Noam Chomsky and the Bicycle Theory

Prof. Noam Chomsky Credit Virginie Montet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At 87, Noam Chomsky, the founder of modern linguistics, remains a vital presence in American intellectual life. An emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he still teaches, he has a dual identity, reflected in his several dozen books. Many are on theoretical linguistics and the philosophy of mind. Others are sharp, leftish polemics on American politics. Dr. Chomsky is back in the news, thanks to a pair of high-profile attacks. In “The Kingdom of Speech,” Tom Wolfe pairs Dr. Chomsky (“Noam Charisma”) with Darwin as the malign Ur-theorists of evolution. In “Decoding Chomsky: Science and Revolutionary Politics,” the British anthropologist Chris Knight explores “the Chomsky problem” — the paradox of a thinker who belongs to the “professional and scientific elite” even as he espouses populist political ideas.

It will soon be 60 years since your first book, “Syntactic Structures,” was published. Where was the study of linguistics then and what did you see that could be done?

The belief at the time was that languages can vary arbitrarily, so when you study a new language you should come to it without any preconceptions. Such views are still held, although the evidence to undermine them, I think, is simply overwhelming. Studies have shown that the diversity and complexity is superficial, while the internal system, which yields the fundamental properties of language as a system of thought, may be close to uniform among humans — basically following very simple genetically determined properties and general laws, like principles of computation. Some of the most exciting work in the field is going in that direction.

Are you as convinced now as when you were younger that understanding language is essential to understanding the human mind?

I think that’s clearer and clearer. The emergence of language as a system of creative thought was sensed by Descartes and Galileo. But it was not really addressed till the mid-20th century because the tools weren’t available to formulate it properly. You needed the modern theory of computability, which was developed by Alan Turing and other great mathematicians of the 1930s and ’40s. I was lucky that I was becoming an undergraduate at just the time that all these great insights were emerging.

Have you read Tom Wolfe’s book?

It’s so uninformed and distorted that it hardly rises to the level of meeting a laugh test. In the Harper’s Magazine excerpt, there’s exactly one paragraph that is accurate, quoted from an interview we had in which I explain why his crucial example, the Amazonian language Pirahã, is completely irrelevant to his conclusions and claims because what he says about Pirahã — correct or not — is about the language itself, not about the common human faculty of language. To take an analogy: If some tribe were found in which everyone wears a black patch over one eye, it would have no bearing on the study of binocular vision in the human visual system.

How about Chris Knight? He connects your theory of language to Pentagon-funded work you did at M.I.T. during the Cold War.

The Pentagon was the means by which the government carried out industrial policy and developed the high-tech economy of the future. M.I.T. was almost entirely funded by the military, including the music department. Does this mean we were doing military work? There was a study in 1969, the Pounds commission — I was a member of it — to investigate whether any military or classified work was being done on campus. Answer? None.

Why do you think we’re seeing this resurgence of analysis? You must tire of defending your work.

I’ve been defending the legitimacy of this work, extensively and in print, for 60 years. In earlier years, the discussions were with serious philosophers, linguists, cognitive scientists. I’m sorry to see that the resurgence you mention does not begin to approximate that level — one reason why, unlike earlier years, I don’t bother to respond unless asked.

Let’s talk about your politics.

I supported Bernie Sanders. The most important issue we face, a real question of species survival, is climate change. I’ve been criticized for advocating a politics of fear, which is correct. That’s not a criticism. That’s sanity.

What do you make of the political climate today? Of the student protests?

Humans face critical problems that have never arisen before in their history, problems of survival of organized human life on earth. They are barely mentioned in the current electoral extravaganza and the voluminous commentary about it. Fortunately, young people are often deeply concerned and directly engaged.

You’ll be teaching two classes next semester at the University of Arizona.

Yes. An undergraduate course will focus on the current stage of globalized state capitalism and ways of approaching “the common good” as it has been conceived in various ways since the Enlightenment. The graduate seminar will explore critical topics at the boundaries of current inquiry into the nature of language, its acquisition and use, its evolution. Every class is a challenge and often leads to rethinking and exploration of new directions.

How do you account for your amazing stamina and energy level at age 87?

The bicycle theory. As long as you keep riding, you don’t fall.

Bono of U2 called you the Elvis of academia. Students wait hours to hear your lectures. Then there’s all that Chomsky memorabilia — mugs, T-shirts, even luggage tags.

Seems strange to me. It can only mean that my activist engagements and professional work somehow relate to what many people are looking for and don’t appear to find elsewhere.

Do you own a Chomsky coffee mug?

No. But I get things from friends. The one I like is one my grandchildren like. It’s a little figure of a gnome you can put in a garden. “Gnome Chomsky.”


Noam Chomsky: Climate Change & Nuclear Proliferation Pose the Worst Threat Ever Faced by Humanity

noam chomsky

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! – 16 May 16
Source: Reader Supported News

Video Democracy Now!


President Obama has just passed a little-noticed milestone, according to The New York Times: Obama has now been at war longer than any president in U.S. history—longer than George W. Bush, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Obama has taken military action in at least seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Just last month, President Obama announced the deployment of 250 more Special Operations troops to Syria in a move that nearly doubles the official U.S. presence in the country.
As war spreads across the globe, a record 60 million people were driven from their homes last year. Experts warn the refugee crisis may also worsen due to the impacts of global warming. Over the weekend, NASA released data showing 2016 is on pace to be by far the hottest year ever, breaking the 2015 record. Meanwhile, many fear a new nuclear arms race has quietly begun, as the United States, Russia and China race to build arsenals of smaller nuclear weapons.
These multiple crises come as voters in the United States prepare to elect a new president. We speak with one of the world’s preeminent intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. His latest book is titled “Who Rules the World?”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road here in New York, then on today to [Chicago], to Madison, Wisconsin, and then to Toronto, Canada.

The New York Times is reporting President Obama has just passed a little-noticed milestone: He has now been at war longer than any president in U.S. history—longer than George W. Bush, longer than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, longer than Abraham Lincoln. Obama has taken military action in at least seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Just last month, President Obama announced the deployment of 250 more Special Operations troops to Syria in a move that nearly doubles the official U.S. presence in the country.

As war spreads across the globe, a record 60 million people were driven from their homes last year. Experts warn the refugee crisis may also worsen due to the impacts of global warming. Over the weekend, NASA released data showing 2016 is on pace to be by far the hottest year ever, breaking the 2015 record. April became the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records. Meanwhile, many fear a new nuclear arms race has quietly begun, as the United States, Russia and China race to build arsenals of smaller nuclear weapons. These multiple crises come as voters in the United States prepare to elect a new president.

To make sense of the challenges facing the globe and the state of the U.S. election, we’re joined today by one of the world’s preeminent intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than half a century. His latest book is called Who Rules the World?

Noam Chomsky, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Glad to be with you again.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Noam, who rules the world?

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s, to a certain extent, up to us. It is possible for populations to rule the world, but they have to struggle to achieve that. And if they don’t, the world will be ruled by concentrations of power—economic power, state power—closely linked with consequences that are of the kind that you describe. But that’s a choice.

AMY GOODMAN: How does the United States set the terms of the global discourse and, overall, what’s happening in the world?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that’s basically an outcome of the Second World War. At the end of the Second World War, the United States had a level of power and comparative wealth that had never existed in history. It had literally half the world’s wealth. It had an incomparable position of security—controlled the hemisphere, controlled both oceans, controlled the opposite sides of both oceans. In military terms, it was overwhelmingly preeminent. Other industrial societies had been devastated or severely weakened. The war had actually greatly benefited the U.S. economy. It ended the Depression. Industrial production virtually quadrupled. There was a debt, which you could easily grow out of it by growth. So the United States was in fact in a position to pretty much set the terms for virtually the entire global system.

It couldn’t stay that way, of course, and it began to erode pretty quickly, though, with all the changes over the past years, the United States still is in a preeminent position with incomparable advantages and maybe now a quarter of the world’s wealth. In military terms, on that dimension, the United States is completely alone. It’s the only country that has hundreds, maybe a thousand, military bases around the world, troops all over the world. U.S. military spending is almost as great as the rest of the world combined, technologically much more advanced. And within that context of the past 70 years or so, the United States has had a—usually, a pretty dominant role in world affairs and setting the framework within which others operate—not without conflict, of course.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the two major threats facing the world today: nuclear war and climate change. Talk about each.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I might start by referring to the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a clock that’s—since 1947, shortly after the atomic bombing, they established a Doomsday Clock. Every year, a panel of specialists make an estimate of how close we are to midnight. Midnight means termination for the species. It’s moved up and back over the years. Right now, it—just last year, it was moved two minutes closer to midnight because of the two threats that you mentioned, stayed there this year. That’s three minutes to midnight, close as it’s been since the early 1980s, when there was a major war scare. It was recognized then to be serious. Now that Russian archives have been opened, we see that it was far more serious than was assumed. We were at one point literally minutes away, several points in fact, minutes away from nuclear war. That’s where the Doomsday Clock stands now.

The nuclear threat is the threat of—on the Russian border, which happens to be the invasion route through which Russia was virtually destroyed twice last century by Germany alone—well, Germany as part of a hostile military alliance—on that border, both sides are acting as if a war is thinkable. The U.S. has just sharply increased; it quadrupled military expenses on its side. The Russians are doing something similar. There are constant near collisions, jets coming close to colliding with one another. A Russian jet a couple months ago virtually hit a Danish commercial airliner. U.S. troops are carrying out maneuvers virtually on the Russian border. That threat is escalating and very serious. William Perry, a respected nuclear specialist, a former defense secretary, recently estimated that the threat is higher than it was during the 1980s. There are also confrontations near the Chinese around China, South China Sea and so on. That’s one major threat.

The other is what you just described. The threat of global warming is very serious. Every time one reads a science journal, there’s an even more alarming discovery. Virtually all the ice masses are melting. The Arctic ice mass, which was assumed to be pretty stable, is actually melting very fast, much more than was thought. The glaciers are melting. There’s severe droughts. Right now already, about 300 million people in India are on the edge of starvation from drought, which has been going on for years. The groundwater is depleted as the Himalayan glaciers melt, as they’re doing. It will undermine the water supply for huge areas in South Asia. If people think there’s a migration crisis now, they haven’t seen anything. The sea level is rising. Chances are it could rise three to six feet, maybe more, by the end of the century—some estimate even sooner. It will have a devastating effect, not just on coastal cities, but on coastal plains, like, say, Bangladesh, where hundreds of millions of people will be severely threatened. I mean, this is a—we’re already killing other species at the level of the so-called fifth extinction. Sixty-five million years ago, when an asteroid hit the Earth, devastating consequences ended the age of the dinosaurs, opened the way for small mammals to develop, ultimately evolve, finally evolve into Homo sapiens, which now is acting the same way the asteroid did. That’s the fifth extinction. It’s going to get worse. All of these are—the rate of global warming today is far faster, maybe a hundred or more times as fast as any moderately comparable period that can be estimated in the geological record.

And to make it worse, of these two huge threats, we have an electoral—the quadrennial electoral extravaganza is going on right now, of course. And it’s pretty remarkable to see how the worst threats that the human species has ever faced, the most important decisions it must make—and soon—are virtually absent from the discussions and debates. On the Democratic side, there’s a couple of comments about it here and there, not much. On the Republican side, it’s much worse. Every single candidate either denies global warming altogether or, in one case, Kasich, admits that it’s taking place but says we shouldn’t do anything about it, which is even worse.


NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s 100 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, we’re going to go to a break. When we come back, we’ll play the last remaining Republican in the race, Donald Trump’s comment on climate change, and also get your take overall on the 2016 presidential election here in the United States. Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, has a new book out; it’s called Who Rules the World? Stay with us.

The Cult of the Professional Class

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

— Albert Einstein

In a recent interview on about his book Listen Liberal, author Thomas Frank spoke of the professional class that rules the Democratic Party and the orthodoxy instilled in them by their Ivy League institutions. Indeed, every president since 1988 attended an Ivy League university. Not only does this perspective from the professional class cross party lines, their orthodox worldview extends far beyond politics. It is based on an ideology that has served elites well – (semi) free-market capitalism and continuous economic growth. It is an orthodoxy that values corporate interests and personal gain over public good. It permeates all fields of society and American culture.

In their book Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky laid out the media propaganda model of journalism, in which they describe the small parameters of discourse allowable in mainstream media, due to factors such as advertising, corporate ownership, and the dominant elite mindset. The media propaganda model they describe is akin to the Ivy League orthodoxy of which Frank speaks. Disciplines cater to a small span of acceptable dialogue and thought based upon shared assumptions. Within that realm, diversity exists, but that diversity does not usually breach understood boundaries. Some voices reach the periphery of the border, but retract from crossing the line through caveats. Those who traverse boundaries tend to be marginalized, regardless of the substance, depth, and validity of their arguments and ideas. This orthodoxy is maintained chiefly through tacit self-censorship and is internalized by those who practice it.

The professional, upper-class orthodoxy infiltrates more than just Ivy League institutions because all others revere and aspire to it, and therefore tend to mimic it. My educational background is fairly privileged. My secondary school and undergraduate university were filled with students whose families possessed tremendous wealth, power, and advantage. My perspectives, experiences, and way of life from my modest, middle-class background were quite different from the majority of the rich students around me. People like me are subtly urged to fit in because we see that doing so would better enable us to garner the successes of the elite. But students far more disadvantaged than me have a great deal of trouble assimilating, not because they lack the intellectual ability but because they feel isolated. Thus, most who persist and whose backgrounds are anomalous – like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – adopt the mindset of the privileged. They deny or ignore their own histories and the voices they used to hear, voices that may call into question the veracity of the elite orthodoxy.

This elite-generated social control maintains the status-quo because the status quo benefits and validates those who created and sit atop it. People rise to prominence when they parrot the orthodoxy rather than critically analyze it. Intellectual regurgitation is prized over independent thought. Voices of the dispossessed, different, and un(formally)educated are neglected regardless of their morality, import, and validity. Real change in politics or society cannot occur under the orthodoxy because if it did, it would threaten the legitimacy of the professional class and all of the systems that helped them achieve their status.

The orthodoxy is why issues such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, and deterioration of public health and the environment continue unabated. They are eminently solvable, but cannot be solved under the implicit and often defective assumptions accepted by the orthodoxy.

We see examples of orthodox rules that benefit the capitalistic elite, versus independent alternatives which are discounted or overlooked, in all aspects of modern life:

In public education:

Most privileged members of society have never set foot in a public school or taught under the mandates therein. They have little appreciation for the teaching profession, which is filled with intelligent, overworked, over-stressed, caring and devoted individuals who are crippled by lack of resources, lack of time, lack of money, and lack of autonomy. The elite create their unsound educational policies without practical knowledge and evidence – policies which (one could only assume at this point) exist to crumble the public education system and pave the way for privatization. Charter schools, common core, endless standardized testing, and erroneous teacher evaluations do not support the needs of students. The acolytes of the professional class have no clue about what is best for students, particularly students with socioeconomic hardships they cannot and do not fathom. Social support systems for students outside of the classroom, equivalent funding for all students in all public schools, teacher independence, administrative support for teachers, higher teacher pay, and smaller class sizes would do well to tackle some of the fundamental problems in public education, but these out-of-the-box solutions undermine elite authority and corporate prospects. In a similar vein, technological devices – computers, tablets, etc. – have been pushed relentlessly into classrooms, even though their enhancement of learning, according to studies, is questionable or nonexistent.

In economics:

Even Alan Greenspan admits that neoclassical economics has flaws in theory and practice, yet it continues to be the dominant model at universities and in society. The faulty belief in the uber-rational, self-interested homo economicus probably persists mainly because it is a projection of the people who inhabit the privileged class. Corporate externalization of costs are absorbed by society and forgotten when heralding the successes of industrialists and capitalists. Resource extraction and environmental degradation, which are part and parcel of production, consumption, and consequently, economic growth, are downplayed or ignored. Talk of a basic income, a maximum income or maximum wage, and wealth distribution (except flowing to the top) are left out of practical discourse. This, despite that way back in the oft-mentioned halcyon days of the 1950’s under Eisenhower, the top marginal income tax rate was over 90% and the rich did not seem to suffer a bit from it. That tax rate, effectively a maximum income, could support needed social programs and infrastructure and redistribute wealth to those who have spend the past three decades (at least) earning far less than their rightfully owed compensation given their abundant productivity. But such ideas are considered ludicrous according to the orthodoxy.

In health care and medicine:

The orthodoxy of medicine is to emphasize treatment over prevention. Though increasingly stressed during the past several decades, preventative techniques focus on personal lifestyle factors and rarely account for systemic issues. American medicine tends to deal in proximal causes of diseases, such as changes in physiology, versus distal causes, such as extrinsic factors responsible for the changes in the physiology. For instance, you go to the doctor for newly acquired migraine headaches and receive medicine to lessen the pain. Medicine is a helpful immediate remedy, but you may never get to the real cause, which is the fact that you have new carpeting in your home that is outgassing toxic substances resulting in your having headaches. Industrial causes of disease like pollution and toxic exposure are not commonly accounted for under the dominant orthodoxy. In psychology, social factors are discounted, so depression and anxiety are treated as individual mental health issues rather than stemming from an unjust and untenable society. If you are not on prescription medications for something, you are quite atypical, because health care is a business and always needs new markets under the orthodoxy. In medicine, there is also the disregard for unnecessary and questionable interventions. For example, use of CT scans proliferated before enough adequate research as to their safety and efficacy. Consequently, studies have found that excessive use of CT scans may now result in preventable cancers in at least 1 out of 2000 people undergoing CT. But rather than further understanding the body’s innate ability to heal itself in many situations and rather than utilizing the comprehensive knowledge of well-learned critical diagnosticians, medicine now over-uses technological and pharmaceutical diagnostic and treatment methods. Though these sometimes harm patients more than they help, they serve to enhance capitalism and expand economic markets.

In fiction:

Writers such as George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis and Upton Sinclair, who shed light on the ills of society and the reality of the human condition, would probably not be published today. While dystopian fiction – especially science fiction and fantasy – is quite popular, look more closely and you will find that these novels, while characterizing some of the unpleasant realities of modern society, almost always end on a bright note with hope for the future. The benefits of technology are triumphed and the negative consequences minimized. Positivity is mandated. Narratives are about escape and denial. Protagonists are heroes who almost always save the day. I recently finished the popular Ready Player One, and while it demonstrates some societal issues, each time the protagonist faces an immediate, dire situation, he manages to overcome the obstacle, often because of simple coincidence or blind providence. The tragic heroes in Shakespeare and other classic works, who are doomed to die in the end but are always better for the knowledge and experience gained, are no more. What message is sent when heroes magically overcome obstacles instead of learning lessons about themselves and their world? This narrative orthodoxy of novels also pertains to most fictional films and television series. (Though some cable shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mr. Robot seem to be puzzling exceptions.)

capitalism poverty

In environment:

Market-driven, corporate-friendly, and technological solutions to environmental issues dominate the discourse in environmental programs, in the largest environmental advocacy organizations, and in governmental policies. On the topics of climate change, toxic contamination, and pollution, questioning the necessity or sustainability of ever-increasing production and consumption is forbidden in polite company. In a panel conversation I attended about sustainability in agriculture, the discussion turned to ways of feeding a growing world population. Everyone agreed that the problem is not caused by a scarcity of food but by unequal distribution, but no one on the panel seemed to think that fact merited practical consideration. Furthermore, since at least 1/3 of food produced in the world is wasted, addressing the waste stream might mark a point at which to intervene in the problem, but the idea was scoffed at. Pragmatic discussion and research on the issue of food usually assumes the current industrial farming model. Ideas about small, independent, localized, organic systems of food growth and distribution, though favored more and more by consumers and shown in studies to be the sole sustainable method for the future, are not recognized as policy solutions by the orthodoxy. Home gardens, as anyone who tends one knows, could sustain many families fairly easily, but those require land and land is not given away for free under capitalist orthodoxy. Also, they require time, which overworked and underpaid citizens (who are even able to find work) are not allowed to have. So a system of universal gardening is not even considered. As far as toxic substances, one cannot suggest banning an unnecessary and potentially hazardous product or technology. The controversial endocrine disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) probably does not need to exist at all, as its applications are mostly superfluous to our lives, but not only are policymakers reluctant to regulate it, if they do, they will only apply the mandate of “safe levels” of exposure, even if there is no way to truly determine or evaluate a safe level for human health or the environment. Though there is no credible evidence to support the notion that limiting exposures to hazardous substances, that techno-fixes, or that “win-win” market driven solutions to environmental problems can be at all sustainable in the long-term, these are the only acceptable answers to pollution, climate change, and environmental degradation available within the orthodoxy.

Much is taken as a given under the orthodoxy; instead we might consider:

Why can’t all trade be fair trade?

Why can’t all crops be organic? Two corollaries: why do we call pesticide-laden crops “conventional” rather than “poisoned”? Why not call “organic” food just “food,” as it was prior to the petro-chemical revolution?

Why is single-payer universal healthcare, the model in most countries throughout the world, not discussed in U.S. congressional hearings on healthcare reform?

Why do we automatically denigrate poverty? Why do we not heed stories from the poor themselves?

Why is democracy celebrated as a political structure while only hierarchy is allowed in the workplace?

Why can we not question the ethical implications of wealth and excess with regard to economic inequality or environmental sustainability? Why does our dominant Judeo-Christian society value wealth and excess despite scripture clearly stating its immorality?

Why can we not factually declare the immorality of Wall Street and the general obscenity of commodifying basic necessities of life, such as food, water, and homes (real estate)?

Why is the work ethic venerated, even when that hard work may be only self-serving, or worse, may be generating tremendous harm? What’s the use of being constantly “busy” if your busyness is not useful (and may be destructive)?

Why do we not consider the direct and indirect ways our occupations – and the organizations from which we earn money and power – exploit other species, other humans, and the environment as a whole? What might happen if we were all to do so?

Why do we equate wealth – rather than empathy or altruism – with intelligence and success?

Why can we not fundamentally question capitalism?

The Ivy League-derived orthodoxy of the professional, educated class saturates all areas of American society. Alternative voices and viewpoints are ostracized through a number of means. If you do not possess the expertise and stamp of approval as authorized by the academic infrastructure, your ideas are often dismissed out of hand, however profound and substantive. If you posses the authorization to speak, but step outside of the boundaries of permissible thought (and action), your voice will remain virtually meaningless, or worse, maligned. While scholarship, research, writing, and practices outside of orthodox parameters exist at universities and in other professions, the work of these professionals does not generally penetrate the paradigms of larger society, nor does it affect large-scale public policies. Some academics suffer job loss for their unorthodox views. Steven Salita, Norman Finkelstein, and Ward Churchill are emblematic of the consequences to those who exceed the limits. Whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, John Kirakou, and Thomas Drake who began within the parameters, for moral and ethical reasons violated the border of orthodoxy and paid a price. Environmental, social justice, peace and animal rights advocates like Tim DeChristopher and Jessica Reznicek also know the penalties for defying the orthodoxy.

Our biosphere is in a global death spiral. The sources of life support, for those who can still afford them, are diminishing in quality and quantity. None of the orthodoxy coming from the Ivies and the professional class is effecting change in this trajectory. We need other voices – voices of the disposed, disenfranchised, maligned, harmed, victimized, and powerless – to help find answers. We need to value voices of the indigenous, who have lived as close to sustainably on this planet as we have ever witnessed and whose traditions and knowledge may well be fading into oblivion. We need to respect the voices of those whose knowledge comes from experience, rather than just from books. We need to consider the voices of those whose main purpose is not professional advancement, but public good. We need to consider information from others based on the merits of their arguments and evidence, rather than the letters that follow their names.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the orthodoxy is that we cannot truly speak to that fact that humanity is no longer facing the downfall of a single nation or the destruction of a single empire, but the decimation of an entire planetary ecosystem. If we do not challenge the cabal of political and social power in America and around the world, it will likely be the death knell for us all.

Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Desmond Tutu and Others Call for Mass Climate Action

Climate Change impacts

By Emma Howard, Guardian UK – 26 August 15
Source: Readers Supported News


Noam Chomsky, Desmond Tutu, Naomi Klein and Vivienne Westwood among group calling for mass mobilisation on the scale of slavery abolition and anti-apartheid movements


Desmond Tutu, Vivienne Westwood, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky are among a group of prolific figures who will issue a mass call to action on Thursday ahead of the UN’s crunch climate change conference in Paris in December.

They call for mass mobilisation on the scale of the slavery abolition and anti-apartheid movements to trigger “a great historical shift”.

Their statement, published in the book Stop Climate Crimes, reads: “We are at a crossroads. We do not want to be compelled to survive in a world that has been made barely liveable for us … slavery and apartheid did not end because states decided to abolish them. Mass mobilisations left political leaders no other choice.”

Bill McKibben, founder of environmental movement, which has launched the project with the anti-globalisation organisation Attac France, described the move as a “good first step” towards Paris.

“It’s important for everyone to know that the players at Paris aren’t just government officials and their industry sidekicks. Civil society is going to have its say, and noisily if need be. This is a good first step,” he said.

There are now less than 100 days until the UN’s Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, where leaders from more than 190 countries will gather to discuss a potential new agreement on climate change. Last week the EU’s climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete warned that negotiations ahead of the conference must accelerate if any agreement is to be meaningful.

Artists, journalists, scientists and academics are among the 100 signatories to the statement alongside activists Vandana Shiva, Nnimmo Bassey and Yeb Sano, the Filipino diplomat who lead a fast of hundreds at the 2013 UN climate change summit in Poland after typhoon Haiyan devastated his country.

They target corporations and international trade, calling for an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels and a freeze on extraction.

“Decades of liberalisation of trade and investments have undermined the capacity of states to confront the climate crisis. At every stage powerful forces – fossil fuel corporations, agro-business companies, financial institutions, dogmatic economists, sceptics and deniers, and governments in the thrall of these interests – stand in the way or promote false solutions. Ninety companies are responsible for two-thirds of recorded greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Genuine responses to climate change threatens their power and wealth, threatens free market ideology, and threatens the structures and subsidies that support and underwrite them,” they state.

The book is a collection of essays, many published for the first time. In the foreword, Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town who rose to fame for his stance against apartheid, writes: “Reducing our carbon footprint is not just a scientific necessity; it has also emerged as the human rights challenge of our time … history proves that when human beings walk together in pursuit of a righteous cause, nothing can resist.”

In an essay on how climate change is impacting Africa, the Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey writes: “Temperature rises pose universal problems to the whole world, but more so for Africa. This is so because Africa has 50% higher temperatures than the global average … burning Africa is what is at stake.”

Elsewhere, climatologist Valérie Masson-Delmotte and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Jean Jouzel write on the current state of the science, while Pablo Solòn, former Bolivian ambassador to the UN presents a paper diagnosing the failure of the conferences.

Noam Chomsky: Nuclear Weapons and Unchecked Climate Change Are Leading Us Toward Doomsday – Truthdig

Noam Chomsky: Nuclear Weapons and Unchecked Climate Change Are Leading Us Toward Doomsday – Truthdig.

Posted on Mar 24, 2015

“It’s now 70 years since the end of the most horrific war in history,” the renowned intellectual said in a disquieting recent talk for the Lannan Foundation’s “In Pursuit of Cultural Freedom” lecture series. The war “ended with the use of an ultimate weapon which can bring human history to an end.” Soberingly, Chomsky added: “We’ve been living under that shadow ever since.”


—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

Νόαμ Τσόμσκι: Στην περίπτωση του περιβάλλοντος, δεν υπάρχει κανένας να μας διασώσει

Οι ντόπιοι όπου γης που αντιστέκονται στην εξόρυξη ορυκτών καυσίμων ηγούνται στη μάχη ενάντια στην κλιματική αλλαγή

noam chomsky in canada

«Καναδάς και ΗΠΑ είναι αφιερωμένοι στην προσπάθεια να εξάγουν κάθε σταγόνα υδρογονανθράκων απ’ όλη τη γη. Ο Καναδάς είναι, επίσης, αφιερωμένος στην καταστροφή άλλων χωρών με τις εξορυκτικές επιχειρήσεις του σε όλον τον κόσμο. Κινητήρια δύναμη είναι προφανώς το οικονομικό μοντέλο που βάζει πολλά δολάρια στις τσέπες των ανθρώπων οι οποίοι σχεδιάζουν και ελέγχουν την κοινωνία».
Αυτά, μεταξύ άλλων, είπε ο Νόαμ Τσόμσκι στη διάρκεια επίσκεψής του στο Μόντρεαλ πριν μια εβδομάδα, καθώς παραχώρησε συνέντευξη σε δημοσιογράφο του «Guardian» και σε καναδικό ραδιοφωνικό σταθμό, στις οποίες άσκησε κριτική στις ενεργειακές πολιτικές της κυβέρνησης του συντηρητικού πρωθυπουργού Στίβεν Χάρπερ.

«Η βιασύνη του Καναδά να εκμεταλλευτεί τα πετρελαϊκά πεδία και τα αποθέματα φυσικού αερίου, θα καταστρέψει το περιβάλλον. Είναι σαν να παίρνεις κάθε σταγόνα υδρογονάνθρακα από το έδαφος, είτε πρόκειται για φυσικό αέριο στο Νιου Μπρούνσβικ ή για πισσώδη άμμο στην Αλμπέρτα και να προσπαθείς να καταστρέψεις το περιβάλλον όσο το δυνατόν πιο γρήγορα, χωρίς καν να αναρωτιέσαι για το πώς θα μοιάζει ο κόσμος ως αποτέλεσμα», είπε ο αμερικανός γλωσσολόγος και συγγραφέας.
«Όμως οι αυτόχθονες του Καναδά που εμποδίζουν την ανάπτυξη των ορυκτών καυσίμων, ηγούνται στη μάχη για την κλιματική αλλαγή», συνέχισε, αναφερόμενος στην αντίσταση των ιθαγενών καναδών και εκφράζοντας ανησυχία για την εισβολή βαριά οπλισμένων αστυνομικών στον καταυλισμό κατοίκων του Νιου Μπρούνσβικ.
«Αποτελεί ειρωνεία το γεγονός οτι οι αποκαλούμενοι «λιγότερο προηγμένοι» άνθρωποι, είναι εκείνοι που αναλαμβάνουν τον ηγετικό ρόλο στην προστασία όλων μας, ενώ οι πλουσιότεροι και οι ισχυρότεροι απ’ όλους, είναι εκείνοι που προσπαθούν να οδηγήσουν την κοινωνία στην καταστροφή».
Διατύπωσε την άποψη οτι οι προοδευτικοί «θα πρέπει να εργαστούν για την κλιματική αλλαγή στα πλαίσια των προσπαθειών τους για οργάνωση», αλλά με τρόπο που να δίνει έμφαση στο πώς η αντιμετώπιση της κλιματικής αλλαγής μπορεί να βελτιώσει και όχι να χειροτερέψει τις ζωές των ανθρώπων.
«Εάν πρόκειται για προφητεία καταστροφής, θα αμβλύνει τις αντιδράσεις -εγώ ο ίδιος θα απολαύσω ένα-δυο χρόνια ακόμα όσο υπάρχει ευκαιρία. Όμως, ως επίκληση για δράση, θα πρέπει να ενεργοποιεί. Όπως, για παράδειγμα: θέλετε τα παιδιά σας και τα εγγόνια σας να έχουν μια αξιοπρεπή ζωή;»
Υποστήριξε τις αρχές του κινήματος «απο-ανάπτυξης» που στοχεύει στη χαλιναγώγηση της υπερπαραγωγής και της υπερκατανάλωσης και επικαλέστηκε τις μαζικές μεταφορές, τις τοπικές καλλιέργειες και τη βελτίωση της ενεργειακής επάρκειας, ως χρήσιμες μορφές ανάπτυξης που μπορούν να μετριάσουν την κλιματική αλλαγή και να βελτιώσουν την ποιότητα ζωής.
Ως «μείζον ζήτημα» πίσω από την κλιματική αλλαγή, ο Τσόμσκι εντόπισε τις ανεπάρκειες του συστήματος της αγοράς. «Οι αγορές είναι θανάσιμες, μόνο και μόνο επειδή αγνοούν τις επιδράσεις προς τα έξω, τις επιπτώσεις των συναλλαγών τους στο περιβάλλον», είπε. «Όταν στρέφεται στην παραγωγή ενέργειας, στις συναλλαγές της αγοράς, κάθε συμμετέχων αναρωτιέται: Τί μπορώ να κερδίσω απ’ αυτό; Δεν σκέφτεται ποιο είναι το κόστος για τους άλλους. Σε αυτήν την περίπτωση, το κόστος για τους άλλους είναι η καταστροφή τους περιβάλλοντος. Άρα, οι επιδράσεις προς τα έξω, δεν είναι ασήμαντες.»
Επισήμανε χαρακτηριστικά ότι, στη διάρκεια της οικονομικής κρίσης του 2008, οι τράπεζες μπορούσαν «να ξεχάσουν την πίστη στις αγορές, να σπεύσουν γονυπετείς στην κυβέρνηση και να ζητήσουν διάσωση.
Στην περίπτωση του περιβάλλοντος, δεν υπάρχει κανένας να μας διασώσει».

«Όχι πλέον αδρανείς»

Η εκμετάλλευση του αργού πετρελαίου από τις αχανείς πισσώδεις εκτάσεις στην Αλμπέρτα του Καναδά, περιλαμβάνουν την εκσκαφή, τη μεταφορά και το διαχωρισμό του καυσίμου που υπάρχει σε παχύρρευστη μορφή αναμεμειγμένη με άμμο. Τα κοιτάσματα ορυκτών καυσίμων, που αποτελούν τη σοβαρότερη πηγή εκπομπών διοξειδίου του άνθρακα, προγραμματίζονται για τεράστια εκμετάλλευση, παρά τις διεθνείς επικρίσεις και διαμαρτυρίες. Τα συνολικά αποθέματά του σε αργό πετρέλαιο -περιλαμβανομένων των εδαφών πίσσας τα οποία υπολογίζονται σε περισσότερα από 1,5 τρισεκατομμύρια βαρέλια- τοποθετούν τον Καναδά στην τρίτη θέση παγκοσμίως μετά τη Σαουδική Αραβία και τη Βενεζουέλα.
Οι καταστροφικές για το περιβάλλον εξόρυξη, μεταφορά και καύση, σε συνδυασμό με τις σεισμικές δοκιμές για τον εντοπισμό και την άντληση των αποθεμάτων σχιστολιθικού αερίου (φυσικού αερίου εντός σχιστολιθικών γεωλογικών σχηματισμών), που ανακαλύφθηκαν πρόσφατα, υποβαθμίζουν και θέτουν σε κίνδυνο τη ζωή των κατοίκων του Καναδά και απειλούν το περιβάλλον παγκοσμίως.

Idle No More

Idle No More (Photo credit: dkantoro)

Idle No More (Photo credit: dkantoro)

Η κοινότητα Πρώτο Έθνος γηγενών Ελσιπογκτόγκ και Μίκμακ συνεχίζει επί μήνες τις διαμαρτυρίες εναντίον των ερευνών για το αέριο στην επαρχία του Νιου Μπρούνσβικ.
Στις αρχές Οκτωβρίου εκδόθηκε διαταγή που απαγόρευε τον αποκλεισμό της πρόσβασης στις εγκαταστάσεις τής -αμερικανικών συμφερόντων- εταιρίας SWN Resources Canada και κορυφώθηκε με την επέμβαση ισχυρής αστυνομικής δύναμης, τη σύγκρουση με τους διαμαρτυρόμενους και τη σύλληψη 40 ατόμων, στις 17 Οκτωβρίου. Οι συγκεκριμένες διαμαρτυρίες αποτελούν συνέχεια του κινήματος «Όχι Πλέον Αδρανείς» [Idle No More (βλ.] το οποίο καλεί σε «ειρηνική επανάσταση», στην προστασία της πατρογονικής γης και σε εναντίωση στις αποικιοκρατικές πολιτικές. Δραστηριοποιήθηκε στα τέλη 2012 ως αντίδραση σε «πολυνόμους» που καταργούσαν περιβαλλοντικές προστασίες και προωθούσαν την εκμετάλλευση των ενεργειακών πηγών σε εδάφη αυτοχθόνων πληθυσμών.

Τα δύο άκρα του Καναδά

Η κυβέρνηση Χάρπερ, από το 2008, επιχειρεί να εμποδίσει τους κρατικά χρηματοδοτούμενους επιστήμονες να συνεργάζονται, να ανταλλάζουν και να δημοσιοποιούν πληροφορίες σχετικά με τις έρευνες για την κλιματική αλλαγή, την αλιεία και οτιδήποτε σχετίζεται με τα εδάφη της Αλμπέρτα και τον αμφιλεγόμενο πετρελαιαγωγό Keystone XL.
«Προτεραιότητα της κυβέρνησης, μοιάζει να είναι η απρόσκοπτη λειτουργία των επιχειρήσεων στα πετρελαϊκά εδάφη, ακόμα και με απόκρυψη των προβλημάτων ρύπανσης και με απομόνωση ερευνητών και επιστημόνων», σύμφωνα με τους «New York Times».
Επιπλέον, πιέζει τις ΗΠΑ για την έγκριση της διέλευσης του Keystone XL που θα μεταφέρει το αργό πετρέλαιο από την Αλμπέρτα σε διυλιστήρια στο Τέξας και στον Κόλπο του Μεξικού, απ’ όπου θα φορτώνεται προς εξαγωγή. Ωστόσο, ένα ευρύ περιβαλλοντικό και πολιτικό κίνημα υποστηρίζει οτι ο πρόεδρος Ομπάμα πρέπει να «ορθώσει το ανάστημά του» στα πετρελαϊκά συμφέροντα. Αλλά και ο αρχηγός των φιλελευθέρων Τζάστιν Τριντό, έχει υποστηρίξει δημοσίως την εκμετάλλευση των πετρελαϊκών εδαφών και τον αγωγό Keystone XL, ενώ παράλληλα «προσπαθεί να παρουσιάσει τους φιλελεύθερους ως το κόμμα που μπορεί να γεφυρώσει τα δύο άκρα -την εκμετάλλευση των ενεργειακών αποθεμάτων με το διάλογο για την κλιματική αλλαγή», σύμφωνα με τοπικά ΜΜΕ.

Νομπελίστες εναντίον ορυκτών καυσιμών

Ο Καναδάς, που βρίσκεται στις πρώτες θέσεις παγκοσμίως στις εκπομπές διοξειδίου του άνθρακα,  αποσύρθηκε τον Δεκέμβριο 2012 από τις δεσμεύσεις της 2ης περιόδου (2013-2020) του Πρωτοκόλλου του Κιότο του ΟΗΕ για μείωση των εκπομπών, επικαλούμενος το κόστος για τους πολίτες του.
Όπως αποδεικνύεται, η «προστασία» αφορούσε στο κόστος που θα υφίσταντο οι μεγάλες πετρελαϊκές εταιρείες εξόρυξης και εκμετάλλευσης των αποθεμάτων και η καναδικών συμφερόντων κατασκευάστρια του αγωγού, Trans Canada.
Εξακολουθεί, ωστόσο, να υποχρεούται σε μείωση των εκπομπών κατά 17% από τα επίπεδα του 2005, μέχρι το 2020, όπως και οι ΗΠΑ, από τα οποία έχει επιτύχει μόνο 4,8% μέχρι το 2011, σύμφωνα με την Ομοσπονδιακή Στρατηγική Βιώσιμης Ανάπτυξης του Καναδά 2013-2016 που δημοσιεύτηκε στις αρχές Νοεμβρίου.
Με επιστολή προς τον πρόεδρο της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής Χοσέ Μανουέλ Μπαρόζο, 21 Νομπελίστες, μεταξύ των οποίων και ο νοτιοαφρικανός  αρχιεπίσκοπος, ακτιβιστής για τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα, Ντέσμοντ Τούτου, καλούν την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση να θεσπίσει νομοθεσία με την οποία το πετρέλαιο από τα πισσώδη εδάφη θα χαρακτηρίζεται περισσότερο ρυπογόνο από τις συμβατικές μορφές αργού πετρελαίου.
Σύμφωνα με το Reuters, υποστηρίζουν την αναγκαιότητα σχετικού νόμου επειδή «η εξόρυξη μη συμβατικών καυσίμων -όπως τα πετρελαϊκά εδάφη και το σχιστολιθικό αέριο- έχουν ιδιαίτερα καταστροφικές συνέπειες στην κλιματική αλλαγή».
Η ΕΕ έχει μεν εγκρίνει  απο το 2009 την -αόριστη- Οδηγία Πετρελαϊκής Ποιότητας με στόχο τη μείωση των εκπομπών αερίων από καύσιμα μεταφορών κατά 6% μέχρι το 2020, ωστόσο ο Καναδάς ασκεί πιέσεις επειδή «κάνει διάκριση εις βάρος του καναδικού πετρελαίου».
Η κάτοχος Νόμπελ Ειρήνης Τζόντι Γουίλιαμς δήλωσε οτι η κλιματική προστασία «οπωσδήποτε επηρεάζει την πιθανότητα να δημιουργήσουμε έναν ειρηνικό κόσμο».

Ελισάβετ Πετρίδου
ΠΗΓΗ: Εφημερίδα “Η Εποχή” Κυριακή 10.11.2013
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