This Changes Everything confronts climate change

This Changes Everything embraces the climate crisis as an opportunity

 Protesters against gold mine in Halkidiki, Greece. Still from "This Changes Everything" March against coal-fired power plant in Sompeta, India. Still from "This Changes Everything"

 March against coal-fired power plant in Sompeta, India. Still from “This Changes Everything”

If we can move past some of the older stories, like the one about the sun revolving around the earth—which was flat and not round by the way—then it follows that we can put other problematic tales in our hybrid car’s rearview mirror.

In simple terms, This Changes Everything is a film about how humans understand their relationship with the natural world. Naomi Klein, who is both the author of the book the film is based on and the narrator of the movie, argues that much of the trouble we find ourselves in as a species has to do with a 400 year-old tale which imagines the environment as a kind of limitless machine controlled by humans.

“We thought we were the masters and engineers of the natural world”, said Avi Lewis, the film’s director. “We had this idea that we could do whatever we wanted to the planet and that there will never be any blowback”.

While the idea of playing nature like a video game and winning every time might intoxicate the conquerors out there, the “blowback” Lewis mentions has been evident for some time. Runaway climate change threatens the security of people, particularly those who are poor, across the globe.

Lewis says the threats climate change and the economic system that fuels it present are becoming so apparent, that even he has been surprised by the positive reception of This Changes Everything.

“Naomi and I were expecting a lot more pushback against the ‘radical’ suggestion that we have to change our entire economic system in order to deal with the climate,” said Lewis adding he was “surprised and encouraged by the appetite for radical change” that he’s seen in response to the project.

Documenting a global problem suggests drawing on a wide array of perspectives, and This Changes Everything offers an impressive lineup of characters. Traveling across the globe with the film with frontline activists, stopping in Alberta’s tar sands, in the US, India, Greece, China, and Germany, you get a sense of both the scale of the environmental issues we face. This Changes Everything weaves this complex web of global climate-change activism into an accessible 90 minute film.

This Changes Everything, like many other documentaries of its genre, concludes with an explicit call to action for its viewers. Yet, judging by the launch of “The Leap Manifesto” the same week as the film’s debut, you get the sense that the call to mobilize is more than a formality.

Lewis says the manifesto is not his or Klein’s, but the process of its creation was sparked from the This Changes Everything project. The Leap Manifesto has been signed by several notable Canadians and aims to rally pressure on the next federal government to “transition Canada off fossil fuels while simultaneously making it a more livable, fair and just society”

“The response has been awesome so far,” Lewis said. “We had so many people wanting to sign the day we launched the manifesto that our website crashed.”


This Changes Everything is playing at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, Sept. 18 at 11:45 a.m.


This Changes Everything confronts climate change