On Fire: The (Burning) Case For a Green New Deal Summary & Study Guide

Naomi Klein
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On Fire: The (Burning) Case For a Green New Deal Summary & Study Guide Description

On Fire: The (Burning) Case For a Green New Deal Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on On Fire: The (Burning) Case For a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Klein, Naomi. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019.

On Fire is a collection of 18 essays by Naomi Klein written from 2010-2019 about the ongoing threat of climate change.

In the introduction, Klein applauds the work of the youth climate movement and teen activist Greta Thunberg in particular. She explains that the Anglosphere nations (the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom) have been most resistant to climate change reform, in part because their economies are built on legacies of imperialism and capitalism. She notes that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has declared we must keep warming below 1.5°C in the future to avert disaster and declares the Green New Deal legislation the best option to do so in the United States.

In “A Hole in the World” (2010), Klein reports from the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She declares the disaster itself and the attempts at cleanup and mitigation total failures on the part of the gas company and details the millions of sea creatures lost as a result.

In “Capitalism vs. the Climate” (2011), Klein reiterates how capitalism has caused and exacerbated the present climate emergency through reckless extraction and emissions burning. She outlines the major areas of change necessary to avert further catastrophe, including a major scale-back of carbon use, a move to green energy practices, and an investment in public transportation.

In “Geoengineering” (2012), the author details some of the scientific advances in ameliorating the effects of climate change, but dismisses them as insufficient, asserting that lowering emissions is the best option for accomplishing this goal.

In “When Science Says That Political Revolution Is Our Only Hope” (2013), Klein outlines progressive statements from climate scientists who argue that the best hope for reducing emissions and preventing further damage to the Earth lies with activist movements agitating for change to the political system.

In “Climate Change vs. the Constant Now” (2014), Klein asserts that our understanding of the effects of climate change began at the most inopportune time—the 1980s—as this was the point at which capitalism was becoming increasingly unregulated and emissions were on the rise. People (particularly those in power) refused to take action to reduce the effects, as to do so would have reduced their profits as well.

“Stop Trying to Save the World All By Yourself” (2015) is Klein's commencement address to students at the College of the Atlantic in which she explains that climate change solutions will succeed because of collective rather than individual effort.

In “A Radical Vatican?” (2015), Klein writes of visiting the Vatican for an environmental conference after Pope Francis published an encyclical arguing that all Christians have a responsibility to treat the Earth with respect and care.

In “Let Them Drown” (2016), Klein outlines how capitalism is built on a system of destroying the Earth through the ravaging of resources and treating certain populations of people as expendable. Large portions of the Middle East and Africa are suffering the effects of climate change right now with little assistance from the rest of the world, and when these people flee their countries as refugees, they are actively repelled by the countries of the Anglosphere. Klein warns that the callous treatment of these vulnerable populations is likely to get worse in the future.

In “The Leap Years” (2016), Klein continues this discussion tracing the history of resource extraction back to North American colonialism in the 15th/16th centuries. She then narrates her experience working with a coalition of activists in Canada on a plan to reduce the effects of climate change. The Leap plan was tremendously popular with ordinary Canadians, but it was quickly quashed by political figures with vested interests in the extractive industries.

“Hot Take on a Hot Planet” (2016) is the author's acceptance speech for the Sydney Peace Prize. In it she expresses the need to work together in a large-scale movement to enact climate reform, with the Indigenous and other people of color at the forefront.

In “Season of Smoke” (2017), Klein reflects on a vacation to British Columbia with her family during a month of record-breaking fires. She explains how these fires are an effect of climate change and expresses frustration that Canadian politicians continue to approve extractive projects like drilling and mining.

In “The Stakes of Our Historical Moment” (2017), Klein speaks to representatives of the Labour Party in the U.K., expressing the need for expansive legislation to combat the issues causing climate change and to address the growing refugee crisis in Europe.

In “Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not 'Human Nature'” (2018), Klein critiques a New York Times Magazine article by Nathaniel Rich that posits the failure to pass climate change reform is due to humankind's inability to sacrifice in the present to secure a better, safer future. Klein insists that it is, in fact, the politicians and oil companies that are responsible for this failure, as they run a constant campaign of disinformation surrounding climate change and refuse to respond to the needs of society as a whole.

In “There's Nothing Natural About Puerto Rico's Disaster” (2018), Klein faults the congressional oversight board PROMESA for mismanaging the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

In “Movements Will Make, or Break, the Green New Deal” (2019), Klein reasserts the need to approach climate change legislation with input from people and movements of all walks of life. She also states the importance of reinventing perceptions of happiness in the Anglosphere so they do not revolve around consumerism.

In “The Art of the Green New Deal” (2019), Klein compares the Green New Deal legislation to the original New Deal passed by FDR after the Great Depression. She suggests that the Green New Deal include caveats for contributions by artists and writers as its predecessor did.

In the epilogue, Klein sums up the benefits of the Green New Deal, including job creation, a more equitable economy, and an overarching improvement in social cohesion as a result of working together for the greater good.

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