On Monday night, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman spoke to world-renowned linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During the conversation, Amy Goodman asked Chomsky about one of the most serious threats to the survival of the human species: nuclear weapons. The interview follows:
NOAM CHOMSKY: Huge specter that we’re kind of trying to survive under, and that’s nuclear war. That’s a whole other story. Here, both the Obama administration and, increasingly, Trump are radically increasing that danger. This—the threat of the new developments is captured very effectively in the best, simple monitor of the state of the world, established at the beginning of the nuclear age by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. I’m sure you all know about this, but the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists regularly brings together a group of scientists, political analysts, other very serious people, to try to give some kind of estimate of what the situation of the world is. The question is: How close are we to termination of the species? And they have a clock, the Doomsday Clock. When it hits midnight, we’re finished. End of the human species and much else. And the question every year is: How far is the minute hand from midnight?
Well, at the beginning, in 1947, beginning of the nuclear age, it was placed at seven minutes to midnight. It’s been moving up and back ever since. The closest it’s come to midnight was 1953. 1953, the United States and Russia both exploded hydrogen bombs, which are extremely serious threat to survival. Intercontinental ballistic missiles were all being developed. This, in fact, was the first serious threat to the security of the United States. There’s an interesting story behind that, but I’ll put it aside, unless there’s time to talk about it. But then, it came to two minutes to midnight. And it’s been moving up and back since.
Two years ago—2014, I think it was—the analysts took into account for the first time something that had been ignored: the fact that the nuclear age—the beginning of the nuclear age coincided with the beginning of a new geological epoch, the so-called Anthropocene. There’s been some debate about the epoch in which human activity is drastically affecting the general environment. There’s been debate about its inception. But the World Geological Organization has recently determined that it’s about the same time as the beginning of the nuclear age. So we’re in these two eras in which the possibility of human survival is very much at stake, and, with us, everything else, too, of course, all living—most living things, which are already under very severe threat. Well, a couple of years ago—I think it was 2014—the Bulletin began to take that into account and moved the minute hand up to three minutes to midnight, where it remained last year.
A couple of—about a week into Trump’s term, the clock was moved again, to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight. That’s the closest it’s been since 1953. And that means extermination of the species is very much an—very much an open question. I don’t want to say it’s solely the impact of the Republican Party—obviously, that’s false—but they certainly are in the lead in openly advocating and working for destruction of the human species. I agree that’s a very outrageous statement. So I therefore simply suggest that you take a look at the facts and see if it has any merit or if it just should be bitterly condemned. That’s up to you. My view, the facts are pretty clear.