This was a year of tug-of-war for the environment. With Donald Trump becoming president of the U.S. at a time when wildfires, hurricanes, and floods were devastating the country, it was challenging for scientists, activists and concerned citizens to get their voices heard. But several stood out as global leaders on climate and helped give rise to those who were silenced. Below are 14 of the most notable influencers of 2017 and how they fought for a cleaner, safer environment for all.
1. Emmanuel Macron
After his inauguration as president of France, just a few months after U.S. President Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron made immediate waves. He started off by addressing Trump's withdrawal from the Paris agreement with a "Make Earth Great Again" slogan and welcoming American climate scientists to France to continue their research. He forged on, offering multi-year grants totaling $70 million. Macron also hosted the One Planet Summit where 20 international companies announced they would phase out coal. With his continued criticism of Trump's decisions regarding the planet, Macron has proven himself a global leader on climate change and has set the stage for progress in 2018.
2. Elon Musk
Elon Musk, entrepreneur and founder of several companies including SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity, began 2017 with a seat on President Trump's economic advisory council. Musk made multiple attempts to reverse Trump's stance on climate change, but after Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, Musk left the council on June 1, causing a huge media storm. Then in October, when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and left the islands without power, Musk swooped in and began building a solar grid. He started with restoring a children's hospital in San Juan and has continued delivering and installing Tesla battery systems since. Musk has also made huge strides in green technology with his push for electric vehicles and renewable energy in the U.S., despite the Trump administration's favoritism towards the fossil fuel industry.
3. Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stepped up to the plate as one of 2017's female leaders on climate in a multitude of ways. Nicknamed the "Climate Chancellor," Merkel has outwardly expressed her differences with Trump, calling his stance on climate change "regrettable." She reassured the UN that Germany would uphold its targets for the Paris agreement, despite the U.S. change of heart. She has also made significant progress in ensuring sustainable growth in Germany with the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth. Then, in November at the COP23 in Bonn, Germany, Merkel sent a strong message to all global leaders, saying "we will not be able to adhere to the 2°C or 1.5°C target with the current national commitments. That is why each and every contribution is incredibly important."
4. Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders didn't let his loss in the 2016 presidential race stop him from speaking out on climate. In 2017, Sanders relentlessly criticized Trump's rejection of the Paris agreement and his outright denial of climate science. He is one of the few politicians who has spoke out about the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017, which aims to expand the fossil fuel industry. He also introduced a $146 billion recovery package for Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria hit and Trump neglected to provide relief. The package would rebuild Puerto Rico's infrastructure with sustainable resources. He also helped to introduce the 100 by 50 Act, which would support workers in the fossil fuel industry while simultaneously phasing out fossil fuels by 2050.
5. Pope Francis
Pope Francis has openly condemned climate change deniers for years, but 2017 might have been the most radical year yet for the sovereign. In February, the Pope spoke up for indigenous peoples and their right to consent when it comes to government activities on their sacred lands. The strong words came shortly after President Trump signed two executive orders calling for the approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in January, though the Vatican said the timing was coincidental. On World Food Day in October, the Pope urged governments to mitigate climate change, as it is a lead driver of the increase in world hunger. And in November at COP23, he outlined four "perverse attitudes" that are preventing climate action. To top it off, he also acquired an electric car.
6. Michelle Rodriguez
Actress and climate activist Michelle Rodriguez is one of the newer voices of the climate movement. In March, Rodriguez joined an all-woman survey team known as Operation Ice Watch on an expedition to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada where the seal population is under siege by hunting and ice loss caused by climate change. Led by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Animal Justice, the crew surveyed the ice, or lack thereof, while filming a documentary to raise awareness about the "ecological catastrophe." Rodriguez also partnered with Operation Taino Spirit Promise and Sea Shepherd to provide relief to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck and start a campaign for a sustainable rebuild.
7. Michael Bloomberg
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was also a notable influencer of 2017, representing the U.S. at COP23 where he, alongside Governors Jerry Brown of California and Jay Inslee of Washington introduced the We Are Still In coalition, a network of U.S. politicians who support climate action despite Trump's withdrawal from the Paris agreement. In October, Bloomberg also announced that his charity would donate $64 million to the retirement of U.S. coal plants, greatly impeding Trump's efforts to revive the American coal industry.
8. Patricia Espinosa
Mexican politician and current executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa made significant progress on shifting the dialogue surrounding climate action in 2017. In February, she said getting fossil fuel companies "on board" is a critical factor in combating climate change. She also used her position to direct the climate conversation away from technology and toward security, arguing that security officials "understand that our current crisis pales in comparison to what is coming if climate change is left unchecked." She also spoke about women's involvement at COP23 and introduced the Gender Action Plan to promote meaningful participation by women in the climate movement.
9. Al Gore
Former vice president and environment activist Al Gore is known for his stance on climate change. But in 2017, with the release of his newest documentary "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," Gore found another big spotlight. In July, he boldly predicted that the U.S. would still meet the targets of the Paris agreement, despite Trump's about-face in June. On Dec. 4-5, Gore also hosted the Climate Reality Project's "24 Hours of Reality," where he highlighted citizens taking action all across the globe to inspire others to do the same. The program reached more than half a billion viewers on TV and 32 million online, making it the world's largest social broadcast on climate to date.
10. Jerry Brown
At almost every turn for the past 365 days, California Governor Jerry Brown has undermined President Trump. In June, almost immediately after Trump's withdrawal from the Paris agreement, Brown partnered with Chinese President Xi Jinping to continue expanding green technology and trade. In July, Brown extended California's climate legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. And as wildfires have raged through the state and region, Brown said he was "linking with other similar-minded people all over the world" and "pushing forward even as Trump blusters."
11. Noam Chomsky
Well known linguist and scientist Noam Chomsky spoke out numerous times in 2017 for the sake of the environment. In an interview with Truthout in March, Chomsky called out the Trump administration for cutting federal spending to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, stating that his actions are an "attack against future generations." In May he spoke out again, telling BBC Newsnight that the Republican Party's denial of climate change has made them the most dangerous organization "in human history." Chomsky's criticisms opened up an intellectual dialogue for conservative voters and encouraged the scientific community to weigh in.
12. Leonardo DiCaprio
Actor and philanthropist Leonardo DiCaprio made impressive strides on climate action in 2017, including investing in the entirely plant-based food company Beyond Meat and a farm-raised seafood company LoveTheWild. In June, DiCaprio also partnered with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to conserve the Gulf of California for the vaquita porpoise, classified as the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Most recently, at the Yale Climate Change Conference in September, DiCaprio announced that his foundation will be awarding $20 million in grants to more than 100 environmental organizations.
13. Stephen Hawking
World-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking represented the majority of the scientific community in 2017 on several occasions, urging Trump to stop denying evidence of climate change. In June, Hawking had a few choice words about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement, warning that "we are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible." And in November, Hawking once again pushed Trump to stop denying climate change and take action. Hawking nearly gave up on Earth altogether, telling WIRED UK that "our Earth is becoming too small for us, global population is increasing at an alarming rate and we are in danger of self-destructing."
14. David Attenborough
English documentary filmmaker and naturalist David Attenborough, whose series Blue Planet II began in October, spoke out several times on plastic pollution in 2017. In September, Attenborough told Greenpeace of the "heartbreaking" footage he recorded of mother birds feeding their babies plastic, an iconic moment for him that pushed him to speak up about plastic pollution in oceans., and tell Trump to reconsider his withdrawal from the Paris agreement. He emphasized that "never before have we been so aware of what we are doing to our planet—and never before have we had such power to do something about it."
By John Buell
Last winter when President-elect Trump tweeted: "United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes," the tweet was portrayed as shockingly new and threatening. As president, Trump continues his inflammatory rhetoric. Nonetheless, his nuclear posture is closer to his predecessors than is commonly recognized. It has long been U.S. policy and practice to seek and rely on nuclear superiority. The U.S. led every step in the arms race. That arms race remains the greatest immediate threat to the survival of human civilization and other living beings. That threat has persisted under every president from Truman to Trump.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1482425430.0
Noam Chomsky reminds us:
"Khrushchev proposed sharp mutual reductions in offensive weapons. The incoming Kennedy administration considered the offer and rejected it, instead turning to rapid military expansion, even though it was already far in the lead. The late Kenneth Waltz, supported by other strategic analysts with close connections to U.S. intelligence, wrote then that the Kennedy administration 'undertook the largest strategic and conventional peacetime military build-up the world has yet seen ... even as Khrushchev was trying at once to carry through a major reduction in the conventional forces and to follow a strategy of minimum deterrence, and we did so even though the balance of strategic weapons greatly favored the United States.'"
More recently, anti-missile systems have been portrayed as defensive weapons, but this too is deceptive. No nuclear expert seriously thinks that these could withstand a full-scale nuclear exchange. Their deployment might at least plausibly repel the survivors of a first strike against a small-scale nuclear opponent, such as North Korea or Iran.
The irrationality with which Trump is properly charged is also part of the core nuclear doctrine. He is a perfect manifestation of what nuclear strategists have in mind. Chomsky cites a crucial Strategic Air Command study:
"That Stratcom study was concerned with 'the role of nuclear weapons in the post-cold war era.' A central conclusion: that the U.S. must maintain the right to launch a first strike, even against non-nuclear states. Furthermore, nuclear weapons must always be at the ready because they 'cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict.' They were, that is, constantly being used, just as you're using a gun if you aim but don't fire one while robbing a store (a point that Daniel Ellsberg has repeatedly stressed). Stratcom went on to advise that 'planners should not be too rational about determining … what the opponent values the most.' Everything should simply be targeted. '[It] hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed … That the U.S. may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project.' It is "beneficial [for our strategic posture] if some elements may appear to be potentially 'out of control,'" thus posing a constant threat of nuclear attack—a severe violation of the UN charter, if anyone cares."
Nor is such talk merely theoretical speculation. Not only did the Kennedy Administration pour fuel on the fire of the arms race, it practiced nuclear brinksmanship of the most dangerous sort. Here is Chomsky again:
"As the crisis peaked in late October, Kennedy received a secret letter from Khrushchev offering to end it by simultaneous public withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey. The latter were obsolete missiles, already ordered withdrawn by the Kennedy administration because they were being replaced by far more lethal Polaris submarines to be stationed in the Mediterranean. Kennedy's subjective estimate at that moment was that if he refused the Soviet premier's offer, there was a 33 to 50 percent probability of nuclear war … Kennedy nonetheless refused Khrushchev's proposal for public withdrawal of the missiles from Cuba and Turkey; only the withdrawal from Cuba could be public, so as to protect the U.S. right to place missiles on Russia's borders or anywhere else it chose.
It is hard to think of a more horrendous decision in history—and for this, he is still highly praised for his cool courage and statesmanship." (Popular culture has this story right. The movie Jackie suggests JFK will be remembered for ending a crisis he created.)
In this context we need to question corporate media's frequent reference to modernizing nuclear weapons, the presumed sensible alternative to Trump's bellicosity. Weapons modernization is a euphemism that hides the real agenda, to render such weapons usable in "regional" wars. U.S. strategic rhetoric has always turned on the notion that nuclear superiority deters and that the U.S. must therefore never take the nuclear option—even first strike—off the table. That doctrine is dangerous at its core. How does the U.S. convince an opponent that it is always willing to use nuclear weapons? Eventually only by use of those weapons. (It would also be hard to convince residents of the Marshall Islands that after Japan we have never used such weapons.)
Apocalypse by Accident?
Ironically, President Trump's frequent nuclear blustering serves to hide one aspect of the nuclear risk. Focus on his instability and possible impetuous resort to the nuclear trigger may distract from equally significant dangers. Any discussion to the threat posed by nuclear weapons should include recounting and further explanation of the multiple accidents with nuclear weaponry as well as the environmental dangers their manufacture and storage pose. In a review of Eric Schlosser's book on nuclear weapons, Jenny Turner said "the effort to control nuclear weapons—to ensure that one doesn't go off 'by accident' is undermined, over and over again, by demands from the military for bombs they can trust to explode."
There is a long catalogue of near disastrous accidents with nuclear weapons. Details of an infamous 1961 incident involving the accidental drop of an H-Bomb over Greensboro, NC are especially chilling, especially given President Trump's decision similarly to arm B-52s today. These details also suggest we should place little reliance on the willingness of top level generals to restrain the president. Here is a summary from the Guardian:
"Further detail on what happened to the Mark 39 bomb when it fell over Goldsboro is given in a newly declassified document written in 1987 reviewing the U.S. nuclear weapon safety programme. It records that as the B-52 broke up, the pin to arm the bomb that was normally manually operated was yanked out as it fell, thus arming it.
All the various stages of the bomb's fall—the operation of the arming system, deployment of the parachute, timer operation, activation of its batteries, and delivery of the signal that would actually fire the bomb at impact—'all followed as a natural consequence of the bomb falling free.' Only the lack of engagement of the final ready-safe switch 'prevented nuclear detonation of this bomb.'"
Despite such expert awareness of the extremely tentative safeguards that stood between America and unthinkable disaster, successive U.S. administrations kept up the line in public that the country's nuclear arsenal was free from any risk of accidental detonation. This incident, just like the Cuban Missile crisis soon to follow, was just one more case where political and military leaders put the preservation of state power ahead of genuine public safety.
Because they are so dangerous, access to them must be limited, and thus independent investigators cannot accumulate information that could inform a critical assessment of their domestic risks. Secondly, preservation of nuclear secrecy is presented as one aspect of U.S. nuclear superiority. Finally, because they are one of the central pillars in our collective identity as a power second to none, criticism of these weapons is often written off as enemy-inspired and thus illegitimate. Add to this the economic boost nuclear arms provide to key military contractors and one has the makings of an almost invulnerable political machine. As Turner put it, "Nuclear weapons are not like Wikipedia, on which anybody can spot a mistake and write in."
About the best argument I can think of for the safety of nuclear weaponry is that none has been accidentally detonated so far. From Schlosser's description, this technological success is in large measure fortuitous. I will state it as a law—complex systems are prone to unpredictable malfunctions. And as with many features of industrial life, there is more glory and economic reward in building the technologies than in maintaining them. Furthermore, in the grand scheme of human civilization, not to say of the planet, 72 years is but a trifle.
Donald Trump's climate agenda is extraordinarily dangerous, but his posture on nuclear weapons is not as far out of the accepted strategic doctrines as his critics charge. Policy in both domains constitutes an imminent threat to the future of human civilization. Climate denialism has its parallel in those elites expecting to survive nuclear winter. Up until recently climate concerns have largely displaced the issues of nuclear weaponry. That must stop. Movements against nuclear power and nuclear weapons have a long history of facing repressive attacks and mounting cross-border collaboration. Enormous sums are already invested even in the shoddy maintenance of our nuclear arsenal, and many of Trump's opponents are committed to dangerous modernization of that arsenal. Those funds might better go to meeting the long-term climate crisis. Intensifying climate deterioration risks exacerbating cross border tensions and provoking war, which will surely some day become nuclear. These issues and movements need each other.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
John Buell lives in Southwest Harbor, Maine and writes on labor and environmental issues. His most recent book, published by Palgrave in August 2011, is "Politics, Religion, and Culture in an Anxious Age." He may be reached at [email protected].
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Alexandra Rosenmann
Noam Chomsky has a message for the resistance movement and the mainstream media alike: "Ridicule is not enough" to defeat Trumpism.
"We have to be a little cautious about not trying to kill a gnat with an atom bomb," he told George Yancy in a New York Times interview on July 5.
The political scientist and world-renowned linguist went on to praise Late Show host Stephen Colbert's recent smackdown of Republican efforts to gut the country's climate laws. Chomsky has dubbed the current GOP "the most dangerous organization in world history." For him, the question is how Democrats can recapture the White House before the planet's fate is sealed.
Noam Chomsky: The GOP Is Still the Most Dangerous Organization in Human History https://t.co/oMTQ0spyE1 @Greenpeace @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1494719406.0
"It's necessary to address the concerns and beliefs of those who are taken in by the fraud, or who don't recognize the nature and significance of the issues for other reasons," he noted.
While the opposition remains fractured, talk radio "and other practitioners of alternative facts" are uniting Trump voters against a common enemy—the left.
"For the majority of the base, Trump and the more savage wing of the Republican establishment are not far from their standard attitudes," Chomsky asserted, noting that most Trump supporters "are relatively affluent."
"Three-quarters had incomes above the median," he explained. "About one-third had incomes of over $100,000 a year, and thus were in the top 15 percent of personal income, in the top 6 percent of those with only a high school education."
According to Chomsky, rebuilding the Democratic Party will largely depend on a revival of the New Deal agenda, to draw in the "industrial sector" of Trump voters.
"A segment of the Trump base comes from the industrial sector that has been cast aside for decades by both parties, often from rural areas where industry and stable jobs have collapsed," he said. "Many voted for Obama, believing his message of hope and change, but were quickly disillusioned and have turned in desperation to their bitter class enemy, clinging to the hope that somehow its formal leader will come to their rescue."
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
Noam Chomsky Explains Why 'The Republican Party Is the Most Dangerous Organization in World History'
In this Democracy Now! special, we spend the hour with the world-renowned linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky. In a public conversation we had in April, we talked about climate change, nuclear weapons, North Korea, Iran, the war in Syria and the Trump administration's threat to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and his new book, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
Here's a transcript of the interview:
Amy Goodman: In this Democracy Now! special, we spend the hour with the world-renowned linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky. In a public conversation we had in April, we talked about climate change, nuclear weapons, North Korea, Iran, the war in Syria and the Trump administration's threat to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. We also talked about Noam Chomsky's new book, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power. Hundreds of people packed into the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for our public conversation.
Amy Goodman: I wanted to ask you about this comment that you made that the Republican Party, you said, is the most dangerous organization in world history. Can you explain?
Noam Chomsky: I also said that it's an extremely outrageous statement. But the question is whether it's true. I mean, has there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on Earth? Not that I'm aware of. Is the Republican organization—I hesitate to call it a party—committed to that? Overwhelmingly. There isn't even any question about it.
Take a look at the last primary campaign—plenty of publicity, very little comment on the most significant fact. Every single candidate either denied that what is happening is happening—namely, serious move towards environmental catastrophe—or there were a couple of moderates, so-called—Jeb Bush, who said, "Maybe it's happening. We really don't know. But it doesn't matter, because fracking is working fine, so we can get more fossil fuels." Then there was the guy who was called the adult in the room, John Kasich, the one person who said, "Yes, it's true. Global warming's going on. But it doesn't matter." He's the governor of Ohio. "In Ohio, we're going to go on using coal for energy, and we're not going to apologize for it." So that's 100 percent commitment to racing towards disaster.
Then take a look at what's happened since. The—November 8th was the election. There was, as most of you know, I'm sure, a very important conference underway in Morocco, Marrakech, Morocco. Almost roughly 200 countries at the United Nations-sponsored conference, which was—the goal of which was to put some specific commitments into the verbal agreements that were reached at Paris in December 2015, the preceding international conference on global warming. The Paris conference did intend to reach a verifiable treaty, but they couldn't, because of the most dangerous organization in human history. The Republican Congress would not accept any commitments, so therefore the world was left with verbal promises, but no commitments. Well, last November 8th, they were going to try to carry that forward. On November 8th, in fact, there was a report by the World Meteorological Organization, a very dire analysis of the state of the environment and the likely prospects, also pointed out that we're coming perilously close to the tipping point, where—which was the goal of the—the goal of the Paris negotiations was to keep things below that—coming very close to it, and other ominous predictions. At that point, the conference pretty much stopped, because the news came in about the election.
And it turns out that the most powerful country in human history, the richest, most powerful, most influential, the leader of the free world, has just decided not only not to support the efforts, but actively to undermine them. So there's the whole world on one side, literally, at least trying to do something or other, not enough maybe, although some places are going pretty far, like Denmark, couple of others; and on the other side, in splendid isolation, is the country led by the most dangerous organization in human history, which is saying, "We're not part of this. In fact, we're going to try to undermine it." We're going to maximize the use of fossil fuels—could carry us past the tipping point. We're not going to provide funding for—as committed in Paris, to developing countries that are trying to do something about the climate problems. We're going to dismantle regulations that retard the impact, the devastating impact, of production of carbon dioxide and, in fact, other dangerous gases—methane, others.
Ok. So the conference kind of pretty much came to a halt. The question—it continued, but the question was: Can we salvage something from this wreckage? And pretty amazingly, the countries of the world were looking for salvation to a different country: China. Here we have a world looking for salvation to China, of all places, when the United States is the wrecking machine that's threatening destruction, in—with all three branches of government in the hands of the most dangerous organization in human history.
And I don't have to go through what's happened since, but the—in general, the Cabinet appointments are designed to—assigned to people whose commitment and beliefs are that it's necessary to destroy everything in their department that could be of any use to human beings and wouldn't just increase profits and power. And they're doing it very systematically, one after another. EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, has been very sharply cut. Actually, the main department that's concerned with environmental issues is the Department of Energy, which also had very sharp cuts, particularly in the environment-related programs. In fact, there's even a ban on posting and publishing information and material about this.
And this is not just at the national level. The Republican Party, whatever you want to call it, has been doing this at every level. So, in North Carolina, a couple of years ago, where the Legislature, mostly thanks to gerrymandering, is in the hands of the Republicans, there was a study. They called for a study on the effect of sea level rise—on what sea level rise might be on the North Carolina coast. And there was a serious scientific study, which predicted, in not—I forget how many years—not a long time, about roughly a meter rise in sea level, which could be devastating to eastern North Carolina. And the Legislature did react, namely, by passing legislation to ban any actions or even discussion that might have to do with climate change. Actually, the best comment of this—I wish I could quote it verbatim—was by Stephen Colbert, who said, "If you have a serious problem, the way to deal with it is to legislate that it doesn't exist. Problem solved." You know, this is going on all over the country.
And it's not just—it's not simply climate change. That's bad enough. But there's another huge specter that we're kind of trying to survive under, and that's nuclear war. That's a whole other story. Here, both the Obama administration and, increasingly, Trump are radically increasing that danger. This—the threat of the new developments is captured very effectively in the best, simple monitor of the state of the world, established at the beginning of the nuclear age by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. I'm sure you all know about this, but the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists regularly brings together a group of scientists, political analysts, other very serious people, to try to give some kind of estimate of what the situation of the world is. The question is: How close are we to termination of the species? And they have a clock, the Doomsday Clock. When it hits midnight, we're finished. End of the human species and much else. And the question every year is: How far is the minute hand from midnight?
Well, at the beginning, in 1947, beginning of the nuclear age, it was placed at seven minutes to midnight. It's been moving up and back ever since. The closest it's come to midnight was 1953. 1953, the United States and Russia both exploded hydrogen bombs, which are extremely serious threat to survival. Intercontinental ballistic missiles were all being developed. This, in fact, was the first serious threat to the security of the United States. There's an interesting story behind that, but I'll put it aside, unless there's time to talk about it. But then, it came to two minutes to midnight. And it's been moving up and back since.
Two years ago—2014, I think it was—the analysts took into account for the first time something that had been ignored: the fact that the nuclear age—the beginning of the nuclear age coincided with the beginning of a new geological epoch, the so-called Anthropocene. There's been some debate about the epoch in which human activity is drastically affecting the general environment. There's been debate about its inception. But the World Geological Organization has recently determined that it's about the same time as the beginning of the nuclear age. So we're in these two eras in which the possibility of human survival is very much at stake, and, with us, everything else, too, of course, all living—most living things, which are already under very severe threat. Well, a couple of years ago—I think it was 2014—the Bulletin began to take that into account and moved the minute hand up to three minutes to midnight, where it remained last year.
A couple of—about a week into Trump's term, the clock was moved again, to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight. That's the closest it's been since 1953. And that means extermination of the species is very much an—very much an open question. I don't want to say it's solely the impact of the Republican Party—obviously, that's false—but they certainly are in the lead in openly advocating and working for destruction of the human species. I agree that's a very outrageous statement. So I therefore simply suggest that you take a look at the facts and see if it has any merit or if it just should be bitterly condemned. That's up to you. My view, the facts are pretty clear.
Amy Goodman: At this point, as President Trump nears his 100th day, North Korea and Iran have been a major focus. Are you concerned that with the president at the lowest popularity rating, I think, in any president's history at this point, that he will focus abroad, as he has in the last few weeks, dropping the MOAB, the "Mother of All Bombs," in Afghanistan, bombing the Syrian government, and yet focusing specifically on North Korea and Iran—in North Korea, McMaster, General McMaster, the national security adviser, saying tensions with North Korea are coming to a head. Do you think there is a possibility that the U.S. would attack North Korea?
Noam Chomsky: I mean, this administration is extremely unpredictable. Trump probably has no idea what he's going to do five minutes from now, so you can't—literally—so you can't really make predictions with much confidence. But I doubt it very much. The reason is very simple: An attack on North Korea would unleash—no matter what attack it is, even a nuclear attack, would unleash massive artillery bombardment of Seoul, which is the biggest city in South Korea, right near the border, which would wipe it out, including plenty of American troops. That doesn't—I mean, I'm no technical expert, but as far as I can—as I read and can see, there's no defense against that. Furthermore, North Korea could retaliate against American bases in the region, where there's plenty of American soldiers and so on, also in Japan. They'd be devastated. North Korea would be finished. You know, so would much of the region. But if attacked, presumably, they would respond, very likely. In fact, the responses might be automatic. McMaster, at least, and Mattis understand this. How much influence they have, we don't know. So I think an attack is unlikely.
But the real question is: Is there a way of dealing with the problem? There are a lot of proposals: sanctions; a big new missile defense system, which is a major threat to China, it'll increase tensions there; military threats of various kinds; sending an aircraft carrier, the Vinson, to North Korea, except by accident—it happened to be going in the opposite direction, but we'll forget that. But these are—those are the proposals, that kind of proposals, as to how to solve.
Actually, there's one proposal that's ignored. I mean, you see a mention of it now and then. It's a pretty simple proposal. Remember, the goal is to get North Korea to freeze its weapons systems, weapons and missile systems. So one proposal is to accept their offer to do that. Sounds simple. They've made a proposal. China and North Korea proposed to freeze the North Korean missile and nuclear weapons systems. And the U.S. instantly rejected it. And you can't blame that on Trump. Obama did the same thing a couple of years ago. Same offer was presented. I think it was 2015. The Obama administration instantly rejected it.
And the reason is that it calls for a quid pro quo. It says, in return, the United States should put an end to threatening military maneuvers on North Korea's borders, which happen to include, under Trump, sending of nuclear-capable B-52s flying right near the border. Now, maybe Americans don't remember very well, but North Koreans have a memory of not too long ago, when North Korea was absolutely flattened, literally, by American bombing. There was—there was literally no targets left. And I really urge people who haven't done it to read the official American military histories, the Air Quarterly Review, the military histories describing this. They describe it very vividly and accurately. They say, "There just weren't any targets left. So what could we do?" Well, we decided to attack the dams, the huge dams. That's a major war crime. People were hanged for it at Nuremberg. But put that aside. And then comes an ecstatic, gleeful description of the bombing of the dams and the huge flow of water, which was wiping out valleys and destroying the rice crop, on which Asians depend for survival—lots of racist comment, but all with exaltation and glee. You really have to read it to appreciate it. The North Koreans don't have to bother reading it. They lived it. So when nuclear-capable B-52s are flying on their border, along with other threatening military maneuvers, they're kind of upset about it. Strange people. And they continue to develop what they see as a potential deterrent that might protect the regime from—and the country, in fact—from destruction. This has nothing at all to do with what you think about the government. So maybe it's the worst government in human history. OK. But these are still the facts that exist.
There are similar questions to raise about Iran. So, Iran is, you know, the—again, the adults in the room, like Mattis and so on, say it's the greatest threat to peace, you know, the greatest sponsor of terrorism, on and on. How is it a sponsor of terrorism? Well, could go through that. So, for example, in Yemen, it's claimed that they are providing some aid to rebel tribesmen, Houthi tribesmen, in Yemen. OK, maybe they are. What is the United States doing in Yemen? It's providing a huge flood of arms to its Saudi Arabian ally, who are destroying the country, who have created a huge humanitarian crisis, huge numbers of people killed, massive starvation. They're threatening now to bomb a port, which is the only source of aid for surviving people. But Iran is the major source of terrorism.
Amy Goodman: MIT professor emeritus Noam Chomsky in a public conversation we recorded in April at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When we come back, we'll talk about Syria, WikiLeaks and more.
Amy Goodman: Patti Smith, singing at Democracy Now!'s 20th anniversary at the Riverside Church in New York. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we return to my public conversation with Noam Chomsky, the acclaimed linguist and dissident, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We recorded this in April at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hundreds of people packed into the church.
Amy Goodman: I last interviewed you on April 4th, just a few weeks ago, on Democracy Now!. It was the 50th anniversary of Dr. King giving his "Beyond Vietnam" speech, why he opposed the war in Vietnam, where he called the U.S. "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world." And I wanted to turn from North Korea and Iran to Syria. It was the day of the gas attack in Syria, so we didn't get to talk about it very much. And I'm wondering your thoughts on what you think happened, and then the ensuing U.S. bombing that President Trump would later talk about, saying he was having chocolate cake with the Chinese president—very, very good chocolate cake—when they launched the Tomahawk missiles into Iraq, he said. And he was corrected by the interviewer—right?—who said it was actually Syria.
Noam Chomsky: Bunch of "ragheads"; it's all about the same. But, well, there are some things we know for sure. There was a serious chemical weapons attack. Nobody doubts that. It's plausible that it was the Syrian government, which does raise some questions. It's not so obvious why the Assad regime would have carried out a chemical warfare attack at a moment when it's pretty much winning the war, and the worst danger it faces is that a counterforce will enter to undermine its progress. So it does raise some questions. It also—even though maybe you can think up some reason why the Assad regime, which is a murderous, brutal regime, might have done it, there's even another question as to why the Russians would have allowed it. Now, remember, this is a—the air base is a joint Russian-Syrian base. Russia has plenty of clout in Syria. And for them, it's a total disaster. They have global concerns, not just local concerns in Syria. So there are some concerns.
And there are further concerns. There has been—the White House did put out a careful—you know, a justification, an intelligence report, to explain and account for, showing why they had absolute confidence that it was a Syrian government attack. This was analyzed closely by a very serious and credible analyst, Theodore Postol, professor at MIT, who has a long record of highly successful, credible analysis. He's a highly regarded strategic analyst and intelligence analyst. And he gave a pretty devastating critique of the White House report. You might—you can pick it up online and take a look at it. So there certainly are some questions.
That there's—that Syria is capable of a monstrous act like that, the Syrian government, that much is not in doubt. But one question that arises is: Before doing something, could you find out what happened? OK? I mean, let's have an inquiry, take a look and see what in fact actually happened. There are plenty of cases where things—where it looked as though things happened, but they didn't. And remember that reporting from Syria is extremely difficult. If reporters go into the rebel-held areas and don't do what they're told, you know, get your head cut off. Patrick Cockburn and others have written about this. You just can't seriously report from those areas. There are obvious questions when you're reporting from the government side. So the reporters are—there are very good reporters doing a serious, courageous job, but there's not much you can do. So we just don't know a lot. Well, those are the circumstances in which the 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched. That's pretty easy. It's easy to sit in Washington and push a button and say, "Go kill somebody." That's considered courage, you know, macho, showing how strong we are.
What did they actually do? Well, apparently, the Tomahawk missiles were targeting a part of the airfield that doesn't seem to be used. And, in fact, the next day, planes were taking off. And, in fact, the village that was attacked by the chemical weapons has been even more heavily attacked by straight bombing from the Assad government after the 59 Tomahawk missiles. So whatever they were intended to do doesn't seem to have anything to do with Syria. I suspect that what they were intended to do was pretty much what you described, to shore up Trump's image as—I think it was Nikki Haley at the U.N., said, "There's a new sheriff in town." So now we've got Wyatt Earp, you know, pulling out his gun and getting rid of the bad guys. No more of this soft stuff. So, it was probably an attempt to shore up that image.
Pretty much like the bomb in Afghanistan. Nobody knows what it was for, what it had to do with. Probably destroyed a large part of Afghanistan. Shortly after that, there was a mass—an incredibly brutal and successful Taliban attack, which killed a couple hundred recruits, most of them unarmed. The young draftees didn't know what they were doing. It was so bad, the defense minister resigned. Doesn't seem to have any effect on—it was supposedly aimed at ISIS. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't. They don't seem to be affected by it.
So these look like—there doesn't seem to be any strategic analysis behind any of these actions, as far as anyone can tell. They seem like kind of about at the level of the twitters that keep coming out: something that kind of occurs to me, so why not do it? It's cheap. It may kill a lot of people, makes me look good and, you know, makes it seem as if I'm defending the country, and so on. It's hard to see it as anything but that. That these things help the people of Syria and Iraq is very hard to imagine.
Amy Goodman: What do you think has to be done to solve the crisis, the humanitarian catastrophe, in Syria?
Noam Chomsky: In Syria, it's a terrible catastrophe. And, you know, unfortunately, there isn't a lot that can be done about it. There are some things that can be done. I mean, the idea that you can send in the Marines and bomb and so on, that has a small problem. If you do, you probably set off a nuclear war, and not only is Syria destroyed, the rest of Syria, but the rest of the world, too. So there's a little difficulty in that scenario, whatever one thinks about the justification for it.
So what can be done? Well, one thing that can be done, which is really easy, very easy, is to take care of the people fleeing from this disaster. I mean, there are huge numbers of people fleeing from the disaster. What do we do about them? Make sure they don't come here, you know, kind of like people fleeing from—you know, my relatives, in fact, fleeing, trying to flee from Eastern Europe under the—before when the Nazis were coming along. "We don't want 'em. Not here." You know. So the Syrians don't come—maybe a tiny trickle, but very few come here. Europe's not that much better—in fact, pretty horrible, too. So one thing you could do is just take care of the people who are fleeing the disaster.
Another thing you can do is provide humanitarian aid for those in the region. Now, there are countries who are absorbing refugees, remember, like take Lebanon. It's not a rich country like us. Poor country. About 40 percent of the population are refugees, many of them fleeing from the Israeli wars as far back as '48, many—huge number of Syrians. Jordan, another poor country, has absorbed a huge number of refugees. Turkey has a couple of million. Iran has accepted refugees. So there are very—there are poor countries that are accommodating refugees, but not the rich countries. The rich countries, it's not our business, certainly not us. It's even a more serious problem with regard—for us, moral problem, with regard to Central America, but let's keep to Syria. So another thing you could do is provide badly needed aid and assistance for those who have succeeded in fleeing the disaster, or who remain in parts of Syria where survival is possible, but are living under horrible conditions. Now, that's all cheap and easy, a tiny fraction of increasing the military budget to cause more destruction.
Amy Goodman: Noam, I wanted to, before we get to your book, your latest book, ask you about this latest development in the United States. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency gave his first major address, and he focused on WikiLeaks. And it looks like now the U.S. is preparing an arrest warrant for Julian Assange, who's been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for almost five years now. Pompeo calling WikiLeaks a "hostile non-state intelligence service," calling Julian Assange himself a "demon," and said he's not protected by the First Amendment. Your thoughts?
Noam Chomsky: Well, I think it speaks for itself. WikiLeaks has released lots of information that governments don't like. It's overwhelmingly information that citizens should have. It's information about what their governments are doing. And perfectly natural that systems of power don't want to be exposed, so they'll do what they can to prevent exposure. I think it's a disgraceful act. In fact, I think it's disgraceful even to keep Julian Assange holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy. I did visit him there once, but you can guess yourself. It's, in many ways, worse than imprisonment. At least if you're in prison, you can see other prisoners, and you can get out and look at the sunshine now and then. He's in a small apartment, where he can't go out. You know, he can go to the balcony, but that's about it, a small—basically, a couple of rooms inside a small apartment. It's not a big embassy. The embassy is like a kind of an apartment in London, surrounded by police and so on. There's been no credible basis for any of this. And to go on to try to raise it to the level of criminal prosecutions, I think, is, again, one of these efforts to look tough at home, and the kind of effort that a government would carry out that is dedicated to trying to protect itself from exposure of facts that citizens should have, but systems of power don't want them to have. I think that's the crucial issue.
Amy Goodman: The suggestions are it has to do with his aiding and abetting perhaps Chelsea Manning and also Edward Snowden, doing that with Edward Snowden, which he openly admits, while he's trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy.
Noam Chomsky: If the charge is true, he should be honored for it. Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden carried out heroic, courageous acts. They fulfilled the responsibility of somebody who takes citizenship seriously—that is, who believes that the people of a country ought to know something about what their government is up to. OK? Like if their government is carrying out murderous, brutal attacks in Iraq, people should know about it. Takes us back to Martin Luther King's talk in 1967. If the government is, and corporations, too, incidentally, are listening in to your telephone conversations and what you're doing, you know, tapping this discussion and so on, we should know about it. Governments have no right to do things like that. And people should know about it. And if they think it's OK, fine, let them decide, not do it in secret. And I think people wouldn't agree to it. That's why it's kept secret. Why else keep it secret? You know? And these are people who exposed it at great risk to themselves. So those are heroic, courageous acts. If WikiLeaks was abetting them, more power to them. That's what they should be doing.
Amy Goodman: I mean, President Trump endorsed WikiLeaks, right? He said, "I love WikiLeaks," during the campaign.
Noam Chomsky: Yeah, when it was releasing things that he liked, yeah. Any system of power will do that. "You release information that I like, it's great. But I don't want to be exposed."
Amy Goodman: Professor Noam Chomsky in conversation in April at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When we come back, he'll talk about the media's coverage of the Trump administration, and his new book, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power. We'll be back in a minute.
Amy Goodman: Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff singing "Rican Beach," here in our studios at Democracy Now! This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we return to our public conversation with the acclaimed linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky. It was recorded in April at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Amy Goodman: Speaking of entities that President Trump doesn't like, he calls the press the enemy of the American people, the enemy of the people. Can you assess, as the media assesses President Trump in his first a hundred days, the media's behavior?
Noam Chomsky: Well, I think the media has fallen over backwards to try to give him some protection and leeway. I mean, you know, there are things that are so ludicrous and outrageous that a reporter simply can't keep from saying something about them, like there's one ridiculous claim after another that comes out of the tweets—you know, 3 million illegal undocumented refugees voted for Clinton, Obama wiretapped the Trump Tower, you know, one after another.
My sense is—this is just a guess—that this is a media strategy, that it's the Bannon-Trump-Spicer strategy to try to keep attention focused on one or another form of lunacy, but not look at what's actually happening. And what's actually happening is that Paul Ryan and his associates behind the scenes are systematically and carefully dismantling every element of government that is of any benefit to people and that doesn't maximize corporate power and profit. I mean, the dedication of the Republican leadership, especially the Ryan-type leadership, their dedication to slavish servility to corporate power and wealth is just phenomenal. I mean, read this morning's business pages. Their latest step is to try to prevent exposure of complaints against banks that carry out improper activities. It is possible now, thanks to the Consumer Protection Act, for people to criticize when they think a bank has carried out some improper activity. But we've got to keep that silent, you know, because we have to protect corporations from any exposure of criminal activities they might carry out. I mean down to that level, in fact, everywhere you look.
I mean, the healthcare proposal was so shocking that, I mean, it was a proposal basically to cut taxes for the rich and to ensure that poor and middle-class people—the people who voted for Trump, in fact—don't get medical aid. As you saw, of course, the Congressional Budget Office estimated 24 million additional people uninsured. There was an analysis of that by Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, two health specialists, just studying the relationship between lack of insurance and deaths. There's plenty of evidence about that. And it turns out that would have meant about 45,000 additional deaths a year. Well, that's OK, as long as you cut taxes for the rich.
And step by step, that's what's happening behind the façade of Trumpisms and, you know, Spicer antics before the press. And the press is pretty much falling for it. That's what they focus on, not what's being carried out. There is, of course, criticism—mild criticism—of outrageous lies, but I think that just plays the game. That's what the lies are for. Then you can yell about the liberal press that is trying to undermine us. It's all a kind of a desperate effort to keep a con game going. Trump does have a base, a voter base. He's kicking them in the face with abandon. And the idea is: How do you hold onto them while you're doing this? Not an easy trick. And this, I think, is part of the con. And there are people in the press who are pointing it out—Paul Krugman, for one—but nothing like it should be.
Amy Goodman: Which takes us to your latest book, Requiem for the American Dream, where you talk about the 10 principles of the concentration of power and wealth, how it's happening, what to watch out for.
Noam Chomsky: Well, credit for the 10 principles should go to the producers of the film. What they did was take a lot of interviews and discussions about all sorts of things and put them in a coherent and, I think, pretty effective form, including formulating 10 principles—that's their contribution—and including material that discusses them. And you can look at the film and see, or the book, but my feeling is they did a really good job. I'm impressed by it.
Amy Goodman: So the book is accompanying this film that is now out on Netflix. But you talk about, for example, principle one, reducing democracy; principle two, shaping ideology; and principle three, redesigning the economy.
Noam Chomsky: Well, all of those fall together, and they're part of a pretty remarkable development that's taking place in—actually, in human history. Humans, in the last 60 or 70 years, have succeeded in creating a kind of a perfect storm, literally. Two—there's a kind of a pincers movement that we've created, two major attacks on the prospects for survival: global—global warming, nuclear weapons, the Anthropocene, the nuclear age.
And the third is a set of socioeconomic policies designed to undermine the possibility of dealing with the problems. The problems could be dealt with only in a functioning democracy of engaged, informed people, who could make decisions, who would be informed and could make decisions to deal with the crises. But the so-called neoliberal programs of the past generation, the sort of somewhat market-oriented programs, designed to undermine the institutions, the governmental and popular institutions, that might deal with these issues, it's all a unit. One result is a very significant decline in democracy. You can see it in the—which is almost built into the policies. It's perfectly built—you can't carry out economic policies of the type that have been—that have been implemented in the past generation in a functioning democracy. That's impossible. I mean, just take a look at the numbers.
So, the neoliberal programs were basically taking off right around 1980. It escalated—started a little with the late Carter, escalated under Reagan, went on more under Clinton and so on. 2007 was the peak of supposed success. This is right before the crash. A lot of euphoria among economists, political analysts about the great achievements of neoclassical economics, of the great moderation, you know, the neoliberal programs, a dismantling of regulations—all these great successes, 2007. What was happening to American working people at that time? In 2007, wages, real wages, were lower than they had been in 1979 when the experiment took off. In fact, for the majority of the population, it's a period of stagnation or decline. Benefits have declined.
People had been—some of the reasons were explained by Alan Greenspan, head of the Federal Reserve, who was in charge pretty much of managing the economy. He testified to Congress that part of the success of the economy, the low inflation and so on, was due to what he called growing worker insecurity. Working people were insecure. They were intimidated. They knew that they were in a dangerous situation, precarious situation. As a result, they didn't press for increase in wages and—for decent wages and benefits. They were willing to accept, in fact, an effective decline in their living standards. And Greenspan, who was a close observer of the economy, pointed out that this continued, even when jobs were increasing in the late Clinton period. It was deeply embedded in the nature of the policies being carried out, that working people are intimidated, they're living precarious lives, many of them are part-time, they're losing security, their unions are being destroyed, and their wages are declining. So it's all great. The economy is wonderfully healthy. Can you carry out policies like that in a democracy? I mean, are people going to vote for it?
Same in Europe, even worse in many ways. The so-called austerity programs, even the economists of the International—the IMF, International Monetary Fund, their own economists say—report that these policies make no economic sense. But the IMF bureaucrats, the ones who are part of the decision-making apparatus, they vote for them. How do you—and the effect on Europe is the same thing, as far as democracy is concerned. Just like in the United States, there's anger, contempt for major—for centrist—you know, for the major governing institutions. Here, it's Congress; there, it's the political parties. You just saw it in France yesterday: The two major parties were barely visible in the election. And it's happening all over Europe, same kind of thing that's happening here. I mean, here, it's happening in a way which is almost farcical because of the—you know, the kind of actions carried out by the leadership. In Europe, it's being—it's being pursued in a way which is really ominous. I mean, you don't have to look far back to find a time when fascist parties actually had power in Europe. And we know what happened. And now there are neofascist parties, with fascist roots often, which are pretty close to power, even in places like Austria and Germany, which have some memories about. France, as well, was—under the Nazis, was a very pro-Nazi country, the Vichy government. It was rounding up Jews faster than the Germans wanted them. A really ugly record. And seeing these things come back, or just seeing a situation in which, according to recent polls, a majority of Europeans think there should be no more Muslims in Europe, I mean, that evokes some memories, not nice ones.
And a lot of—you can't attribute it all to the neoliberal economic policies, but a lot of it does follow from that. When you impose on people circumstances of this kind, you have to make sure that they have no way of responding politically. In Europe, it's done pretty straightforwardly. The main decisions about socioeconomic policies are made by the so-called troika—IMF, European Central Bank and the European Commission, which is unelected. So three unelected bodies, they make the decisions. They do listen to voices, the voices of the northern banks, mostly German banks. And the people suffer. And they get—they are angry, frightened, often reacting in dangerous ways. We see similar phenomena here.
So, to go back to the pincers movement, what's happened is we've created two huge threats to survival. We have systematically—not you and me, but the leadership has systematically created socioeconomic policies, which have as a consequence, almost immediate consequence, the undermining of functioning democracy—the one thing that might deal with the disasters. Like I said, it's a kind of perfect storm. Real credit to the human species to have contrived something like this.
Amy Goodman: Principle four is shift the burden onto the poor and the middle classes. Principle five, attack the solidarity of the people. Six, let special interests run the regulators. Seven, engineer election results. Eight, use fear and power of the state to keep the rabble in line.
Noam Chomsky: Is it necessary to comment? I think you're all familiar with it.
Amy Goodman: Nine is manufacture consent, and principle 10 is marginalize the population.
Noam Chomsky: Well, in fact, that's exactly what's happening. And it's the—and there's a reason for it. You cannot carry out the kinds of policies that have been developed in the last generation, and have the population function democratically. In Europe, you can't get people to vote for policies which are undermining their lives; which are leaving especially younger people without any hopes of decent employment; which are driving people to precarious existences; which are undermining wages, reducing benefits; in England right now, undermining, threatening what had been the world's most—by far, the world's most effective and efficient national health system. You can't get people to vote for things like this.
So what you have to do is marginalize them in one way or another, turn them against each other, aim—turn their anger against vulnerable people—that's standard technique—get people to—don't look at the people who are really doing this to you. Look at the ones who are more vulnerable: immigrants, the poor, you know, Muslims, blacks—anybody. We're familiar with that, too. There's not a slight history about it.
So, sure, that just—it's like—it's like an almost logical consequence of the socioeconomic policies, which have been imposed and lauded, in fact, by elites, including liberal elites. A lot of this was done by—say, by the Clinton administration. It was hailed, the deregulation, for example, which very quickly led to one after another financial crisis. That was initiated by liberal economists, who were telling us how wonderful it is. And there's actually, you know, a theory, neoclassical economic theory, which says, "Yeah, it's fine."
Actually, there were people who warned against it. There were people who knew, a lot of left independent economists, but even people right out of the mainstream, like Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate. Back around 1995 or so, he wrote an article, actually in a World Bank research journal, in which he warned against what he called the "religion that the market knows best." He says that's the religion, as he put it, that's being followed by economists. And he says you've got to take a look at that religion. Like a lot of religions, it just doesn't work. Economic history and even logic show us lots of things that are wrong about it.
But that was pursued with abandon on the basis of theories of efficient markets, you know, rational behavior, rational expectations and so on—none of which had any empirical basis or founding. But they were the—the doctrines were accepted for the very simple reason that they were highly beneficial to wealth and power. That makes them acceptable.
And you get the results that you have: the undermining of the only means possible to try to deal with the existential crises that we have created. So, again, it's a kind of perfect storm, part—all sorts of sources, including just socioeconomic policies of a bipartisan nature.
Amy Goodman: Noam Chomsky, speaking April 24th at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His latest book, Requiem for the American Dream.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Democracy Now!.
In a new interview with BBC Newsnight, Professor Noam Chomsky repeated his previous claim that the Republican Party is the most dangerous organization "in human history," especially in their refusal to fight climate change or even denying that the global phenomenon is real.
Although Chomsky noted it was an "outrageous statement" to make, when host Evan Davis asked him if the U.S. political party is worse than North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the Islamic State, the political thinker replied: "Is ISIS dedicated to trying to destroy the prospects for organized human existence?"
"It doesn't matter whether they genuinely [believe in climate change] or not ... if the consequence of that is, 'Let's use more fossil fuels, let's refuse to subsidize developing countries, let's eliminate regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.' If that's the consequence, that's extremely dangerous," he continued.
"Unless you're living under a rock, you have to recognize the seriousness of this threat."
Earlier in the interview, Chomsky shared his thoughts about President Donald Trump's anti-climate agenda but pointed out he was more concerned about the GOP as a whole:
I think the main damage [Trump will] do is to the world, and it's already happening. The most significant aspect of the Trump election—and it's not just Trump, it's the whole Republican Party—is their departing from the rest of the world on climate change.
We have this astonishing spectacle of the United States alone in the world not only refusing to participate in efforts to deal with climate change but dedicated to undermining them. It's not just Trump, every single Republican leader is the same.
It goes down to the local levels. Take a look at the primaries. In the Republican primaries, every single candidate either denied that climate change is happening. Or, when you get to the so-called moderates like Jeb Bush and [John] Kasich, they said, 'Well, maybe it's happening but we shouldn't do anything about it.' That's 100 percent refusal.
Watch the full interview here:
By Alexandra Rosenmann
Noam Chomsky ended his "Prospects for Survival" talk sponsored by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on April 13 with a bombshell report of a crucial event overshadowed by President Trump's election.
"Three events took place last November 8th," Chomsky told the audience. "One of them was very important. One was extremely important. The third was utterly astonishing."
According to Chomsky, "the least important [of the three] was the election in the United States ... [whereas] the more important, by far of the three, took place in Morocco."
The nine day UN-sponsored international climate change conference in Marrakech included participants from approximately 200 nations.
"It had been hoped that they could reshape the verifiable treaty on actions to address climate change. But that couldn't be done because of a single barrier," Chomsky said. "It's called the Republican party."
In August 2014, President Obama had first attempted to sidestep the GOP's resistance to the treaty through a "name and shame" plan, but as Chomsky explained "The Republican Congress of the United States would not accept any verifiable agreements."
"At that point, the deliberations ended, the electoral results came from the United States and the [Marrakech] meeting shifted to another question," Chomsky noted. "Can the world survive when the richest, most powerful country in world history ... not only is withdrawing from the effort to try to save the world from destruction, but is undertaking a dedicated commitment to race to the precipice as quickly as possible?"
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
The following is an transcript of a recent public interview at the University of Arizona with linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky by Dr. David N. Gibbs.
David Gibbs: The main issue on everyone's minds is the inauguration of Donald Trump as president. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has emphasized the extreme danger that Trump poses, due to the augmented risk of nuclear war and uncontrolled climate change. After inauguration, the Bulletin's metaphoric clock has been repositioned at two and a half minutes to midnight, with "midnight" signifying catastrophe. Do you agree with the Bulletin regarding the alleged dangers posed by the Trump presidency?
Noam Chomsky: One of the dangers is unquestionable. Of the two existential threats—the threats to the termination of the species basically and most other species—one of them, climate change, on that I think there's no basis for discussion. Trump has been very inconsistent on many things; on Twitter he's been all over the place, but some of it is very consistent. That is: Do nothing about climate change except make it worse. And he's not just speaking for himself, but for the whole Republican Party, the whole leadership. It's already had impact, it will have worse impact. We'll talk about this next week, but if there are ways out of this, it's going to be not easy.
Noam Chomsky: The Republican Party Has Become the Most Dangerous Organization in World History' via @EcoWatch https://t.co/fEikkrezS6 #GPUSA— Douglas H Millis (@Douglas H Millis)1485993419.0
With regard to nuclear weapons, it's kind of hard to say. He's said lots of things. As you mentioned, the national security experts are terrified. But they're more terrified by his personality than by his statements. So if you read people like say Bruce Blair[i]1 one of the leading, most sober, knowledgeable specialists, he says, look, his statements are all over the map, but his personality is frightening, he's a complete megalomaniac. You never know how he's going to react. When he learned for example that he'd lost the election by about three million votes, his instant reaction was insanity; you know, three to five million illegal immigrants somehow were organized in some incredible fashion to vote. On any little issue—Miss Universe, or whatever it may be—he's completely unpredictable, he'll go off into outer space. His guru Steve Bannon is worse, he's much scarier. He probably knows what he's doing.
Over the years, there's been case after case when there were very narrow decisions that had to be made about whether to launch nuclear weapons in serious cases. What is this guy going to do if his vaunted negotiating skills fail, if somebody doesn't do what he says? Is he going to say, "Okay we'll nuke them? We're done?" Remember that in any major nuclear war, the first strike destroys the country that attacks; it's been known for years. The first strike of a major power is very likely to cause what's called nuclear winter, leads to global famine for years and everything's basically gone. Some survivors straggling around. Could he do it? Who knows.
Some of his comments can be interpreted as potentially reducing the threat of nuclear war. The major threat right now is right on the Russian border. Notice, not the Mexican border, the Russian border. And it's serious. He has made various statements moving towards reducing the tensions, accommodating Russian concerns and so on. On the other hand, you have to balance that against expanding our nuclear forces, add to our so-called depleted military, which is already more powerful than the rest of the world combined; attack in Syria, send forces to Syria, start bombing. Who knows what could be next? Michael Flynn, national security advisor,[ii] [his reaction] to the Iranian missile test the other day was very frightening. Now the missile test is ill-advised, they shouldn't have done it. But it's not in violation of international law or international agreements. They shouldn't have done it. His reaction suggested maybe we're going to go to war in retaliation. Would they do it? If they did, you don't know what's going to happen next. Everything could blow up.
This crazy ban on the seven states, where we can't accept immigrants, almost every analyst points out the obvious: It just increases the threat of terror. It lays the basis for terror. It's just like the atrocities in Abu Ghraib and Bagram and Guantanamo. They're the most fabulous recruiting techniques for Al Qaeda and ISIS. Everyone knows it. Now, you ban not the whole Muslim world. You ban seven states, seven states that have not been responsible for a single terrorist act. Those are the seven he banned. But, you leave the ones that really are responsible, like Saudi Arabia, which is the center for propaganda and funding and so on for radical Islamic Jihadism, well you can't touch them because of business interests, also they have oil and so on and so forth. There's actually an article in the Washington Post, I don't know whether it's tongue in cheek or not, which said the criterion for being on the list of banned states is that Trump doesn't have business interests there. Maybe. But it's this kind of wild unpredictability, megalomania, thin-skinned craziness that really has me worried, more than his statements. Now, on the climate change there's just nothing to say, he's perfectly straightforward.
Gibbs: Let us turn to the role of the media in reporting alleged Russian interference in the US electoral process. Mainstream journalists have called Trump a puppet of Russia, a modern version of the Manchurian Candidate. Others have criticized the media for accepting unsubstantiated claims about Russian influence, and reporting such claims as facts. Norman Solomon and Serge Halimi, for example, stated that press reporting on this issue amounts to a mass hysteria reminiscent of the McCarthy era, while Seymour Hersh called the media reporting on Russia "outrageous."[iii] What is your view of this situation?
Chomsky: My guess is that most of the world is just collapsing in laughter. Suppose all the charges are true, I mean every single one, it is so amateurish by US standards that you can hardly even laugh. What the US does is the kind of thing I described in Italy in 1948. Case after case like that, not hacking or spreading rumors in the media; but saying look, we're going to starve you to death or kill you or destroy you unless you vote the way we want. I mean that's what we do.
Take the famous 9/11, let's think about it for a minute. It was a pretty awful terrorist act. It could have been a lot worse. Now let's suppose that instead of the plane being downed in Pennsylvania by passengers, suppose it had hit its target, which was probably the White House. Now suppose it had killed the president. Suppose that plans had been set for a military coup to take over the government. And right away, immediately 50,000 people were killed, 700,000 tortured. A bunch of economists were brought in from Afghanistan, let's call them the "Kandahar Boys," who very quickly destroyed the economy, and established a dictatorship which devastated the country. That would have been a lot worse than 9/11. It happened: the first 9/11, it happened on September 11, 1973, in Chile. We did it. Was that interfering or hacking a party? This record is all over the world, constantly overthrowing governments, invading, forcing people to follow what we call democracy, as in the cases I mentioned. As I say, if every charge is accurate, it's a joke, and I'm sure half the world is collapsing in laughter about this, because people outside the United States know it. You don't have to tell people in Chile about the first 9/11.
Gibbs: One of the surprises of the post-Cold War era is the persistence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and other U.S.-led alliances. These alliances were created during the Cold War mainly or exclusively for containing the claimed Soviet threat. In 1991, the USSR disappeared from the map, but the anti-Soviet alliance systems persisted and in fact expanded. How do we account for the persistence and expansion of NATO? What in your view is the purpose of NATO after the Cold War?
Chomsky: We have official answers to that. It's a very interesting question, which I was planning to talk about but didn't have time. So thanks. It's a very interesting question. For fifty years, we heard NATO is necessary to save Western Europe from the Russian hordes, you know the slave state, stuff I was taking about. In 1990-91, no Russian hordes. Okay, what happens? Well there are actually visions of the future system that were presented. One was Gorbachev. He called for a Eurasian security system, with no military blocs. He called it a Common European Home. No military blocs, no Warsaw Pact, no NATO, with centers of power in Brussels, Moscow, Ankara, maybe Vladivostok, other places. Just an integrated security system with no conflicts.
That was one. Now the other vision was presented by George Bush, this is the "statesman," Bush I and James Baker his secretary of state. There's very good scholarship on this incidentally. We really know a lot about what happened, now that all the documents are out. Gorbachev said that he would agree to the unification of Germany, and even adherence of Germany to NATO, which was quite a concession, if NATO didn't move to East Germany. And Bush and Baker promised verbally, that's critical, verbally that NATO would not expand "one inch to the east," which meant East Germany. Nobody was talking about anything farther at the time. They would not expand one inch to the east. Now that was a verbal promise. It was never written. NATO immediately expanded to East Germany. Gorbachev complained. He was told look, there's nothing on paper. People didn't actually say it but the implication was look, if you are dumb enough to take faith in a gentleman's agreement with us, that's your problem. NATO expanded to East Germany.
There's very interesting work, if you want to look into it by a young scholar in Texas named Joshua Shifrinson, it appeared in International Security, which is one of the prestige journals, published by MIT.[iv] He goes through the documentary record very carefully and he makes a pretty convincing case that Bush and Baker were purposely deceiving Gorbachev. The scholarship has been divided on that, maybe they just weren't clear or something. But if you read it, I think it's quite a convincing case, that they were purposely setting it up to deceive Gorbachev.
Okay, NATO expanded to East Berlin and East Germany. Under Clinton NATO expanded further, to the former Russian satellites. In 2008 NATO formally made an offer to Ukraine to join NATO. That's unbelievable. I mean, Ukraine is the geopolitical heartland of Russian concern, quite aside from historical connections, population and so on. Right at the beginning of all of this, serious senior statesmen, people like Kennan for example and others warned that the expansion of NATO to the east is going to cause a disaster.[v] I mean, it's like having the Warsaw Pact on the Mexican border. It's inconceivable. And others, senior people warned about this, but policymakers didn't care. Just go ahead.
Right now, where do we stand? Well right at the Russian border, both sides have been taking provocative actions, both sides are building up military forces. NATO forces are carrying out maneuvers hundreds of yards from the Russian border, the Russian jets are buzzing American jets. Anything could blow up in a minute. In a minute, you know. Any incident could instantly blow up. Both sides are modernizing and increasing their military systems, including nuclear systems.
So what's the purpose of NATO? Well actually we have an official answer. It isn't publicized much, but a couple of years ago, the secretary-general of NATO made a formal statement explaining the purpose of NATO in the post-Cold War world is to control global energy systems, pipelines, and sea lanes. That means it's a global system and of course he didn't say it, it's an intervention force under U.S. command, as we've seen in case after case. So that's NATO. So what happened to the years of defending Europe from the Russian hordes? Well, you can go back to NSC-68,[vi] and see how serious that was. So that's what we're living with.
Right now the threat to our existence is Muslim terrorists from seven states, who have never had a single terrorist act. About half the population believes that. I mean you look back at American history and American culture, it's pretty striking. I mean this has been the safest country in the world forever, and the most frightened country in the world. That's a large part of the source of the gun culture. You have to have a gun when you go into Starbucks, because who knows what's going to happen. It just doesn't happen in other countries.
There's something deeply rooted in American culture. You can pretty much identify what it was. You take a look at the history. Remember, the U.S. is not a global power until pretty recently. It was internal conquest. You had to defend yourself against what the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, an enlightened figure, called the attacks of the "merciless Indian savages," whose known way of warfare was torture and destruction. Jefferson wasn't a fool. He knew that it was the merciless English savages who were carrying out these acts. That is in the Declaration of Independence, recited piously every July Fourth, the merciless Indian savages with no reason at all were suddenly attacking us. I mean, you can imagine the reasons. That's one. Also you had a slave population, you had to protect yourself against them. You needed guns. One consequence of that was in southern culture, possession of a gun became kind of a sign of manhood, not just because of slaves but other white men. If you had a gun, you're not going to push me around. You know, I'm not one of those guys you can kick in the face.
There was another element, which was kind of interesting. In the mid to late nineteenth century, the gun manufacturers recognized that they had a limited market. Remember that this is a capitalist society, you've got to expand your market. They were selling guns to the military. That's a pretty limited market. What about all the rest of the people? So what started was all kinds of fantastic stories about Wyatt Earp and the gunmen and the Wild West, how exciting it was to have these guys with guns defending themselves against all sorts of things.
I grew up in that, when I was a kid. My friends and I used to play cowboys and Indians. We were cowboys killing the Indians, following the Wild West stories. All of this combined into a very strange culture, which is frightened. You look at the polls today, I think half the population supports this ban on these dangerous immigrants who are going to come in and do something, who knows what. And meanwhile the countries that really have been involved in terrorism, they're out. It's kind of like I think it was Oklahoma banning Sharia law. Now there's probably fifty Muslims in Oklahoma, and they have to ban Sharia law, you know. This terror which is all over the country is constantly incited. The Russians were part of NSC-68, is a dramatic case. And that case, like most propaganda wasn't totally fabricated. The Russians were doing a lot of rotten things, you can point to them. But the idea that if you consider what Hans Morgenthau called "I called abuse ofe reality," the picture of the world was almost the opposite of what they presented. But somehow this sells and is continually repeated, at least in this kind of situation.
Gibbs: During the Cold War, the political left generally opposed military intervention. After 1991, however, the anti-interventionist movement collapsed and in its place has emerged the idea of humanitarian interventionism, which celebrates intervention as a defense of human rights. Military actions in the Balkans, Iraq, Libya have all been presented as acts of humanitarianism, which aimed to liberate oppressed peoples, and these interventions were at least initially popular among political liberals. Proposals for augmented U.S. intervention in Syria often invoke the humanitarian principle. What is your view of humanitarian intervention?
Chomsky: Well, I don't quite see it like that. Now, if you look back to the anti-intervention movements, what were they? Let's take the Vietnam War – the biggest crime since the Second World War. Those of you who are old enough will remember what happened. You couldn't be opposed to the war for years. The mainstream liberal intellectuals were enthusiastically in support of the war. In Boston, a liberal city where I was, we literally couldn't have a public demonstration without it being violently broken up, with the liberal press applauding, until late 1966. By that time there were hundreds of thousands of American troops rampaging in South Vietnam. South Vietnam had been practically destroyed. The leading, the most respected Vietnam historian, military historian Bernard Fall[vii] – he was a hawk incidentally, but he cared for the Vietnamese—he said it wasn't clear to him whether Vietnam could survive as a historical and cultural entity under the most massive attack that any region that size had ever suffered. He was talking about South Vietnam, incidentally. By that time, we did begin to get some protests. But not from liberal intellectuals; they never opposed the war.
In fact, it's pretty dramatic when you get to 1975, very revealing, the war ends. Everybody had to write something about the war, what it meant. And you also had polls of public opinion, and they're dramatically different. So if you look at the writings of intellectuals, there are two kinds. One said, l"Look, if we fought harder we could have won." You know, the stab in the back. But the others, who were way at the left, people like Anthony Lewis of the New York Times, way out in left stream, his view in 1975 was the Vietnam war began with blundering efforts to do good. But by 1969, it was clear that it was a disaster, that was too costly to us. We could not bring democracy to South Vietnam at a cost that we were willing to accept. So it was a disaster. That' is the left extreme.
Take a look at public opinion. About 70 percent of the population, in the polls, said the war was fundamentally wrong and immoral, not a mistake. And that attitude lasted as long as polls were taken in the early '80s. The pollsters don't ask reasons, they just give numbers. So why did the people think it was fundamentally wrong and immoral? The guys who ran the polls, John E. Rielly, a professor at the University of Chicago, a liberal professor, he said what that means is that people thought too many Americans had beenwere being killed. Maybe. Another possibility is they didn't like the fact that we were carrying out the worst crime since the Second World War. But that's so inconceivable that wasn't even offered as a possible reason.
Now what happened in the following years? Well, I think that among the educated classes it stayed the same. You talk about humanitarian intervention, it's like Vietnam was a humanitarian intervention. Among the public, it's quite different. Take the Iraq War, , it's the second worst crime after the Second World War. It's the first time in history, in the history of imperialism, there were huge demonstrations, before the war was officially launched. Actually it was already under way. But before it was officially launched, there were huge demonstrations everywhere. I think it had an effect. The public still was split.
And [after Vietnam] the type of interventions that are carried out are designed so as not to elicit public reactions. In fact, it was stated early in the first Bush [presidency], Bush I, in one of their documents they pointed out in the future, US wars are going to be against much weaker enemies. And they have to be won quickly and decisively before a popular reaction develops. And Iif you take a look, that's what's done. Look at Panama, for instance, over a couple of days; and Kosovo, no American troops. You wrote a great book about it.[viii] But I'm not convinced that it's different from what it was.
Gibbs: With the end of the Cold War, there has been a decline of activism in the US and elsewhere around the issue of nuclear disarmament. Once again, this state of affairs differs from the period of the Cold War, when there was a mass movement that opposed nuclear weapons – recall the Freeze movement from the 1980s—but this movement largely disappeared after 1991. The danger of nuclear war remains as high as ever, but there is little public engagement on this issue, it would seem. How would you explain the disappearance of the anti-nuclear movement?
Chomsky: Well that's absolutely right. The peak of anti-nuclear popular activism was in the early '80s, when there was a huge movement. And the Reagan administration attempted decided to defuse it and partially succeeded, by presenting the illusion of Star Wars, SDI, that somehow we're going to eliminate nuclear weapons. The Reagan administration picked up the rhetoric of the anti-nuclear movement; they said "Yyeah, you're right." We have to eliminate nuclear weapons. And the way we're going to do it is by having SDI, TStar Wars, the Strategic Defense Initiative, which prevent nuclear weapons from impacting. Well, that did defuse the movement.
And whthen the Russians collapsed, and it looked like as if maybe we can reduce the nuclear tensions. And for a while they actually were reduced. There was a reduction of nuclear weaponsreally were reduced on both sides. Various steps were taken. Nowhere near enough, but some of them were taken.
On the other hand, it's very important to understand the official position of the United States. You should read it. So in 1995, this is Clinton, a very important document came out, still classified, but large parts of it were declassified. It's called "Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence."[ix] What does post-Cold War deterrence mean? Deterrence means use of nuclear weapons. This was released by the Strategic Command, which was in charge of nuclear weapons planning and running nuclear weapons. I wrote about it when it came out and have been writing about it since. . Since then, I've never seen a reference to it. But it is an amazing document. Here's what it says basically: It says we have to maintain the right of first strike, the right of the first use of nuclear weapons, even against nonnuclear powers. Nuclear weapons, they point out, are really constantly used, because they cast a shadow over other military actions. In other words, when people know we are ready to use nuclear weapons, they're going to back off if we do something aggressive. So basically, nuclear weapons are always being used.
Now that's a point that Dan Ellsberg has made for years. He said it's kind of like if you and I go into a grocery store to rob it, and I have a gun. The guy may give you the money in the cash register. I'm using the gun even if I don't shoot. Well that's nuclear weapons — essential to post-war deterrence — they cast a shadow over everything. Then, it goes on to say that we must present a national persona of being irrational and vindictive, because that's going to terrify people. And then, they'll back off. And this is not Trump, this is Clinton. It's not Nixon, you know. We have to be irrational and vindictive, because that's going to frighten people. And we have to maintain this for years. And then we'll be able to carry out the actions that we want to carry out.
That's our nuclear weapons strategy, as of the early post-Cold War years. And I think this is a real failure of the intellectual community, including scholarship and the media. It's not like you had headlines all over the place. And it's not secret, the documents are there. And I think that's probably the right picture. You know, people talk about Nixon's "madman theory." We don't really know much about that. It was in memoirs, by somebody else.[x] But this is real. This is the real mad man theory. We have to be irrational and vindictive, so people don't know what we're up to. This is not Trump and Bannon, it's from the Clinton era.
Gibbs: I think we have time for one more question. In popular discussion, the phrase "national security" has come to mean security against military threats almost exclusively. This narrative downgrades the significance of nonmilitary threats, such as climate change, antibiotic resistant bacteria, or viral epidemics. It would seem that there is an imbalance between perceived military threats, which receive overwhelming governmental funding and press attention on the one hand, and nonmilitary threats, which receive relatively little on the other hand. How do we account for the apparent overemphasis on military threats?
Chomsky: Well [with] military threats, you can see them actually, you can imagine it. People don't think about it enough. But if you think about it for a minute, you can see that a nuclear attack could be the end of everything. These other threats are kind of slow, maybe we won't see them next year. Maybe the science is uncertain, maybe we don't have to worry about it. Climate change is the worst, but there's others.
Take pandemics. There could easily be a severe pandemic. A lot of that comes from something we don't pay much attention to: Eating meat. The meat production industry, the industrial production of meat, uses an immense amount of antibiotics. I don't remember the exact figure, it's probably like half the antibiotics. Well antibiotics have an effect: They lead to mutations that make them ineffective. We're now running out of antibiotics that deal with the threat of rapidly mutating bacteria. A lot of that just comes from the meat production industry. Well, do we worry about it? Well, we ought to be. You go into a hospital now, it's dangerous. We can get diseases that can't be dealt with, that are moving around the hospital. A lot of that traces back to industrial meat production. These are really serious threats, all over the place.
Take something you really don't think about: Plastics in the ocean. I mean plastics in the ocean have an enormous ecological effect. When geologists announced the beginning of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, humans destroying the environment, one of the main things they pointed to is the use of plastics in the earth. We don't think about it, but it has a tremendous effect. But these are things you don't see right in front of your eyes. You need to think about them a little, to see what the consequences are. It's easy to put them aside, and the media don't talk about them. Other things are more important. How am I going to put food on the table tomorrow? That's what I've got to worry about, and so on. It's very serious, but it's hard to bring out the enormity of these issues, when they do not have the dramatic character of something you can show in the movies, with a nuclear weapons falling and everything disappears.
Professor Chomsky approved this transcript for publication. The interview is presented in full, with only very slight editing for style. Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
[i] For the recent opinions of Princeton University nuclear weapons specialist Bruce G. Blair, see Blair, "Trump and the Nuclear Keys," New York Times, October 12, 2016.
[ii] Note that Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security advisor on February 13, 2017, several days after this interview took place
[iii] See Solomon, "Urgent to Progressives: Stop Fueling Anti-Russia Frenzy," Antiwar.com, December 21, 2016, http://original.antiwar.com/solomon/2016/12/20/urgent-progressives-stop-fueling-anti-russia-frenzy/ ; Halimi, January, 2017, ; Jeremy , "Seymour Hersh Blasts Media for Uncritically Reporting Russian Hacking Story,"
[iv] The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion," International Security 40, no. 4, 2016.
[v] On George F. Kennan's warning about the dangers of NATO expansion, see Thomas L. Friedman, "Foreign Affairs: Now a Word from X," New York Times, May 2, 1998.
[vi] 6 Here, Chomsky references the National Security Council memorandum NSC-68, one of the key documents of the Cold War. This document was the topic of Chomsky's lecture, which preceded the interview. The document text is now fully declassified and available online. See "A Report to the National Security Council – NSC 68," April 14, 1950, made available through the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, https://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/coldwar/documents/pdf/10-1.pdf.
[vii] Regarding Bernard Fall's writings on Vietnam, see Fall, Last Reflections on a War. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967.
[viii] The book Chomsky references with regard to the Kosovo intervention is David N. Gibbs, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009.
[ix] This e full text of this declassified document is now available online. See U.S. Department of Defense, Strategic Command, "Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence," 1995 [no exact date indicated], made available through provided by the Federation of American Scientists, Nuclear Information Project, http://www.nukestrat.com/us/stratcom/SAGessentials.PDF.
[x] The idea that President Richard Nixon subscribed to a "madman" theory of international relations first appeared in the memoir by former Nixon aide H. R. Haldeman, in Haldeman and Joseph DiMona, The Ends of Power. New York: Times Books, 1978, p. 98.
By C.J. Polychroniou
The first 100 days are considered to be a benchmark for presidential performance. This is part of the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who managed to reshape the U.S. government's role in the economy within the first 100 days of his administration. However, the fact of the matter is that usually, a first-time president doesn't have the slightest inkling of what governing from the Oval Office is all about. There's no better proof of that than the early records of the most recent U.S. presidents, from Nixon to Obama. Nonetheless, no recent U.S. president has demonstrated such an overwhelming ignorance about governing as the current occupant of the White House.
But is Trump's apparent inability to govern and conduct himself in a remotely conventional manner an innate character flaw or part of a well-conceived strategy aimed at a society that loves reality TV? Is Trump's fondness for Putin simply an "infatuation" with a strongman and admiration for autocratic rule or something of a more political and strategic nature? And what does Trump mean when he says "jobs?" In this exclusive Truthout interview, world-revered public intellectual Noam Chomsky shares for the first time his views about the first 100 days of the Trump administration.
C. J. Polychroniou: The first 100 days of Donald Trump in the White House are characterized by complete disrespect for the truth and the freedom of the press and, overall, a style of political leadership that is not merely authoritarian but also smacks of fascism. In your view, is all this part of a preconceived strategy or simply a reflection of the whims of a person with a very fragile ego?
Noam Chomsky: I don't pretend to have any special insight into the mind of this strange person, though the people around him have been fairly coherent, in particular Steve Bannon, who seems to be the shadowed figure behind the throne.
What is happening before our eyes appears to be a two-pronged operation, I presume planned.
Bannon/Trump (and the pathetic Sean Spicer, who has to defend the latest shenanigans in public) have the task of dominating TV and headlines with one wild performance after another, the assumption apparently being that his fabrications will quickly be forgotten as the next episode displaces them and the base will be satisfied for a time, believing that their champion is standing up for them. So, who remembers the millions of undocumented immigrants who "voted for Clinton" or the charge that that really bad guy Obama ("sad!") literally wiretapped poor Trump—a claim now downgraded to irrelevance, but not withdrawn—and so on? Look how well the birther tales played for many years, ending hilariously with Trump blaming Clinton for initiating the farce.
Tillerson Wastes No Time: State Department Rewrites Climate Change Page https://t.co/y6qmqar2YM @ClimateReality @worldresources— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1490651111.0
Meanwhile, the real work is going on more quietly, spearheaded by Paul Ryan, a different and more malicious kind of posturer, who represents the most brutal fringe of the Republican establishment and somehow manages to present himself as a man of ideas, maybe because—as Paul Krugman argues—he rolls up his sleeves and uses PowerPoint. The ideas are quite familiar. They are the standard fare of the component of the Republican establishment dedicated with unusual ferocity to enriching the rich and powerful—bankers, CEOs and other types who matter—while kicking in the face the vulnerable, the poor and Trump's rural and working-class constituency. All of this abetted by the ultra-right billionaire cabinet and other appointees, selected very carefully to destroy whatever within their domains might be helpful to mere humans, but not to the chosen few of extreme wealth and power.
The consistency is impressive, if not breathtaking.
With the collapse of the shameful GOP health care proposals, we are likely to see this scenario enacted with real passion. The White House and its congressional allies have many ways to undermine the current health care system, which, with all its flaws, is a considerable improvement over what preceded it though still well behind comparable societies, let alone what the population wants and deserves, as polls continue to show: a rational single-payer universal health care system. That is a fairly resilient phenomenon over many years, with some variation, quite remarkable in that there is virtually no articulate elite advocacy of this sane and popular position.
Of course, undermining the system will harm a great many people, but that cannot be a consideration. After all, Ryancare was going to add some 24 million to the ranks of uninsured, which might kill more than 40,000 people annually according to an analysis by health care specialists Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein. If the health system can be substantially damaged and people really do suffer sufficiently, then the propaganda drumbeat can proceed to blame the disaster on the political opposition and maybe even get away with it. A good deal is possible in the era of "alternative facts." We are already witnessing the early stages.
The lead character in the show does indeed present himself as a thin-skinned megalomaniac whose only ideology is Me. But his appointments, and the policies for which all of this is a cover, are too systematic to be merely random shots.
As I mentioned, the policies being formulated and enacted are drawn from the playbook of the most reactionary fringe of the Republican establishment. The abject service to private wealth and power is accompanied with an authoritarian and fundamentalist program to transform U.S. society. The project is driven by the Bannon-Sessions vision of a society devoted to Judeo-Christian roots and white supremacy, eliminating such pernicious and threatening nonsense as arts and humanities, upholding the Betsy DeVos doctrine that public education has to be dismantled, while if science conflicts with religion, then too bad for science. Meanwhile, we are to wave a mailed fist at the world while cowering behind walls and rebuilding the "depleted military" that is the most powerful force in human history, dwarfing any collection of competitors. All of this resonates with at least parts of a society that has long been the safest and most terrified in the world.
The fundamentalist project goes well beyond getting rid of arts and humanities. Science is also in the crosshairs. Trump's budget cuts medical research. There's been considerable attention to his dismantling of the EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency], now pretty much in the hands of associates of James Inhofe, the Senate's leading climate denier, who has explained that if God has decided to warm the Earth, so be it. But that's the least of it. For action and research on climate, EPA is a small actor. Far more important is the Department of Energy. Its Office of Science is scheduled to lose $900 million, nearly 20 percent of its budget. DOE's $300 million ARPA-Energy program is eliminated completely. That's in addition to deep cuts to the research programs at the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a 5 percent cut to NASA's earth science budget.
Sen. Inhofe: Huge EPA Budget Cuts Will Prevent Agency From 'Brainwashing Our Kids' https://t.co/fbWu6qNswC @Sierra_Magazine @wwwfoecouk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489713004.0
In Congress, the science-deniers can scarcely contain their glee now that the wrecking ball has opened the path for demolition of the heresies of the modern world. Lamar Smith, who for years has used his position as chair of the House science committee to harass scientists, now feels free to openly acknowledge that "the committee is now a tool to advance his political agenda rather than a forum to examine important issues facing the U.S. research community."
An appropriate comment on all of this was made by Stephen Colbert, when the Republican-run legislature in North Carolina responded to a scientific study predicting rapid sea level rise by barring state and local agencies from developing regulations or planning documents anticipating a rise in sea level. "This is a brilliant solution," Colbert said. "If your science gives you a result that you don't like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved."
Most important of everything that is happening is the attack against future generations, in fact even against those coming of age today, as Trump and allies, departing from the world, cheerily lead the race to environmental destruction while the rest take at least halting steps toward averting a looming catastrophe—which doesn't weigh in the balance against fabulous profits tomorrow for the select few.
A few years ago Republican governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal took a little time off from his campaign to drive the state even deeper into the abyss to warn that Republicans are becoming "the stupid party." The respected conservative analyst Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute described the current party as a "radical insurgency" that has abandoned parliamentary politics... Has any other organization dedicated itself with such enthusiasm to undermining our prospects for decent survival? And not in the distant future.
Click here to read additional interview questions with Chomsky.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Truthout.
From Noam Chomsky's epic post on his fears of the coming Trump Administration to Michael Moore's damnation of the Flint water crisis to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s first-hand account of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, 2016 was jam-packed with news once again showing our continued disregard for the health of people and the planet.
Though there were many positive news stories last year of people, companies and governments making strides to adopt sustainable practice and transition to renewable energy sources, the world's top scientists still fear the worse as atmospheric CO2 concentrations are just above 400 parts per million, taking us closer to the "danger zone" of 2 degrees celsius increase in temperature relative to pre-industrial time.
Many people think we have already reached the tipping point, but I believe power of people can turn this around. So, here's to a 2017 where millions more people become engaged on the most important environmental issues impacting the future of our planet.
Here are EcoWatch's 20 most read posts of 2016:
Noam Chomsky: 'The Republican Party Has Become the Most Dangerous Organization in World History' via @EcoWatch: https://t.co/2F68fmwa1z— Michael E. Mann (@Michael E. Mann)1480720654.0
2. World's Largest Solar Project Would Generate Electricity 24 Hours a Day, Power 1 Million U.S. Homes
The world's largest solar project would generate electricity 24h/day & power 1 million U.S. homes. https://t.co/l0O8ONf8SA via @EcoWatch— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1477150743.0
Solar Impulse Pilot: 'I Flew Over Plastic Waste As Big As a Continent' https://t.co/plZAn3qlZX @ecowatch #pollution— Blue Planet Society (@Blue Planet Society)1461768350.0
Lake Powell: Going, Going, Gone? #CORiver #ColoradoRiver https://t.co/SXFRqrAKGm @billmckibben @EcoWatch https://t.co/YucBjs8Cuy— SaveTheColoradoRiver (@SaveTheColoradoRiver)1471291613.0
5. Mark Ruffalo Delivers Solar Panels to Camp Where Thousands Are Fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline
[email protected] Delivers Solar Panels to Camp Where Hundreds Are Fighting Dakota Access Pipeline via @EcoWatch: https://t.co/KL8AwRuETJ— Leonardo DiCaprio (@Leonardo DiCaprio)1477603334.0
6. Scientists Uncover Array of Strange Animals in Cave That Has Been Sealed Off for 5.5 Million Years
Nation's Longest Bike Path Will Connect Maine to Florida https://t.co/fhvEmpIQup (via @EcoWatch @ECGreenway)— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1470007804.0
Scientists Are Freaking Out Over This 25-Year-Old's Solution to #Superbugs https://t.co/Laxbm4QXd3— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1474921400.0
World's Biggest Sockeye Run Shut Down as Wild Pacific Salmon Fight for Survival via @EcoWatch https://t.co/NVwCjoxcdI— Wildlife Action (@Wildlife Action)1474560829.0
Michael Moore: 10 Things They Won't Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy, But I Will https://t.co/a3lvwIwPi8 @CleanWaterMI @NRDCWater— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1454198104.0
50,000,000 Trees, 800,000 People, 24 Hours = 1 World record https://t.co/B7F2CmLUG2 via @EcoWatch @GWR #India https://t.co/FcZzEghcXv— Conservation Guide (@Conservation Guide)1468662669.0
Injection of #Fracking Wastewater Caused Kansas’ Biggest Earthquake https://t.co/XSSfMTefDV @POTUS @EPA @GinaEPA #banfracking via @EcoWatch— Frack Action (@Frack Action)1476462433.0
#Monsanto's #Glyphosate Found in California Wines, Even Wines Made With Organic Grapes https://t.co/8IkSC4EiJf via @ecowatch #health #cancer— Green Bean (@Green Bean)1459261629.0
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: 'I'll see you at #StandingRock' https://t.co/YOs1gMR9b4 via @EcoWatch #climate #NoDAPL… https://t.co/2dZMUN2nfx— climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1)1480552261.0
Unspeakable bill that must be defeated RT Federal Bill Seeks First Native American Land Grab in 100 Years @EcoWatch https://t.co/0zId8y09WK— Bianca Jagger Nicaraguense por gracia de Dios 🇳🇮 (@Bianca Jagger Nicaraguense por gracia de Dios 🇳🇮)1474409619.0
Climate Change Cartoon Goes Viral After Elon Musk, John Green Share It on Twitter https://t.co/keqkzCC0oG @TheCCoalition @carbonmeme— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1473939621.0
[email protected]: #Syria: Another #Pipeline #War https://t.co/YD2NJnpRss @MarkRuffalo @LeoDiCaprio @350 @sierraclub https://t.co/im9w66DfN3— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1456422404.0
Epic Middle East Heat Wave Is Being Compared to Weapon of Mass Destruction via @EcoWatch https://t.co/OryjBYBD6J #YEARSscience— The YEARS Project (@The YEARS Project)1471194911.0
19. Listen to Sen. Inhofe's Response to His Granddaughter Asking Him: 'Why Is It You Don't Understand Global Warming?'
Listen to Sen. Inhofe's Response to His Granddaughter Asking Him: 'Why Is It You Don't Understand Global Warming?' https://t.co/McSXXLXAKp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1470172211.0
Democracy Now! celebrated its 20th anniversary Monday night at the historic Riverside Church in New York City. Among those who addressed more than 2,000 attendants was world-renowned linguistic Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky spoke about the two most dangerous threats the human species faces today: the possibility of nuclear war and the accelerating destruction of human-fueled climate change. Chomsky also addressed the dangers of Donald Trump's climate change denialism—and what it means for the future of the human species.
Watch the video clips below:
Reposted with permission from our media associate Democracy Now!.
By C.J. Polychroniou
On Nov. 8, Donald Trump managed to pull the biggest upset in U.S. politics by tapping successfully into the anger of white voters and appealing to the lowest inclinations of people in a manner that would have probably impressed Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels himself.
But what exactly does Trump's victory mean and what can one expect from this megalomaniac when he takes over the reins of power on Jan. 20, 2017? What is Trump's political ideology, if any and is "Trumpism" a movement? Will U.S. foreign policy be any different under a Trump administration? Some years ago, public intellectual Noam Chomsky warned that the political climate in the U.S. was ripe for the rise of an authoritarian figure. Now, he shares his thoughts on the aftermath of this election, the moribund state of the U.S. political system and why Trump is a real threat to the world and the planet in general.
'Trump's Election Is a Disaster' by @StefanieSpear of @EcoWatch: https://t.co/jjnWs7tWQX #GameOverForClimate— Michael E. Mann (@Michael E. Mann)1478701114.0
Q. Noam, the unthinkable has happened: In contrast to all forecasts, Donald Trump scored a decisive victory over Hillary Clinton, and the man that Michael Moore described as a "wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full-time sociopath" will be the next president of the U.S. In your view, what were the deciding factors that led American voters to produce the biggest upset in the history of U.S. politics?
A. Noam Chomsky
Before turning to this question, I think it is important to spend a few moments pondering just what happened on Nov. 8, a date that might turn out to be one of the most important in human history, depending on how we react.
The most important news of Nov. 8 was barely noted, a fact of some significance in itself.
On Nov. 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22) which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28 percent below the average of the previous 29 years, not only raising sea levels, but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts.
Last 5 Years Hottest on Record, Human Footprint 'Increasingly Visible' https://t.co/7SwgNfg5v3 @TheCCoalition @project1percent— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1479040226.0
Another event took place on Nov. 8, which also may turn out to be of unusual historical significance for reasons that, once again, were barely noted.
On Nov. 8, the most powerful country in world history, which will set its stamp on what comes next, had an election. The outcome placed total control of the government—executive, Congress, the Supreme Court—in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history.
Apart from the last phrase, all of this is uncontroversial. The last phrase may seem outlandish, even outrageous. But is it? The facts suggest otherwise. The party is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life. There is no historical precedent for such a stand.
Is this an exaggeration? Consider what we have just been witnessing.
During the Republican primaries, every candidate denied that what is happening is happening—with the exception of the sensible moderates, like Jeb Bush, who said it's all uncertain, but we don't have to do anything because we're producing more natural gas, thanks to fracking. Or John Kasich, who agreed that global warming is taking place, but added that "we are going to burn [coal] in Ohio and we are not going to apologize for it."
The winning candidate, now the president-elect, calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.
Trump has already taken steps to dismantle the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by placing in charge of the EPA transition a notorious (and proud) climate change denier, Myron Ebell. Trump's top adviser on energy, billionaire oil executive Harold Hamm, announced his expectations, which were predictable: dismantling regulations, tax cuts for the industry (and the wealthy and corporate sector generally), more fossil fuel production, lifting Obama's temporary block on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Here's How Trump Plans to Dismantle Environmental Laws https://t.co/PeShhOq04m @BusinessGreen @GreenCollarGuy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478818514.0
The market reacted quickly. Shares in energy corporations boomed, including the world's largest coal miner, Peabody Energy, which had filed for bankruptcy, but after Trump's victory, registered a 50 percent gain.
Trump Wins, Renewable Energy Investments Lose and Dirty Energy Stocks Surge https://t.co/Znp7VxlB7X @BusinessGreen @Ethical_Corp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478816123.0
The effects of Republican denialism had already been felt. There had been hopes that the COP21 Paris agreement would lead to a verifiable treaty, but any such thoughts were abandoned because the Republican Congress would not accept any binding commitments, so what emerged was a voluntary agreement, evidently much weaker.
By Alexandra Rosenmann
Did you know that American companies are legally permitted to manufacture dangerous pesticides for export—even after the chemicals have been banned in the U.S.? There are policies that create a "circle of poison"; toxic chemicals traveling around the world, ironically imported back to the U.S. through foodstuffs we eat.
Circle of Poison, a groundbreaking documentary by Nick Capezzera, Evan Mascagni and Shannon Post, unveils the unrelenting corruption of this cycle. The film features interviews with Jimmy Carter, Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Patrick Leahy and the Dalai Lama, as well as footage from India, Mexico, Argentina, Bhutan and the U.S., in order to illustrate the global impact of the pesticide trade and how communities are fighting back.
"A standard argument against a healthy environment and other regulations in the country or for export is that it's harmful to business, which of course it is," Noam Chomsky said in the film. "If business can kill people freely, it's a lot more profitable than if you have to pay attention to what you're producing and look at the effects on people and so on."
Watch: Exclusive clip from Circle of Poison:
"Major industries in this country ... lead, asbestos, tobacco, have often succeeded for decades poisoning people quite consciously. They knew perfectly well that children are going to die of lead poisoning, but 'you gotta make profit,'" Chomsky continued.
"And they're right. It's a system where you're supposed to make profit ... Like a CEO of a corporation is actually required by law to increase profit so they're doing exactly what they have to do and, well, if the population suffers, that's the cost of doing business. Although, by the time you get to export ... the domestic population has become organized enough and active enough so they're saying 'you can't kill us,'" Chomsky said.
"We sought out to take on a political issue that people from all walks of life, regardless of political affiliation, could agree was an important one and that needs to be addressed," Director Evan Mascagni told AlterNet. "I was blown away by the fact that we would allow companies to continue to manufacture and export products that those companies could not safely and legally sell to customers within the United States."
Circle of Poison will be available for streaming and download this fall.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.