Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe

Overview

“There are two problems for our species’ survival—nuclear war and environmental catastrophe, ” says Noam Chomsky in this new book on the two existential threats of our time and their points of intersection since World War II.

While a nuclear strike would require action, environmental catastrophe is partially defined by willful inaction in response to human-induced climate change. Denial of the facts is only half the equation. Other contributing factors include extreme techniques for the extraction of ...

See more details below
Paperback
$11.76
BN.com price
(Save 15%)$13.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (16) from $5.16   
  • New (12) from $7.60   
  • Used (4) from $5.16   
Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 24%)$13.95 List Price

Overview

“There are two problems for our species’ survival—nuclear war and environmental catastrophe, ” says Noam Chomsky in this new book on the two existential threats of our time and their points of intersection since World War II.

While a nuclear strike would require action, environmental catastrophe is partially defined by willful inaction in response to human-induced climate change. Denial of the facts is only half the equation. Other contributing factors include extreme techniques for the extraction of remaining carbon deposits, the elimination of agricultural land for bio-fuel, the construction of dams, and the destruction of forests that are crucial for carbon sequestration.

On the subject of current nuclear tensions, Chomsky revisits the long-established option of a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East, a proposal set in motion through a joint Egyptian Iranian General Assembly resolution in 1974.

Intended as a warning, Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe is also a reminder that talking about the unspeakable can still be done with humor, with wit and indomitable spirit.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This collection of interviews with revered American linguist, historian, political critic, and activist Chomsky reads at times like a "Chomsky for Beginners" or greatest hits compilation mixed with some fresh insights on current political and economic issues. The book's central problem is its structure, most evident in its misleading title. Though Chomsky sharply critiques America's lack of green tech-nology, blames America for nuclear damage in Iraq, and attacks its arrogant attempt to control the arms race, these are hardly the two central themes of the book. However, the volume is still rich with Chomsky's opinions; he debunks present day hysterias like overblown threats from Iran or aggressive posturing by China. Perhaps the most interesting part of the Q & A format is Polk's constant attempts to bait Chomsky into Republican-specific attacks (the Koch brothers, Santorum, the religious right), a simplistic trap that Chomsky doesn't fall into. As Kennedy gets hit as hard as Nixon, so Obama takes his licks as much as Reagan. In the end, Chomsky argues that environmentalist hopes lay with one of the world's poorest countries, Bolivia—which has passed laws granting rights to nature—while Amer-ica, the richest, fracks the very ground beneath its feet. (May)
From the Publisher
“In this brief but hard-hitting paperback, linguist and radical intellectual Noam Chomsky and writer/artist Laray Polk share their conversations between 2010 and 2012 on the precarious state of things in the world.”
—Spirituality and Practice 
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609804541
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2013
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 652,703
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

NOAM CHOMSKY is an internationally renowned linguist, as well as a leading radical intellectual. His many political books include, from Seven Stories, 9-11, Profit over People, and Media Control. His views have profoundly influenced both scientific and political thought around the world for the last half-century.

LARAY POLK
  is a multimedia artist and writer. Her articles and investigative reports have appeared in the Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, and In These Times. As a 2009 grant recipient from The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, she exposed a radioactive waste disposal site in Texas situated in close proximity to the Ogallala Aquifer.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe


By Noam Chomksy

Seven Stories Press

Copyright © 2013 Noam Chomksy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781609804541

Preface
If humans choose to work to minimize the existential threats of our time, perhaps the most improbable aspect of remedy is that we will accept modalities based on collaboration and creative adaptation, rather than perpetual combat and domination.  It is a stark fact that present and future economies are predicated on a finite energy resource: carbon-based fuels.2 Consensual science on climate change presents another fact: we may only have a few years to make adjustments in the collective carbon load before we are faced with irreversible consequences. As Christian Parenti in Tropic of Chaos perceptively and correctly points out:
“[E]ven if all greenhouse gas emissions stopped immediately—that is, if the world economy collapsed today, and not a single light bulb was switched on nor a single gasoline-powered motor started ever again—there is already enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to cause significant warming and disruptive climate change, and with that considerably more poverty, violence, social dislocation, forced migration, and political upheaval. Thus we must find humane and just means of adaptation, or we face barbaric prospects.”
 
Seen in this light, to live collaboratively and creatively is less a radical proposal than a pragmatic one, if we, future generations, and the biosphere are to survive nuclear war and environmental catastrophe.
Laray Polk Dallas, Texas September 2012
1.
 
Environmental Catastrophe
Laray Polk: When we began this conversation in 2010, our starting point was a statement you had recently made in the press: “There are two problems for our species’ survival— nuclear war and environmental catastrophe.” What is meant by “environmental catastrophe”?
 
Noam Chomsky: Actually, quite a lot of things. The major one is anthropogenic global warming—human contribution to global warming, greenhouse gases, others—but that’s only a part of it. There are other sources of what’s called pollution—the destruction of the environment—that are quite serious: erosion, the elimination of agricultural land, and turning agricultural land into biofuel, which has had a severe effect on hunger. It’s not just an environmental problem; it’s a human problem. Building dams and cutting down the Amazon forests has ecological consequences—there are thousands of things and the problems are getting a lot worse.
For one reason, because of the role of the United States. I mean, nobody’s got a wonderful role in this, but as long as the United States is dragging down the entire world, which is what it’s doing now, nothing significant is going to happen on these issues. The US has to at least be seriously taking part and should be well in the lead. It’s kind of ironic; if you look at this hemisphere, the country that is well in the lead in trying to do something serious about the environment is the poorest country in South America, Bolivia. They recently passed laws granting rights to nature.1 It comes out of the indigenous traditions, largely—the indigenous majority, they’ve got the government advocating on their behalf. Sophisticated Westerners can laugh at that, but Bolivia is going to have the last laugh.
Anyway, they’re doing something. In the global system, they’re in the lead, along with indigenous communities in Ecuador. Then there’s the richest country—not only in the hemisphere, but in world history—the richest, most powerful country, which is not only doing nothing, but is going backward. Congress is now dismantling some of the legislation and institutions put into operation by our last liberal president, Richard Nixon, which is an indication of where we are. In addition, there’s a great enthusiasm about tapping new sources of fossil fuels and doing it in ways which are extremely environmentally destructive: water and other resources are destroyed through fracking and deep-sea drilling. Anywhere you can find anything that you can use to destroy the environment, they’re going after it with great enthusiasm. It’s like issuing a death sentence on the species.
And what makes it worse is that a lot of it is being done out of principle—that it’s not problematic, that it’s what we ought to be doing. In a sense, the same is true of nuclear weapons. They’re justified on the grounds that we need them for defense—we don’t need them for defense—but the argument for moving forward toward disaster is a conscious, explicit argument that is widely believed. With regard to the environment and the United States, there is also quite a substantial propaganda campaign, funded by the major business organizations, which are quite frank about it. The US Chamber of Commerce and others are trying to convince people that it’s not our problem, or that it’s not even real.
If you look at the latest Republican primary campaign, virtually every participant simply denies climate change. One candidate, Jon Huntsman, said he thinks it is real, but he was so far out of the running, it didn’t matter.5 Michele Bachmann said something to the effect, “Well, it could be real, but if it is, it’s God’s punishment for allowing gay marriage.” Whatever the world thinks, they can’t do much if this is going on in the United States.
In Congress, among the latest cohort of Republican House representatives from 2010, almost all are global-warming deniers and are acting to cut back legislation to block anything meaningful, and to roll back the little that exists. I mean, it’s surreal. If someone were watching this from Mars, they wouldn’t believe what was happening on Earth.
Hugo Chávez gave a speech at the United Nations at one of the major General Assembly meetings, and, of course, the press was full of ridicule and absurdities and so on. They didn’t mention the talk he gave. You can find the talk, I’m sure, on the Internet, in which he said that producers and consumers are going to have to get together and find ways to reduce reliance on hydrocarbons and fossil fuels.7 Of course, Venezuela is a major oil producer. In fact, practically the whole economy depends upon it; they’re a lot more reliant on oil than Texas is. So it can be done. We don’t have to be lunatics who are willing to sacrifice our grandchildren so that we can have a little more profit.
Actually, the whole Texas system is interesting. I’m sure you know the history, but back around 1958, the Eisenhower administration introduced an arrangement whereby the United States would rely on Texas oil: exhaust our domestic oil resources instead of using much cheaper and more accessible Saudi oil resources, for the benefit of Texas oil producers. And I think for the next fourteen years, the country relied primarily on Texas oil. Meaning, exhaust domestic resources and later on dig holes in the ground and pour oil back into them for strategic reserve. This was pretty sharply criticized even from a straight security point of view. An MIT faculty member, M. A. Adelman, an economist who is an oil specialist, testified before Congress on this, but it didn’t matter. Profits for Texas oil producers overwhelm even elementary security considerations like reliance on foreign oil.
That’s what it means to have a country that’s business-run, nothing else matters. It is the same reason we can’t have a health system like every other industrial country. The people who matter, the financial institutions, won’t allow it so it’s off the agenda.
 
The Koch brothers give large amounts of money to universities. In exchange they get a hand in choosing faculty.9 How corrosive is this practice?
 
Such practices would be extremely harmful, virtually by definition. If universities (journals, researchers) are to serve their public function in a free and democratic society, the institutions and the faculty must be scrupulous in rejecting outside pressures, particularly from funders, whether these are state or private. Funding should be flatly rejected if it comes with conditions such as those you describe.
 
Nine out of twelve Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee signed an Americans for Prosperity pledge to oppose regulation of greenhouse gases.10 To what degree are campaign contributions and pledges like this one stifling the political process on environmental issues in the US? And to what degree does US energy policy impact other countries?
 
The US is the richest and most powerful state in the world, by a large measure. Its policies on anything impact others. Energy policies in particular have an enormous impact, also on future generations, for reasons too well known to spell out again in detail here. The Republican pledge is simply another indication of abandonment of any pretense of participating in the political system as an authentic parliamentary party, instead taking on the role of lockstep uniformity in service to wealth and power. Dismantling the (much too weak) regulatory apparatus is simply a way of informing future generations that we care nothing about their fate as long as we and those we serve profit now. There is no doubt that campaign contributions have a significant effect on party programs and eventual government decisions, hence undermining democracy, if we understand democracy to be a system in which government decisions reflect the will of the public, not the power of those who can purchase outcomes with substantial contributions.
 
What are the factors that have led to conservative think tanks, largely funded by industry interests such as the Kochs and ExxonMobil, being able to hold sway over consensual science in terms of public opinion?11 Even if the science is hard to comprehend for most nonscientists, isn’t it evident what industries that fund climate-change skepticism stand to gain?
 
It is entirely evident. Major industries and lobbying organizations (US Chamber of Commerce, etc.) have been quite frank about their efforts to sway public opinion to question the overwhelming scientific consensus on the severe threat of anthropogenic global warming. There is no novelty in this. Industries that produce what they know to be lethal products (lead, tobacco, etc.) were able to use their wealth and power for long periods to continue their murderous activities unhampered. The effects have been dire, and continue to be, but they are even more ominous in the case of the intensive efforts to undermine steps that might preserve the possibility of a decent life for future generations—with effects already evident, but only a foretaste of much worse that is all too likely to come.
 
Is the fossil-fuel industry monolithic?

Continues...

Excerpted from Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe by Noam Chomksy Copyright © 2013 by Noam Chomksy. Excerpted by permission of Seven Stories Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)