by Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad |
Published: 00:00, Jan 09,2021
« I ran towards my house through a sea of flames », 1974, by Yoshiko Michitsuji. – Consortium News / Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
BIG parts of the world – outside of China and some other countries – are exposed to an out of control virus that has not been stopped due to the criminal incompetence of governments. That these governments in wealthy countries cynically put aside the basic scientific protocols published by the World Health Organization and scientific organizations shows their malevolent practice. Anything other than focused attention on managing the virus through testing, contact tracing, and isolation – and if that is not enough, a temporary ban is imposed – is foolhardy. It is also worrying that these richer countries have followed a policy of « vaccine nationalism » by keeping vaccine candidates in stock, rather than a policy of creating a « popular vaccine ». For the sake of humanity, it would be wise to suspend intellectual property rules and develop a process to create universal vaccines for all humans.
While the pandemic is the main problem on all of our minds, other main problems threaten the longevity of our species and our planet. These include:
In January 2020, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set the doomsday clock to 100 seconds until midnight, too close for comfort. Made two years after the first nuclear weapons were developed in 1945, the watch is annually assessed by the Bulletin’s Science and Safety Committee, which decides whether to move the minute hand or keep it in place. If you set the clock again, it may be closer to annihilation. Already limited arms control treaties are being shredded as the great powers have nearly 13,500 nuclear weapons (more than 90 percent of which are held by Russia and the United States alone). The yield from these weapons could easily make this planet even more uninhabitable. The U.S. Navy has already deployed low-yield W76-2 tactical nuclear warheads. Immediate steps towards nuclear disarmament must be placed on the world agenda. Hiroshima Day, which is celebrated on August 6th every year, needs to become a more robust day of contemplation and protest.
A SCIENTIFIC paper published in 2018 had a surprising headline: “Most atolls will be in the middle of 21st century uninhabitable as sea level rise exacerbates wave-induced flooding. ”The authors found that atolls from Seychelles to the Marshall Islands are easily disappearing. A 2019 report by the United Nations estimated that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Add to this the catastrophic forest fires and the severe bleaching of the coral reefs, and it is clear that we no longer have to think about clichés about whether one or the other is a canary in the coal mine of climate disaster. The danger is not in the future, but in the present. For great powers that are not turning away from fossil fuels at all, it is important to acknowledge the approach of “shared but differentiated responsibility” established at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It is telling that countries like Jamaica and Mongolia updated their climate protection plans before the end of 2020 – as prescribed in the Paris Agreement – with the United Nations, even though these countries cause a tiny fraction of global carbon emissions. Funds pledged to developing countries for participating in the process have practically dried up while external debt has skyrocketed. This shows a lack of fundamental seriousness on the part of the « international community ».
COUNTRIES in North America and Europe have withdrawn their public function as the state has been turned over to the profiteers and civil society has been commodified by private foundations. This means that the avenues for social transformation in these parts of the world have been grotesquely obstructed. Terrible social inequality is the result of the relative political weakness of the working class. It is this weakness that enables billionaires to set guidelines that lead to increases in hunger rates. Countries should not be judged by the words written in their constitutions, but by their annual budgets. For example, the United States spends nearly $ 1 trillion (if you add the estimated intelligence budget) on its war machine while spending a fraction of that on the common good (such as health care, which is evident during the pandemic). The foreign policy of Western countries appears to be well lubricated by arms deals: the United Arab Emirates and Morocco have agreed to recognize Israel on condition that they can buy US-made weapons worth $ 23 billion and $ 1 billion, respectively . The rights of the Palestinians, the Sahrawis and the Yemeni people have ignored these deals. The use of illegal sanctions by the United States against 30 countries including Cuba, Iran and Venezuela has become a normal part of life in the public health sector even during the COVID-19 crisis. It is a failure of the political system if the people in the capitalist bloc cannot force their governments – which are in many ways democratic only on behalf of them – to take a global perspective on this emergency. Rising hunger rates show that the struggle for survival is the horizon for billions of people on the planet (all while China is able to eradicate absolute poverty and eradicate hunger to a large extent).
Nuclear annihilation and climate catastrophe extinction pose a dual threat to the planet. For the victims of the neoliberal onslaught that plagued the previous generation, the short-term problems of maintaining their very existence displace fundamental questions about the fate of our children and grandchildren.
Global problems of this magnitude require global cooperation. Pressured by third world states in the 1960s, the great powers agreed to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, despite opposed the all-important 1974 Declaration on Establishing a New International Economic Order Forces available to to advance such a class agenda on the international stage are no longer there; In the countries of the West in particular, but also in the larger states of the developing countries (such as Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa), a political dynamic is required in order to change the character of governments. Robust internationalism is necessary to give appropriate and immediate attention to the dangers of extinction: extinction from nuclear war, climate catastrophe and social collapse. The tasks ahead are daunting and cannot be postponed.
Consortiumnews.com, Jan. 7. Avram Noam Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic and political activist. Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Left Word Books.
Editor: Nurul Kabir, Edited by Editor-in-Chief ASM Shahidullah Khan
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