What I Said at the Peace Hub of the Climate March

Most countries on earth have the U.S. military in them.

Most countries on earth burn less fossil fuel than does the U.S. military.

And that’s without even calculating how much worse for the climate jet fuel is than other fossil fuels.

And it’s without even considering the fossil fuel consumption of the world’s leading weapons makers, or the pollution caused by the use of those weapons all over the world.

The U.S. is the top weapons dealer to the world, and has weapons on multiple sides of most wars.

The U.S. military created 69% of super fund environmental disaster sites and is the third leading polluter of U.S. waterways.

When the British first developed an obsession with the Middle East, passed along to the United States, the desire was to fuel the British Navy.

What came first? The wars or the oil? It was the wars.

Wars and the preparations for more wars consume a huge amount of oil.

But the wars are indeed fought for control of oil. So-called foreign intervention in civil wars is, according to comprehensive studies, 100 times more likely — not where there is suffering, not where there is cruelty, not where there is a threat to the world, but where the country at war has large reserves of oil or the intervener has a high demand for oil.

We need to learn to say

No More Wars for Oil
and
No More Oil for Wars

You know who agrees with that? Pre-presidential campaign Donald Trump. On December 6, 2009, on page 8 of the New York Times a letter to President Obama printed as an advertisement and signed by Trump called climate change an immediate challenge. “Please don’t postpone the earth,” it said. “If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.”

In fact, Trump is now acting to speed up those consequences, an action prosecutable as a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court — at least if Trump were African.

It’s also a crime impeachable by the United States Congress — at least if there’s some way to involve sex in it.

Holding this government accountable is up to us.

No More Wars For Oil
No More Oil for Wars

Say it with me.

The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope

By David Swanson
Remarks in Burlington, Vermont, April 22, 2017

Thank you all for inviting me. There is no place I’d rather be on earth day. And that includes marching for science at the March for Science in Washington. Although I certainly support marching for honesty, and I’d even march for the cause of getting more scientists to march — and any other group that hasn’t yet found the time to bother.

Unless resisting madness becomes mainstream, the madmen will decide our fate.

Thank you also for having started the first chapter of World Beyond War and for having given us the idea to have chapters. We now have people working on starting dozens of chapters in over a dozen countries. And we have staff to help them, and we have people in 151 countries who have signed the pledge that I’ll pass around here, pledging to work to end all war. We’re trying to get to 175 countries, because that’s how many the U.S. military admits to having troops in. So, 24 more to go. If you know anybody in Venezuela, Cuba, Honduras, Mongolia, Algeria, Lithuania, Ethiopia, or Papua New Guinea, please point them to WorldBeyondWar.org.

And thank you for having set up such a terrific program of workshops today, and — I hope — of work that will follow the workshops.

I hope my comments fit into the program, because I’m going to take a round about way of speaking in support of peace and environmentalism by praising garbage incinerators. Continue reading “The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope”

Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?

For the past decade, the standard procedure for big coalition rallies and marches in Washington D.C. has been to gather together organizations representing labor, the environment, women’s rights, anti-racism, anti-bigotry of all sorts, and a wide array of liberal causes, including demands to fund this, that, and the other, and to halt the concentration of wealth.

At that point, some of us in the peace movement will generally begin lobbying the PEP (progressive except for peace) organizers to notice that the military is swallowing up enough money every month to fund all their wishes 100 times over for a year, that the biggest destroyer of the natural environment is the military, that war fuels and is fueled by racism while stripping our rights and militarizing our police and creating refugees.

When we give up on trying to explain the relevance of our society’s biggest project to the work of reforming our society, we generally point out that peace is popular, that it adds a mere 5 characters to a thousand-word laundry list of causes, and that we can mobilize peace groups to take part if peace is included.

Often this works. Several big coalition efforts have eventually conceded and included peace in some token way in their platforms. This success is most likely when the coalition’s organizing is most democratic (with a small d). So, Occupy, obviously, ended up including a demand for peace despite its primary focus on a certain type of war profiteers: bankers.

Other movements include a truly well informed analysis with no help from any lobbying that I’ve had to be part of. The Black Lives Matter platform is better on war and peace than most statements from the peace movement itself. Some advocates for refugees also seem to follow logic in opposing the wars that create more refugees.

Other big coalition actions simply will not include any preference for peace over war. This seems to be most likely to happen when the organizations involved are most Democratic (with a capital D). The Women’s March backs many other causes, but uses the word peace without suggesting any preference for peace: “We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.” There is also, one might note, no justice or equity for anybody living under bombs.

Here’s a coalition currently trying to decide whether it dare say the word peace: https://peoplesclimate.org.

This group is planning a big march for the climate and many other unrelated causes, such as the right to organize unions, on April 29. Organizers claim some relationship among all the causes. But, of course, there isn’t really an obvious direct connection between protecting the climate and protecting gay rights or the rights of workers. They may all be good causes and all involve kindness and humility, but they can be won separately or together.

Peace is different. One cannot, in fact, protect the climate while allowing the military to drain away the funding needed for that task, dumping it into operations that consume more petroleum than any other and which lead the way in poisoning water, land, and air. Nor can a climate march credibly claim, as this one does, to be marching for “everything we love” and refuse to name peace, unless it loves war or is undecided between or uninterested in the benefits of mass murder versus those of nonviolent cooperation.

Here’s a petition you can sign to gently nudge the People’s Climate March in the right direction. Please do so soon, because they’re making a decision.

The struggle to save the climate faces other hurdles in addition to loyalty to militarism. I mean, beyond the mammoth greed and corruption and misinformation and laziness, there are other unnecessary handicaps put in place even by those who mean well. A big one is partisanship. When Republicans have finally proposed a carbon tax, many on the left simply won’t consider it, won’t even tackle the problem of making it actually work fairly and honestly and aggressively enough to succeed. Perhaps because some of the supporters seem untrustworthy. Or perhaps because some of the supporters likely don’t believe you need labor unions in order to tax carbon.

And which ones would you need, the ones advocating for more pipelines or the ones working in other fields?

Scientists, too, are planning to march on Washington. The scientific consensus on war has been around as long as that on climate change. But what about the popular acceptance? What about the appreciation among grant-writing foundations? What do the labor unions and big environmental groups feel about it? These are the important questions, I’m afraid, even for a scientists’ march.

But I appreciate the scientific method enough to hope my hypothesis is proven wrong.

Talk Nation Radio: Antonia Juhasz on Tillerson, Trump, and Oil

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-antonia-juhasz-on-tillerson-trump-and-oil

Antonia Juhasz is an energy analyst, author, and investigative reporter. She recently wrote a profile of Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for In These Times magazine. We discuss Tillerson and the oil spill he floated in on. See also:
http://www.antoniajuhasz.net

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Talk Nation Radio: Craig Murray: Russia Didn't Do It; Vincent Emanuele on Stopping Pipelines and Wars

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-craig-murray-russia-didnt-do-it-vincent-emanuele-on-stopping-pipelines

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. See https://www.craigmurray.org.uk

Murray explains that he has met the leaker of either the DNC or Podesta emails and that both sets of emails were leaked by one or more people at either the NSA or the Democratic Party, that Russia played no role at all.

Vincent Emanuele (pictured at right) joined the United States Marine Corps as a squad automatic machine gunner in 2002. After two combat-deployments in Iraq, he refused orders for a third and immediately began organizing with Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War. In 2008, Vince testified to Congress at the Winter Soldier Hearings on Capitol Hill, where he provided detailed accounts of war crimes, atrocities, drug abuse and sexual assault within the military. See https://www.facebook.com/vincentjr.emanuele

Emanuele is just back from Standing Rock and discusses environmental and antiwar strategy. This show contains half our discussion. The second half will appear next week.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Hurricane Donald and the Storms of Changing Climate

John Feffer argued on Wednesday that Demagogue Donald, whose very existence will lead me to pretend I’m not from the U.S. the next time I’m in Europe, is part of a wider trend that’s already hit Europe hard:

“The ugliness has been percolating in Europe for some time now. It wasn’t just Brexit, Britain’s unexpected rejection of the European Union. It was the election of militant populists throughout Eastern Europe — Viktor Orban in Hungary, Robert Fico in Slovakia, the party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland. It was the electoral surge of the National Front in France and the Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany. It was the backlash against immigrants, social welfare programs, and ‘lazy Mediterraneans’ — but also against bankers and Brussels bureaucrats.”

I think the trend is even wider and deeper if the trend we’re talking about is that of making everything worse, of increasing inequality, of increasing militarism, of destroying the environment, of pushing profit over people. If that’s the trend, the bankers are its vanguard, not its victims, and it has saturated the international establishment almost as thoroughly as it has the rightwing sectarians.

But the trend Feffer seems to have in mind is one of nationalism or ethnic identity or racism in opposition to global humanitarianism. Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Splinterlands, tells a future of shattered nations and international institutions, replaced with ever smaller and more disastrous warring city states. It’s a vision that should disturb us deeply, a vision of what this world could actually become if it gains nothing in wisdom, miraculously survives its nuclear weapons, and plows right ahead into climate chaos and total capitalist consumption.

Feffer’s utopia seems to be a globe unified in peace. But his dystopia is not unlike that of an author like Ian Morris whose utopia is a globe unified by imperial war. The great threat on the horizon for both is balkanization or splintering. Feffer sees this brought on by bigotry, militarism, and environmental destruction. Morris sees the threat as, basically, un-Americanism. But where does barbaric tribalism stop and the promotion of more direct local democracy begin? Is bigger always better and smaller always worse?

Feffer may not think so, because, in fact, a small utopia hidden in one corner of a sinking Titanic of an earth shows up in Splinterlands — something of a Luddite communal organic farm of a sort that essentially exists right now, a creation that cannot save us all or even itself unless expanded to a radically larger scale or duplicated innumerable times. The trick, then, may be to duplicate sustainable and just local living within a global system of nonviolent dispute resolution, cooperation, and fairness.

Feffer says he thought a Trump figure wouldn’t arrive for four more years — though it’s interesting that a big role in his fictionalized future dismantling of the world is played by a hurricane named Donald. My question is whether Trump’s disastrous arrival might not in some ways be put to good use toward human survival. I’m thinking of a particular good use to which Hillary Clinton’s disastrous arrival would not have leant itself. That is to say, can we not now appeal to other nations to recognize that the presence of U.S. military troops on their soil represents their subservience to the odious Donald Trump, a figure hardly to be imagined as the mythical Barack Obama, man of peace?

Can we encourage nonviolent resistance to U.S. militarism without encouraging a dive into a dystopian Splinterlands? Can the world refuse to participate in U.S. wars and U.S. weapons dealing while increasing its participation in cooperative non-military endeavors with the United States and the globe? Can U.S.-led war making, and the war making of other nations, come to be understood as the enemy of good globalism, not as the embodiment of UN humanitarian intervention in the affairs of those deemed less developed?

The alternative to the world figuring out how to resist U.S. wars would seem to be the people of the United States shutting down its war machine from within, without the assistance of the other 96%. But how does that seem to be working out?

Disobey or Die

Back in the winter of 1982, Air Florida flight 90 took off from National Airport. The first officer noticed dangerous readings on some instruments and pointed them out to the captain. The captain told him he was wrong, and he accepted the captain’s authority. He did nothing. Thirty seconds later the plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge. Everyone on board died except for four passengers rescued out of the icy river.

During the latter decades of the 20th and first part of the 21st century, millions and millions of first officers on spaceship earth noticed that climate and nuclear dangers loomed. But every authoritative captain in sight, from elected officials to CEOs to media pundits, said “Don’t be a fool. I’ve got this.” And millions upon millions sat back and mumbled “Oh, all right, if you’re sure.”

The people pushing through the vote this week at the United Nations to create a treaty next year banning nuclear weapons are engaged in necessary disobedience to mainstream authority and acceptance. The people putting their bodies in the way of a pipeline in North Dakota are disobeying immoral orders.

Ira Chaleff’s book, Intelligent Disobedience, re-examines the lessons of the Milgram and Stanford prison experiments, and other more recent demonstrations of the severe dangers of uncritical obedience. Chaleff highlights some techniques that can facilitate intelligent refusals to obey.

When Milgram put the actor pretending to be given electric shocks in the same room, visible to the person ordered to shock him, obedience dropped by 40 percent. This suggests we need fewer trips to Disney World and more to Hiroshima, fewer student exchanges to England and more to Russia and Iran, fewer summer jobs at the local swimming pool and more at the nearest climate-impacted site in need of assistance.

Milgram also got obedience to drop by 20 percent by removing the authority figure from sight and having him deliver his orders by telephone. This does not suggest demonizing or antagonizing authority figures, but rather distancing and diminishing them. We need to metaphorically bring them down to size, and we need to physically and otherwise get away from them. Throw out your television to get their faces out of your living room. Read the news online as needed. Practice kneeling during the national anthem; it’ll give you a whole new outlook in which hearing a civilian refer to “our commander in chief” sounds frighteningly out of place.

Milgram reduced obedience by 100% by having a second authority figure contradict the first one. As long as people are going to practice subservient obedience, we need to identify and recruit and broadcast all apparent authority figures who contradict the destructive orders of the mainstream authorities. Who counts as an authority figure may vary from person to person, but we don’t have to choose. The more the murkier!

We also need to lead by example. Even when Milgram’s lone authority figure ordered shocks, if the subject of the experiment saw someone else refuse to obey, then 90% of the time he or she would also refuse. This is a huge opening for us. But it does not mean that we can create a little Eco village and thereby save the world. It does mean that doing that will help. But we need examples of people challenging the entire system that deals weapons and subsidizes fossil fuels. And we need lots of examples so that everyone watching can see someone who looks like them engaged in constructive disobedience.

In warfare, militaries condition people to obey immoral orders through, among other things, a number of distancing techniques. It’s easy to murder someone far away or unseen. It’s easier to order someone else to do it. It’s easier to be part of a group doing it together. It’s easier to think of it as defending someone else rather than simply committing murder. We have to reverse all of this distancing. We have to put the victims and potential victims of war and of climate chaos right up close to the vision of as many people as possible. We have to create unavoidable responsibility. The bill in the British parliament that would allow people to choose whether to pay war taxes is one possible approach. We have to make those engaged in ordinary, typical muddling through understand that as long as they fail to take radical action they are engaged in the slow but massive taking of human life.

We should replace the pledge of allegiance with the Nuremberg principles and the Hippocratic oath. The problem we have to solve is, as Howard Zinn told us, not too much civil disobedience, but too much civil obedience.

Don't Imprison Amy Goodman for Journalism

I’ve started a petition to the State of North Dakota that I would imagine and hope just about everyone would want to sign.

Don't Imprison Amy Goodman for Journalism

Here’s the whole text of the petition:

Drop the illogical and illegal charge of “rioting” that you have brought against Amy Goodman for her commission of an act of journalism. Similarly, drop the felony charges you have brought against documentary film maker Deia Schlosberg who filmed activists shutting down pipelines.

Amy Goodman filmed and reported on violent attacks on protesters of the construction of a new pipeline in North Dakota. The state of North Dakota, in its infinite wisdom, tried to figure out a crime to charge her with. Espionage would have been a tough sell, although Goodman had committed the same offense as Julian Assange or James Risen, namely journalism. Trespassing was originally the offense settled upon. When it became clear, however, that that couldn’t stick, North Dakota’s genius prosecutors simply switched the charge to rioting. After all, what is rioting if not filming and reporting on violence?

Well, Dictionary.com says rioting is “a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons acting together in a disrupting and tumultuous manner in carrying out their private purposes.” But Amy Goodman is not three or more persons. She didn’t disrupt anybody or do anything in a tumultuous manner. And she was carrying out a public service. In fact it was the one public service protected by the U.S. Constitution (or theoretically protected thereby). The First Amendment states:

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press.”

That’s supposed to apply to North Dakota as well. But the First Amendment only means anything if it is protected when threatened. That’s why I’d like everyone who thinks journalists who do their jobs in North Dakota should stay out of prison should sign this petition.

Also in North Dakota (as well as in Minnesota and Montana and Washington) five activists recently used emergency shut-off switches to shut down five active fossil fuel pipelines. They notified the pipeline owners, shut the pipelines down in remote locations, and then waited lengthy amounts of time for the police to arrive and arrest them. They believed that in fact the destruction of the earth’s climate constitutes an emergency. They also asked journalists to document their actions.

The activists expected to face criminal prosecution and in fact are facing the possibility of years in prison. Two of them discuss their actions on my radio show this week. Obviously by interviewing them on my show I am not committing any crime. Obviously any listener is free to conclude that they acted morally or immorally, free to remain undecided, free to seek out additional sources of information, free to create their own podcast explaining why I’m a fool, etc.

But in North Dakota, Deia Schlosberg, who simply filmed what happened, was “held for 48 hours before being allowed to speak to a lawyer. The authorities confiscated her footage. She is now charged with three counts of felony conspiracy and faces a possible sentence of up to 45 years.”

If you can’t recognize why this is a dangerous development, let me add an additional concern. If this sort of violation of freedom of the press were learned of in a nation targeted by the Pentagon for overthrow, it would be used by the U.S. media to justify a bombing campaign. With the rapid militarization of domestic police, what if the Pentagon were to forget that it isn’t supposed to bomb North Dakota?

Perhaps that’s a bit unlikely, but let’s not take any chances.
 

Talk Nation Radio: Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein on why they shut down pipelines

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-emily-johnston-and-annette-klapstein-on-why-they-shut-down-pipelines

Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein face felony charges for having shut down fossil fuel pipelines.

Johnston says:

To be honest, I’d love to be able to lead a quiet life right now—building things, reading and writing all day, taking long walks with my dog, having time for dinners and vacations with my loved ones.

But to live like that at this moment in time would be to shrug off responsibility for the very world I was busy loving; we’re in a crisis of unimaginable proportions, and the fact that we here in the US can (between terrible storms and terrible droughts) live normal daily lives, doesn’t mean that we aren’t.

I’ve said enough about why I’m doing this: it needs to be done. I feel incredibly privileged to be alive in this moment, when so much is still so beautiful, and there’s still a chance to save it. But for years (decades, for some people) we’ve tried the legal, incremental, reasonable methods, and they haven’t been anything like enough; without a radical shift in our relationship to this Earth, all that we love will disappear. My fear of that possibility is far greater than my fear of jail. My love for the beauties of this world is far greater than my love of an easy life.

If others feel the same way, there’s hope for us yet.

 

Klapstein says:

My name is Annette Klapstein. I am a retired attorney and the mother of 2 grown children.  Three words embody my decision to take action: love, solidarity and responsibility. 

It is my job as an older person to step up and put my body on the line to protect my children and all children. Being retired and freed from those obligations, there is nothing more important than insuring a habitable planet for all our children. Our political system has failed to respond to the grave threat of climate change – this is my taking responsibility.

There was a call for International Days of Prayer and Action with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe this week – this is my prayer and this is my action.  My life is only marginally affected by climate change right now, but there are mothers and children around the world in frontline communities – mostly low-income communities of color – who are being drastically affected right now. This is my act of solidarity.

Like mothers everywhere, I act from a deep love for my own children that extends out to all children and young people, and all living beings on this planet.  I have signed hundreds of petitions, testified at dozens of hearings, met with most of my political representatives at every level, to very little avail. I have come to believe that our current economic and political system is a death sentence to life on earth, and that I must do everything in my power to replace these systems with cooperative, just, equitable and love-centered ways of living together. This is my act of love.

For more information, see http://www.shutitdown.today

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from LetsTryDemocracy or Archive.

Pacifica stations can also download from Audioport.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Renewable Revolutionary Railroad Renaissance

The forthcoming book from creative activist and kayaktivist extraordinaire Bill Moyer and his Backbone Campaign colleagues should remake the United States and limit the oncoming onslaught of climate suffering. It’s called Solutionary Rail: A People Powered Campaign to Electrify America’s Railroads and Open Corridors to a Clean Energy Future.

Here’s the idea. There is huge potential for solar and wind energy in vast open spaces of the United States. There is a need for pathways through which to transmit renewable-produced electricity to where it’s needed in big cities and small towns. Meanwhile, under-used railroad lines crisscross the country. As coal and oil use drop, those lines will be even more under-used, unless we change something. Yet, trains are more efficient than trucks even now, and would be much more so if electrified. So, we should run electricity lines along newly-improved railroad lines, and use some of the electricity to cleanly power a lot more trains.

By electrifying rail, you make rail less expensive as well as cleaner. With improvements to tracks you also make it faster. More freight and passengers find their way to rail. More jobs are produced in renewable energy. People living near trains get a cleaner and quieter environment. Traffic is lessened on highways, reducing accidents, deaths, injuries, and wear and tear on the roads. Electric trains cost less, take less maintenance, and last longer. Regenerative braking can produce still more power.

This is a solution to air pollution, but its benefits just keep piling up. Electric rail is like the hemp of infrastructure. Faster, more efficient trains would take freight from trucks and planes, and people from planes and cars. Electric trains start and stop more quickly and can run more closely together than diesel trains. They run better on grades. They can run much faster than current U.S. trains on existing upgraded tracks. Restoring or adding double tracks provides three to four times the capacity of a single track.

Unless you’re going all the way across the United States, for any shorter distance trip, a fast train from downtown to downtown is going to look mighty appealing when the alternative is a plane ride that involves: traveling to an exurban airport, being treated like a terrorism suspect, waiting hours, flying to an out-of-the-way city to wait additional hours switching planes, never being sure you’ll be on time, buying much more expensive tickets, squeezing into a tiny seat with no chance to walk around, airplane food instead of a dining car, lousy internet, obnoxious announcements, and the knowledge that you’re contributing mightily to the destruction of the earth’s climate.

Solutionary Rail lays out a plan for a just transition to the wind- and solar-topia it envisions, taking into consideration the rights of workers, of those living near the train lines, etc. Also in need of careful study, I think, is the protection of the health of passengers maintaining vicinity to high-voltage power lines. But there are major health concerns created by delaying the move to solutionary rail, and there are ways in which the notion of a just transition might be expanded beyond the vision of this book.

Hundreds of times more U.S. residents are killed each year in traffic accidents involving heavy trucks than are killed by foreign terrorism. Yet the United States uses the threat of foreign terrorism to justify dumping roughly $1 trillion per year into preparations for the wars that generate the threats of terrorism. If electric rail were part of a transition away from treating war as our primary public project and toward treating environmental protection as such, the scope of the vision would be radically enlarged.

Moyer et alia propose starting with a single rail line as a model project to attract more funding. They worry that 500 miles could cost $1.25 billion. They note that an 800-mile high-speed rail project in California is estimated to cost $68 billion. They propose public-private partnerships and incremental advances. Yet they also note that, as with so many other projects on which Europe and Asia now lead the way, the United States was a leader in electric railroads over a century ago. What gave highways the advantage in the United States was primarily a massive public investment in free highways.

Describing 800 miles of high-speed rail in California as “one of the most expensive public works projects in U.S. history,” as Solutionary Rail does, needs to be qualified. I would call it one of the most expensive public works projects that serves some useful purpose and is not dedicated to mass killing in U.S. history. The cost of that dinky little project is pocket change for the Pentagon. If you can run renewable electricity along 500 miles of electric train track for $1.25 billion, then for 10% of U.S. military spending (which has nearly doubled since 2001 during a “war on terrorism” that has increased terrorism) you could do 40,000 miles.

That would be a good start. Factor in the wars over oil we could forego. Factor in the reduced oil consumption by the military. Factor in the greater economic benefits of investing in clean energy versus military spending. The benefits just keep coming.

Solutionary Rail is a master plan. The railroad labor unions are already on board. The blurbs in the front of the book, and Bill McKibben’s introduction claim both that it is a brand new idea and that everybody’s been doing it in Europe for a long time. I think that’s accurate. Most of the trains we enjoy riding in other countries are electric. The idea of having such things in the United States, and of using them as a way to harness unfathomable amounts of wind and sun power, is revolutionary.

When I ride the slow, expensive, internetless train up to the U.S. capital from Virginia, it runs on diesel. Then it sits in Union Station for a long time while they switch it over to electric before continuing north. Bringing electric south as well as north would be a very welcome development, in exchange for which I’d be willing to give up two or three or a couple of thousand military bases.