Thursday, November 12, 2015

On Climate Change, Energy, and Capitalism: This Changes Everything Review

By Maria Ramos

Though some people doubt that climate change poses a danger to humans or the environment at all, the effects from using fossil fuels are incredibly evident around the world. Fossil fuels emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and greatly contribute to climate change and global warming. The danger is real, but the question is how to spur people to action and do something positive about it.

Enter This Changes Everything, a documentary from director Avi Lewis based on social activist Naomi Klein's 2014 best-selling book of the same name. Rather than blame global warming on the populace and shame them into action, the film reveals that the key to moving forward with effective reforms to protect the environment is to stop propping up free market fundamentalism. In other words, real change will come about once people demand that governments stop protecting big companies at the expense of people and the land.

The film features grassroots protests of citizens in nine different countries who are fighting back, as well as the struggles of those who simply want to be able to live without their water being poisoned, their air polluted, and their local economies stripped by mega corporations. Lewis captures their passion and anger, as well as the positive impact of them speaking out and taking a stand. This focus on showing how people help, rather than pointing the finger at the citizenry, is what sets This Changes Everything apart from most other climate change films.

In addition to footage of activists, the movie shows the negative effects that the partnerships between governments and big business have on nature. In one scene, the forests of Alberta, Canada are being destroyed for the sake of expanding the ongoing tar sands projects around the area. As the beautiful landscape is torn down, the audience learns that the ruin of the land is for the sake of petroleum companies, who hope to earn more than $150 billion in the coming decade from oil extracted there. This oil contributes to the dirty energy we use every single day. Dominion Power actually estimates that fossil fuels account for 82% of the energy consumed in the United States alone, which is indicative of how much work must be done to change how we’re affecting the environment.

One element of the movie that makes it work is that it follows the path of most good stories. We get a group of underdog heroes - environmentally conscious citizens - a good cause to fight for, and villains in the form of exploitative corporations and crony capitalists. Deniers of climate change and advocates of laissez-faire style capitalism may object to the message, but it will be difficult for most others to find any qualms with the film's premise.

While This Changes Everything makes it clear that governments and companies who put profit over people are in the wrong, Lewis does address the economic realities. The corporations are causing destruction and speeding up climate change, but they are also providing jobs. In the end, however, those jobs won't amount to much if we have no decent air to breathe, water to drink, or land on which to live. The ones to preserve that land will have to be the people who need it most, not the politicians we elect or the corporate masters those politicians seemingly serve.

At the heart of the movie is the idea that normal people play the biggest role in changing both our failed environmental policies and economic system, and it is this enduring message that the film leaves with its audience. This Changes Everything is currently being screened across the country, including near the Los Angeles, California area in Santa Ana at The Frida Cinema on November 18th. The goal is to bring awareness to different communities and let them know that protecting the environment isn’t an unwinnable fight, but a necessary action.