Before I began work as a researcher for author Naomi Klein on her 2014 book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, I suppose I was like most people who preferred not to think about the end of the world. I had assumed the good guys were on it. You know, the United Nations and the green NGOs with their big splashy polar bear campaigns. Right?
Not so much. Our team, under Kleins fine direction, unearthed a lot of dirt on the "good guys." We found out that slick corporate-backed NGOs were often actively worsening the situation. We exposed so-called climate heroes who were, well, not: Former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, for example, was zealously investing in oil and gas while also championing climate change action in his hometown. (This year, after he was appointed Special Envoy for Climate Action by the United Nations Secretary-General, Bloomberg complained about grassroots activists protesting an elite climate summit in California.)
Today, after a Peoples Climate March, a Paris Agreement, and a Trump victory, this knowledge is no less depressing. But I also learned that, as Klein would argue in the book, it's our economic system, not individuals, that drives climate change as it incentivizes unending exploitation. It's also what renders many responses to climate change inadequate.
Unfortunately, the most recent story on climate change you're likely to have read points the finger at something else. In his epic piece, "Losing Earth," New York Times Magazine journalist Nathaniel Rich argues that it is neither the fossil fuel industry (the richest on Earth) nor the climate-denying Republicans in its pocket, but "human nature" that "has brought us to this place." Many, including Klein, have already pointed out the problems with this view, which inevitably glosses over many powerful responses to climate change by communities across the globe.
Because, as it turns out, there are good guys under capitalism. They're just the ones actively subverting it--pushing to transform our economic system and adapt to climate change in ways that bring power to the people. We highlighted many of these stories in This Changes Everything, including Canada's indigenous Idle No More movement. And we're highlighting them here in The Progressive, too, in a crop of features on urgent, underreported efforts to make a new world.
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