reading the book – slowly but steadily. Definitely feel a bit overwhelmed by it, but in a good way. Looking forward to the part of the book that focuses on solutions though :)
    I’m new to your blog and really like what you’ve created here – especially this book club; such a good idea! Keep it up :)

    xx Hella

    • Thanks for reaching out Hella. It is lovely to get to know you and all of our peers in the sustainable fashion community across the globe. Your blog looks lovely too.

      Be sure to leave your thoughts on the book once you’ve finished. I would love to know what you think of it.

      Stay in touch :)

  • I have just pinned your reading list so I can come back and comment once I’ve read some of them.

    • Awesome Kizzy! I am so glad to hear that you are involved. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the reading :)

  • Hannah Littler

    Hi Summer

    Finally finished the book. 15 minutes a night was about all I could cope with!

    I’ve put some thoughts below but they’re quite waffly I’m afraid.

    I found the book quite hard going, scary but really informative and challenging. Pleased to hear that people are having an impact and glad there is some hope. But will it all be too much too late? It is terrifying how much power the few have. And the book really only focuses on the fossil fuel industry but the agricultural industry is as bad I believe.

    Reading the two books, and various blogs, is making me try and keep focussing on reducing my waste and I have been talking about it lots to others, hopefully being a positive influence.
    From something else I have listened to I’ve realised it’s important to focus on the positives. For example, buying things second hand is often a lot cheaper :-) I try and talk about this to friends, but it’s more difficult to get across the seriousness of the situation because I think people have ‘big world problem fatigue’, especially on social media sites etc…

    I am going to try and do some research into how we can generate power from renewables in the local area, enough to power all the homes in my town. The book made me think about how we need to ‘take power back’ from big business. Maybe at the same time get people informed and changed mindsets. However I haven’t done anymore than talk about this so far!

    Having a short break before the next activist book. Reading Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish. I would recommend it. In fact it is a bit activisty and a lot easier read!

    • Hi Hannah, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You are right- it is overwhelming. There is no way we will get through this challenge without a complete redesign of our economy- energy, agriculture, power structures, globalised vs localised business. I even think we will have to restructure our work lives so that we have a lot more time for unpaid home and community work- caring, growing, gardening, mending, making, brewing, baking………Tweaking the system won’t work- a total transformation will be required. It is scary, but I also think it presents us with an opportunity to build a fairer world. I guess I am an optimist in that regard. I don’t think it’s misplaced. I dearly hope that it isn’t!

      Thanks for the book tip. I will look that one up. The next book in our reading list isn’t as heavy going. It is an inspiring read about the life and work of a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Hopefully it will leave you feeling less overwhelmed :)

  • Kasi Martin

    I listed to this on tape two years ago and had conflicting feelings. I think she outlined really tangible examples when other global warming books fall flat and speak in platitudes. However, I felt the tone she struck was offputting for anyone who may be newer to the conversation or may not be fully invested. These are the people who could benefit most from a book like this and it left them out of the conversation. I kept thinking to myself “this book was written for me” but what about ebeone else? I just couldn’t picture what the incentive was for them to read it. That said, I do want to go back and read No Logo now. Thanks for writing this!

    • I am also keen to go back and read her other books now too. I agree with you that the tone and writing style wouldn’t suit everyone, but I think it is aimed at those of us engaged in, or who care about, the issue and enabling us to be better informed. There are so many eco-conscious people I know that just don’t realise the extent of the issue or how much our economy needs to change. I think there is value in serving the audience who care about the issue but perhaps aren’t thoroughly informed enough to be motivated to change or be active. Plus, those of us who are activists need to be well informed so that we can fight more effectively. I see this book as a resource for activists, and as a call to action for those who care but who aren’t doing much about living to their values on this topic.

    • Veronika

      A really interesting point Kasi – I have read it being already invested and have not considered this aspect about it at all.Your comment has made me wonder if she actually wasn’t intending it for those not vested but trying more to clarify a direction for those who are? And, if so, is something in this format i.e. a book going to be something that will even reach those not vested? And if not, How will we do this?

  • I have this book somewhere but haven’t read it yet!

    • I think it is really essential reading for anyone engaged in the climate change issue. It was eye opening for me, and scary, but ultimately hopeful too.

  • Veronika

    Finally started reading this!! It has taken a while to get going but it is definitely one of those Ah-ha – so that’s why….. reads. Am also finding an approach similar to my muddled and scattered thoughts about it all. It is a time of amazing opportunity and enormous change – how that occurs is a continually unfolding story and of decisions to go willingly or be dragged along. Am finding it hard to put down. :)

    • I was the same. It was scary and energising at the same time. There are so many people who care about the environment but do nothing to change things. I think this book is meant to be a wake up call to those people, and to help those of us who are already on the journey

  • Veronika

    I finally finished this book and have immediately moved onto the “The Shock Doctrine” I find Klein’s research and how she connects the dots to create the picture so informative. Her journalistic style is a blend of pure facts and statistics from research to anecdotes, personal interviews and experience. So much now makes sense and is perfectly obvious. It may be scary and it is horrifying what people are capable of but I walk the path of ‘better to know’ so work on being present and finding the courage to face it.

    • Thanks for revisiting this conversation. It is really interesting to hear your thoughts. I also really appreciate her in depth analytical style. That is how I like to read and write.

      We definitely need to find courage to walk the path to a better future. I feel emboldened knowing that I am part of a global community of women- such as yourself- and men, and children who are fighting together to transform the world. We have to focus on the hope if we are to find the strength to overcome this overwhelming global challenge. This is the only way we will survive!

      • Veronika

        It makes all the difference doesn’t it. Keep up the good work – I certainly appreciate what you do and as these topics are still relevant re-visiting helps keep it fresh and clear.