Event summary by Laura Watson (she/her)
This week, we were incredibly privileged to be joined by world-leading public intellectual and scholar, Professor Noam Chomsky, to discuss the intersection of neoliberalism, democracy and the climate emergency.
Professor Chomsky began by emphasising the well-known, scientifically proven position that it is time to panic about climate change. It is also time to act: we know what the solutions are, and we know that they are feasible and within our grasp. However, it must also be recognised that there is resistance to change fossil fuel companies, parts of the media and, in the United States, from the Republican Party.
The practice of neoliberalism can be traced back to the 1970s, based around the transfer of decision-making power from accountable governments to unaccountable private entities, which are encouraged to pursue profit at the expense of all else. Recently, former President of the United States, Donald Trump, further extended neoliberalism in American by calling for increased power for businesses, claiming that this would create a more efficient economic system. However, the recent weather-induced catastrophe in Texas is a key example of how neoliberalism's lack of regulation, and its market-led, consumer-choice-centred approach has created a system vulnerable to collapse.
Today, although the world is in many ways different, Professor Chomsky asserted we (primarily in Western Europe and North America) find ourselves in a similar position to that of the 1920s: we face the choice of whether to move towards a more radical form of democracy, or to continue with neoliberalism. Chomsky asserted that choosing the former is crucial, if we are to avoid facing an end to humanity.
How can we address short-termism, given the urgent timescales necessary for addressing the challenges of climate change and neoliberalism?
Professor Chomsky advised the audience that they are "absolutely not powerless. We have plenty of power.” People don't have to succumb to the ideological control of the powerful, but we have to grasp this power to be able to use it.
To hear the rest of Professor Chomsky's powerful talk, head to our YouTube channel here.