The twin existential crises facing our collective Ecosystem are intertwined in ways that make them difficult to separate. Any attempt to speak of war and peace without speaking of climate disruption, or the reverse, is reductionist and unfortunately whitewashes the core truths of both. The bottom line: Mankind has overstepped its niche in the biosphere to become a clear and present threat to all other life forms including its own with it’s exploitive industries, unlimited growth, and episodic genocidal military incidents.
In the US, the same institutions paying lip service to the climate crisis are expanding the defense budget. In terms of carbon release alone, the militaries of the world are the biggest emitters of all, and are not included in diplomatic efforts to reduce warming. The US is by a factor of 10, the worst. A black hole of military spending even in peacetime has become normalized. Working folks complaining about the price of gas, which is cheap when it costs a third the price of bottled water, never compare their use to that of their military. A single Super Hornet jet fighter for example carries up to 29,000 lbs. of jet fuel on takeoff. That’s 4,264 gallons for one flight.
An empty Hornet weighs about 32,000 lbs. and is required to weigh no more than 34,000 lbs. when it lands on its ship. A heavier plane is uncontrollable at slow landing speeds. Excess weight puts a lot of strain on the plane and the ship’s equipment. When a navy plane approaches it’s carrier, it dumps the fuel above the max weight into the air, sometimes most of what it took off with. Think about that when you pay $4 a gallon for your fuel, or think about reducing pollution in the ocean, or worry about hydrocarbons escaping into the atmosphere. Pilots need to fly often to keep sharp with their equipment, and the military needs to be always moving. In the name of Defense, the waste of precious and improperly handled poisonous resources is not even in the public conscience. This one example of intentional waste, in peacetime, barely scratches the surface of the insidious nature of our present course as revealed in Graham Nash’s lyric:
Military Madness was killing the country
Solitary sadness creeps over me
And after the wars are over
And the body count is finally filed
I hope that The Man discovers
What’s driving the people wild
Military madness is killing your country
So much sadness, between you and me
War, War, War, War, War, War
Sadly that 1971 lyric was written at a time when only half the carbon currently in the atmosphere had been released, Viet Nam was almost naively proving Pax Americana was based on lies, perhaps our mistakes were innocent and we just got on the wrong path. The future doubling down of the Military Industrial Complex was just a glimmer in the eyes of some. A quick opportunity for a Peace Dividend was discarded and we traversed way, way down the rabbit hole since then.
The reality is that these operations are undertaken as Offense, to control the hydrocarbons and other resources that we are using to destroy ourselves. We should be honest and change the name of our expeditionary forces back to the War Department and stand up Dennis Kucinich’s idea of a Peace Department to find other ways to solve our problems.
The current intentional rise in the destruction of the biosphere, of militarism, the reversion to blatant racism and sexism, and of autocratic/fascist movements and governments are all one in the same. There is no crisis of climate separate from war, each creates the other. On the current trajectory large swaths of the planet will be uninhabitable to humans out in the open air in 50 years. The Southeastern and Southwestern US will be in those swaths. Maps at this link.
The movements of populations to escape these regions will be the source of more conflict. A species can’t commit collective suicide without trying genocide first and you may remember how the Mad Max movie played out.
None of this is necessary, there are resources available for everyone on the planet to live in peace and prosperity. It is the hoarding and the stealing and the wasting that puts us on the Offensive. The worst impulses of the creatures that crawled out of the swamp have manifested as a way of life. They have been institutionalized for greed, profit, and power for the few.
The best siren song of the hopes and fears of the cultural revolution of 50 years ago expresses it best:
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden
If these words alone don’t do it for you, turn off the noise and the lights and listen to the plaintive wail and power of an enlightened soul offering an alternative.
Our garden is the combined farm fields of the indigenous, of the Amazon, of the back to the landers, of the folks who never left but were ignored by those who wanted to industrialize and exploit.
We can build the soil instead of mining it.
We have the ability to supply each other what we need…or we can kill each other.