activism books

How to change everything, by Naomi Klein & Rebecca Steffof

Naomi Klein is well known to activists of my generation, having written one of the iconic texts of consumer capitalist resistance in No Logo in 1999. Her latest book is written with Rebecca Stefoff, an experienced writer for young people, and it’s pitched squarely at a younger generation of activists: How to Change Everything – The young human’s guide to protecting the planet and each other.

In its name and graphics, the book echoes the earlier This Changes Everything, which explained how climate change was building new forms of solidarity. This book is more of a how-to, full of ideas, activist profiles and case studies of change, responding to the wave of youth activism in 2018 and 2019.

It’s not for the likes of me, really. The book consistently refers to “kids like you”, and made me feel old. But I was reading it to see if it would be useful for my work in schools, and it would be. It explains climate change in straightforward terms, summarising the science and including a brief history of environmentalism . It sets the crisis in its broader context, and weaves in the case for social and racial justice. These things can be addressed together, which is why the book boldy sticks ‘everything’ in the title.

Change is going to be down to mass movements, in Klein’s opinion, and that’s where the book focuses. There’s little attention on business or politicians. We get school strikers, legal cases to demand climate action. Lots on the Green New Deal, which gets a chapter to itself and explains the history of the term well. Mention of a Marshall Plan style approach to climate finance. But to overcome the status quo and its entrenched interests, it’s going to need everyone. “Movements make a difference,” write Klein and Stefoff. “You can be the friction, the resistance that is needed to slow down the machine that is setting the world on fire.”

There are a number of profiles and stories from around the world, but the book will work better for American audiences. Most of the longer case studies are in North America, including lengthy sections on Hurricane Katrina and the Standing Rock protests. And obviously it’s for younger readers. So while I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a must read, there should be a copy in the school library. “By speaking up together to say no to rising temperatures, we also say yes to a more fair and equal world.”

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