This Changes Everything Summary and Study Guide

Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything

  • 145-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 13 chapter summaries and 4 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with a PhD in English
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This Changes Everything Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 145-page guide for “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 13 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Climate Change and Climate Denial and The Transition to Green Energy.

Plot Summary

In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein explores the issue of climate change from a political perspective and considers why we have failed as yet to respond to the global danger it poses.

Klein bases her argument on the scientific consensus that at projected rates of carbon emission we are heading towards an environmental catastrophe that would irreparably damage the natural world, destroy lives, and destabilise human society. She asks the question: considering the stakes are so high, why have we done so little?

Klein argues that the answer is political. We already have the technology and ideas required to start significantly reducing carbon emissions and shifting our economies to renewable-energy based models, but what’s lacking is the political will. This is because the sweeping changes required to avoid a climate catastrophe run against the grain of our existing profit-based economic model and are not in the financial interests of a wealthy and powerful elite who dominate politics and shape mainstream political discourse.

To cut carbon emission levels by a sufficient amount, we must be prepared to change everything. In other words, we must think outside of the dominant economic and ideological model of free-market capitalism, outside of our carbon-intensive lifestyles, and also outside of our deeply-engrained cultural assumptions that we can control and exploit nature as an endless resource. What’s required, in effect, is a new worldview.

Klein also argues that the struggle against climate change is intimately linked to struggles for economic and social justice. To drive change, she argues a grass-roots mass movement is required that draws together various strands of existing social and political struggles.

Klein develops her position through looking at the political obstacles to climate change, including the climate-change-denial movement and the rise of neoliberalism and the network of international free-trade agreements that was established in the 80s and 90s. She looks closely at the fossil-fuel industry and its political power and latest phase of expansion into destructive activities like fracking and tar-sand oil. She also looks at the history of environmentalism, the pro-corporate stance of the big green organisations, and the possibilities of large-scale technological solutions.

Klein considers the alternative values and policies that could help combat climate change, from democratically-controlled renewable energy infrastructure in Germany and eco-agriculture to international regulations and tax models that could direct funds from polluting industries into green public projects.

Finally, she looks at the emerging mass movement that she hopes has the power to lead these policies and repel the expansion of the fossil-fuel industry. She sees the first stages of this movement in the loose coalition of local struggles around the world that is referred to as “Blockadia.”

This movement, which sprang out of resistance to the fossil fuel companies expanding in local areas, is drawing together people of different generations, races and backgrounds. It’s bringing together indigenous people and non-natives in a shared struggle to save their communities and environments, and shape the alternative ways of living that can collectively save our planet.

Klein organizes her book into three large parts, each containing three to five separate chapters. There is also a separate Introduction and Conclusion chapter.

Part 1,“Bad Timing,” explores the political context in which the battle against climate change has been fought, and the political dimensions and implications of climate change policy. The “bad timing” she is referring to is the way that the need for collective action on climate change came into public awareness at almost exactly the same time as neoliberalism become the dominant political force on the planet.

Part 2, “Magical Thinking,” explores the various attempts to address climate change that Klein argues haven’t worked: large green groups partnering with big business to find market-based solutions; billionaires and philanthropists attempting to solve the problem on their own terms; and geo-engineering and imagined future technology. This is what Klein refers to as “magical thinking.”

Part 3, “Starting Anyway,” contains six chapters that explore forms of grass-roots resistance to the expansion of the fossil-fuel industry, and community-led solutions to climate change. Here, Klein considers the kind of mass-movement she believes is required to drive real change, and the integral role that indigenous peoples and local struggles have in this wider movement.

Within each part is a group of chapters, and each chapter is itself divided into fairly short subsections, each with its own title. This study guide follows Klein’s chosen structure and provides distinct summaries for each subsection.

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Introduction