Saturday, November 26, 2016

According to Noam Chomsky, We Missed the Biggest News of November 8

Tuesday, November 8th will long be remembered by many Americans, if not even most Americans, as a historically important day. Not only was it an election day during a presidential election year but, to boot, the election of Donald Trump marked an important turning point in American history. Depending on who you talk to, that could either be good or bad. In most cases, people hold very strong opinions on the subject either way. 

His victory was shocking to many who did not see it coming, and elicited tearful reactions from people who viewed him as a vile monster and/or a pseudo-fascist. Many viewed his triumph as a step backwards for the country, and the celebrations by some who traditionally are on the fringes of American society - particularly supporters of the alt-right movement that has ties to white supremacists - has dispirited many. 

Indeed, the election that brought Trump to power and, in many ways, served to lend some legitimacy to his loudmouthed lies and trademark arrogance, made the world take notice. Coming just months after the shock of the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, Trump's victory probably was an even greater seismic shock, making it hard for the rest of the world to ignore. How could anyone overlook what is still the world's leading superpower electing such a man into it's highest office?

Yet, it might not even have been the biggest news of that day. Indeed, the news story that was cast in the shadows of the election may indeed prove to have longer lasting ramifications for all of humanity than the election of one man into political office, no matter how shocking it may have seemed, or how much it might swing the political agenda of one country.

Noted thinker Noam Chomsky is arguing that, in fact, the biggest news story that should serve as a wake-up call to us all was largely overlooked. It underscored a problem that the world has neglected for far too long and, in fact, the other big news story of the day - namely, the election victory of a noted climate change denier - actually could serve to make far, far worse before his time in office is done. 

Yes, the other big news story is regarding climate change, which most of the rest of the world acknowledges, but which Americans seem reluctant to accept, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of it from experts in the field around the world. Many Americans dismiss climate change as some kind of elaborate hoax, conjured up either by the CIA, or as Trump suggests, China, in order to limit America's economic potential. In this day and age, facts seem to be viewed not merely with skepticism, but with outright disdain, and conspiracy theories abound, with so many millions of people believing basically whatever they want, even when the facts strongly go against these beliefs.

Unfortunately, climate change denial has become one of those points that detractors stubbornly make a point of discrediting. Many of the same people who argue against it are, by their own admission, not experts, and do not bother even trying to understand the science behind these "theories." Yet, these same people - supposed leaders like Donald Trump and Jim Inhoffe and many, many elected Republican officials holding high office - are somehow seen as authorities in the field. This undeserved status is serving to make the United States a laughing stock of the world regarding this particular issue - and it is not the first or second or third time that this is the case. For a long time, now, the United States has collectively refused to believe in the science of climate change. It is nothing new. It was the case when George H. W. Bush refused to recognize the Rio climate conference during his presidency more than a quarter of a century ago. It was the case when his son claimed he would be the "environmental president" but cited new research as the basis for breaking his promise to be strong in this field, just two short months into his presidency (although he did admit that climate change was apparently real in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It has been the case for a long time, in fact, as other countries have taken the lead in efforts to combat climate change, while Americans continue to drag their feet and mock this "conspiracy" while driving their gas-guzzling SUV's and wasting far more energy per person than any other nationality on this planet. Most recently, it was the case with the election not only of a climate change denier into the Oval Office, but providing him with a very clear Republican majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, thus empowering Trump to further dismantle the already too weak environmental laws of the land. 

As an American, I feel ashamed when I hear that a country as tiny as Iceland - with a population far smaller than that of tiny states like Vermont or Wyoming - is nonetheless ahead of the world's leading superpower in the development of alternative energy. 

Chomsky, like others, has seen all of this. And he warns that time is running out, that the threat is real, and that the scientific reality of climate change is proceeding regardless of whether Americans, or anyone else, chooses to ignore the warning signs. Chomsky recently said:

I think it is important to spend a few moments pondering just what happened on November 8, a date that might turn out to be one of the most important in human history, depending on how we react.  …

On November 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22) which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28% below the average of the previous 29 years, not only raising sea levels, but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts.

Yes, the world is getting warmer, even though it does not prevent some moron in Congress from bringing in a snowball and making a mockery of his country, his government, his party, and of science, in order to disprove what is clearly a global reality.

The fact of the matter is that Americans need new leadership. Not just in the White House, but everywhere. We need leaders who are not just going to smile pretty for the cameras and say things like, "God Bless America," and keep reiterating that this is the greatest country in the world, all while allowing the corporate world to suck out so much of what made the country great in the first place. What we need are real leaders who recognize scientific reality, and actually do something about it. We need leaders who, as Jimmy Carter did almost four decades ago, realize that nothnig is stationary or static in this world, and that American leadership around the world is not systematic, but requires an ability on our part to recognize, accept, and adapt to changes, even if we might not want to. If we allow ourselves to indulge in the luxury of believing whatever we want to believe, others are going to quickly leave us in the dust. That already has happened in some areas, but in this one area in particular, we not only have not taken the lead, but have become a laughing stock for our trademark dragging of our feet, and stubborn reluctance to accept reality.

Trump is apparently not going to be such a leader. Some find him a refreshing change, although most people outside of the United States recognize that, in fact, he is very much representative of all of the worst traits that Americans sometimes are known for outside of our borders. He is loud, crass, very opinionated and arrogant, incredibly greedy and narcissistic, with a false sense of entitlement. He has a long history of being a con man, but he might have pulled his greatest con this year, by winning the election. Now, he is the face of the country for at least the next four years, and once again, I find myself slapping my forehead in frustration, as the country's reputation takes yet another hit, and a major one at that!

What is wrong with Trump is that he is more of the same, and nowhere is that as apparent as with his stance on climate change. But the time when the rest of the world looked to the United States for real leadership on this key issue has long passed, and they have gotten used to our national absence in aiming for strong, meaningful change to try and make the world a cleaner and better place. Here, short term profits apparently outweigh a healthy planet.

As for those of us inside of American borders, and feeling a bit trapped, many of us have already turned away from not only our "political leaders," but from our broken political process in general. I know that is the case for me, where the people I most admire, and feel can offer a real change, and generally represent the best that the country has to offer, almost exclusively are outside of the political sphere. With an election year that disgusted so many people inside and outside of the country, and which was surely the most pro-corporate election season to date (and isn't that a depressing thought!), to end up with a supposed rebel like Trump is like a cruel joke. At this point, we need to look elsewhere but from Washington for any real answers on how to make this a better country and, by so doing, a better world.

We could do worse than listen to the warnings from a an intellectual like Noam Chomsky.

Noam Chomsky thinks the biggest news of November 8 was actually ‘barely noted’ by Ari Phillips, Nov. 15, 2016:

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