To the best of my memory, I first met Noam Chomsky in 1970. No, admittedly not in person, not then. But I “met” him through his remarkable essay “After Pinkville,” his look, in the midst of the Vietnam War, at a world of My Lai massacres. (The hamlets that included My Lai had been known to the U.S. military as “Pinkville.”) As he wrote at the time, grimly enough, “The world’s most advanced society has found the answer to people’s war: eliminate the people.” I was then a printer at the New England Free Press, a “movement” print shop, and though his essay appeared initially in the New York Review of Books, we printed up our own little edition for the bookshelf of movement literature we were then widely distributing. I was overwhelmed by the power of the piece and by the thinking of the man who wrote it.
I would, in fact, eventually meet Noam in person and edit and publish two of his books (Hegemony or Survival, America’s Quest for Global Dominance and Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy) while launching the American Empire Project series with Steve Fraser at Metropolitan Books. Then, unexpectedly finding myself producing what became TomDispatch, I would end up publishing 20 of Noam’s pieces at this website between 2003 and 2016. You won’t be surprised to learn that I felt honored. In these years, quite honestly, Noam Chomsky has been something like a force of nature, a single mind that has continually taken in the world in a way few others could. And so, I find myself proud indeed to be publishing an interview scientist Stan Cox has just done with him about the ultimate issue on this planet when it comes to our lives and those of our children and grandchildren: Can we make it?
Cox himself is the author of a new book, The Path to a Liveable Future, as well as The Green New Deal and Beyond, that Chomsky wrote a forward to (a recommendation in itself). Check both of them out and, in the meantime, consider the thoughts of the man who has, for more than half a century, grasped and highlighted our problems in a unique fashion. You can count on one thing: whatever he does in the years to come, it won’t include, like 90-year-old William Shatner, heading into space with Jeff Bezos and crew. In a sense, Chomsky has been in space all along, looking down on this woebegone planet of ours and absorbing it in a way few others have done. It’s a record for the ages. Tom
Or Will Rich Corporations Trash the Planet?
This month will mark a critical juncture in the struggle to avoid climate catastrophe. At the COP26 global climate summit kicking off next week in Glasgow, Scotland, negotiators will be faced with the urgent need to get the world economy off the business-as-usual track that will take the Earth up to and beyond 3 degrees Celsius of excess heating before this century’s end, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Yet so far, the pledges of rich nations to cut greenhouse-gas emissions have been far too weak to rein in the temperature rise. Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s climate plans hang in the balance. If Congress fails to pass the reconciliation bill, the next opportunity for the United States to take effective climate action may not arise until it’s too late.
For the past several decades, Noam Chomsky has been one of the most forceful and persuasive voices confronting injustice, inequity, and the threat posed by human-caused climate chaos to civilization and the Earth. I was eager to know Professor Chomsky’s views on the roots of our current dire predicament and on humanity’s prospects for emerging from this crisis into a livable future. He very graciously agreed to speak with me by way of a video chat. The text here is an abridged version of a conversation we had on October 1, 2021.Read More