A Less Sympathetic View from Noam Chomsky

"9-11" analyzes the attacks from the distinctive perspective of Professor Chomsky. While the attacks were "horrifying atrocities," he writes, "we can think of the United States as an innocent victim only if we adopt the convenient path of ignoring the record of its actions and those of its allies."The United States, he asserts, is "a leading terrorist state," basing his opinion on actions like its interventions in Central America, its imposition of sanctions on Iraq, its support for General Suharto in Indonesia and its backing of what he calls "Israeli atrocities" in the occupied territories. At a time when American flags were popping up everywhere, publishing such a book seemed traitorous. "People said it would have no success whatsoever," said Daniel Simon, the publisher of Seven Stories, "because most Americans were lock-step behind the war."The book went on to sell over 150,000 copies, has been published in 22 countries, and has been a best seller in 5 of them.

Read a transcript of Chomsky debating William Bennett on CNN .

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Eco-Publishing: Indie Presses Saving the Planet, One Book at a Time

This Month: The MIT Press publishes books as part of the emerging Global Environmental Health Movement
One of the things we Americans take for granted is that our local environment is fairly clean, and that except in certain extreme locations, the air, water and soil around us is safe. A new book from The MIT Press brings together essays by twenty-six medical experts on the emerging environmental health movement, questioning whether our surroundings are as safe as we assume they are, and addressing topics such as climate change, cancer, and the impact of warfare. The book's underlying theme is that habitat is an important determinant of human health, that prevention of human illness must involve protection of the environment, and that well-informed physicians can and should communicate with the public and policymakers about environmental hazards.

Life Support: The Environment and Human Health, is "a solutions-oriented examination of the connections between environmental degradation and human health," bringing together the best medical information available on the implications for human health in light of the global environmental crisis. Written by prominent physicians and public health experts who see environmental degradation as a serious threat to public health, it provides essential information for health professionals, policymakers, concerned citizens, and environmental activists.

The book, which is a sequel to Critical Condition (MIT Press 1993), covers a broad range of existing and emerging concerns, including air and water pollution, population and consumption, climate change, ozone depletion, ultraviolet radiation, biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, war, and vulnerable populations (workers and children). It also discusses such controversial topics as environmental endocrine disruption and risk assessment. The focus of the book is on solutions. Each chapter ends with specific recommendations for actions to solve particular environmental health problems. Many of the concerns are especially pertinent in light of today's increased threat of terrorism.

As publisher of Life Support, The MIT Press has compiled a list of myths and facts about human health and the environment:

Myth: Americans aren't concerned about the environment's effect on their health.

Fact: American citizens are very concerned about their health and look to their political leaders for protection from environmental hazards. Unfortunately, legislators don't seem to be as concerned as the general population. As a result, governments continue to move slowly, if at all, to take action on global warming, habitat and species destruction, and other risks to human health.

Myth: The health of the people who live in first world countries is safe from environmental hazards.

Fact: People all over the world are affected by their environment. To take an example from the U.S., mothers and children are exposed to mercury in some fish they eat. Many lakes and streams have fish advisories that state that pregnant women in particular should not eat, or should limit their intake of certain fish. The mercury comes in large part from coal-fired power plants. New air quality legislation is being debated in Congress, and the "Four Pollutants," or the Torricelli Bill, would curb power plant emissions of mercury.

Myth: There are plenty of fish in the sea for our consumption.

Fact: Human health is ultimately not possible in the absence of functioning ecosystems. Many subsistence fish eating communities around the world have seen the disappearance of their traditional food supplies. The collapse of the ground fish and scallop stocks in New England as a consequence of over-fishing by the commercial industry has not only depleted the numbers of these fish, but has also created economic hardships for those whose livelihood is based on the fishing industry and their associated communities.

Myth: Our food supply is generally safe.

Fact: There are important exceptions to U.S. food safety. American consumers are increasingly vulnerable to food contaminated with chemicals, bacteria, and antibiotic residues, in both U.S. and imported products. For example, farmer shrimp imported from Southeast Asia and often mixed with U.S. caught catch and sold as a U.S. product, have recently been found to contain dangerous, cancer-causing antibiotics no longer used in the United States.

Myth: Global warming is something we can learn to live with. Control of greenhouse gas emissions is not essential. (The Bush administration in its document, "U.S. Climate Action Report 2002," released by the EPA in June, comes to just this conclusion.)

Fact: The disruption of snow-fed water supplies, the loss of coastal and mountain ecosystems, more frequent heat waves, more extreme weather, worsening air pollution, and drought are all happening and stressing the health of many communities globally. New and reemerging infectious illnesses, such as malaria and West Nile Virus occur as a result of climate change.

Myth: Antibiotics can always be counted on to cure infectious illness.

Fact: Many bacteria are resistant to common antibiotics, including Cipro, and can produce serious and often life-endangering illness. This is particularly alarming in the face of the threat of bioterrorism. Bacterial resistance is caused by the overuse of antibiotics in medical practice, and in the care and feeding of chicken, pigs, and cattle in large-scale production facilities. Political and regulatory efforts are needed to reduce the use of antibiotics in confined animal feed operations.

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Life Support: The Environment and Human Health
Edited by Michael McCally
September 2002
Cloth $50.00/Paper $19.95

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Another interesting MIT Press title on this topic is:
Learning to Manage Global Environmental Risks - Vol. 1: A Comparative History of Social Responses to Climate Change, Ozone Depletion, and Acid Rain
The Social Learning Group
Foreword by Bert Bolin

This long-awaited two-volume book examines how the interplay of ideas and actions applied to environmental problems has laid the foundations for global environmental management. It looks at how ideas, interests, and institutions affect management practice; how management capabilities in other areas affect the ability to deal with specific environmental issues; and how learning affects society's approach to the global environment.

The book focuses on efforts to deal with climate change, ozone depletion, and acid rain from 1957 (The International Geophysical Year) through 1992 (the UN Conference on Environment and Development). Topics include problem framing, agenda setting, issue attention, risk assessment, monitoring, option assessment, goal and strategy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. Volume 1 provides an overview of the project, of global environmental management in general, and of the three central environmental issues studied; it also contains the individual country studies. Volume 2 contains the management function studies and the book's conclusion.


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