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This Changes Everything

91y8-aIZX8L._SY500_Directed by Avi Lewis, written and narrated by Naomi Klein. Klein Lewis Productions, 2015. 89 minutes. $9.99 to buy or $4.99 to rent on Amazon or iTunes; free for home showings of 30 people or fewer.

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I had an interesting encounter recently with the concept of continuing revelation. Why would the movement of Spirit inwardly in us, and in our world, continue to reveal Truth to us? Part of the answer came clear to me in a rare moment of certainty: we are meant to change.

The movie of This Changes Everything was started before the book of the same name by Naomi Klein and is a complement to it rather than a version of it. Much of the content is the same, though presented in a different order. The movie starts where the rubber meets the road by asking: What is the cause of global warming? Is it human nature? If so, there’s no hope.

Then it asks, what if human nature isn’t the problem?

This Changes Everything takes the position that the problem is not human nature, but rather the narrative or story that Western civilization has been enacting for the past 400 years. In it, humans are masters of nature, which is like a beast or machine that exists to serve us. This story became very powerful when the steam engine was invented in the 1700s: it set us free from nature’s timing and rhythms. Nature became “not mother but motherlode.” Since then, the use of coal, oil, and gas for fuel has created a whole way of life in which we are, in terms of lifestyle, decoupled from nature.

In the world of today, the story tries to convince us that “sacrifice zones” are inevitable. Sacrifice zones are areas that have to be destroyed—and any resistance overcome—so that the earth’s wealth can be extracted in a one‐way relationship of taking without giving. Progress is the name Western civilization has given to this condition of unlimited growth. According to the story, we don’t question living this way.

But people around the world are indeed questioning it. The environmental movement of today—and it is growing all over the world in size and variety—contains a new story that could be titled with the words of a Cheyenne organizer in Montana describing her work: Love will save this place. If that sounds naïve, then consider this definition of “place” from Walter Brueggemann’s book The Land: “Place is space in which vows have been exchanged, promises have been made, and demands have been issued.… It is a declaration that our humanness cannot be found in escape, detachment, absence of commitment, and undefined freedom.”

Brueggemann says that place is “where some things have happened that are now remembered and that provide continuity and identity across generations.” Indeed, the movie shows tribe members installing a solar array and turning it on for the first time, then singing a song of offering afterward. The narrator, Klein herself, asks, What if renewable energy is the rebirth of a story of working with nature as more than just a technology? In other words, what if our use of solar energy was not just a human‐engineered answer to our problem, but a correction in our relationship with nature? What if earth became the mother again, and we recognized the foolishness of seeing it as the “motherlode”?

In this story there is a place called Blockadia, and it can be anywhere and everywhere. Blockadia is a place where local people make decisions that corporations assumed were theirs to make. The movie shows stories in Greece and India where this has already happened. There is a new story rooting, and it is the story of pressure from below. At the forefront are people from sacrifice zones who are acting collectively from the conviction that they cannot afford to wait and that governments are too much under the influence of corporations to govern appropriately.

Both the book and movie of This Changes Everything have a central focus on fossil fuels as the single most important factor in the future of earth. There are struggles all over the world related to this issue. If you want to get involved, the best thing for you to do is to do so locally; remember, Blockadia is anywhere and everywhere local people challenge the extractive industries. There are many Quaker groups focused on earthcare and climate justice. Every state has campaigns run by various groups and focused on local issues.

You can share in the belief that human nature isn’t to blame, and so enact a new story for our time. The title This Changes Everything means that climate change will change everything about living on earth. It will change our climate, weather, and ecosystems, and by extension how we live. At the same time, it is our opportunity to change our narrative of what it means to be human on this earth. As far as the ability to limit climate change significantly, the generations now living are both the first and the last to have this opportunity.

Karie Firoozmand is a member of Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore, Md., and of Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s Unity with Nature Committee.

Posted in: Disability and Inclusion, March 2016 Books, Quaker Book Reviews

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