For NaNoWriMo last year I wrote a blog post a day and one of them was about comparative reading. I think it is such an amazing concept and I wanted to do it again. It gives you a deeper understanding of what you have read, how certain writers tackle certain aspects, and how you can shift your focus when reading.
“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” is a book by Naomi Klein from 2014 which looks into the economic, social, and environmental aspects of climate change while also analysing how capitalism brought us there. It was a fascinating book and will probably be one of the main sources for my own project because it has so much wisdom in it.
Gloria Steinem’s memoir “My Life on the Road” was published in 2015. She describes her life as an activist, the people she has met and who have guided her throughout, and the issues women were and are still facing today. It was inspiring to read about a life lived so fully.
What I loved most about these two books was their inclusiveness, their focus on minorities and their unique struggles. Steinem writes about her experiences with people who have faced discrimination and how they dealt with them. What we can do about them. Naomi Klein is also very aware and she takes it a step further, linking these issues to climate change.
One aspect that made me look at “My Life on the Road” through an environmental lens in the first place was this one by Steinem in her interview with Emma Watson: If we had real equality between women and men, women would be able to decide for themselves if they want to receive children or not. They would have full reproductive freedom and would not have to have children they don’t want or cannot have. It would offer them opportunities to work, to invest in education, to live more sustainably. The effect of climate change also depends on global population size. This is why feminism should be one of the main strategies to conquer climate change. Naomi Klein adds to this as she says that every movement aiming for equality is a step in the right direction of conquering climate change.
Our environmental problems today are the product of hundreds of years of inequality, of exploitation, and expression of power over nature. In a culture where not everyone is able to work together because of prejudices and strong opposing opinions, there will be no unified action against climate change. One which we so desperately need. Gloria Steinem argues that these movements are indeed happening right now, though, and that she has experienced living right among them. Felt their power and the hope they radiate. This is also what I noticed in the end of “This Changes Everything”. There is a way to get through this. We have to transform our values and work for a more just world.
“My Life on the Road” examines how this is done in detail. Going around, talking to people. Listening to their struggles and spreading awareness. Giving talks to activists, forming groups, marching. These are the practical aspects of the great change Naomi Klein wrote about.
Since Klein’s book is researched to a great detail and could be seen more as a piece of journalism, it does not have as many personal stories in it as “My Life on the Road”. However, the part I loved the most, was her telling the story how she struggled to get pregnant and how her son was born. She wrote about the BP oil spill and its effect on the eggs and youngest fish in lakes and oceans. It was beautifully linked and thus all the more powerful. “My Life on the Road” as a memoir has all these stories and anecdotes which are linked to the pressing issues of our time. This taught me a lot: When writing my own book I have to connect my own stories to the issues I’m talking about. Otherwise, they will get too distant. I don’t want to be a preacher. I want to be an observer of the world, a storyteller.
Both books have changed my perception. After finishing “This Changes Everything” today I am a bit more hopeful that we can avert the crisis, but I’m also more painfully aware of the damage that we have done thus far. I feel physical pain in my stomach and heart when I read about oil spills, about devastating pollution, and the exploitation of people all over the world. Gloria Steinem assured me through the women’s movement that this can be changed. I have had the great amount of opportunities only through women like her. Once we recognise our power as a unified people, we can make a difference. Once we tell our stories and share our values, we will succeed.
Both of them showed me a journalism at its finest. Since it is a profession I could really see myself in, it was interesting to read about their lives. I felt a personal connection through the love of writing and the passion with which they dive into their topics.
What is the overall message of both books?
Be hopeful. Work harder. Be more inclusive. Listen and learn.