Will the Climate Crisis Change Everything?

“This Changes Everything” is a provocative new documentary film on the social and economic implications of climate change. Tomorrow evening (Friday, Nov. 20), the Hartford sustainability group Transition Five Villages and several other organizations will host a screening and discussion in White River Junction.

The film is a companion to last year’s stunning book by the Canadian writer Naomi Klein, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” Filmmaker Avi Lewis, who is Klein’s husband, vividly brings to life the challenging and forceful argument she made in print.

Klein asserted that the only way to prevent catastrophic climate change is to overhaul the global economic system and the destructive “extractivist” ideology that drives it. She argued that corporate capitalism is programmed to exploit resources for maximum profit regardless of costs to the environment, local communities and traditional cultures.

These damages cannot be repaired, she wrote, with technical fixes, like the dangerous fantasy of geoengineering. They are essentially moral and political issues. Klein shows, for example, how “free trade” agreements enable the system to run roughshod over human rights, creating extreme inequality and poverty while preventing people from protecting their homes and livelihoods.

In the book and now in the film, Klein visits the frontlines of mining operations and other environmental nightmares, and tells the stories of local activists who are rising around the world to defend their land, water, food, and communities from the ravages of this exploitative system.

Director Lewis says “In the fierce dignity and moral clarity of communities fighting destructive fossil fuel projects, in the drama of their struggles, I saw that a climate film doesn’t have to be about polar bears. In the way the people I met connected the dots between the economic system and the havoc it is wreaking on their lives and the planet, I heard Naomi’s book come to life, even while she was still in the process of writing it.”

The filmmaker is not trying “to scare the audience into action” but to empower citizens to join an emerging global movement to build a non-extractivist economy that respects human rights and the natural environment.

It is important to point out that this new economy movement is anti-capitalist in the sense of being against the concentration of power in massive, amoral global corporations; it is not against free enterprise as such. The new economy values entrepreneurship; however, it seeks to promote a cultural norm of social and environmental responsibility within which economic enterprise should operate.

In the current system, the true cost of the goods we consume are “externalized,” meaning they aren’t counted against corporate bottom lines; instead they are absorbed by indigenous people and poor communities, who lose their land or their health, by water and soil and ecosystems, which are radically degraded, and by the atmosphere, which is overloaded with greenhouse gases.

A new, moral economy would hold producers as well as consumers responsible for the inherent costs of the things we want and use. Maybe, as Klein argues, the climate crisis is the wakeup call modern societies need to acknowledge the destructive results of an irresponsible and immoral economic system and to replace it with something better.

The screening will begin at 7:00 at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction. The conversation will be led by Dr. Alan Betts, a meteorologist and founder of Atmospheric Research in Pittsford, Vermont. He is a respected scientist and public speaker on climate change issues who presents complex scientific knowledge in clear, calm and accessible language.

Read more about the film at thefilm.thischangeseverything.org.

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