In Prospects for Survival, Noam Chomsky describes the two ways that human civilization is doomed to destroy itself: nuclear weapons and environmental catastrophe. Chomsky argues that environmental disaster will inevitably cause human destruction.
“While the world is taking halting steps toward facing the existential challenge to survival, the richest and most powerful state in world history, virtually alone, is racing toward destruction, with enthusiasm and dedication.” (Chomsky, 15)
Other writers have explored this idea, including Rachel Carson and Jeff Goodell. Here, I argue that Chomsky’s interesting argument about the global warming and climate change aspect of the issue is ultimately stronger than Carson’s or Goodell’s, though all three received significant attention for their contributions to the conversation. This essay also includes the perspective of one writer, Philip Stott, who disagrees with Chomsky and believes instead that global warming and climate change are simply norms from living on this planet and are not serious threats. While Stott’s argument is interesting, it is not as strong as Chomsky’s, Carson’s, or Goodell’s because it ignores key factors about the issue.
While all writers discuss extremely serious problems happening in the environment, it seems as though Chomsky’s concerns would be the most problematic for the well-being of the planet. Chomsky has the strongest argument in the data he has given, and the many logical points made on the subject. Global warming and the possible negative effects it will cause in the future are discussed by Chomsky, as he sees one of the biggest repercussions of global warming as the rapid rise in sea level.
“Even if sea level rise is more limited than what is anticipated, it will inundate coastal cities and coastal plains, as in Bangladesh, where tens of millions may be forced to flee in the fairly near future, many more later.” (Chomsky, 17)
There are around ten major negative effects associated with global warming, but just the effect of sea levels rising could kill off millions of human beings. The people in the United States are responsible for the issue of global warming, yet less fortunate people in other countries are the ones who must pay the price. America already has a major immigration issue and the likelihood of the U.S. welcoming millions of refugees is highly unlikely. Chomsky contributes the dangerous methane emissions from excessive oil drilling play a major factor in the rapid rise of climate. A report from the U.S. business press writes,
“The boom looks like it’s back. The number of oil and gas rigs drilling in the US has almost doubled. … While two dozen nations are coordinating to cut oil production and rein in the global supply glut, US producers are moving in the opposite direction. Over the last four months, output increased by half a million barrels a day. If that rate of expansion continues, the shale boom will break new production records by summer. The US now produces nine million barrels a day.”
This oil production at this rate cannot continue, as it is disrupting the wildlife, clean water, and the health of the American people. Another two major subjects that are directly affected by global warming are the agriculture and plant/animal species. The increased rise in temperature is only making growing conditions more humid and less fertile. It is becoming difficult to grow the crops due to the longer “dry periods” from the increase in droughts. Global warming will have a significant negative effect on the quantity and quality of the agriculture. The other major problem concerning a never-ending rise in temperatures is the possible extinction of different plant and animal species. It is obvious that plants and animals must either adapt or die to whatever environment they belong in. Unfortunately, many species will have to migrate to new habitats due to the rise in climate. It will work for some species, but sadly many species will die off in the process of finding new homes suitable for sustaining life.
Rachel Carson is another distinguished author and environmentalist who wrote extremely eye-opening books on nature and the ocean, discussing the major issues they face from human interference. Carson is best known for her nonfiction book Silent Spring, which discusses the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. Although Carson has very strong and logical arguments on the topic, I would rank her 2nd place behind Chomsky due to the severity of what she discusses. Silent Spring has been referred to as “the handbook for the future of all life on Earth,” as it causes the reader to answer the question about how humanity will adapt to environmental changes that they’ve caused. Carson believed the chemical exposure on the environment from the government was destroying non-human life. The main pesticide that concerned Carson was called DDT.
Carson believed that DDT was an unregulated chemical that wasn’t serving a purpose and at the same time harming anyone or anything that came in connect with it. Carson’s goal was to write about how truly harmful these chemicals were because the manufacturers were not telling the full truth. She was able to find the negative effects these chemicals were having on humans, including forms of cancer. The main issue Carson had with the pesticides was that she believed they were basically useless. Carson was so convincing to the readers of her book by shedding light on such an overlooked topic, that she eventually had DDT permanently banned from being used as a pesticide. Carson ultimately wanted companies to stop mutating the environment for our personal benefits. The environment and man must have a healthy relationship and that is only possible if man treats the environment with respect and care.
Jeff Goodell’s nonfiction book, The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World will be ranked 3rd in the strength of argument concerning environmental catastrophes. Goodell is a well known and distinguished author that has a focus on the study of environmental issues. This specific Goodell book is a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017, one of Washington Post’s 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction in 2017 and is one of Booklist’s Top 10 Science Books of 2017. All of these accolades make this book an extremely credible source concerning the topic at hand. In Goodell’s book The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World he discusses the looming negative effects climate change could have on the future of this planet.
Goodell agrees with Chomsky in many ways, but also has some other points concerning the global warming topic. New York City and Miami are the two major cities Goodell believes will be majorly affected by the possible rise in sea level from the climate change. Goodell believes that the United States will be greatly affected by climate change, but hundreds of millions around the world will suffer. The data given by Goodell in this book shows how likely issues like environmental degradation can be for the future. Environmental degradation is basically the slow deterioration of our current environment. Major resources will be depleted, pollution will poison the air, and species will be destroyed right in front of our eyes. A major concern of Goodell regarding the topic of global warming is the lack of care from political leaders in America. A quote from Goodell’s book reads,
“currently, the USA is the ONLY country in the world that is not a signatory to the Paris Climate Accord; our public servants are actively scrubbing all mention of climate change from official government websites; and officials are threatening climate scientists who try to raise public awareness about these important issues.” (Goodell)
Goodell believes the lack of care from American political leaders plays a major role in the lack of knowledge about the topic among the citizens of America. The people of the United States never see much attention to the global warming subject, causing them to not understand the severity of the issue. Goodell believes that until global warming is given the attention it deserves from the political leaders in America, it will continue to get worse and worse right under our noses.
Having an issue as big as global warming makes it relatively easy to find others who disagree on the severity of the issue. Philip Stott is an Emeritus Professor from the University of London, UK. He has been the editor of the Journal of Biogeography for the last 18 years and has very opposing views from Chomsky on the topic of global warming. Stott believes we are paying too much attention to the “effects” of global warming, as they are just norms from living on the planet. Even though climates and sea levels are changing, Stott writes that we can’t be sure they are human related or even extremely dangerous. Stott claims that changes in climate, agriculture, and sea levels are, for lack of a better word, normal. The sun, cosmic rays, and the ocean disequilibrium with the atmosphere are all more concerning factors of climate change than human factors to Stott. Stott thinks that as time is being wasted on trying to reverse effects of global warming, human beings all across the world are dying every day from issues we could fix.
“Each day, 20,000 people in the world die of waterborne diseases. Half a billion people go hungry. A child is orphaned by AIDS every seven seconds. This does not have to happen. We allow it while fretting about ‘saving the planet.’ What is wrong with us that we downplay this human misery before our eyes and focus on events that will probably not happen even a hundred years hence? We know that the greatest cause of environmental degradation is poverty; on this, we can and must act.” (Stott)
The true crisis to Stott is poverty, unsafe drinking water, and lack of updated energy supply. Stott claims that doing something trying to resolve climate change is as equally unpredictable as doing nothing. As humans, we have no way of truly knowing if we are the cause of climate change or if we can do anything to stop it.
Here, I argue that Chomsky’s interesting argument about the global warming and climate change aspect of the issue is ultimately stronger than Carson’s or Goodell’s, though all three received significant attention for their contributions to the conversation. This essay also includes the perspective of one writer, Philip Stott, who disagrees with Chomsky and believes instead that global warming and climate change are simply norms from living on this planet and are not serious threats. While Stott’s argument is interesting, it is not as strong as Chomsky’s, Carson’s, or Goodell’s because it ignores key factors about the issue. Many current writers agree that global warming and climate are serious issues we face as a population.
However, there is a disagreement in the factor humans play in the issue. Chomsky argues the dangerous methane emissions from excessive oil drilling play a major factor in the rapid rise of climate. There are some disagreements like Stott, who generally argue the global warming issue to just be the planet changing itself without much human influence. Overall, writers recognize the issue of global warming and climate change but struggle to agree on why the problems are occurring and what we can do to solve them.