Wordy Wednesday: This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
As little kids watching Bambi, my sister and I reacted differently to the forest fire scene. Jill, older than me and thus wiser to the presence of danger in the world, cried in fear. I instead found the fire resemblant to candles on a cake and proceeded to sing “Happy Birthday.”
Last summer I saw the sky turn orange and found myself trapped inside not only to protect against a deadly new coronavirus, but to protect my lungs from the smoke and ash coating California. From the other side of the country the Orange President told us to rake our filthy forests if we didn’t want wildfires. (I can’t remember if that was before or after he suggested drinking bleach to cure covid.)
Halfway through our current summer, California has had more fires this year compared to last year on the same date. Governor Newsom has asked residents of the state to decrease water usage by 15%. Flex alerts, in which power companies request decreasing electricity consumption from 4:00pm to 9:00pm to prevent outages, are part of the new normal too, the new normal being both life post-covid and the age of heat-domes, fires, and droughts—oh, my.
This week I began reading Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate. I’ve always found global warming to be believable, but I didn’t absorb the inherent terror that it implies. I assumed we humans would simply innovate our way out of this mess. I mean, we’ve sent people to the moon! And that was over 50 years ago! Surely we can find a way to live on a planet that is a couple of degrees warmer than before.
Now, I am not so sure, and This Changes Everything gives me greater pause. Year after year our nations fail to reduce emissions and hold corporations accountable for what they are doing to the earth. Jeff Bezos can go to space, but we’re stuck with Amazon’s hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic waste polluting our oceans. Online ads call for individuals to buy products that diminish their carbon footprint, a solution that is both so small (ever heard of a reusable silicone q-tip?) and still supports capitalism—the status quo that got us here in the first place. What are we doing?! Abolishing plastic straws will not suffice to save us!
Naomi Klein urges us to face the reality of climate change, to sit with the fear it instills instead of shying away. Published in 2014, This Changes Everything proves more frightening now as the scientists’ predictions that Klein presents are either upon us or all the more inevitable given the lack of action taken since then.
I’m no longer the naive little girl singing happy birthday as flames ravage a forest on screen. I’m a woman who knows that climate change is not a distant fantasy. It is in my backyard, and I feel powerless to change its course.
Klein argues that the only way to end the forest fires (and ultimately, save humanity and the planet) is to make drastic changes to our politics and economy—either that, or the oceans will rise to cover the forests completely.
Today’s words come from This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. Below is each word, the sentence in which I found it, its Oxford definition, additional context if needed, and a sentence of my own using the word.
“The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank devoted to ‘promoting free-market solutions,’ has been holding these confabs since 2008, sometimes twice a year” (34).
An informal private conversation or discussion.
(North America) A meeting or conference of members of a particular group.
Upon hearing the news, she turned to face her two friends linked arm in arm, “And why wasn’t I invited to your little confab?”
“It must, he concludes, be a conspiracy—the classic teleological reversal of cause and effect” (42).
(Philosophy) relating to or involving the explanation of phenomena in terms of the purpose they serve rather than of the cause by which they arise.
(Theology) relating to the doctrine of design and purpose in the material world.
To argue that giraffes developed long necks because this allowed them to reach the trees’ leaves would be teleological; rather, the individuals with the longest necks would have found food more easily than those with short necks and thus would have survived long enough to reproduce, making them the fittest individuals whose genes persisted to make the species what it is today.
“Since this was before the globalization juggernaut took hold, it would have created an opportunity for China and India and other fast-growing economies to battle poverty on low-carbon pathways” (55).
Noun: a huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution.
In Tina Fey’s classic movie Mean Girls, Cady Heron teams up with outcasts Janis and Damian to take down social juggernaut Regina George.
Thanks for joining me for Wordy Wednesday!
If you haven’t done so, read chapter 1 of Jane Eyre and listen to the corresponding episode of On Eyre! I’ll be posting my response this week.
The next On Eyre episode is this Friday and will cover chapters 2 and 3.
Until then, happy reading.