“Capitalism, militarism and imperialism are disastrously intertwined with the fossil fuel economy….A globalized economy predicated on growth at any social or environmental costs, carbon dependent international trade, the limitless extraction of natural resources, and a view of citizens as nothing more than consumers cannot be the basis…for tackling climate change….Little wonder then that the elites have nothing to offer beyond continued militarisation and trust in techno-fixes.”
— Nick Buxton and Ben Hayes 
The ruling class may be an utter failure but that is not stopping them taking aggressive action on climate change. Their chief concern: maintaining power, control and profits at all costs.
The plan is well underway and it sure ain’t the Green New Deal. Just imagine a more extreme version of the world that already exists: where healthcare is rationed; where wealth inequality strangles democracy; where austerity is a weapon of class warfare; where millions die prematurely from toxins in air and water; where war and incarceration is the solution of choice; where people are rounded up in concentration camps; where corporations rule unchallenged; where extreme weather wrecks havoc in an expanding circle of misery. The only new thing about their solution is the stench of fascism that grows ever stronger and more odious.
The Bosses Want More of the Same
When Trump and the Republicans deny climate change, when Pelosi, Pallone, Perez, Biden and Obama join with Trump in sabotaging the Green New Deal or dismissing climate action as too expensive, too dreamy, not practical or too pure — they are all bold-faced liars and frauds.
The Republicans know full well that their partners in crime — oil companies, bankers and the military brass have known about climate change for decades. And, the corporate Democrats know that these same powerful players they too represent already have a risky plan to deal with climate change. From their shared perspective, even the Democrat’s Green New Deal, despite its weaknesses, must be marginalized since it competes with the establishment’s plans for our future.
Framing Climate Change
To maintain power they need to limit our thinking. The two most important narratives imposed on us are climate change as a “threat to national security” and as a “business opportunity” — the twin rationales for military and corporate power. They want to focus us on how to manage the crisis, profit from it, or adapt to it, instead of opposing it.
Once framed in this way the very institutions responsible for climate change can benefit from disaster while hiding their responsibility for creating the crisis. But the military-corporate management of the crisis will undoubtedly follow the same principles that created the crisis: the costs of pollution, adaptation, endless growth and war won’t appear in the corporate ledger. Military budgets will only grow larger. The costs will be “externalized” and paid by the suffering of everyday people.
The 63 million Americans currently exposed to unsafe drinking water and the 200,000 (according to an MIT study) in the US that currently die prematurely from air pollution are just a down payment. And the US is the wealthiest country in world history. The global figure for air pollution related deaths is 5.5 million annually. The 20 million or so deaths from war since WWII are a gross outstanding debt. How is that for adaptation and management? How will our rulers plan to maintain control as the crisis deepens?
Plans? What Plans?
Unsurprisingly, the military plans to maintain its ambition for “full spectrum dominance.” A 2014 report from the Department of Defense quotes former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who — having previously been on the Board of Directors of Chevron and Deutsche Bank — knows how to unite big oil, big banks and big guns.
“Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities….A baseline survey to assess the vulnerability of the military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations and other facilities is nearly complete, Hagel said. “In places like the Hampton Roads region in Virginia, which houses the largest concentration of U.S military sites in the world, we see recurrent flooding today, and we are beginning work to address a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet over the next 20 to 50 years…”
They want us to forget that it has now been proven beyond doubt that the military is the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels and largest polluter. War will continue, climate crisis be damned. Elizabeth Warren’s 2019 policy statement and the bipartisan letter sent to Trump by over 100 congress members urging Trump to make climate change a national security issue is more proof that war trumps climate. In truth, the military is caught in a crisis of its own making. As Desiree Hellegers puts it: “The US Military Poses a Significant Threat to the US Military.”
While the pro-war media makes much of the military’s attempts to use alternative energy, the Pentagon failed to reach its puny 2014 goal of 5% renewable.
Similarly, Obama’s 2009 stimulus package cancelled out the effects of small green spending with an “all of the above” approach, including money for “clean coal,” record oil production and increased energy use. This pattern of “greenwashing” — minor green efforts masking major investments in fossil fuels is identical to the corporate approach.
The oil companies and big banks that make crazy money from fossil fuels also hide the truth by posing the problem as a question of proper management. Sharon Kelly reports the banker’s view of a new “business opportunity”:
“Scientific research finds that an increasing concentration of greenhouse gases…is warming the planet, posing significant risks to prosperity and growth of the global economy,” JPMorgan Chase Bank, Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley wrote in a 2015 statement. “As major financial institutions…we have the business opportunity to build a more sustainable, low-carbon economy and the ability to help manage and mitigate these climate-related risks.”
So how is it that the bankrollers of climate chaos, investing $1.9 trillion in fossil fuels just since the Paris Accords, also claim to “manage and mitigate these climate-related risks?”
According to the bankers, the problem with climate change is that it’s “posing significant risks to the prosperity and growth of the global economy.” What they will not say is that the global economy — which demands enormous fossil fuel production and consumption — is posing significant risks to the climate. The global shipping and aviation on which peak profit-making depends is, like the military, exempt from the Paris Accords. The bankers, generals, and politicians are protecting the sources of their power.
From the Gold Standard to the Oil Standard
What the bankers will not say is that billions of the dollars they trade in are “petrodollars” — as explained in this informative documentary video. A 40-year back-room deal with the Saudis secretly recycled oil money back to the US. This deal essentially shifted the US dollar from the “gold standard” to the “oil standard.” According to Bloomberg:
The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.
Buying oil in dollars is a form of imperial tribute other countries pay to the US — which is why the US insists all oil trading be in US currency. Iraq and Lybia once traded oil in other currencies. Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and China still do. See?
Since oil props up the US Dollar, bankers have a direct interest in wars that prop up the fossil-fuel regime. It is highly unlikely that the US Dollar, the Military-Industrial-Complex or the global corporate economy can live without its addiction to oil — whatever green capitalists imagine in their wildest dreams. Some contradictions simply cannot be overcome.
Representative Democracy is Dying. Long live Direct Democracy!
It’s “power to the people” or nothing. There is no middle ground. But we will be swamped along with the middle ground if we do not have real leverage and real power. The military, the oil companies and the big banks have plans and power both. The Green Party’s Real Green New Deal is a solid plan, as are the guiding principles offered by DSA Ecosocialists, or Tulsi Gabbard’s OFF Act.
But, the straightest line to the power we need is not just good policy, more manifestos, analytical precision or electoral politics (although those things might be helpful) — it’s the sloppy, contradictory, demanding work of organizing and direct democracy. The many efforts to protect water and confront infrastructure projects are leading the way. The Red Nation is a new voice telling classic political truths. Listen carefully. The “Red Deal” platform states:
This…will encompass the entirety of Indigenous America, which includes our non-Indigenous comrades and relatives who live here….We cannot expect politicians to do what only mass movements can do…..A mass mobilization, one like we’ve never seen before in history, is required to save this planet. Indigenous movements have always been at the forefront of environmental justice struggles…The Red Deal is not a “deal” or “bargain” with the elite and powerful. It’s a deal with the humble people of the earth; a pact that we shall strive for peace and justice and that movements for justice must come from below and to the left.
“We cannot expect politicians to do what only mass movements can do…from below and to the left.” Truth. But how?
Whether you are base-building with workers or tenants, movement-building with the peace and environmental movements or running electoral campaigns, the under-appreciated work of talking with, and listening to, everyday people is the fast track to fundamental change. Talking with everyday people is a revolutionary act. Acting with others is better yet.
A massive Harvard study tells us what we already suspect: we have the most dysfunctional, least democratic electoral system of any so-called “western democracy.” The collapse of real representation is a leading cause of crisis. To think that such a broken system can repair itself and then take on massive problems of its own making without an equally massive and equally disruptive popular movement is more than just wishful thinking — it is a profound disregard for history. Show me some evidence. How was the original New Deal created? The failure to allow moderate and popular reforms like universal health care does not bode well for government’s ability to act on climate and war — issues that strike right at the heart of the existing social order.
We have good blueprints. It’s vitally important to put demilitarization at the center of our efforts not just because the US empire is the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels or because the same military is the enforcer of the global fossil fuel regime but because understanding the connections between war and climate changes clears the way for fusion and synergy between the environmental and peace movements and movements for economic justice.
But the real question — the unanswered question — is HOW? How do we move on the climate crisis? Can we build it from the bottom up? It sure isn’t coming from the top down. Can the Green New Deal become a revolutionary reform? Ask people what they think about the Green New Deal. Where it leads is up to us.
1/ The best single source is a very well researched collection of essays The Secure and the Dispossessed: How the Military and Corporations are Shaping a Climate-Changed World edited by Nick Buxton and Ben Hayes. Find the quote on p 234.
2/ You can see much more of this misdirection by looking at this document: “Military and National Security Leaders Urge Robust New Course on Climate Change.” Or see Elizabeth Warren’s new plan for a green military.