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Naomi Klein: ‘The Economic System We Have Created Also Created Global Warming’

February 28, 2015
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Best selling author/activist Naomi Klein. (photo: Anya Chibis/Guardian UK)
Best selling author/activist Naomi Klein. (photo: Anya Chibis/Guardian UK)

By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel

28 February 15

 

PIEGEL: Ms. Klein, why aren’t people able to stop climate change?

Klein: Bad luck. Bad timing. Many unfortunate coincidences.

SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?

Klein: The worst possible moment. The connection between greenhouse gases and global warming has been a mainstream political issue for humanity since 1988. It was precisely the time that the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” the victory of Western capitalism. Canada and the US signed the first free-trade agreement, which became the prototype for the rest of the world.

SPIEGEL: So you’re saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?

Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.

SPIEGEL: You’re an activist, and you’ve blamed capitalism for all kinds of things over the years. Now you’re blaming it for climate change too?

Klein: That’s no reason for irony. The numbers tell the story. During the 1990s, emissions went up by 1 percent per year. Starting in 2000, they started to go up by an average of 3.4 percent. The American Dream was exported globally and consumer goods that we thought of as essential to meet our needs expanded rapidly. We started seeing ourselves exclusively as consumers. When shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?

Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we’re out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don’t act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to another question: Are you not misappropriating the issue of climate change for use in your critique of capitalism?

Klein: No. The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. I didn’t make this up. The system is broken, income inequality is too great and the lack of restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.

SPIEGEL: Your son Toma is two-and-a-half years old. What kind of world will he be living in when he graduates from high school in 2030?

Klein: That is what is being decided right now. I see signs that it could be a radically different world from the one we have today — and that change could either be quite positive or extremely negative. In any case, it’s already certain that it will at least in part be a worse world. We’re going to experience global warming and far more natural disasters, that much is certain. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. We also have time to change our economic system so that it does not become more brutal and merciless as it deals with climate change.

SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?

Klein: We have to make some decisions now about what values are important to us and how we really want to live. And of course it makes a difference if temperatures only rise by 2 degrees or if they rise by 4 or 5 degrees or more. It’s still possible for us humans to make the right decisions.

SPIEGEL: Twenty-six years have passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988. We have known at least since then that CO2 emissions from the burning of oil and coal is responsible for climate change. Yet little has been done to address the problem. Haven’t we already failed?

Klein: I view the situation differently given the enormous price we will have to pay. As long as we have the slightest chance of success or to minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.

SPIEGEL: Several years ago, the international community set a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Do you still consider that to be achievable?

Klein: Well, it’s still a physical possibility. We would have to immediately reduce global emissions by 6 percent a year. The wealthier countries would have to carry a greater burden, meaning the United States and Europe would have to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Immediately. It’s not impossible. It is just profoundly politically unrealistic under our current system.

SPIEGEL: You are saying our societies aren’t capable of doing so?

Klein: Yes. We need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.

SPIEGEL: Is a society focused on economic growth at all capable of fighting climate change successfully?

Klein: No. An economic model based on indiscriminate growth inevitably leads to greater consumption and to greater CO2 emissions. There can and must be growth in the future in many low carbon parts of the economy: in green technologies, in public transportation, in all the care-giving professions, in the arts and of course in education. Right now, the core of our gross domestic product is comprised of just consumption, imports and exports. We need to make cuts there. Anything else would be self-deception.

SPIEGEL: The International Monetary Fund makes the opposite claim. It says that economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive.

Klein: They’re not looking at the same numbers as I am. The first problem is that at all these climate conferences, everyone acts as if we will arrive at our goal through self-commitments and voluntary obligations. No one tells the oil companies that, in the end, they are really going to have to give up. The second problem is that these oil companies are going to fight like hell to protect what they don’t want to lose.

SPIEGEL: You seriously want to eliminate the free market in order to save the climate?

Klein: I am not talking about eliminating markets, but we need much more strategy, steering and planning and a very different balance. The system in which we live is overly obsessed with growth — it’s one that sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth that are clearly not good. It’s clear to me that my position is in direct conflict with neo-liberalism. Is it true that in Germany, although you have accelerated the shift to renewables, coal consumption is actually increasing?

SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.

Klein: To me that is an expression of this reluctance to decide on what is necessary. Germany is not going to meet its emissions targets in the coming years either.

SPIEGEL: Is the Obama presidency the worst thing that could have happened to the climate?

Klein: In a way. Not because Obama is worse than a Republican. He’s not. But because these eight years were the biggest wasted opportunity of our lives. The right factors came together in a truly historic convergence: awareness, urgency, the mood, his political majority, the failure of the Big Three US automakers and even the possibility of addressing the failed unregulated financial world and climate change at the same time. But when he came to office, he didn’t have the courage to do it. We will not win this battle unless we are willing to talk about why Obama viewed the fact that he had control over the banks and auto companies as more of a burden than as an opportunity. He was a prisoner of the system. He didn’t want to change it.

SPIEGEL: The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.

Klein: Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.

SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?

Klein: Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.

Klein: Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.

SPIEGEL: If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.

Klein: Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?

SPIEGEL: You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?

Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.

SPIEGEL: You don’t appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.

Klein: Because the system can’t think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example …

SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …

Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system’s self-preservation capacity isn’t that great.

SPIEGEL: A particularly unsettling chapter in your book is about Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group.

Klein: Yes. I wouldn’t have expected it.

SPIEGEL: Branson has sought to portray himself as a man who wants to save the climate. It all started after an encounter with Al Gore.

Klein: And in 2006, he pledged at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that he would invest $3 billion in research into green technologies. At the time, I thought it was truly a sensational contribution. I didn’t think, oh, you cynical bastard.

SPIEGEL: But Branson was really just staging it and only a fraction of that money was ever spent.

Klein: He may well have been sincere at the time, but yes, only a fraction was spent.

SPIEGEL: Since 2006, Branson has added 160 new airplanes to his numerous airlines and increased his emissions by 40 percent.

Klein: Yes.

SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?

Klein: That we need to question the symbolism and gestures made by Hollywood stars and the super rich. We cannot confuse them with a scientifically sound plan to reduce emissions.

SPIEGEL: In America and Australia, a lot of money is spent on efforts to deny climate change. Why?

Klein: It’s different from Europe. It’s an anger that is similar to that held by those who oppose abortion and gun control. It’s not only that they are protecting a way of life they don’t want to change. It’s that they understand that climate change challenges their core anti-government, free-market belief system. So they have to deny it to protect their very identity. That’s why there’s this intensity gap: Liberals want to take a little bit of action on climate protection. But at the same time, these liberals also have a number of other issues that are higher on their agenda. But we have to understand that the hardcore conservative climate change deniers will do everything in their power to prevent action.

SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?

Klein: With all of that, of course.

SPIEGEL: Does that explain why you are connecting all of these issues — the environment, equity, public health and labor issues — that are popular on the left? Is it out of purely strategic considerations?

Klein: The issues are connected, and we also need to connect them in the debate. There is only one way that you can win a battle against a small group of people who stand to lose a lot: You need to start a mass movement that includes all the people who have a lot to gain. The deniers can only be defeated if you are just as passionate as them, but also when you are superior in numbers. Because the truth is that they really are very few.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you believe that technology has the potential to save us?

Klein: There has been tremendous progress in the storage of renewable energies, for instance, and in solar efficiency. But climate change? I, in any case, don’t have enough faith to say, “We’ll come up with some invention at some point, so let’s just drop all other efforts.” That would be insane.

SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.

Klein: And I find their technology fetish naïve. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some really big failures where some of the smartest guys in the room screwed up on a massive scale, be it with the derivatives that triggered the financial crisis or the oil catastrophe off the coast of New Orleans. Mostly, we as people break things and we don’t know how to fix them afterwards. Right now, it’s our planet that we’re breaking.

SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that the climate crisis is a gender issue.

Klein: Why would you say that?

SPIEGEL: Bill Gates says we need to keep moving forward and come up with new inventions to get the problem, and ultimately our complicated Earth, under control. You on the other hand are saying: Stop, no, we have to adapt ourselves to this planet and become softer. The US oil companies are run by men. And you, as a critical woman, are described as hysterical. It’s not an absurd thought, is it?

Klein: No. The entire industrialization was about power or whether it would be man or nature that would dominate Earth. It is difficult for some men to admit that we don’t have everything under control; that we have amassed all this CO2 over the centuries and that Earth is now telling us: Well, you’re just a guest in my house.

SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?

Klein: That’s too cheesy. But you’re still right. The oil industry is a male-dominated world, a lot like high finance. It’s very macho. The American and Australian idea of “discovering” an endless country and that endless resources can be extracted is a narrative of domination, one that traditionally casts nature as a weak, prone woman. And the idea of being in a relationship of interdependence with the rest of the natural world was seen as weak. That’s why it is doubly difficult for alpha men to concede that they have been wrong.

SPIEGEL: There’s one issue in the book that you seem to steer clear of. Although you revile the companies, you never say that your readers, who are customers of these companies, are also culpable. You also remain silent about the price that individual readers will have to pay for climate protection.

Klein: Oh, I think that most people would be happy to pay for it. They know that climate protection requires reasonable behavior: less driving, less flying and less consumption. They would be happy to use renewable energies if they were offered them.

SPIEGEL: But the idea isn’t big enough, right?

Klein: (laughs) Exactly. The green movement spent decades educating people that they should compost their garbage, that they should recycle and that they should ride their bikes. But look at what has happened to the climate during these decades.

SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?

Klein: Not enough. I bike, I use transit, I try to give speeches by Skype, I share a hybrid car and I cut my flying to about one-tenth of what it was before I started this project. My sin is taking taxis, and since the book came out, I’ve been flying too much. But I also don’t think that only people who are perfectly green and live CO2-free should be allowed to talk about this issue. If that were the case, then nobody would be able to say anything at all.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, we thank you for this interview.

 

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As Antarctica Melts Away, Seas Could Rise Ten Feet Within 100 Years

February 28, 2015
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Based on rapid thawing, continent has become ‘ground zero of global climate change without a doubt,’ says geophysicist

Though 97 percent of the Antarctic peninsula is still covered with ice, entire valleys are now free of it, ice is thinner elsewhere, and glaciers have retreated, Peter Convey of the British Antarctic Survey tells the Associated Press. (Photo: Natalie Tapson/flickr/cc)

Rapid melting of Antarctic ice could push sea levels up 10 feet worldwide within two centuries, “recurving” heavily populated coastlines and essentially reshaping the world, theAssociated Press reported Friday.

Parts of Antarctica are thawing so quickly, the continent has become “ground zero of global climate change without a doubt,” Harvard geophysicist Jerry Mitrovica told AP.

The Antarctic Peninsula, including the vulnerable West Antarctic ice sheet, is the region of the continent warming fastest because the land juts out in the warmer ocean. According to NASA, it is losing 49 billion tons of ice each year.

And why does that matter?

Because, as the AP declares: “The world’s fate hangs on the question of how fast the ice melts.”

“[I]f all the West Antarctic ice sheet that’s connected to water melts unstoppably, as several experts predict, there will not be time to prepare,” explain AP journalists Luis Andres Henao and Seth Borenstein.

“Scientists estimate it will take anywhere from 200 to 1,000 years to melt enough ice to raise seas by 10 feet, maybe only 100 years in a worst case scenario,” they write. “If that plays out, developed coastal cities such as New York and Guangzhou could face up to $1 trillion a year in flood damage within a few decades and countless other population centers will be vulnerable.”

Earlier this week, news outlets reported a “very unusual” short-term surge in sea levels along North America’s northeast coast, which scientists also linked to climate change.

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Teens Sue Government for Failing to Address Climate Change for Future Generations

February 25, 2015

 

 

Many young climate activists are taking climate change matters into their own hands rather than waiting for political leaders to get their act together. Young plaintiffs, who filed a lawsuit against legislatures, are demanding that political leaders “govern as if our future matters.”

Many young people feel they have too much at stake to wait for our leaders to get their act together and take meaningful action on climate change. In the words of one young climate activist, Alec Loorz, we need to demand our political leaders “govern as if our future matters.” With their future at stake, many youth have taken their case to the courts in the hopes that the judiciary will require the legislature to take action.

Photo credit: Generation RYSE
Kelsey Juliana is one of the young plaintiffs in the Oregon case that is asking her state government to bring down carbon emissions in compliance with what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. Photo credit: Generation RYSE

“We are all in imminent danger,” Loorz, who founded the nonprofit Kids vs. Global Warming,told Outside Magazine. “Scientists have said we have 10 years to make changes if we want to stabilize the climate by 2100—and that was back in 2005 … We care more about money and power than we do about future generations. The judicial system is the only branch of government not bought out by corporate interests.”

On Bill Moyer’s show last month, Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon and author of Nature’s Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, explains what is being called the “Children’s Climate Crusade.”

What exactly are these young people asking for? “Every suit and every administrative petition filed in every state in the country and against the federal government asks for the same relief,” Wood says. “And that is for the government … to bring down carbon emissions in compliance with what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

The young plaintiffs simply want the courts to require “the legislatures and the agencies to do their job in figuring out how to lower carbon emissions,” says Wood. Do these litigants have any legal grounds to stand on, though?

Turns out, yes. “You find it in case law going back to the beginning years of this country,” says Wood. “The U.S. Supreme Court has announced the Public Trust Doctrine in multiple cases over the years and it’s in every state jurisprudence as well.”

The Public Trust Doctrine says “the government is a trustee of the resources that support our public welfare and survival,” according to Woods. The doctrine “requires our government to protect and maintain survival resources for future generations.” Relying on this long-standing legal principle, young plaintiffs have cases at the state and federal level.

At the federal level, five teenagers, and two non-profit organizations—Kids vs. Global Warming and WildEarth Guardians—partnered with Our Children’s Trust to file a federal lawsuit. Their petition for their case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in December, but the plaintiffs vow “to advance their climate claims in lower federal courts until the federal government is ordered to take immediate action on human-made climate change.”

At the state level, there are cases pending in Oregon, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Washington and Colorado. Courts in Alaska, Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Montana and Pennsylvania have issued “developmental decisions on which the pending cases are in part based.” Youth plaintiffs supported by Our Children’s Trust have filed administrative rule-making petitions in every state in the country.

“I think there are a lot of kids here in Colorado and around the world who would be so excited to get the gift of clean air and water, snow in the mountains, abundant wildlife and safe communities,” said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, one of the young plaintiffs in the Colorado anti-fracking case, after learning the court rejected the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s request for dismissal of their lawsuit. “New York showed us all [by banning fracking] that a state can value the health of kids as a top priority. That’s what this whole thing is about, making Colorado a safe place to live for ours and future generations.”

Oregon’s and Massachusetts’ cases are moving forward. Legal arguments began last month in Oregon’s case and will culminate in a court hearing before Judge Rasmussen once again on March 13.

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled last summer that “The court must decide whether the atmosphere is a public trust resource that the state of Oregon, as a trustee, has a duty to protect along with recognized public trust assets such as estuaries, rivers and wildlife.” Now the plaintiffs will argue in the Circuit Court that not only does the state have a duty to protect the atmosphere, “but that it is violating its trustee obligation to present and future generations if it does not.”

Kelsey Juliana, one of the young plaintiffs in the Oregon case, said, “As a youth, and therefore someone on the front lines of climate change chaos, I have everything to gain from taking action and everything to lose from not.”

In Massachusetts, Judge Gordon will hear oral arguments on March 9 in a case brought by four young litigants who say that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is “failing to fulfill its legal obligations to reduce Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas emissions, as required by the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act.”

Watch these videos from the iMatter campaign, an initiative of Kids vs. Global Warming and Our Children’s Trust to see what’s at stake for young people and how they are driving change:

A ‘Megadrought’ Will Grip US in the Coming Decades, NASA Researchers Say

February 17, 2015

Megadroughts can span generations. (photo: The Nation)
Megadroughts can span generations. (photo: The Nation)

By Darryl Fears, The Washington Post

17 February 15

 

he long and severe drought in the U.S. Southwest pales in comparison with what’s coming: a “megadrought” that will grip that region and the central Plains later this century and probably stay there for decades, a new study says.

Thirty-five years from now, if the current pace of climate change continues unabated, those areas of the country will experience a weather shift that will linger for as long as three decades, according to the study, released Thursday.

Researchers from NASA and Cornell and Columbia universities warned of major water shortages and conditions that dry out vegetation, which can lead to monster wildfires in southern Arizona and parts of California.

“We really need to start thinking in longer-term horizons about how we’re going to manage it,” said Toby R. Ault, an assistant professor in the department of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, one of the co-authors. “This is a slow-moving natural hazard that humans are used to dealing with and used to managing.”

Megadroughts are sustained periods of sparse precipitation and significant loss of soil moisture that span generations, about 10 times as long as a normal three-year drought.

Tucson had less than 80 percent of its normal rainfall for long stretches in the 1990s. If that were to last for two decades, “that’s a megadrought,” Ault said.

Based on climate models the researchers used for the study, there is an 80 percent chance that such an extended drought will strike between 2050 and 2099, unless world governments act aggressively to mitigate impacts from climate change, the researchers said.

North America’s last megadroughts happened in medieval times, during the 12th and 13th centuries. They were caused by natural changes in weather that give megadroughts a 10 percent chance of forming at any time.

But climate change driven by human activity dramatically increases those chances. “With climate change, the likelihood of a megadrought goes up considerably,” Ault said.

The other writers for the study were its lead author, Benjamin I. Cook, a research scientist for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and co-author Jason E. Smerdon, a research professor at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The report was published Thursday in the journal Science Advances.

“We got some exciting, thrilling and important research,” said Marcia Kemper McNutt, a geophysicist and editor in chief of the journal Science. “We are facing a water situation that hasn’t been seen in California for 1,200 years.”

At the study’s presentation, Ault had a word of caution. Weather conditions can vary, climate impacts can be mitigated, and the warnings of the study might not come to pass. A single El Niño weather pattern in the West could interrupt periods of prolonged drought.

Smerdon said the researchers went back over a thousand years’ worth of data to look at conditions that caused drought in North America and observing patterns in tree rings to determine wet and dry periods.

After 2050, there is “overwhelming evidence of a dry shift,” he said, “way drier than the megadroughts of the 1100s and 1200s.” The cause, Smerdon continued, “is twofold, reductions in rainfall and snowfall. Not just rainfall but soil moisture .?.?. and changes in evaporation that dry out the soil much more than normal.”

The research is newly published, but its findings are not dramatically different from similar studies in the past. Beverly Law, a specialist in global change biology at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, co-authored a study of megadroughts three years ago.

It showed that a drought that affected the American West from 2000 to 2004 compared to conditions seen during the medieval megadroughts. But the predicted megadrought this century would be far worse. Law said Thursday’s study confirmed her previous findings.

“We took the climate model .?.?. and compared” two periods, 2050 to 2099 and 1950 to 1999, she said. “What it showed is this big, red blotch over Southern California. It will really impact megacities, populations and water availability.”

Law is also co-author of an upcoming study commissioned by the U.S. Geological Survey about forest mortality later this century, and the preliminary findings are disturbing, she said.

According to predictions, the amount of precipitation in Arizona will be half of what it was between 1950 and 1999.

“We have drinking water to be concerned about,” she said. “That area’s really vulnerable.”

 

ISIS, Israel and Climate Change

February 17, 2015

Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)
Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)

By Noam Chomsky, Jacobin Magazine

16 February 15

 

acobin is proud to feature an interview with journalist David Barsamian and Professor Noam Chomsky. In it, Chomsky explains the roots of ISIS and why the United States and its allies are responsible for the group’s emergence. In particular, he argues that the 2003 invasion of Iraq provoked the sectarian divisions that have resulted in the destabilization of Iraqi society. The result was a climate where Saudi-funded radicals could thrive.

The interview also touches on Israel’s most recent massacre in the Gaza Strip, putting it in the context of the vital role Israel has always played for the United States. Chomsky then turns to today’s racist scapegoating of Guatemalan immigrants, tracing the conditions that lead them to leave their homes to the Reagan administration’s brutal destruction of the country.

Finally, Chomsky shares his thoughts on the growing movement for climate justice and why he thinks it is the most urgent of our time. The full exchange will be broadcast by Alternative Radio.

There are few voices more vital to the Left than Professor Chomsky’s. We hope you read and share the interview widely.


The Middle East is engulfed in flames, from Libya to Iraq. There are new jihadi groups. The current focus is on ISIS. What about ISIS and its origins?

There’s an interesting interview that just appeared a couple of days ago with Graham Fuller, a former CIA officer, one of the leading intelligence and mainstream analysts of the Middle East. The title is “The United States Created ISIS.” This is one of the conspiracy theories, the thousands of them that go around the Middle East.

But this is another source: this is right at the heart of the US establishment. He hastens to point out that he doesn’t mean the US decided to put ISIS into existence and then funded it. His point is — and I think it’s accurate — that the US created the background out of which ISIS grew and developed. Part of it was just the standard sledgehammer approach: smash up what you don’t like.

In 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq, a major crime. Just this afternoon the British parliament granted the government the authority to bomb Iraq again. The invasion was devastating to Iraq. Iraq had already been virtually destroyed, first of all by the decade-long war with Iran in which, incidentally, Iraq was backed by the US, and then the decade of sanctions.

They were described as “genocidal” by the respected international diplomats who administered them, and both resigned in protest for that reason. They devastated the civilian society, they strengthened the dictator, compelled the population to rely on him for survival. That’s probably the reason he wasn’t sent on the path of a whole stream of other dictators who were overthrown.

Finally, the US just decided to attack the country in 2003. The attack is compared by many Iraqis to the Mongol invasion of a thousand years earlier. Very destructive. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, millions of refugees, millions of other displaced persons, destruction of the archeological richness and wealth of the country back to Sumeria.

One of the effects of the invasion was immediately to institute sectarian divisions. Part of the brilliance of the invasion force and its civilian director, Paul Bremer, was to separate the sects, Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd, from one another, set them at each other’s throats. Within a couple of years, there was a major, brutal sectarian conflict incited by the invasion.

You can see it if you look at Baghdad. If you take a map of Baghdad in, say, 2002, it’s a mixed city: Sunni and Shi’a are living in the same neighborhoods, they’re intermarried. In fact, sometimes they didn’t even know who was Sunni and who was Shi’a. It’s like knowing whether your friends are in one Protestant group or another Protestant group. There were differences but it was not hostile.

In fact, for a couple of years both sides were saying: there will never be Sunni-Shi’a conflicts. We’re too intermingled in the nature of our lives, where we live, and so on. By 2006 there was a raging war. That conflict spread to the whole region. By now, the whole region is being torn apart by Sunni-Shi’a conflicts.

The natural dynamics of a conflict like that is that the most extreme elements begin to take over. They had roots. Their roots are in the major US ally, Saudi Arabia. That’s been the major US ally in the region as long as the US has been seriously involved there, in fact, since the foundation of the Saudi state. It’s kind of a family dictatorship. The reason is it has a huge amount oil.

Britain, before the US, had typically preferred radical Islamism to secular nationalism. And when the US took over, it essentially took the same stand. Radical Islam is centered in Saudi Arabia. It’s the most extremist, radical Islamic state in the world. It makes Iran look like a tolerant, modern country by comparison, and, of course, the secular parts of the Arab Middle East even more so.

It’s not only directed by an extremist version of Islam, the Wahhabi Salafi version, but it’s also a missionary state. So it uses its huge oil resources to promulgate these doctrines throughout the region. It establishes schools, mosques, clerics, all over the place, from Pakistan to North Africa.

An extremist version of Saudi extremism is the doctrine that was picked up by ISIS. So it grew ideologically out of the most extremist form of Islam, the Saudi version, and the conflicts that were engendered by the US sledgehammer that smashed up Iraq and has now spread everywhere. That’s what Fuller means.

Saudi Arabia not only provides the ideological core that led to the ISIS radical extremism, but it also funds them. Not the Saudi government, but wealthy Saudis, wealthy Kuwaitis, and others provide the funding and the ideological support for these jihadi groups that are springing up all over the place. This attack on the region by the US and Britain is the source, where this thing originates. That’s what Fuller meant by saying the United States created ISIS.

You can be pretty confident that as conflicts develop, they will become more extremist. The most brutal, harshest groups will take over. That’s what happens when violence becomes the means of interaction. It’s almost automatic. That’s true in neighborhoods, it’s true in international affairs. The dynamics are perfectly evident. That’s what’s happening. That’s where ISIS comes from. If they manage to destroy ISIS, they will have something more extreme on their hands.

And the media are obedient. In Obama’s September 10 speech, he cited two countries as success stories of the US counterinsurgency strategy. What were the two countries? Somalia and Yemen. Jaws should have been dropping all over the place, but there was virtual silence in the commentary the next day.

The Somalia case is particularly horrendous. Yemen is bad enough. Somalia is an extremely poor country. I won’t run through the whole history. But one of the great achievements, one of the great boasts of the Bush administration counterterror policy was that they had succeeded in shutting down a charity, the Barakat charity, which was fueling terrorism in Somalia. Big excitement in the press. That’s a real achievement.

A couple of months later the facts started leaking out. The charity had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism in Somalia. What it had to do with was banking, commerce, relief, hospitals. It was sort of keeping the deeply impoverished and battered Somali economy alive. By shutting it down, the Bush administration had ended this. That was the contribution to counterinsurgency. That got a few lines. You can read it in books on international finance. That’s what’s being done to Somalia.

There was a moment when the so-called Islamic courts, they were called, an Islamic organization, had achieved a kind of a measure of peace in Somalia. Not a pretty regime, but at least it was peaceful and people were more or less accepting it. The US wouldn’t tolerate it, and it supported an Ethiopian invasion to destroy it and turn the place back into horrible turmoil. That’s the great achievement.

Yemen is a horror story of its own.

Going back to National Public Radio and Morning Edition, the host, David Greene, was doing an interview with a reporter based in Gaza, and he prefaced his interview with this comment: “Both sides have suffered tremendous damage.” So I thought to myself, does this mean Haifa and Tel Aviv were reduced to rubble, as Gaza was? Do you remember the Jimmy Carter comment about Vietnam?

Not only do I remember it, I think I was the first person to comment on it, and am probably to date practically the only person to comment on it. Carter, the human rights advocate, he was asked in a press conference in 1977 a kind of mild question: do you think we have some responsibility for helping the Vietnamese after the war? And he said we owe them no debt — “the destruction was mutual.”

That passed without comment. And it was better than his successor. When a couple years later George Bush I, the statesman, was commenting on the responsibilities after the Vietnam War, he said: there is one moral problem that remains after the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese have not devoted sufficient resources to turning over to us the bones of American pilots. These innocent pilots who were shot down over central Iowa by the murderous Vietnamese when they were spraying crops or something, they have not turned over the bones. But, he said: we are a merciful people, so we will forgive them this and we will allow them to enter the civilized world.

Meaning we’ll allow them to enter trade relations and so on, which, of course, we bar, if they will stop what they’re doing and devote sufficient resources to overcoming this one lingering crime after the Vietnam War. No comment.

One of the things that Israeli officials keep bringing up, and it’s repeated here in the corporate media, ad nauseam, is the Hamas charter. They don’t accept the existence of the state of the Israel, they want to wipe it off the map. You have some information about the charter and its background.

The charter was produced by, apparently, a handful of people, maybe two or three, back in 1988, at a time when Gaza was under severe Israeli attack. You remember Rabin’s orders. This was a primarily nonviolent uprising which Israel reacted to very violently, killing leaders, torture, breaking bones in accordance with Rabin’s orders, and so on. And right in the middle of that, a very small number of people came out with what they called a Hamas charter.

Nobody has paid attention to it since. It was an awful document, if you look at it. Since then the only people who have paid attention to it are Israeli intelligence and the US media. They love it. Nobody else cares about it. Khaled Mashal, the political leader of Gaza years ago, said: look, it’s past, it’s gone. It has no significance. But that doesn’t matter. It’s valuable propaganda.

There is also — they don’t call it a charter, but there are founding principles of the governing coalition in Israel, not some small group of people who are under attack but the governing coalition, Likud. The ideological core of Likud is Menachem Begin’s Herut. They have founding documents. Their founding documents say that today’s Jordan is part of the land of Israel; Israel will never renounce its claim to the land of Jordan. What’s now called Jordan they call the historical lands of Israel. They’ve never renounced that.

Likud, the same governing party, has an electoral program — it was for 1999 but it’s never been rescinded, it’s the same today — that says explicitly there will never be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan. In other words, we are dedicated in principle to the destruction of Palestine, period.

This is not just words. We proceed day by day to implement it. Nobody ever mentions the founding doctrines of Likud, Herut. I don’t either, because nobody takes them seriously. Actually, that was also the doctrine of the majority of the kibbutz movement. Achdut Ha-Avodah, which was the largest part of the kibbutz movement, held the same principles, that both sides of the Jordan River are ours.

There was a slogan, “This side of the Jordan, that side also.” In other words, both western Palestine and eastern Palestine are ours. Does anybody say: okay, we can’t negotiate with Israel? More significant are the actual electoral programs. And even more significant than that are the actual actions, which are implementing the destruction of Palestine, not just talking about it. But we have to talk about the Hamas charter.

There is an interesting history about the so-called PLO charter. Around 1970 the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshafat Harkabi, published an article in a major Israeli journal in which he brought to light something called the PLO charter or something similar to that. Nobody had ever heard of it, nobody was paying any attention to it.

And the charter said: here’s our aim. Our aim is it’s our land, we’re going to take it over. In fact, it was not unlike the Herut claims except backwards. This instantly became a huge media issue all over. The PLO covenant it was called. The PLO covenant plans to destroy Israel. They didn’t know anything about it, nobody knew anything about it, but this became a major issue.

I met Harkabi a couple years later. He was kind of a dove, incidentally. He became pretty critical of Israeli policy. He was an interesting guy. We had an interview here at MIT, in fact. Incidentally, at that time there was material in the Arab press that I was reading saying that the Palestinians were thinking about officially throwing out the charter because it was kind of an embarrassment.

So I asked him, “Why did you bring this out for the first time just at the time when they were thinking of rescinding it?” He looked at me with the blank stare that you learn to recognize when you are talking to spooks. They are trained to pretend not to understand what you’re talking about when they understand it perfectly.

He said, “Oh, I never heard that.” That is beyond inconceivable. It’s impossible that the head of Israeli military intelligence doesn’t know what I know from reading bits and pieces of the Arab press in Beirut. Of course he knew.

There’s every reason to believe that he decided to bring this out precisely because he recognized, meaning Israeli intelligence recognized, that it would be a useful piece of propaganda and it’s best to try to ensure that the Palestinians keep it. Of course, if we attack it, then they’re going to back off and say: we’re not going to rescind it under pressure, which is what’s happening with the Hamas charter.

If they stopped talking about it, everyone would forget about it, because it’s meaningless. Incidentally, let me just add one more thing. It is now impossible to document this, for a simple reason. The documents were all in the PLO offices in Beirut. And when Israel invaded Beirut, they stole all the archives. I assume they must have them somewhere, but nobody is going to get access to them.

What accounts for the almost near unanimity of the Congress in backing Israel? Even Elizabeth Warren, the highly touted Democratic senator from Massachusetts, voted for this resolution about self-defense.

She probably knows nothing about the Middle East. I think it’s pretty obvious. Take the US prepositioning arms in Israel for US use for military action in the region. That’s one small piece of a very close military and intelligence alliance that goes back very far. It really took off after 1967, although bits and pieces of it existed before.

The US military and intelligence regard Israel as a major base. In fact, one of the more interesting WikiLeaks exposures listed the Pentagon ranking of strategic centers around the world which were of such significance that we have to protect them no matter what, a small number. One of them was a couple of miles outside Haifa, Rafael military industries, a major military installation.

That’s where a lot of the drone technology was developed and much else. That’s a strategic US interest of such significance that it ranks among the highest in the world. Rafael understands that, to the extent that they actually moved their management headquarters to Washington, where the money is. That’s indicative of the kind of relationship there is.

And it goes way beyond that. US investors are in love with Israel. Warren Buffet just bought some Israeli enterprise for, I think, a couple billion dollars and announced that outside the US, Israel is the best place for US investment. And major firms, like Intel and others, are investing heavily in Israel, and continue to. It’s a valuable client: it’s strategically located, compliant, does what the US wants, it’s available for repression and violence. The US has used it over and over as a way of circumventing congressional and popular restrictions on violence.

There’s a huge fuss now about children fleeing Central America, say, from Guatemala. Why are they fleeing from Guatemala? You can see a photo of one of them here in my office. They’re fleeing from Guatemala because of the wreckage of Guatemala, of which a large part was the attack on the Mayan Indians, which was really genocidal, in the early 1980s. That’s a Mayan woman in the photo, in fact. They’ve never escaped this, and many of them are fleeing.

Reagan, who was extremely brutal and violent and a terrible racist as well, wanted to provide direct support for the Guatemalan army’s attack, which was literally genocidal on the Mayan Indians. There was a congressional resolution that blocked him, so he turned to his terrorist clients.

The major one was Israel. Also Taiwan, a couple of others. Israel provided the arms for the Guatemalan army — to this day they use Israeli arms — provided the trainers for the terrorist forces, essentially ran the genocidal attack. That’s one of their services. They did the same in South Africa. Actually, this led to an interesting incident with the great hero Elie Wiesel.

In the mid-1980s, Salvador Luria, a friend of mine who is a Nobel laureate in biology and politically active, knew about this. It wasn’t a big secret. He asked me to collect articles from the Hebrew press which described Israel’s participation in genocidal attacks in Guatemala — not just participation, it’s a leadership role — because he wanted to send it to Elie Wiesel with a polite letter saying: as a fellow Nobel laureate, I would like to bring this to your attention. Could you use your influence — he didn’t ask him to say anything, that’s too much, but privately could you communicate to the people you know well at a high level in Israel and say it’s not nice to take part in genocide. He never got a response.

A couple of months later, I read an interview in the Hebrew press, where they really dislike Wiesel. They regard him as a charlatan and a fraud. One of the questions in the interview was, “What do you think about Israel’s participation in the genocidal assault in Guatemala?”

The report says Wiesel sighed and then said: I received a letter from a fellow Nobel laureate bringing to my attention these actions and asking me if I could say something privately to try to restrict them somehow, but, he said: I can’t criticize Israel even privately. I can’t say anything even privately that might impede Israel’s participation in genocide. That’s Elie Wiesel, the great moral hero.

Even this story is astonishing. Now children and many other refugees are fleeing from three countries: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Not from Nicaragua, about as poor as Honduras. Is there a difference? Yes. Nicaragua is the one country in the 1980s that had a way of defending itself against US terrorist forces — an army. In the other countries the army were the terrorist forces, supported and armed by the US, and its Israeli client in the worst cases. So that’s what you had.

There is a lot of upbeat reporting now saying the flow of children has reduced. Why? Because we’ve turned the screws on Mexico and told them to use force to prevent the victims of our violence from fleeing to the US for survival. So now they’re doing it for us, so there are fewer coming to the border. It’s a great humanitarian achievement of Obama’s.

Incidentally, Honduras is in the lead. Why Honduras? Because in 2009 there was a military coup in Honduras which overthrew the president, Zelaya, who was beginning to make some moves towards badly needed reform measures, and kicked him out of the country.

I won’t go through the details, but it ended up with the US, under Obama, being one of the very few countries that recognized the coup regime and the election that took place under its aegis, which has turned Honduras into an even worse horror story than it was before, way in the lead in homicides, violence. So, yes, people are fleeing. And therefore we have to drive them back and ensure that they go back into the horror chamber.

In the current situation, it seems that this is an opportunity for the Kurdish population of Iraq to realize some kind of statehood, some kind of independence, something that they’ve wanted for a long time, and which intersects, actually, with Israeli interests in Iraq. They have been supporting the Kurds, rather clandestinely, but it’s well known that Israel has been pushing for fragmentation of Iraq.

They are. And that’s one of the points on which Israeli and US policy conflict. The Kurdish areas are landlocked. The government of Iraq has blocked their export of oil, their only resource, and of course opposes their statehood bid. The US so far has been backing that.

Clandestinely, there evidently is a flow of oil at some level from the Kurdish area into Turkey. That’s also a very complex relationship. Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader, visited Turkey about a year ago, I guess, and made some pretty striking comments. He was quite critical of the leadership of the Turkish Kurds and was plainly trying to establish better relations with Turkey, which has been violently repressing the Turkish Kurds.

Most of the Kurds in the world are in Turkey. You can understand why, from his point of view. That’s the one outlet to the outside world. But Turkey has a mixed attitude about this. An independent Kurdistan in, say, northern Iraq, which is right next to the Kurdish areas of Turkey, or in the Syrian Kurdish areas, which are right by them, potentially, from the Turkish point of view, might encourage separatists or even efforts for autonomy in the southeastern part of Turkey, which is heavily Kurdish. They’ve been fighting against that ever since modern Turkey arose in the 1920, very brutally, in fact. So they have a mixed kind of attitude on this.

Kurdistan has succeeded somehow in getting tankers to take Kurdish oil. Those tankers are wandering around the Mediterranean. No country will accept it, except probably Israel. We can’t be certain, but it looks as though they’re taking some of it. The Kurdish tankers are seeking some way to unload their oil in mostly the eastern Mediterranean. It’s not happening at a level which permits Kurdistan to function, even to pay its officials.

On the other hand, if you go to the Kurdish so-called capital, Erbil, apparently there are high rises going up, plenty of wealth. But it’s a very fragile kind of system. It cannot survive. It’s completely surrounded by mostly hostile regions. Turkey is sort of unclear because of the reasons that I mentioned. So, yes, they do have that in mind. That’s why they took Kirkuk as soon as they could.

There are a couple of questions I want to close with, actually from our latest book, Power Systems. I ask you, “You’ve got grandchildren. What kind of world do you see them inheriting?”

The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim. The major concern ought to be the one that was brought up in New York at the September 21 march. A couple hundred thousand people marched in New York calling for some serious action on global warming.

This is no joke. This is the first time in the history of the human species that we have to make decisions which will determine whether there will be decent survival for our grandchildren. That’s never happened before. Already we have made decisions which are wiping out species around the world at a phenomenal level.

The level of species destruction in the world today is about at the level of sixty-five million years ago, when a huge asteroid hit the earth and had horrifying ecological effects. It ended the age of the dinosaurs; they were wiped out. It kind of left a little opening for small mammals, who began to develop, and ultimately us. The same thing is happening now, except that we’re the asteroid. What we’re doing to the environment is already creating conditions like those of sixty-five million years ago. Human civilization is tottering at the edge of this. The picture doesn’t look pretty.

So September 21, the day of the march, which was a very positive development, an indication that you can do things, it’s not a foregone conclusion that we’re going to wipe everything out, that same day one of the major international monitoring scientific agencies presented the data on greenhouse emissions for the latest year on record, 2013. They reached record levels: they went up over 2 percent beyond the preceding year. For the US they went up even higher, almost 3 percent.

The Journal of the American Medical Association came out with a study the same day looking at the number of super hot days that are predicted for New York over the next couple of decades, super hot meaning over ninety. They predicted it will triple for New York, and much worse effects farther south. This is all going along with predicted sea-level rise, which is going to put a lot of Boston under water. Let alone the Bangladesh coastal plan, where hundreds of millions of people live, will be wiped out.

All of this is imminent. And at this very moment the logic of our institutions is driving it forward. So Exxon Mobil, which is the biggest energy producer, has announced — and you can’t really criticize them for it; this is the nature of the state capitalist system, its logic — that they are going to direct all of their efforts to lifting fossil fuels, because that’s profitable. In effect, that’s exactly what they should be doing, given the institutional framework. They’re supposed to make profits. And if that wipes out the possibility of a decent life for the grandchildren, it’s not their problem.

Chevron, another big energy corporation, had a small sustainable program, mostly for PR reasons, but it was doing reasonably well, it was actually profitable. They just closed it down because fossil fuels are so much more profitable.

In the US by now there’s drilling all over the place. But there’s one place where it has been somewhat limited, federal lands. Energy lobbies are complaining bitterly that Obama has cut back access to federal lands. The Department of Interior just came out with the statistics. It’s the opposite. The oil drilling on federal lands has steadily increased under Obama. What has decreased is offshore drilling.

But that’s a reaction to the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Right after that disaster, the immediate reaction was to back off. Even the energy companies backed off from deep-sea drilling. The lobbies are just pulling these things together. If you look at the onshore drilling, it’s just going up. There are very few brakes on this. These tendencies are pretty dangerous, and you can predict what kind of world there will be for your grandchildren.

 

Noam Chomsky: “The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim”

February 13, 2015

FRIDAY, FEB 13, 2015 01:25 PM CST

The intellectual sat down with Jacobin to discuss ISIS, Israel and climate change
SARAH GRAY
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TOPICS: NOAM CHOMSKY, SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN, ISRAEL, ISIS, IRAQ, SAUDI ARABIA, THE MIDDLE EAST, INNOVATION NEWS, POLITICS NEWS

Noam Chomsky: “The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim”

Noam Chomsky: "The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim"
Noam Chomsky (Credit: fotostory via Shutterstock)
Renowned linguist and well-respected political commentator, Noam Chomsky, was interviewed by journalist David Barsamian for Jacobin. In the fascinating and thought-provoking conversation the two touch on the origins of ISIS, America’s relationship with Israel, among other foreign policy topics. Below are a few choice selections from the interview, which can (and should) be read in full at Jacobin.

When asked about the origins of ISIS Chomsky explained how sectarian conflict derived from the Iraq war:

“There’s an interesting interview that just appeared a couple of days ago with Graham Fuller, a former CIA officer, one of the leading intelligence and mainstream analysts of the Middle East. The title is “The United States Created ISIS.” This is one of the conspiracy theories, the thousands of them that go around the Middle East.

But this is another source: this is right at the heart of the US establishment. He hastens to point out that he doesn’t mean the US decided to put ISIS into existence and then funded it. His point is — and I think it’s accurate — that the US created the background out of which ISIS grew and developed. Part of it was just the standard sledgehammer approach: smash up what you don’t like.”

Late in the answer Chomsky continues:

“Finally, the US just decided to attack the country in 2003. The attack is compared by many Iraqis to the Mongol invasion of a thousand years earlier. Very destructive. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, millions of refugees, millions of other displaced persons, destruction of the archeological richness and wealth of the country back to Sumeria.

One of the effects of the invasion was immediately to institute sectarian divisions. Part of the brilliance of the invasion force and its civilian director, Paul Bremer, was to separate the sects, Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd, from one another, set them at each other’s throats. Within a couple of years, there was a major, brutal sectarian conflict incited by the invasion.

You can see it if you look at Baghdad. If you take a map of Baghdad in, say, 2002, it’s a mixed city: Sunni and Shi’a are living in the same neighborhoods, they’re intermarried. In fact, sometimes they didn’t even know who was Sunni and who was Shi’a. It’s like knowing whether your friends are in one Protestant group or another Protestant group. There were differences but it was not hostile.

In fact, for a couple of years both sides were saying: there will never be Sunni-Shi’a conflicts. We’re too intermingled in the nature of our lives, where we live, and so on. By 2006 there was a raging war. That conflict spread to the whole region. By now, the whole region is being torn apart by Sunni-Shi’a conflicts.

The natural dynamics of a conflict like that is that the most extreme elements begin to take over. They had roots. Their roots are in the major US ally, Saudi Arabia. That’s been the major US ally in the region as long as the US has been seriously involved there, in fact, since the foundation of the Saudi state. It’s kind of a family dictatorship. The reason is it has a huge amount oil.”

Asked about Congress’ unfailing support for Israel — even beloved progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren — Chomsky responds thusly:

“She probably knows nothing about the Middle East. I think it’s pretty obvious. Take the US prepositioning arms in Israel for US use for military action in the region. That’s one small piece of a very close military and intelligence alliance that goes back very far. It really took off after 1967, although bits and pieces of it existed before.

The US military and intelligence regard Israel as a major base. In fact, one of the more interesting WikiLeaks exposures listed the Pentagon ranking of strategic centers around the world which were of such significance that we have to protect them no matter what, a small number. One of them was a couple of miles outside Haifa, Rafael military industries, a major military installation.

That’s where a lot of the drone technology was developed and much else. That’s a strategic US interest of such significance that it ranks among the highest in the world. Rafael understands that, to the extent that they actually moved their management headquarters to Washington, where the money is. That’s indicative of the kind of relationship there is.

And it goes way beyond that. US investors are in love with Israel. Warren Buffet just bought some Israeli enterprise for, I think, a couple billion dollars and announced that outside the US, Israel is the best place for US investment. And major firms, like Intel and others, are investing heavily in Israel, and continue to. It’s a valuable client: it’s strategically located, compliant, does what the US wants, it’s available for repression and violence. The US has used it over and over as a way of circumventing congressional and popular restrictions on violence.”

And he says this about climate change:

“The world that we’re creating for our grandchildren is grim. The major concern ought to be the one that was brought up in New York at the September 21 march. A couple hundred thousand people marched in New York calling for some serious action on global warming.

This is no joke. This is the first time in the history of the human species that we have to make decisions which will determine whether there will be decent survival for our grandchildren. That’s never happened before. Already we have made decisions which are wiping out species around the world at a phenomenal level.

The level of species destruction in the world today is about at the level of sixty-five million years ago, when a huge asteroid hit the earth and had horrifying ecological effects. It ended the age of the dinosaurs; they were wiped out. It kind of left a little opening for small mammals, who began to develop, and ultimately us. The same thing is happening now, except that we’re the asteroid. What we’re doing to the environment is already creating conditions like those of sixty-five million years ago. Human civilization is tottering at the edge of this. The picture doesn’t look pretty.”

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

MORE SARAH GRAY.

White House: Climate Change Threatens More Americans Than Terrorism

February 12, 2015

President Obama. (photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
President Obama. (photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

By Clare Foran, National Journal

11 February 15

 

ebruary 10, 2015 White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday that President Obama believes that climate change affects far more Americans than terrorism does.

“There are many more people on an annual basis who have to confront … the direct impact on their lives of climate change or on the spread of a disease than on terrorism,” Earnest told reporters.

“The point that the president is making is that when you’re talking about the direct daily impact of these kinds of challenges on the daily lives of Americans, particularly Americans living in this country … more people are directly affected by those things than by terrorism.”

Earnest’s remarks came in response to a question from reporters about Obama’s comments on climate change made in a Vox interview released on Monday.

When asked by Vox if the media overstates the dangers of terrorism while downplaying the risks of climate change, Obama replied: “Absolutely.”

The administration also highlighted climate change as a security threat at the end of last week with the release of its latest national security strategy, a foreign policy blueprint that put climate change on par with such risks as weapons of mass destruction, the outbreak and spread of infectious disease and terrorist attack.

But Republicans have grown increasingly critical of Obama’s action to address climate change.

“Mr. President, I believe that most of us would think that a beheading is a far greater threat to an American than a sunburn,” Mike Huckabee said at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January.

 

Climate change is laying waste to water supplies, warns Farm Bureau

January 14, 2015

The American Farm Bureau represents conventional agriculture, and a conservative base. But, unlike some members of Congress, it accepts the reality that climate change is real, and having an impact on its members. The Washington Examiner reports that the group is already planning for climate change.

Here’s what has caught the Farm Bureau’s attention: Snowpack is the biggest reservoir in the west. It efficiently stores water, in the form of snow, in the winter, then releases it slowly throughout the spring and summer. If all that snow turns to rain (or even a major percentage of it), there’s no way we’ll have enough reservoir space to store water for the dry seasons when farmers need it.

From the Examiner:

The influential American Farm Bureau, citing climate change, said a shift to collecting rain must happen now because it could take up to 30 years to build a new infrastructure.

At a meeting in San Diego, California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said that up to now about 70 percent of water storage has been in mountain reservoirs filled with melting snowpack.

“As climate change comes, we have to adapt, and that means we’d better have lower-level capturing systems to be able to capture that water, because it’s going to come as rainfall, not snowpack,” he warned, at a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention and IDEAs Trade Show.

This doesn’t mean that the Farm Bureau is going to be campaigning for a carbon tax. It doesn’t want government to use cap-and-trade, or taxes, or the Clean Air Act to prevent climate change. As a rule, it basically opposes any kind of regulation. It would like the government to help farmers adapt by building dams, however.

The Farm Bureau is not exactly a climate hero, but at least it’s not pretending it can’t see lightning and hear thunder. Let’s hope those thundershowers come with a little rain.

Source:
Drought-plagued West warned to collect rain as snowpack disappears, Washington Examiner.
More by Nathanael Johnson

How environmental justice fared in 2014 — and the outlook for 2015

January 1, 2015

A key scene in Ava DuVernay’s triumphant Selma shows Martin Luther King explaining to President Lyndon B. Johnson why African Americans in the South can’t wait much longer for a voting rights law. Johnson’s response: “You got one big issue, I got a hundred and one.” Put differently: Ain’t nobody got time for that civil rights stuff. African Americans, women, gay and queer Americans, and many other oppressed groups have heard this response for decades.

It’s no different in the environmental sphere, where the existing green world order says we must deal with melting polar caps, ocean acidification, rising sea levels, and dying polar bears — so that justice stuff will have to wait. This is what’s been told to black oystermen on the Gulf Coast who have been trying to recover since the 2010 BP oil disaster, as seen in Nailah Jefferson’s amazing documentary Vanishing Pearls (which DuVernay helped produce). It’s been said to African Americans in the town of Turkey Creek, Miss., by developers and elected officials who sought to wipe it off the map to build shopping strips and casinos, as seen in Leah Mahan’s Come Hell or High Water.

Together, these films remind us how much African Americans have had to sacrifice to help perfect this union called America, and also how far away we are from that goal. This year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of President Clinton signing Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice, the 50th anniversary of President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act, and the 50th anniversary ofFreedom Summer. Continuing those struggles, over 400,000 people marched in New York City for climate justice. This was also the year that far too many black men — Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford III and, damn, just before Christmas, Antonio Martin — were all killed by police, and with little penalty for it. This is simply immoral and unsustainable.

Eric Garner and Michael Brown Ferguson protests in Seattle on 12/6/14.
Eric Garner and Michael Brown Ferguson protests in Seattle on 12/6/14
scottlum

Ask me how we did on environmental justice this year, and I can only say I feel like we are — to borrow from another DuVernaygem — in the “middle of nowhere.” What I think matters less, though, than the thoughts of those on the battlefield fighting for justice to take its rightful, central place in our lives. I reached out to some of those people to get their take on what progress environmental justice made in 2014, and where they’d like to see it go in the new year.

Jumping off the discussion was Robert Bullard, who is widely considered the grand patriarch of the EJ movement and who was honored by the Sierra Club this year when the organizationcreated an award in his name. Said Bullard:

“In February, the nation commemorated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Environmental Justice Executive Orderissued by President Bill Clinton. The executive order has yet to be fully implemented. Environmental justice leaders celebrated their victories in 2014, and quickly got back to work on the many challenges facing their constituents. My “Top 6” wish list for 2015 is pragmatic and doable with some elbow grease and determination:

1. The U.S. Green Groups need to declare 2015 the “year of diversity” followed by an aggressive action plan with numerical goals to address their lack of diversity. People of color comprise less than 16 percent of employees at environmental institutions.

2. The EJ movement would achieve a major victory in 2015 if the philanthropic community implemented the winningstrategy put forth by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy 2012 report that recommended targeted funding at communities most impacted by environmental harms.

3. Implement a “southern initiative” on climate justice to address the region’s unique environmental vulnerability andsocial vulnerability legacy.

4. Implement the 20-Point Plan to Address Environmental Health Disparities developed in 2011 as part of a W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded initiative.

5. Build strong coalitions to make sure that when states develop plans for reducing carbon emissions under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, those plans ensure equity for low-income communities of color.

6. We need President Obama and congressional Democrats to aggressively resist and stand firm against Republicansand their right-wing allies’ attempts to weaken the EPA, derail climate action planning, dismantle Obamacare, and roll back civil rights and worker rights.”

Next up was Leslie Fields, Sierra Club’s national environmental justice director, who has put in decades of work in helping grassroots organizations find justice for overburdened communities:

“2014 brought us the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the 20th anniversary of the EO 12898. The promise and mandate of both laws were not fulfilled in terms of environmental justice. The Interagency Working Group on EJ needs to emphasize enforcement of [the Civil Rights Act’s] Title VI throughout all the agencies. With Executive Order 12898, all rules need to include an EJ analysis. EPA created an excellent EJ analysis with the Definition of Solid Waste rule and EPA should incorporate that analysis in every rule that is promulgated. The holy grail for EJ communities is acumulative impacts standard. We will be working towards that standard in 2015 and beyond.”

As I wrote about back in May, Civil Rights Act enforcement has been one of EPA’s weakest links, but there’s little justice to find in environmental policy without it. Steven Fischbach, the longtime community lawyer for Rhode Island Legal Services, explains this well, especially in terms of how it relates to other environmental matters:

“The strength of the EJ movement still lies primarily at the local level. Grassroots activists can muster the battle to defeat specific projects, but have failed to score major victories on the national level. Keystone XL’s future looks a lot brighter since the GOP took the Senate, and while progress has been made on Chemical Security issues, there has been little, if any, progress on getting EPA to properly enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.  Looks like the promise for 2015 lies in connecting EJ work to #blacklivesmatter, and kudos to [New York City Environmental Justice Alliance executive director] Eddie Bautista for his efforts to connect air pollution to high asthma rates in communities of color in the wake of Eric Garner’s death. “I Can’t Breathe” could become a way to connect EJ to the broader movement for racial justice, and bring a new generation of activists into EJ work.”

For Brent Newell, legal director of the Oakland, Calif.-based Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, progress has as much to do with historic civil rights as it does with present-day policies around regulating greenhouse gases:

“During 2014, the intersection between climate change and environmental justice came to the forefront as Gina McCarthy advanced her most important rule and the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate policy: the Clean Power Plan. National progress on environmental justice in 2015 will ultimately be measured by what happens with the Clean Power Plan. Though EPA touted public health benefits in its media strategy, the proposed rule seeks to allow states to use pollution trading schemes like “cap and trade,” which allows power plants to avoid on-site pollution reductions by purchasing “offsets,” or pollution reductions from somewhere else (e.g. a tree planting operation in Brazil). EJ communities already suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change, they should not also suffer from the impacts of climate policy. Whether environmental justice will progress at the national level in 2015 will depend on whether McCarthy will use her existing authority under the Clean Air Act and Civil Rights Act to protect communities. And also, whether the big green groups will change their positions by opposing cap and trade.”

Author Brentin Mock participated in an environmental justice panel at this year's SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas.
An environmental justice panel at this year’s SXSW Eco in Austin, Texas featured Robert Bullard (third from left), Jordan Howard (third from right), and Tony Reames (far right).
Brentin Mock

Newell, Fields, Fischbach, and Bullard have long been entrenched in campaigns for EJ, and have the battle scars and medals to prove it. I’ve learned a lot from them and many more like them over the years. One highlight for me this year, however, was sharing the stage in October at SXSW Eco with young advocates representing the future of the movement. I reached out to a few of them to gather their reflections. Said Tony G. Reames, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment:

“As an alumnus of [the historically black college/university or HBCU] North Carolina A&T, I was inspired to learn that an assembly of HBCU students were among the estimated 400,000 who participated in the 2014 People’s Climate March. Climate change is an environmental justice issue, with disproportionate environmental and social impacts on the areas where many HBCUs are located and the populations these institutions serve. In 2015, I look forward to increased dialogue between policymakers, academics, corporate interests, and communities, and meaningful action on the inherent inequalities in climate change mitigation and adaption.”

Said Jordan Howard, founder of GenYnot:

“Across the nation, millennials are mobilizing and holding the institutions that are failing us accountable. Conversations that began online through hashtags have grown into movements that are beginning to shift policy. As the environmental movement continues to attempt to sell the nation on preserving our planet, black millennials are echoing #BlackLivesMatter across the world. If there was ever was a more perfect time for environmental justice it’s now. How do we create resilient communities that value black life? Unlike Sway, our environmental justice leaders got the answers.”

You probably noticed that many of these people are emphasizing the connection of their environmental work with the Black Lives Matter protests. It is an important connection to make, indeed. Environmental advocate Judy Hatcher, president of the Pesticide Action Network, has pushed her organization into bravely taking a stance on this. Despite criticism from some of PAN’s members for this, Hatcher has remained optimistic:

“I’m excited about progress this year that may result in real changes for America’s farmworkers. The EPA is finally taking steps to revise the Worker Protection Standard, and the Equitable Food Initiative and other certification programs got real traction in 2014. I’m heartened to see the types of folks who come together around the Black Urban Gardeners, the Detroit Black Food Security Network and similar groups. And on the crisis/opportunity front, seeing so many ‘green’ allies searching for real ways to stand in solidarity with the #blacklivesmatters movement meant a lot to me personally, as an African American.”

Few have had their finger on the pulse of progress like Jalonne L. White-Newsome, federal policy analyst for WE ACT for Environmental Justice, who said:

“Justice in 2015 starts with accountability. Accountability within our federal agencies and accountability in the broader community. The intentional, thoughtful, and permanent inclusion of environmental justice in all federal rule-making processes — from concept to implementation — is my wish for 2015. But we also need to hold ourselves accountable — the faith, social justice, and the environmental justice community. It’s time to leave our egos behind and truly come together with a united voice, under a united agenda.”

Also Nikki Silvestri, the former executive director of Green For All:

“In 2014, environmental justice showed signs of being more fully integrated into larger discussions of the environment. The National Climate Assessment’s section on indigenous communities was comprehensive and devastating. There was also attention given in the rest of the report to the disproportionate impact of climate destabilization on people of color. The largest climate demonstration in the world, the People’s Climate March, held environmental justice and indigenous communities issues at the center. The new challenge in front of us, in 2015, will be the integration of environmental justice with other immediate forms of justice. As Naomi Klein so eloquently put it, #blacklivesmatter when it comes to police brutality AND climate change.”

There’s a lot of optimism and wisdom shared in these responses, all of which we will need as we head into congressional terms led by lawmakers with avowed hostilities toward anything environmental or justice-related. Which is why I’m thankful for all who stood up, died-in, and marched forward for safer, cleaner communities for all of us, from Selma to Ferguson and beyond.

More by Brentin Mock

Watch the year’s biggest climate stories in 2 minutes

December 29, 2014

 

This was a big year for climate news, good and bad. In June, the Obama administration took its biggest step yet in the fight against global warming by introducing regulations to limit greenhouse gases from existing power plants. And while there was plenty ofanti-science rhetoric and opposition to climate action (no, the polar vortex does not disprove climate change), the year came to a dramatic end with at least three landmark climate-related stories: In September, hundreds of thousands of protesters around the world marched to demand climate action. November’s historic deal between the U.S. and China to curb greenhouse emissions breathed new life into international climate negotiations. And finally, after a series of last-minute compromises, leaders from nearly 200 countries produced the Lima accord, which, for the first time, calls on all nations to develop plans to limit their emissions. All eyes are now on Paris, where next year world leaders will meet in an attempt to work out a major global warming deal.

This story was produced as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.


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