Noam Chomsky, the famed linguist, philosopher, and political commentator has recently taken part in aninterview with the Guardian, to discuss Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper’s exploitation of the Alberta tar sands in an effort to pursue economic development no matter the cost.
“It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it’s shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result,” he said.
Referencing the indigenous Canadian’s opposition to the expansion plans at the Alberta tar sands, one of the most polluting and fastest growing sources of oil in the world, Chomsky said that “it is pretty ironic that the so-called ‘least advanced’ people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction.”
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Recently, in response to an indigenous movement called ‘Idle No More’, which was set up to oppose Harper’s aggressive promotion and expansion of polluting tar sands projects and his disregard for the environment, armed Canadian police forces raided a camp of shale gas protestors in New Brunswick. A sign that the conflict between the government and environmentalists is becoming more heavy-handed.
Chomsky explained that the calls to save the environment are currently ineffective, and that they must be worded in a way that emphasises how fighting climate change is can improve people’s lives.
“If it’s a prophecy of doom, it will act as a dampener, and people’s reaction will be ok, I’ll enjoy myself for a couple of years while there’s still a chance. But as a call to action, it can be energising. Like, do you want your children, and grandchildren, to have a decent life?”
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He suggests that mass transportation, localised agriculture, and higher energy efficiency are easy ways to reduce energy consumption and therefore reduce emissions, giving an example that it is much better for an individual, and the environment, to spend 10 minutes on the underground travelling across a city, than an hour stuck in traffic on the surface.
One of the greatest foes of climate change, according to Chomsky, are the markets. “Markets are lethal, if only because of ignoring externalities, the impacts of their transactions on the environment. When you turn to energy production, in market exchanges each participant is asking what can I gain from it? You don’t ask what are the costs to others. In this case the cost to others is the destruction of the environment. So the externalities are not trivial.”
After the 2008 financial crisis banks were able to ignore free market systems and ask the government to bail them out, unfortunately “in the case of the environment there’s no one to bail it out,” and it is fast approaching a major crisis point.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
- Chomsky slams tar sands and fracking plans (theguardian.com)
- Noam Chomsky: Canada on Fast-Speed Race ‘to Destroy the Environment’ (commondreams.org)