Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Book Review: On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal

by Naomi Klein, published by Simon & Schuster (2019), 322 pages

Review by Roger Lohr

Naomi Klein’s newest book, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, makes a persuasive case for the world to come together on climate change.

Klein ties together the notion that climate action is one of a list of worthy causes vying for progressive attention at the same time. The Green New Deal provides direction for transformation as an alternative to the perils of unrestrained greed.

Klein calls for uniting “silos” of movements and organizations engaged on apparently separate causes. They can stand together to put an end to a wasteful style of living. They can put public funds and efforts into such public good as environmental protection, health, and education.

Klein states that the expansionist and extractive mind-set of capitalism has brought civilization to a point where we need to be grounded in respect for natural cycles of renewal. This will require strong government action. The unbiased truth is that the free-market ideology cannot continue.

Individual action is no longer an adequate response to the climate crisis. It is a collective problem that demands a collective action. We are in a crisis with its roots in over-consumption of natural resources, and this can only be addressed by reducing the amount of stuff we consume. That part of the corporate sector that demands growth of sales and profits has to undergo contraction. At the same time, a managed transition to another economic system based on non-profits, cooperatives, and local businesses could increase availability of goods for those who need to rise out of poverty.

The benefits of such an economic system should include teaching, care-giving, and leisure activities, along with many others. This is a profound transformation of social and ecological proportions. Regulation can no longer be a dirty word. The collective sphere would become paramount. A longer-term perspective is very different from the immediate gratification that is currently ruling our actions. Reparation to those who have been harmed (domestically and internationally) by capitalism is a significant aspect of the Green New Deal according to Klein.

Naomi Klein, author of On Fire. Image:

In simple terms Klein suggests a transformation from the “gig and dig” world to a “care and repair” collective with a common purpose. Fundamental changes are needed in transportation, housing, energy, agriculture, forestry and more.

Klein states that we have to move from a fear-stricken society with obsessive technologies to a place where real grounds for hope can be cultivated. Klein suggests a good place to start is with the arts, to bring joy and beauty, and optimism.

The closing of On Fire highlights key areas associated with the Green New Deal including:

  1. Job Creation – the investment statistics involved with such a transformation will yield millions of jobs beyond what currently exists.

  2. Fair Economy – Where does the funding for the transformation come from? The “Carbon Majors” are 100 corporate and state giants that represent responsibility for 71% of Greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.

  3. Emergency – the warming of the climate is already on a path to the point-of-no-return meaning that the current emissions are approaching the danger level.

  4. According to Klein, a ten-year deadline is needed and achievable, but the 2050 goal dates are way too late and not helpful to stop the Earth warming at dangerous levels.

  5. Recession-worry is off base and the opposite analytical reality is that the Green New Deal would be a stimulus for new jobs.

  6. Klein argues that taking on the socio-economic issues at the same time as climate change is not too much change. A mass movement must be mobilized.

  7. Progressive goals will polarize conservatives – there are lessons from the New Deal that suggest that downtrodden communities could help to heal ideological divides.

  8. Hopelessness – Klein cites a new vision of humanity that could willingly dissolve the free-market economy. Can her examples of organizations and movements take hold with millions more people?

An overriding question was raised in Thomas More’s Utopia, published in 1516. Is it legitimate to conquer neighbors who would not voluntarily join your regime? The progressive and related movements are such a small contingent of society and the powers-that-be are so substantial, that it does not seem that the Green New Deal can happen as proposed, and those who are assertively hopeful about it might consider preparing for battle. Is it realistic to think that those so bonded to capitalism and the totalitarian states will voluntarily agree to join?

Roger Lohr of Lebanon, NH, who owns and edits XCSkiResorts.comhas published articles and promotional topics on snow sports, sustainability, and trails in regional and national media. He is also the Recreational Editor for Green Energy Times.

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