‘Stay Brave’: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate (2014) by Naomi Klein

A Review by Matthew Rimmer

During the New York Climate Week in 2014, I saw Naomi Klein speak about her new book, This Changes Everything. She inscribed my copy, with the message ‘Stay Brave.’ Naomi Klein was a dynamic, energetic public intellectual during the hectic series of events in September. She launched her book at The New School; attended a civic meeting, with Bill McKibben, Bernie Sanders, Kshama Sawant, Chris Hedges, and Brian Lehrer; and spoke at Brooklyn Book Fair. Naomi Klein has promoted community-led responses to climate change — such as the People’s Climate March. She was a prominent figure at the 400,000 strong People’s Climate March through the streets of New York on the 21 September 2014. She highlighted the Flood Wall Street protests over the linkages between capitalism and climate change on the 22 September 2014. Naomi Klein offered a critique of the outcome of the United Nations Climate Summit on the 23 September 2014.


Naomi Klein made her name in 2000 with the brilliant book, No Logo  a mythbusting work about trans-national companies and their well-known trade marks, and the Mad Men of advertising and marketing. She displayed a strong interest in critical responses to Big Brands — looking at the tactics of culture-jamming, AdBusting, and the No Logo Movement. In 2002, Naomi Klein published Fences and Windows. This collection of work particularly focused upon battles over globalisation. In 2007, Naomi Klein published The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. This book is particularly interested in how free market neo-liberal policies have been foisted upon nation states at times of crisis, disaster, war, and shock. At the Copenhagen Climate talks in 2009, Naomi Klein showed a strong interest in climate debt. Since then, she has joined the board of 350.org, promoted fossil fuel divestment, and has written a number of pieces on climate change. Naomi Klein was particularly concerned about the impact of Hurricane Sandy upon New York. Her 2014 book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate represents the culmination of this intellectual engagement with climate change. This Changes Everything is also being transformed into a documentary film by Avi Lewis.

In her literary style, Naomi Klein is a writer of sweet reason and cool logic. (Such characteristics no doubt enrage her critics — climate deniers and sceptics have been particularly incensed by This Changes Everything). Having deconstructed brands and turned them inside-out, Naomi Klein has a gift for marketing. Her writing is often pithy and epigrammatic. Naomi Klein is also an empathetic soul. She is sympathetic to the particular human costs of climate change. Naomi Klein has great intellectual curiosity. She ranges far and wide, in terms of her subject matter, and the geographic spread of her investigations. Naomi Klein is also a fearless critic. She is brave, gutsy, and always willing to speak truth to power. Naomi Klein is also not afraid to criticise fellow travellers for their compromises and hypocrisy. She shows courage in her call for climate action.

  1. Climate Capitalism

The first part of This Changes Everything explores the relationship between capitalism and climate change.

In Chapter 1, Naomi Klein recounts her visit to the Dragon’s Den of climate denial — the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change. She engages in a thoughtful analysis and classification of climate denial. Klein makes the provocative comment about the ideological warriors gathered at the Heartland Institute’s event:

So here’s my inconvenient truth: I think these hard-core ideologues understand the real significance of climate change better than most of the “warmists” in the political center, the ones who are still insisting that the response can be gradual and painless and that we don’t need to go to war with anybody, including the fossil fuel companies. Before I go any further, let me be absolutely clear: as 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists attest, the Heartlanders are completely wrong about the science. But when it comes to the political and economic consequences of those scientific findings, specifically the kind of deep changes required not just to our energy consumption but to the underlying logic of our liberalized and profit-seeking economy, they have their eyes wide open. The deniers get plenty of the details wrong (no, it’s not a communist plot; authoritarian state socialism, as we will see, was terrible for the environment and brutally extractivist), but when it comes to the scope and depth of change required to avert catastrophe, they are right on the money.

Much like Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Klein is concerned about the role of the fossil fuel industry in financing climate disinformation. She notes: ‘According to one recent study, for instance, the denial-espousing think tanks and other advocacy groups making up what sociologist Robert Brulle calls the “climate change counter-movement” are collectively pulling in more than $900 million per year for their work on a variety of right-wing causes, most of it in the form of “dark money” — funds from conservative foundations that cannot be fully traced.’ After the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Citizens’ United, there has been greater pressure placed by fund-raisers upon politicians in respect of climate policy. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has written eloquently about how big polluting industries have ‘built a whole apparatus to exercise political power and spread the propaganda of denial.’

In Chapter 2, Naomi Klein writes about ‘Hot Money: How Free Market Fundamentalism Helped Overheat the Planet’. Naomi Klein recounts: ‘Throughout this period of rapid change [in the 1990s], the climate and trade negotiations closely paralleled one another, each winning landmark agreements within a couple of years of each other.’ She counterpoints the development of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol 1997, with the establishment of the World Trade Organization, and the North American Free Trade Agreement 1994. Naomi Klein observes: ‘What is most remarkable about these parallel processes — trade on the one hand, climate on the other — is the extent to which they functioned as two solitudes.’ She stresses: ‘Indeed, each seemed to actively pretend that the other did not exist, ignoring the most glaring questions about how one would impact the other.’ Naomi Klein is concerned that international trade laws and globalization have been undermining climate action:

To allow arcane trade law, which has been negotiated with scant public scrutiny, to have this kind of power over an issue so critical to humanity’s future is a special kind of madness. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz puts it, “Should you let a group of foolish lawyers, who put together something before they understood these issues, interfere with saving the planet?” The greatest tragedy of all is that so much of this was eminently avoidable.

Naomi Klein has been disturbed that ‘green energy programs — the strong ones that are needed to lower global emissions fast — were increasingly being challenged under international trade agreements, particularly the World Trade Organization’s rules.’ She was particularly alarmed by the World Trade Organization action brought by Japan and the European Union against clean energy policies in the province of Ontario in Canada. Naomi Klein lamented how trade law trumped climate action: ‘From a climate perspective, the WTO ruling was an outrage: if there is to be any hope of meeting the agreed-upon 2 degree Celsius target, wealthy economies like Canada must make getting off fossil fuels their top priority.’

Moreover, Naomi Klein has been increasingly worried about oil, coal, and gas companies, deploying investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) against national governments. She highlighted a dispute over fracking under the North American Free Trade Agreement 1994: ‘These trade deals may even give multinationals the power to overturn landmark grassroots victories against highly controversial extractive activities like natural gas fracking: in 2012, an oil company began taking steps to use NAFTA to challenge Quebec’s hard-won fracking moratorium, claiming it robbed the company of its right to drill for gas in the province.’ Naomi Klein was alarmed by the proposals in respect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

The habit of willfully erasing the climate crisis from trade agreements continues to this day: for instance, in early 2014, several negotiating commitments for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a controversial new NAFTA-style trade deal spanning twelve countries were released to the public via WikiLeaks… A draft of the environment chapter had contained language stating that countries ‘acknowledge climate change as a global concern that requires collective action and recognize the importance of implementation of their respective commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).’ The language was vague and nonbinding but at least it was a tool that governments could use to defend themselves should their climate policies be challenged in a trade tribunal, as Ontario’s plan was. But a later document showed that U.S. negotiators had proposed an edit: take out all the stuff about climate change and UNFCCC commitments. In other words, while trade has repeatedly been allowed to trump trade, under no circumstances would climate be permitted to trump trade.

Naomi Klein remains concerned that TransCanada could deploy investor clauses under the North American Free Trade Agreement 1994 or the Trans-Pacific Partnership if the Keystone XL pipeline to Canada’s tar sands is blocked or delayed.


In Chapter 3, Klein champions Germany’s renewable energy transition as a model and exemplar for other jurisdictions. She highlights Hamburg as a case study:

The Our Hamburg-Our Grid coalition made a series of persuasive arguments in favor of taking back the utilities. A locally controlled energy system would be concerned with public interests, not profits. Residents would have a greater democratic say in their energy system, they argued, rather than having the decisions that affect them made in distant boardrooms. And money earned in the sale of energy would be returned to the city, rather than lost to the shareholders of multinationals that had control over the grids at the time — a definite plus during a time of relentless public austerity… Many of Hamburg’s residents wanted to be part of Energiewende: the fast-spreading transition to green, renewable energy that was sweeping the country, with nearly 25 percent of Germany’s electricity in 2013 coming from renewables, dominated by wind and solar but also including some biogas and hydro — up from around 6 percent in 2000.

Klein is particularly keen on participatory, citizen-based renewable energy — ‘In hundreds of cities and towns across the country, citizens have voted to take their energy grids back from the private corporations that purchased them.’ She is a supporter of this community desire for ‘local power.’

In this chapter, Klein emphasizes the importance of the ‘polluter pays’ principle: ‘Since we have only a few short years to dramatically lower our emissions, the only rational way forward is to fully embrace the principle already well established in Western law: the polluter pays.’ She is critical of the truculent nature of the fossil fuel industry: ‘The fossil fuel companies have known for decades that their core product was warming the planet, and yet they have not only failed to adapt to that reality, they have actively blocked progress at every turn.’ Klein stresses that ‘these companies are rich, quite simply, because they have dumped the cost of cleaning up their mess onto regular people around the world.’ Klein recommends the adoption of carbon pricing: ‘A steep carbon tax would be a straightforward way to get a piece of the profits, as long as it contained a generous redistributive mechanism — a tax cut or income credit — that compensated poor and middle-class consumers for increased fuel and heating prices’. She suggests that there also needs to be appropriate mining royalties and taxes: ‘An even more direct route to getting a piece of those pollution profits would be for governments to negotiate much higher royalty rates on oil, gas, and coal extraction, with the revenues going to “heritage trust funds” that would be dedicated to building the post-fossil fuel future, as well as to helping communities and workers adapt to these new realities’. There has, of course, been massive resistance to such proposals from fossil fuel companies. The recent political history in Australia is a testimony to that.

In Chapter 4, Naomi Klein considers climate action in the wake of the global finance crisis. She was critical that President Barack Obama missed an opportunity to transform the United States into a green economy, at the same time as stabilising the climate: ‘What stopped him was the invisible confinement of a powerful ideology that had convinced him — as it has convinced virtually all of his political counterparts — that there is something wrong with telling large corporations how to run their businesses even when they are running them into the ground, and that there is something sinister, indeed vaguely communist, about having a plan to build the kind of economy we need, even in the face of an existential crisis’. Klein advocates long-term public planning. She is particularly interested in the generation of green jobs, and energy infrastructure. Klein cites with approval the comments of Miya Yoshitani, executive director of the Oakland-based Asian Pacific Environmental Network:

The climate justice fight here in the U.S. and around the world is not just a fight against the [biggest] ecological crisis of all time. It is the fight for a new economy, a new energy system, a new democracy, a new relationship to the planet and to each other, for land, water, and food sovereignty, for Indigenous rights, for human rights and dignity for all people. When climate justice wins we win the world that we want. We can’t sit this one out, not because we have too much to lose but because we have too much to gain… We are bound together in this battle, not just for a reduction in the parts per million of CO2, but to transform the economies and rebuild a world that we want today.

Klein reflects that ‘truly rising to the climate challenge — particularly its challenge to economic growth — will require that we dig even deeper into our past, and move into some distinctly uncharted political territory.’

In Chapter 5, Naomi Klein considers the plight of Nauru, a small island state, which has suffered from various kinds of exploitation by other countries. This is a powerful, heartbreaking chapter. Naomi Klein relates how Nauru squandered its short-lived wealth derived from phosphate mining. She recounts how Nauru has been subsequently exploited by the Australian Government for its inhumane off-shore detention of refugee applicants. The country has been used as a site for money laundering. As a small island state in the Pacific, Nauru remains particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rising and flooding. Naomi Klein observes: ‘Thanks to its mining of phosphate, Nauru has spent the last century disappearing from the inside out; now thanks to our collective mining of fossil fuels, it is disappearing from the outside in.’ She quotes a United States official’s comment from a WikiLeaks cable, ‘Nauru simply spent extravagantly, never worrying about tomorrow.’

Extrapolating from the case of Nauru, Naomi Klein wonders whether the rest of the planet suffers from a similar malady. She suggests: ‘Nauru isn’t the only one digging itself to death; we all are.’ Klein observes that Nauru teaches us not only about the dangers of fossil fuel emissions, but it also highlights the mentality of ‘extractivism’. She elaborates upon the nature of ‘extractivism’:

Extractivism is a nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with the earth, one purely of taking. It is the opposite of stewardship, which involves taking but also taking care that regeneration and future life continue. Extractivsm is the mentality of the mountaintop remover and the old-growth clear-cutter. It is the reduction of life into objects for the use of others, giving them no integrity or value of their own — turning living complex ecosystems into ‘natural resources,’ mountains into ‘overburden’ (as the mining industry terms the forests, rocks and streams that get in the way of its bulldozers). It is also the reduction of human beings either into labor to be brutally extracted, pushed beyond limits, or, alternatively, into social burden, problems to be locked out in borders and locked away in prisons or reservations.

Naomi Klein calls for a paradigm shift away form an ideology of extractivism: ‘If we are to have any hope of making the kind of civilizational leap required of this fateful decade, we will need to start believing, once again, that humanity is not hopelessly selfish and greedy.’

2. Magical Thinking

The second part of the book explores what the philosopher Stephen Gardiner has called ‘shadow solutions’ to the problems of climate change. Adopting a similar mode of critical thinking as displayed in No Logo, Naomi Klein seeks to analyse greenwashing by environmental groups, celebrities, billionaires, and technology developers. Naomi Klein is critical of the ‘narrative that assures us that, however bad things get, we are going to be saved at the last minute — whether by the market, by philanthropic billionaires, or by technological wizards — of best of all, by all three at the same time.’ She hopes for a shift in the discourse: ‘Only when we dispense with these various forms of magical thinking will we be ready to leave extractivism behind and build societies we need within the boundaries we have — a world with no sacrifice zones, no new Naurus.’

In Chapter 6, Naomi Klein is critical of mergers and alliances between Big Business and Big Green. She is particularly worried about environmental groups and civil society organisations being co-opted by fossil fuel companies. In this context, Klein has been particularly disappointed by a couple of environmental groups. She laments that the Nature Conservancy has been involved in extracting fossil fuels on one of its preserves. Klein notes that the Nature Conservancy’s involvement in the oil and gas industry ‘in the age of climate change points to a painful reality behind the environmental movement’s catastrophic failure to effectively battle the economic interests behind our soaring emissions: large parts of the movement aren’t actually fighting those interests — they have merged with them.’ Klein has also been disappointed by the Environmental Defense Fund, and its partnerships with companies whose carbon emissions have soared. She laments that ‘this transformation, more than any other,… produced a mainstream climate movement that ultimately found it entirely appropriate to have coal and oil companies sponsor their most important summits, while investing their own wealth with these same players.’ Naomi Klein also highlights the dangers of environmental groups, such as WWF, and the World Resources Institute, having close relationships with fossil fuel companies. She also questions Conservational International, the Nature Conservancy, and the Conservation Fund accepting money from Shell and BP.

In Chapter 7, Naomi Klein analyses the ‘creative capitalism’ of philanthropist billionaires. She has been particularly critical of the flamboyant billionaire Richard Branson, and his somewhat promises to take action in respect of curbing carbon emissions, and tackling climate change: ‘For many mainstream greens, Branson seemed to be a dream come true: a flashy, media-darling billionaire out to show the world that fossil-fuel-intensive companies can lead the way to a green future using profit as the most potent tool — and proving just how serious he was by putting striking amounts of his own cash on the line.’ Klein observes that such promises have been somewhat hollow: ‘With the ten-year deadline fast approaching, it seems we are no closer to a miracle fuel to power Branson’s planes, which are burning significantly more carbon than when the pledge period began.’ She is also scathing about Branson’s $25 million Virgin Earth Challenge, suggesting that it was the ‘incredible disappearing earth challenge.’ Klein concludes that Branson highlights the need for tough regulation of polluting companies: ‘If there is one thing Branson has demonstrated, it is that it won’t happen on a voluntary basis or on the honor system.’


In Chapter 8, Naomi Klein explores the field of geoengineering, with critical scepticism. She observes that the narratives of geoengineers appeal to a deep-seated desire for techno-fixes of global problems: ‘The dogged faith in technology’s capacity to allow us to leapfrog out of crisis is born of earlier technological breakthroughs — splitting the atom or putting a man on the moon.’ Klein dissects this discourse:

Indeed, if geoengineering has anything going for it, it is that it slots perfectly into our most hackneyed cultural narrative, the one in which so many of us have been indoctrinated by organized religion and the rest of us have absorbed from pretty much every Hollywood action move ever made. It’s the one that tells us that, at the very last minute, some of us (the ones that matter) are going to be saved. And since our secular religion is technology, it won’t be god that saves us but Bill Gates and his gang of super-geniuses at Intellectual Ventures. We hear versions of this narrative every time a commercial comes on about how coal is on the verge of becoming “clean,” about how the carbon produced by the tar sands will soon be sucked out of the air and buried deep underground, and now, about how the mighty sun will be turned down as if it were nothing more than a chandelier on a dimmer. And if one of the current batch of schemes doesn’t work, the same story tells us that something else will surely arrive in the nick of time.

Klein cites Clive Hamilton’s recent astringent critique of geoengineering — Earthmasters. She also explores geoengineering as a ‘shock doctrine’. In a section reminiscent of Marina Warner’s Managing Monsters, she also examines geoengineering, in light of monstrous myth-making, looking at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Klein suggests a healthy scepticism towards geoengineering is well justified: ‘Having witnessed the recent spate of big failures, this generation of activists is unwilling to gamble with the precious and irreplaceable, certainly not based on the reassuring words of overconfident engineers.’

3. Blockadia


This Changes Everything is a manifesto for climate justice. In her book, Naomi Klein contends that climate change could be a catalyst for positive change. As she explains in her introduction, climate change could be ‘the best argument progressives have ever had to demand the rebuilding and reviving of local economies; to reclaim our democracies from corrosive corporate influence; to block harmful new trade deals and rewrite old ones; to invest in starving public infrastructure like mass transit and affordable housing; to take back ownership of essential services like energy and water; to remake our sick agricultural system into something much healthier; to open borders to migrants whose displacement is linked to climate impacts; to finally respect Indigenous land rights — all of which would help to end grotesque levels of inequality within our nations and between them.’

Naomi Klein considers that there is an opportunity for progressive reform: ‘As part of the project of getting our emissions down to the levels many scientists recommend, we once again have the chance to advance policies that dramatically improve lives, close the gap between rich and poor, create huge numbers of good jobs, and reinvigorate democracy from the ground up.’ She envisages: ‘Rather than the ultimate expression of the shock doctrine — a frenzy of new resource grabs and repression — climate change can be a People’s Shock, a blow from below.’

In Chapter 9, Naomi Klein considers the rise of community opposition to extractive industries. She envisages a new zone of conflict, which she labels ‘Blockadia’: ‘Blockadia is not a specific location on a map but rather a roving transnational conflict zone that is cropping up with increasing frequency and intensity wherever extractive projects are attempting to dig and drill, whether for open-pit mines, or has fracking, or tar sands oil pipelines.’ In Australia, the Green-Brown alliance of Lock the Gate has been particularly prominent in opposing coal seam gas and mining in lands of great agricultural and environmental value. In North America, the battle against the Keystone XL Pipeline has united a number of disparate groups in collective civil disobedience. The disaster of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has also galvanised community action. Naomi Klein sees a shift from away from the language of risk assessment to a renewed focus upon the precautionary principle: ‘Blockadia is turning the tables, insisting that it is up to industry to prove that its methods are safe — and in the era of extreme energy that is something that simply cannot be done.’

In Chapter 10, Naomi Klein considers the rise of the fossil free divestment movement. She observed that the tactic of divestment initially focused upon coal companies and mountain-top removal in Appalachia. The strategy then became a much more general approach to call for the divestment of coal, oil, and gas taken up by climate activists: ‘Another tactic spreading with startling speed is the call for public interest institutions like colleges, faith organizations, and municipal governments to sell whatever financial holdings they have in fossil companies’. The fossil fuel divestment movement initially focused upon schools and universities. Naomi Klein noted: ‘Young people have a special moral authority in making this argument to their school administrators: these are the institutions entrusted to prepare them for the future; so it is the height of hypocrisy for those same institutions to profit from an industry that has declared war on the future at the most elemental level.’ The strategy of fossil fuel divestment has also been promoted for cities and municipalities; religious institutions; charities and philanthropies; governments, and sovereign wealth funds. Naomi Klein observed that the strategy is designed to remove social respectability from fossil fuel companies: ‘The eventual goal is to confer on oil companies the same status as tobacco companies, which would make it easier to make other important demands — like bans on political donations from fossil fuel companies and on fossil fuel advertising on television (for the same public health reasons that we ban broadcast cigarette ads).’ She hopes that there will be ‘space for a serious discussion about whether these profits are so illegitimate that they deserved to be appropriated and reinvested in solutions to the climate crisis.’

In a recent essay, Klein elaborated that fossil fuel divestment policies had been adopted by Stanford University, Glasgow University, and the Rockefellers. She observed: ‘Are fossil fuel companies – long toxic to our natural environment – becoming toxic in the public relations environment as well? It seems so.’ Under pressure from Greenpeace, even Lego ended its long-standing relationship with Shell. Klein noted: ‘At their core, all are taking aim at the moral legitimacy of fossil fuel companies and the profits that flow from them’. She observed: ‘This movement is saying that it is unethical to be associated with an industry whose business model is based on knowingly destabilising the planet’s life support systems.’


In Chapter 11, Naomi Klein has been concerned about the impact of climate change upon Indigenous communities. She comments that ‘the exercise of Indigenous rights has played a central role in the rise of the current wave of fossil fuel resistance.’ Naomi Klein, though, recognises that the costs of taking on multinational extractive companies in court are enormous, and ‘isolated, often impoverished Indigenous peoples generally lack the monetary resources and social clout to enforce their rights.’ She observes that ‘in perhaps the most politically significant development of the rise of Blockadia-style resistance, this dynamic is changing rapidly — and an army of sorts is beginning to coalesce around the fight to turn Indigenous land rights into hard economic realities that neither government nor industry can ignore.’ Naomi Klein also charts the development of international law to help recognise and protect Indigenous rights:

As the Indigenous rights movement gains strength globally, huge advances are being made in recognizing the legitimacy of these claims. Most significant was the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly in September 2007 after 143 member states voted in its favor (the four opposing votes — United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — would each, under domestic pressure, eventually endorse it as well). The declaration states that, “Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources.” Some countries have even taken the step of recognizing these rights in revised constitutions. Bolivia’s constitution, approved by voters in 2009, states that Indigenous peoples “are guaranteed the right to prior consent: obligatory consultation by the government, acting in good faith and in agreement, prior to the exploitation of non-renewable natural resources in the territory they inhabit.” A huge, hard-won legal victory.

Activist, Martin Lukacs, had hoped that ‘implementing Indigenous rights on the ground, starting with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could tilt the balance of stewardship over a vast geography: giving Indigenous peoples much more control, and corporations much less.’ He suggests that in Canada, ‘Sustained action that pits real clout behind Indigenous claims is what will force a reckoning with the true nature of Canada’s economy — and the possibility of a transformed country’. Naomi Klein highlights a number of collaborative efforts at activism — such as the ‘Honour the Treaties’ tour with Neil Young, and the Cowboys and Indians Alliance.

In Chapter 12, Naomi Klein considers ‘Sharing the Sky: The Atmospheric Commons and the Power of Paying our Debts.’ She argues that there is a need to focus upon reinvestment in renewable energy and clean technology: ‘Increasingly, participants aren’t just calling on public interest institutions like colleges and municipalities to sell their holdings in the companies that are wrecking the planet, they are also asking them to reinvest that money in entities that have a clear vision for the healing process.’ The initiative is sometimes known as ‘Divest-Invest.’ Klein suggests: ‘These big investors are taking a solid first step; even better would be if they dedicated a share of their investments to projects that go deeper: not just switching from brown energy to green energy but supporting cutting-edge projects that are designed to bolster local economies, improve public transit, and otherwise strengthen the starved public sphere.’ Klein recommends that such a strategy would place further pressure on the fossil fuel industry: ‘The benefit of an accompanying reinvestment strategy, or a visionary investment strategy from the start, is that it has the potential to turn the screws on the industry much tighter, strengthening the renewable energy sector so that it is better able to compete directly with fossil fuels, while bolstering the frontline land defenders who need to be able to offer real economic alternatives to their communities.’

Naomi Klein is also keen to promote the discourse of ‘climate debt’ in international negotiations over climate change: ‘Climate change, when fully confronted, does raise some awfully thorny questions about what we in the wealthy world owe to the countries on the front lines of a crisis they had little hand in creating.’ Amongst other things, it is striking that Naomi Klein promotes technology transfer in respect of clean intellectual property as a means of addressing the outstanding climate debt:

There are, in the immediate term, plenty of affordable ways for Northern countries to begin to honor our climate debts without going broke — from erasing the foreign debts currently owed by developing countries in exchange for climate action to loosening green energy patents and transferring the associated technological know-how. Moreover, much of the cost does not need to come from regular taxpayers; it can and should come from the corporations most responsible for this crisis. That can take the form of any combination of the polluter-pays measures already discussed, from a financial transaction tax, to eliminating subsidies for fossil fuel subsidies,.

Klein observed that ‘climate change is once again forcing us to look at how injustices that many assumed were safely buried in the past are shaping our shared vulnerability to global climate collapse.’ She maintained: ‘With many of the biggest pools of untapped carbon on lands by some of the poorest people on the planet, and with emissions rising most rapidly in what were, until recently, some of the poorest parts of the world, there is simply no credible way forward that does not involve redressing the real roots of poverty.’

Chapter 13 is a personal memoir on ‘The Right to Regenerate: Moving from Extraction to Renewal.’

In conclusion, Naomi Klein tells the tale of Brad Werner delivering a scientific paper entitled, ‘Is Earth F**ked?’ Using this presentation as a theme, she considers the early manifestations of fossil fuel resistance: ‘Blockadias’ fast multiplying local outposts, the fossil fuel divestment/ reinvestment movement, the local laws barring high-risk extraction, the bold court challenges by Indigenous groups and others.’ She wonders whether the climate movement will seize the opportunity for progressive reform of society:

Given these factors, there is little doubt that another crisis will see us in the streets and squares once again, taking us all by surprise. The real question is what progressive forces will make of that moment, the power and confidence with which it will be seized. Because these moments when the impossible seems possible are excruciatingly rare and precious. This means that more must be made of them. The next time one arises, it must be harnessed not only to denounce the world as it is, and build fleeting pockets of liberated space. It must be the catalyst to actually build the world that will keep us all safe. The stakes are simply too high, and time too short, to settle for anything less.

The book finishes with a parable and the question, ‘History knocked on your door, did you answer?’


Dr Matthew Rimmer is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, working on Intellectual Property and Climate Change. He is an associate professor at the ANU College of Law, and an associate director of the Australian Centre for Intellectual Property in Agriculture (ACIPA). He holds a BA (Hons) and a University Medal in literature, and a LLB (Hons) from the Australian National University, and a PhD (Law) from the University of New South Wales. He is a member of the ANU Climate Change Institute. Dr Rimmer is the author of Digital Copyright and the Consumer Revolution: Hands off my iPod, Intellectual Property and Biotechnology: Biological Inventions, and Intellectual Property and Climate Change: Inventing Clean Technologies. He is an editor of Patent Law and Biological Inventions, Incentives for Global Public Health: Patent Law and Access to Essential Medicines, and Intellectual Property and Emerging Technologies: The New Biology. Rimmer has published widely on copyright law and information technology, patent law and biotechnology, access to medicines, plain packaging of tobacco products, clean technologies, and traditional knowledge. His work is archived at SSRN Abstracts and Bepress Selected Works.