FOSSIL Chomsky FUELS at UNC Parr September 2010
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Chomsky says fossil fuel dependence disastrous
On Thursday, Noam Chomsky practiced his right to free speech by telling a crowd of nearly 800 that the human race is doomed — unless it takes action.
"Once you go up the scale of intelligence, life becomes less probable," Chomsky said.
Chomsky, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguistics professor and prominent intellectual, appeared in Gerrard Hall and the Student Union as part of the second annual First Amendment Day.
The first event, hosted by UNC's Parr Center for Ethics,
FULL CAPACITY - NO TICKETS AVAILABLE
was a brief lecture on the environment followed by several questions. The second event was a Q&A session where students had an hour to ask Chomsky whatever they wanted.
He said society's dependence on fossil fuels could be disastrous for the human race. He also discussed corporations' roles in making the public dependant on fossil fuels through what he called "social engineering."
"We had preexisting infrastructures that were dismantled," he said, referencing the railroad and trolley systems of the past. (watch the movie "WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR")
In the Q&A session, he answered questions ranging from freedom of speech to the two-party system.
"The spectrum in which they work is pretty narrow," he said, referring to the two-party system. He said that the U.S. political system is a one party system — "The Business Party."
He also expressed concern over freedom of speech, noting that a person can be charged with supporting terrorists if they give advice to a known terrorist organization.
"Noam Chomsky is one of the most important minds today," said Pete Mills, co-chairman of Advocates for Human Rights, a committee of the Campus Y, which hosted the Q&A session. "And this is a chance for students and the general public to interact with him. The opportunity to do this isn't going to be around forever."
Chomsky argued that the terror list is completely arbitrary, and a lot of the organizations on the terrorist list are simply organizations that the President Barack Obama's administration doesn't like.
"Noam Chomsky is an extraordinary intellectual and human rights activist, both in the scope and breadth of his activities," said Hayden Rose, a freshman who attended the Q&A session.
"For someone whose worldview has been so largely shaped by Chomsky, seeing him speak in person for the first time was an incredible experience," Rose said.
WXYC will rebroadcast the lecture on Sunday at 5 p.m.
dailytarheel.com Staff Writer Sophia Zhang contributed reporting.
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor and Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at MIT, provides the keynote lecture for the Parr Center's upcoming series on environmental ethics. Professor Chomsky has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy.
Making the Transition to Sustainability
By Francis de Winter
September 8, 2000
As is well documented on this www.hubbertpeak.com website, the existing energy establishment has managed to mislead the public on the dependability of future crude oil and natural gas supplies, by distorting the information the public gets from the company PR departments, from industry associations and institutions, from the media, and even from virtually all of the national and international government agencies. The world has been kept unaware of the fact that a forced transition to energy sustainability is imminent because of the depletion of petroleum and natural gas.
The energy establishment has also managed to line up enormous government subsidies for itself over the last 140 years or so, and it has such close relations with national and international government leaders that official energy policies tend to favor the energy establishment at the expense of the public, and especially at the expense of future generations. That is, of course, how the existing subsidies that currently distort the so-called "free market" were created in the first place.
For the next few decades humanity must work very hard to make a successful and peaceful transition from a fossil fuel powered economy to an economy based on sustainable energy. In the process, a new corporate landscape will emerge, in which some of the present companies and/or industries may shrink or disappear, and in which some new companies and industries will emerge, grow, and prosper. That is inevitable, yet it need not be disastrous for those companies that find themselves in an economic niche that is no longer profitable. Nothing except a lack of vision will prevent them from making a skillful transition to a new niche that is profitable, without the destruction of the company or a serious reduction of its profits.
The energy transition can only be made peacefully and successfully if government addresses the needs of the public, and is not excessively influenced by the demands of existing industry and commerce. If government tries to perpetuate private sector activities that society no longer needs, it can only lead to waste and misery. If the energy transition is mishandled, the outcome could be disastrous: it might well be the worst case "Olduvai Gorge" scenario of Dr. Richard Duncan, with ignorance, intolerance, terrorism, oil wars, destruction of civil liberties, epidemics, famine, population collapse, and environmental disaster. If things are done right, there is however every reason to believe that a sustainable world of the future can be better than the consumerist world we have now.
The first step is to recognize and understand the current situation: the degree to which some corporate interests have gained almost full control over US government power.
RECOGNIZING AND UNDERSTANDING THE BEHAVIOR OF THE USA
The Constitution of the USA is a much admired document, as are many of the other basic documents that were written by the founding fathers of the USA. Lech Walesa of Poland knew many of these documents virtually by heart. They provided much of the inspiration to his quest for Polish freedom, and they have been an inspiration to many others for several centuries.
In view of these basic documents, one might expect the USA to be a country in which freedom is a basic right and democracy is a reality, and which in its dealings with other countries and peoples also promotes freedom, tolerance, democracy, wellbeing, and equal rights and opportunities. In practice however the USA often supports (and even creates) extremely brutal, destructive, and corrupt dictatorships in other nations, and the only demands on the dictator seem to be that they be helpful to US financial interests and hostile to "the enemies" (i.e. the rivals) of the USA. On many occasions the USA has supplied such dictators with an endless stream of arms and of military and "intelligence" personnel, which the dictators were then free to use (or even required to use) to promote the alleged cause of "freedom, democracy, and justice" by brutalizing and killing many thousands of their own citizens. On many occasions the USA has seemed to be entirely committed to keeping the lower classes of other countries (and even of the USA itself) as poor and as miserable as possible. On many occasions other countries have been used primarily to provide profits for a few US companies, with no concern for the environment, the population, or the future. US Indian reservations and US government (BLM) areas in the USA have often been mismanaged in the same way.
This is not a recent development. When the US constitution was written, the authors included wealthy people who preserved the institution of slavery, and who inserted provisions that would help protect their own wealth and power. In the 19th century and early 20th century, the USA started its involvement in other parts of the world: in Mexico, the Philippines, Central America, China, Japan, Africa, and elsewhere. This involvement was often brutal and destructive right from the start. Already early in the 19th century, Simon Bolivar observed that: "the United States seems destined to plague and torment the continent in the name of freedom." Simon Bolivar lived in Colombia and is like a George Washington for Latin America - Bolivia is named in his honor. The USA has not been kind to Colombia. The USA took the province of Panama away from Colombia by force, and installed a puppet government so that the USA could build, own and operate the Panama Canal on US terms. Late in the 19th century, the then President (and dictator) of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz, made a statement that has become legendary: "Pobre Mexico, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos." (Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the USA.) Few have questioned his judgment in this statement.
Many are disappointed and/or surprised by the corrupt and destructive US government behavior, and many have developed a rabid anti-US attitude. By and large, the written material on US foreign policy is confusing, split into bland and uninformed and deceptive chauvinism on the one side, and rabid anti-US material on the other side. There are few providing an intelligent explanation of US behavior, and there are many quiet but very confused people, in the USA and abroad.
Corruption and viciousness is not unique to the modern USA. For many centuries, in many nations, government has been corrupted to preserve and further enrich the establishment or the upper classes, and to keep the rabble - the lower classes - in line. International relations have often been vicious in the past. In the Opium War started by the British Empire, England (and other European superpowers) invaded China and inflicted enormous damage to defend their own opium dealers - to force China to buy British opium. The colonial history of England, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Portugal involved relationships which were parasitic and destructive, as vicious as necessary to maintain control, and as hypocritical as necessary to hide the facts. Few realize that the number of people killed by these "civilized" European countries in their colonies exceeds, by very far, the number of people killed by Germany in Hitler's holocaust.
Prof. Noam Chomsky has for decades been a very perceptive and articulate critic of US foreign and economic policy. He has explained, time and again, with a myriad of examples, why and how the USA behaves the way it does. In essence, such behavior is almost inevitable for a superpower. The US government is able to blackmail or force almost any country in the world (including the USA itself) to behave in a way that will be profitable to some specific US company. Is it surprising that these companies find it very easy and profitable to bribe corrupt US politicians and bureaucrats to get their way? Is it surprising that they spend an enormous amount of money and effort to ensure the election or appointment of US civil servants that will be obedient to them? Is it surprising that they are very hypocritical and deceptive, and that Washington is just as deceptive and hypocritical? It would indeed be surprising if all of this were not the end result of the US superpower status.
In support of the fossil fuel industry, the US government has helped to addict society to fossil fuels, and has helped to keep the limitations of the fossil fuel resources a mystery. This is documented in detail in other parts of this website, and it is clear we must start the transition away from fossil fuels. This will lead to many changes. People and things are now being shipped large distances, in a transportation system almost totally dependent on fossil fuels. Much of the travel will be replaced with internet communications, agriculture will become more local, and food may become more seasonal. In a society with sustainable energy sources, much of the electricity and heating will come from rooftop solar collectors and from windfarms. Energy, agriculture, and politics are likely to become more decentralized, with local people playing a larger role. Many corporations will experience rapid growth, while others may have to struggle for survival. To move towards sustainability it will be essential for us to release the stranglehold that large corporations at present have on government, and Dr. Chomsky's writings provide the clearest view on the challenge we face in this. It is indeed likely that many readers in nations other than the USA will recognize in Dr. Chomsky's books the clues to the corrupt symbiotic relationship between their own government and those who are manipulating that government for their own benefit.
Read the material of Dr. Chomsky for more details, and remember that chauvinism and patriotism are not the same. It is indeed the utmost of patriotism to criticize government delinquency - to demand proper behavior of the government of one's own country, i.e. of one's own civil and military servants. It should be obvious that it does not benefit the USA to harm the populations of other nations, particularly when this is only done for the benefit of a few US companies that are unable or unwilling to behave properly, and that do not care.
ABOUT NOAM CHOMSKY
Dr. Chomsky is Institute Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. He has made many interesting contributions to linguistics. He was the first to propose that young children learn their native language with such a surprising rapidity since the brain is custom-made (with language circuitry) for this task, and since all human languages are really quite similar. Language indeed probably simply reflects the power of the brain. Dr. Chomsky is also a persistent critic in domestic and international politics, being especially critical of the behavior of the USA and of Israel. Dr. Chomsky has been an extremely prolific writer and speaker for many years, and he has been interviewed very frequently. This has led to a large number of books (some only in paperback) from many publishers, and to many lectures and speeches which can be found on the internet or in short documents.
Dr. Chomsky wrote to me and expressed concern about being the only author mentioned in this material. He mentioned that there are many others who have written about these topics and who have publications worth reading, and that this is the reason he has used so many footnotes in his books. Most authors have however written about specific topics, like the Vietnam War, the Iran-Contra scandal, the US secret war against Nicaragua, or other specific cases of US government corruption and criminality inside or outside of the USA. That is like writing about specific symptoms of a disease. Dr. Chomsky has for long been concerned about the disease, and in the process he has addressed many of the symptoms. The Chomsky diagnosis of the disease is quite conclusive, and if you start by reading the Chomsky material you will have no problem finding the other authors. There is indeed a very rich literature on this very painful topic.