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A note from David Swanson:
You may have seen this article I wrote recently on ongoing U.S. use of depleted uranium weapons. It's on dozens of websites, including my own WarIsACrime, but also Al Jazeera, Truthout, Counterpunch, FireDogLake, OpEdNews, Washington's Blog, Z, and many others.
Guess what I got paid, in total, from all of those outlets? ----->>>
But I can pay the bills and keep working for peace if you help with a donation, even a small one, ideally a recurring one to keep me going and keep me from having to bug you in the future.
You may have seen this recent television appearance. It informed a great many people about alternatives to war. It paid exactly as much as that article. In fact, I am constantly writing and doing interviews for nothing but peace.
I won't waste a dime. I won't give it to corporate television networks to advertise a campaign slightly less awful than another guy's, because I'm not running for anything but peace.
Dozens of radio stations air my program Talk Nation Radio every week (also available online). It provides an educational service found nowhere else. The combined payments I receive for it total exactly the same as for my writing and media appearances. I have to maintain recording equipment, pay the bill for a landline phone, and put in hours of work each week. You can fund this program here.
I'm maintaining a website at WarIsACrime.org that provides resources and information to the peace movement and the broader movement for a better world. Nobody helps. Nobody pays. No corporate advertising is allowed. Check out the site and fund it here.
Or you can help me stay actively working for peace by buying my books on the subject.
Or you can donate through Paypal to david AT davidswanson DOT org.
The above are all ways to fund me directly. I'm just a person, not a tax-deductible charity. However, I am working part-time for WorldBeyondWar.org and you can fund this project tax-free. Whenever it raises enough, it pays me something. Check out the resources I've created there; I think you'll find them valuable. For example, here's an answer to the ever-present question "But what would you do about ISIS?"
I'm also working part-time for a great online activist group called RootsAction.org and encourage you to join and fund it.
I work in collaboration with a lot of peace organizations, and I always try to nudge the activism toward a principled stand against militarism and toward strategic and educational efforts that will move the wider culture in the direction of making war a thing of the past. I'm free to speak my mind, and to take part in nonviolent civil resistance, because I'm not serving any big foundation or 1-percenter. I am, however, relying on you. Please click here and help me keep working.
Angels by the River: A Memoir by James Gustave Speth is pleasantly written but painful to read. Speth knew about the dangers of global warming before the majority of today's climate change deniers were born. He was an advisor to President Jimmy Carter and advised him and the public to address the matter before it became a crisis.
Carter and the U.S. capital of his day weren't about to take the sort of action needed. Remember, Carter was despised for a speech promoting green energy and celebrated for a speech declaring that the United States would always go to war over Middle Eastern oil. Ronald Reagan and his followers (in every sense) Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama wouldn't come within 10 miles of a reasonable approach to climate. But Speth has spent the decades since the Carter administration trying to maintain a career within the system, a choice that he acknowledges has required compromises. Now he's pushing for radical change and takes himself to be a radical because he was arrested at the White House opposing a tar sands pipeline.
Here's a photo of Speth at the White House wearing the campaign symbol of the man at whose house he was protesting (Speth doesn't discuss the uniqueness of this form of opposition).
Speth writes as if President Obama were trying to protect the planet from Republicans, in contrast to the real-life Obama who has sabotaged climate talks in Copenhagen and at other summits over the years. Speth gives Democrats a pass, promotes electoral work, pushes nationalism, and believes the world needs U.S. leadership to address climate change. I think the evidence is clear that the world would be fairly well along if the United States would just stay out of the way and stop leading the destruction.
This image is from a recent report by the Institute for Policy Studies.
Speth's book tells a story of racist and sexist Agrarians who wanted to resist corporatism but didn't really do so; of "moderates" who blandly hinted at opposing segregation but didn't; of a Carter White House that didn't act; of a Clinton Administration that decided against even pretending to act; of a statement Speth wrote immediately after September 11, 2001, in which he took a both-and position, supporting both insane war and sane peaceful policies; and of the age of Obama in which one admits that the facts demand swift radical change while embracing lesser-evilism, not in voting but in activism and speech (that inevitable tendency being the main reason some of us oppose it in voting).
Of course I'm being unfair and Speth won't necessarily have any idea what I'm talking about. He doesn't have a chapter dedicated to nationalism, he just frames all of his proposals in terms of being a good patriot and fixing one's country -- even though the problem facing us is global. And when he worked in the Carter Administration he actually did good work and got things done. We celebrate -- hell, we practically worship -- whistleblowers who spent decades doing bad work, murderous work, before speaking out. Here's a man who did good work, who nudged things in a better direction for decades, before speaking out in the way he does now. With most people contributing little or nothing to the sustainability of the planet, and with radicals living through decades of failure just the same as moderates, Speth is not someone to criticize. And his book is quite valuable. I just want to nudge him a bit further.
Speth's account of his childhood in South Carolina is charming and wise. His account of unfulfilled dreams for the South and of undesirable Southern influence on the rest of the country is powerful. Instead of losing its bigotry, the South took on the North's consumerism. Instead of losing its consumerism, the North took on the South's reactionary politics, including what Speth calls "antipathy toward the federal government" -- I would add: except for that 53% of it that's dedicated to killing foreigners. Speth's account of the Nashville Agrarians' opposition to corporate consumerism is valuable. It's not that nobody knew; it's that not enough people acted. Of course, with my focus on the problem of war (which somehow, at best, squeezes into the last item on each of Speth's lists of issues) I'm brought back to wondering where we would be if slavery had been ended differently. I know that we're supposed to cheer for the Civil War even though other nations (and Washington D.C.) used compensated emancipation and skipped war. I know we're supposed to repeat to ourselves over and over "It's not Lincoln's fault, the slave owners wanted war." Well, indeed they did, but what if they hadn't? Or what if the recruits had refused to fight it for them? Or what if the North had let the South leave? It's difficult to bring up such questions while simultaneously convincing the reader that you know none of this actually happened. So, for what it's worth: I'm aware that's not how it happened; hence the need to bring it up. As it is, Vietnam has gotten over the war of the 1960s, and the U.S. South can, at long last, get over the war of the 1860s if it chooses to.
Speth was a founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council which helped win important struggles to halt a major expansion of nuclear power, to implement the Clean Water Act, and to protect wetlands. He also did great work at the World Resources Institute. Yet, he writes, there have been countless victories during an ongoing major defeat. "Our environmental organizations have grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to go downhill. The prospect of a ruined planet is now very real. We have won many victories, but we are losing the planet." Speth recounts the perils of working as a D.C. insider: "Once there, inside the system, we were compelled to a certain tameness by the need to succeed there. We opted to work within the system of political economy that we found, and we neglected to seek transformation of the system itself." And of being a global insider: "Thus far, the climate convention is not protecting climate, the biodiversity convention is not protecting biodiversity, the desertification convention is not preventing desertification, and even the older and stronger Convention on the Law of the Sea is not protecting fisheries."
Speth's conclusion is not entirely unlike Naomi Klein's. Speth writes in this book: "In short, most environmental deterioration is a result of systemic failures of the capitalism that we have today, and long-term solutions must seek transformative change in the key features of this contemporary capitalism." Klein quotes Speth in her book: "We didn't adjust with Reagan. We kept working within a system but we should have tried to change the system and root causes."
Brad Friedman is the investigative blogger, journalist, broadcaster, trouble-maker and muckraker from BradBlog.com. He is a regular contributor to Salon.com and elsewhere; host of KPFK/Pacifica Radio's BradCast and the nationally-syndicated Green News Report with co-host Desi Doyen. We discuss war and peace, the environment and its destruction, and voting and everything done to prevent it. As Michael Moore says: It's a comedy!
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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
This is not a radical idea. A nonviolent protest march expressing popular opinion should be allowed to march to the place it is protesting. The idea that insisting on that constitutes something radical or extremist bewilders me. The New York Times refers to "protest or terror groups" as a category of people, but has a protest group ever engaged in terrorizing and has a terrorist ever joined a protest? Would protesting the United Nations at the United Nations somehow be an act of violence, perhaps purely because it would be an act of disobedience? You've got to be kidding me.
I'm in favor of mixed-use protests, not just urban developments. Don't just let the conservative marchers know about opportunities for more direct protest, but get them involved. Take a safe march to a resistance action, where its size will keep it safe and its members will be energized. Let the crowd demonstrate within sight and sound of the people it is petitioning for a redress of grievances, and let those who are ready join in disruptive protest actions.
Of course turning left in order to go where needed makes a nice metaphor for what our whole culture must do if it is to cease destroying the earth's climate. Paul Krugman figured out this week that green energy pays for itself, but he seems to imagine that therefore it will be created, as if the corrupting influence of the fossil fuel profiteers just doesn't exist. We need to turn so far left that we abandon such naiveté, stop yammering about transition fuels, abandon all talk of "peak oil" as if existing oil isn't sufficient to kill us all, and forswear all pointless pursuit of the political "center."
Naomi Klein's new book does a much better job of identifying the corrupting influence of profiteers. She also points out that the sooner we act to slow down climate change the less radical our actions will need to be. The longer we wait to take meaningful action, the more drastic our actions will have to be when we finally do something. Green energy, Klein's book makes clear for anyone who was unaware, is not failing in a marketplace. It is being killed by political corruption, loan conditions, corporate trade agreements, penalties and disincentives, and the subsidies given to the fossil fuel corporations.
Klein notes that activist movements around trade and climate have, oddly, progressed while virtually ignoring each other. Klein comes closer than most environmentalists to not ignoring another big question, that of war. The military is the elephant in the room in terms of both economics and climate destruction, but is largely ignored by activists and the broader public.
In a common delusion, the government tells the truth about war, and war is worth giving up freedoms for, but scientists lie about the climate and do so in order to (somehow) attack our freedoms. In other words, the fears of bureaucrats and of limits to plutocracy are strong but perhaps not as strong as the fear of terrorists. And the fear of bureaucrats is augmented by a fear of being insignificant, because when nuclear energy or geo-engineering is proposed as a solution, those who like those ideas also see their recognition of the climate crisis increase.
When Klein mentions the military, she first proposes that the weapons companies pay their fair share toward climate protection, and then proposes (along with a bunch of other good ideas) cutting the military by 25% -- while calling that proposal "the toughest sell." The U.S. military budget has doubled in the past decade. The idea that it can't be seriously cut is ridiculous. It is not a question of selling the idea to the public. Go back and look at the public's preferred solutions to the supposed financial crisis in Congress a few years back. The problem is in the corruption of the U.S. government.
Elsewhere Klein says that large public sector expenditures will be needed to save the climate, but surely not as large as the military. So why talk about increasing, rather than changing, expenditures? And then again, elsewhere, Klein says what we need is "wartime levels of spending," even though base military spending is about 10 times as much as war spending. Klein also cites a study suggesting that $1.9 trillion a year, or exactly what the planet now spends on war preparations, would solve the climate and various other crises and human needs.
Congress members have skipped town in order to avoid voting on war. You can find them in their districts. November 6th will be the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. The two movements named in this holiday should be combined and our actions should escalate. A slight left turn won't be enough to save us.
A pipeline has worked wonders for Michigan (see above).
The U.S. Coast Guard is guarding the coasts of the Persian Gulf but says it can't help with oil spills on the coasts of the U.S.
Meanwhile Burlington, Vermont, now uses 100% renewable energy, thereby losing interest in foreign oil wars or local oil spills. Why can't other cities and states do the same?
Because we're too busy trying to pay for the wars and build more pipelines.
There's a meeting to stop the pipeline through Virginia this evening, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, at 7 p.m. at St. Mark's Lutheran Church at Ivy and Alderman Roads in Charlottesville, Va.
See you there.
Kevin Zeese (at right in image) is an organizer at http://PopularResistance.org We discuss activist journalism, stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saving the climate, and ending the wars.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
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
An interactive townhall discussion of how we get to peace
Speakers: Andy Shallal, Barbara Wien, David Swanson, and YOU
When: Monday, September 22, 11:30-1:30
Where: SIS Founders Room, American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
Food and drink provided!
War, Whistleblowing, and Independent Journalism
8 pm: Q&A with Phil Donahue
8:15 pm: Panel
* William Binney, NSA whistleblower
* Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, EPA whistleblower
* Phil Donahue, journalist
* Thomas Drake, NSA whistleblower
* Peter Kuznick, professor of history
* Jesselyn Radack, DOJ whistleblower
* Kirk Wiebe, NSA whistleblower
Moderator: Norman Solomon
Optional: You can sign up on FaceBook here.
This event is sponsored by RootsAction.org and the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University, and co-sponsored by ExposeFacts.org.
For more information on the speakers, click here.
Nonviolent civil resistance for peace and climate at the White House
When: Tuesday, September 23, 10 a.m.
Where: Pennsylvania Ave. in front of White House.
With serendipitous timing, as a big march for the climate, and various related events, are planned on and around the International Day of Peace, Randall Amster has just published an important book called Peace Ecology.
This book bridges divides that very much need to be bridged between peace activism and peace academia, and between peace advocacy and environmentalism. This is, in fact, a peace book for deep environmentalists and an environmental book for deep peace advocates.
Typically, I think, peace activists appear to the peace academic as a bit uninformed, ahistorical, reactive, and negative in the sense of being "against something rather than for something."
Peace academics, I'm afraid, often appear to the peace activist as uninterested in ending wars, uncurious about the evils of wars, unimpressed by the military industrial complex as a cause of wars, and altogether too concerned with the personal virtues of people who are in no way responsible for the scourge of war. It is the rare political studies academic who occasionally can be spotted opposing war or documenting the superiority of nonviolent struggle, whereas the peace studies scholars are essentially advocates of environmentalism and democracy who -- unlike other environmentalists and democrats -- happen to recognize the ginormous roadblock that militarism presents for their agenda. Or so it appears to the activist, who searches in vain for any large academic contingent giving war and war propaganda the full critique they so richly deserve.
The environmentalist, meanwhile, as represented by the larger environmentalist groups and their spokespeople, appears to the peace activist as a dupe or a war-monger, someone who wants to save the earth while cheering on the institution that constitutes its single biggest destroyer.
The peace activist, when spotted by the otherwise occupied environmentalist, must appear something of a fool, a traitor, or a Vladimir-Putin-lover.
Amster is an academic for peace and the environment with a strong inclination toward activism. Parts of his book could have been written by an environmentalist enamored with war, but most of it could not have been. What Amster is after is a worldview within which we avert the dangers of both war and environmental destruction, including by recognizing their interaction.
War advocates would tell those developing organic communal gardens and gift economies and natural sanctuaries, and other projects that Amster writes about, that "our brave troops" are providing the safe space in which to pursue such luxuries. Amster would, I think, tell the war advocates that their project is in fact rapidly reducing that space, that these "luxury" efforts are in fact necessary for survival, and that understanding them requires a state of mind that also condemns war as an unmitigated disaster.
"This may seem idealistic," Amster writes of the prospect of a society dedicated to peace, "but consider that it is no more so than continuing on our present course and hoping for a happy ending."
Amster notes that the New York Times considers it "accepted wisdom" that advocates of protecting the climate must promote the idea that climate change threatens "national security." The idea is that climate-induced disasters and shortages produce wars. While Amster doesn't say so, this is a view that has been expressed by Bill McKibben, prominent organizer of the upcoming march. If his organization, 350.org, would object each time President Obama sends another 350 troops to Iraq, it would begin taking on the biggest consumer of oil we have: the military. Such an act would be unprecedented for any large U.S. environmental organization.
Of course, in reality disasters lead to wars only when a society chooses to address them with wars, and resource abundance has led to wars as often as scarcity. Sustainability and egalitarianism, Amster argues, can encourage stability, whereas unsustainable exploitation and inequality mean instability and potentially war. Should we work to limit the level of climate change or to limit its suffering by adapting to it? Amster points out that the same practices can often do both. One that can't, however, is war which exacerbates the problem while in fact failing to adapt to it.
Ian Morris recently published a remarkably stupid book arguing for the merits of war. In it he claimed Thomas Hobbes as a hero of peace who understood the path to peace to lie through imperialist wars and governmental monopoly on violence. Amster provides a healthy rebuttal, pointing out that in fact "civilized" governments oversee very violent societies that have normalized brutal competition by imagining it as inevitable and blinding themselves to the merits of other cultures. Amster leads us to reject Hobbes' most basic assumptions.
Amster does the same for Garrett Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons. If actual human beings were mathematical game pieces driven purely by sociopathic greed and calculation, population growth and prosperity must lead to tragedy. But as human beings exhibit generosity and friendship as often as limitless greed and selfishness, it turns out not to be the existence of open commons that leads to tragedy but the privatization and enclosure of the commons -- or, rather, the abandonment of the life of the commons, that leads inexorably to crisis.
What have we got left that could be treated as commons? Amster suggests air, water, parks, sidewalks, libraries, airwaves, the internet, biodiversity, transportation, Antarctica, open-source software, outer space, and much else. And he provides examples of people behaving accordingly.
Do people developing healthy ways of living necessarily learn that bombing is not a useful response to a throat-slitting by ISIS? Possibly not. But there's another way to see the connection. Control of fossil fuels is a major motivation for wars, and wars are a major consumer of fossil fuels. In fact it was the desire to fuel the British navy that first created the Western obsession with Middle Eastern oil. But a society dedicated to peace would not have sought to fuel a navy or to fight wars in order to fuel a navy. A society dedicated to peace would be developing green energy and green lifestyles.
An environmental movement that wanted millions of dedicated participants would want a society committed to peace. A side benefit would be the freeing up of $2 trillion a year globally, $1 trillion in the United States, that had been used for war preparation but now could be used to quickly end all the pretense that green energy cannot work wonders.
If you live in an area not massively illuminated at night, you can -- simply by walking around after dark -- get a sense of the human built environment utterly transformed by nature. Darkness coats everything. And in the part of the world I live in, the sound of insects completely dominates the darkness.
If you live in an area that has proved less desirable for non-"tragic" exploitation than it used to be, you can get a sense of what the non-human world will do to human creations if humanity takes its leave. Streets and buildings will vanish as surely as the dinosaurs. Only nuclear waste will eventually remain as evidence of our species' existence.
Unless we change.
"Save the environment" might not be our best motto, Amster suggests. More to the point might be "Save the humans."
Remarks at North Carolina Peace Action Event in Raleigh, N.C., August 23, 2014.
Thank you for inviting me, and thank you to North Carolina Peace Action, and to John Heuer whom I consider a tireless selfless and inspired peacemaker himself. Can we thank John?
It's an honor for me to have a role in honoring the 2014 Student Peacemaker, iMatter Youth North Carolina. I've followed what iMatter has been doing around the country for years, I've sat in on a court case they brought in Washington, D.C., I've shared a stage with them at a public event, I've organized an online petition with them at RootsAction.org, I've written about them and watched them inspire writers like Jeremy Brecher whom I recommend reading. Here is an organization acting in the interests of all future generations of all species and being led -- and led well -- by human kids. Can we give them some applause?
But, perhaps revealing the short-sightedness and self-centeredness of myself as a member of a species that didn't evolve to manage a whole planet, I'm especially happy to be recognizing iMatter Youth North Carolina because my own niece Hallie Turner and my nephew Travis Turner are part of it. They deserve LOTS of applause.
And the full iMatter planning team, I'm told, is represented tonight as well by Zack Kingery, Nora White, and Ari Nicholson. They should have even more applause.
I take complete credit for Hallie and Travis's work, because although I didn't really teach them anything, I did, before they were born, tell my sister she should go to our high school reunion, at which she met the man who became my brother in law. Without that, no Hallie and no Travis.
However, it was my parents -- who I suppose by the same logic (although in this case I of course reject it) get complete credit for anything I do -- it was they who took Hallie to her first rally, at the White House protesting a tar sands pipeline. I'm told that Hallie didn't know what it was all about at first or why the good people were being arrested, instead of the people committing the offenses against our loved ones and our earth being arrested. But by the end of the rally Hallie was right in the thick of it, wouldn't leave until the last person had gone off to jail for justice, and she pronounced the occasion the most important day of her life thus far, or words to that effect.
Perhaps, as it turns out, that was an important day, not just for Hallie but also for iMatter Youth North Carolina, and, who knows, just maybe -- like the day Gandhi was thrown off a train, or the day Bayard Rustin talked Martin Luther King Jr. into giving up his guns, or the day a teacher assigned Thomas Clarkson to write an essay on whether slavery was acceptable -- it will eventually turn out to have been an important day for more of us.
I'm a bit ashamed of two things though, despite all my pride.
One is that we adults leave kids to discover moral action and serious political engagement by accident rather than teaching it to them systematically and universally, as if we don't really think they want meaningful lives, as if we imagine comfortable lives is the complete human ideal. We are asking kids to lead the way on the environment, because we -- I'm speaking collectively of everyone over 30, the people Bob Dylan said not to trust until he was over 30 -- we are not doing it, and the kids are taking us to court, and our government is allowing its fellow leading destroyers of the environment to become voluntary co-defendants (can you imagine volunteering to be sued along with someone else who's facing a law suit? No, wait, sue me too!), and the voluntary co-defendants, including the National Association of Manufacturers, are providing teams of lawyers that probably cost more than the schools Hallie and Travis attend, and the courts are ruling that it is an individual right of non-human entities called corporations to destroy the inhabitability of the planet for everyone, despite the evident logic that says the corporations will cease to exist as well.
Should our kids do as we say or as we do? Neither! They should run in the opposite direction from anything we've touched. There are exceptions, of course. Some of us try a little. But it is an uphill effort to undo the cultural indoctrination that has us saying phrases like "throw this away" as if there really were an away, or labeling the destruction of a forest "economic growth," or worrying about so-called peak oil and how we'll live when the oil runs out, even though we've already found five times what we can safely burn and still be able to live on this beautiful rock.
But kids are different. The need to protect the earth and use clean energy even if it means a few inconveniences or even some serious personal risk, is no more unusual or strange to a kid than half the other stuff they are presented with for the first time, like algebra, or swim meets, or uncles. They haven't spent as many years being told that renewable energy doesn't work. They haven't developed the fine-tuned sense of patriotism that allows us to keep believing renewable energy cannot work even as we hear about it working in other countries. (That's German physics!)
Our young leaders have fewer years of indoctrination into what Martin Luther King Jr. called extreme materialism, militarism, and racism. Adults block the way in the courts, so kids take to the streets, they organize and agitate and educate. And so they must, but they are up against an educational system and an employment system and an entertainment system that often tells them they are powerless, that serious change is impossible, and that the most important thing you can do is vote.
Now, adults telling each other that the most important thing they can do is vote is bad enough, but saying that to kids who aren't old enough to vote is like telling them to do nothing. We need a few percent of our population doing the opposite of nothing, living and breathing dedicated activism. We need creative nonviolent resistance, re-education, redirection of our resources, boycotts, divestments, the creation of sustainable practices as models for others, and the impeding of an established order that is politely and smilingly steering us over a cliff. Rallies organized by iMatter Youth North Carolina look like moves in the right direction to me. So, let's thank them again.
The second thing I'm a little ashamed of is that it is not at all uncommon for a peace organization to arrive at an environmental activist when choosing someone to honor, whereas I have never once heard of the reverse. Hallie and Travis have an uncle who works largely on peace, but they live in a culture where the activism that receives funding and attention and mainstream acceptance, to the limited extent that any does and of course trailing far behind 5Ks against breast cancer and the sort of activism that lacks real opponents, is activism for the environment. But I think there's a problem with what I've just done and what we usually tend to do, that is, with categorizing people as peace activists or environmental activists or clean elections activists or media reform activists or anti-racism activists. As we came to realize a few years back, we all add up to 99% of the population, but those who are really active are divided, in reality as well as in people's perceptions.
Peace and environmentalism should, I think, be combined into the single word peacenvironmentalism, because neither movement is likely to succeed without the other. iMatter wants to live as if our future matters. You can't do that with militarism, with the resources it takes, with the destruction it causes, with the risk that grows greater with each passing day that nuclear weapons will be intentionally or accidentally detonated. If you could really figure out how to nuke another nation while shooting its missiles out of the sky, which of course nobody has figured out, the impact on the atmosphere and climate would severely impact your own nation as well. But that's a fantasy. In a real world scenario, a nuclear weapon is launched on purpose or by mistake, and many more are quickly launched in every direction. This has in fact nearly happened numerous times, and the fact that we pay almost no attention to it anymore makes it more rather than less likely. I imagine you know what happened 50 miles southeast of here on January 24, 1961? That's right, the U.S. military accidentally dropped two nuclear bombs and got very lucky they didn't explode. Nothing to worry about, says comedy news anchor John Oliver, that's why we have TWO Carolinas.
iMatter advocates for an economic shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and for sustainable jobs. If only there were a couple of trillion dollars a year being wasted on something useless or destructive! And of course there is, worldwide, that unfathomable sum is being spent on preparations for war, half of it by the United States, three quarters of it by the United States and its allies -- and much of that last bit on U.S. weapons. For a fraction of it, starvation and disease could be seriously dealt with, and so could climate change. War kills primarily through taking spending away from where it's needed. For a small fraction of war preparations spending, college could be free here and provided free in some other parts of the world too. Imagine how many more environmental activists we could have if college graduates didn't owe tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for the human right of an education! How do you pay that back without going to work for the destroyers of the earth?
79% of weapons in the Middle East come from the United States, not counting those belonging to the U.S. military. U.S. weapons were on both sides in Libya three years ago and are on both sides in Syria and Iraq. Weapons making is an unsustainable job if ever I saw one. It drains the economy. The same dollars spent on clean energy or infrastructure or education or even tax cuts for non-billionaires produces more jobs than military spending. Militarism fuels more violence, rather than protecting us. The weapons have to be used up, destroyed, or given to local police who will begin to see local people as enemies, so that new weapons can be made. And this process is, by some measures, the biggest destroyer of the environment we have.
The U.S. military burned through about 340,000 barrels of oil each day, as measured in 2006. If the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 38th out of 196 in oil consumption. If you removed the Pentagon from the total oil consumption by the United States, then the United States would still rank first with nobody else anywhere close. But you would have spared the atmosphere the burning of more oil than most countries consume, and would have spared the planet all the mischief the U.S. military manages to fuel with it. No other institution in the United States consumes remotely as much oil as the military.
Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spends $622 million trying to figure out how to produce power without oil, while the military spends hundreds of billions of dollars burning oil in wars fought and on bases maintained to control the oil supplies. The million dollars spent to keep each soldier in a foreign occupation for a year could create 20 green energy jobs at $50,000 each.
Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War "rivals infectious disease as a global cause of morbidity and mortality," according to Jennifer Leaning of Harvard Medical School. Leaning divides war's environmental impact into four areas: "production and testing of nuclear weapons, aerial and naval bombardment of terrain, dispersal and persistence of land mines and buried ordnance, and use or storage of military despoliants, toxins, and waste." A 1993 U.S. State Department report called land mines "the most toxic and widespread pollution facing mankind." Millions of hectares in Europe, North Africa, and Asia are under interdiction. One-third of the land in Libya conceals land mines and unexploded World War II munitions.
The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan’s forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants.
You may not care about politics, the saying goes, but politics cares about you. That goes for war. John Wayne avoided going off to World War II by making movies to glorify other people going. And do you know what happened to him? He made a movie in Utah near a nuclear testing area. Of the 220 people who worked on the film, 91, rather than the 30 that would have been the norm, developed cancer including John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell.
We need a different direction. In Connecticut, Peace Action and many other groups have been involved in successfully persuading the state government to set up a commission to work on converting from weapons to peaceful industries. Labor unions and management support it. Environmental and peace groups are part of it. It's very much a work in progress. It was likely stimulated by false stories that the military was being slashed. But whether we can make that a reality or not, the environmental need to shift our resources to green energy is going to grow, and there is no reason North Carolina shouldn't be the second state in the country to do this. You have moral Mondays here. Why not have moral every days of the year?
Major changes look larger before they happen than after. Environmentalism has come on very quickly. The U.S. already had nuclear submarines back when whales were still being used as a source of raw materials, lubricants, and fuels, including in nuclear submarines. Now whales are, almost suddenly, seen as marvelous intelligent creatures to be protected, and the nuclear submarines have begun to look a bit archaic, and the deadly sound pollution that the Navy imposes on the world's oceans looks a bit barbaric.
iMatter's lawsuits seek to protect the public trust for future generations. The ability to care about future generations is, in terms of the imagination required, almost identical to the ability to care about foreign people at a distance in space rather than time. If we can think of our community as including those not yet born, who of course we hope far outnumber the rest of us, we can probably think of it as including the 95% of those alive today who don't happen to be in the United States of America, and vice versa.
But even if environmentalism and peace activism were not a single movement, we'd have to join them and several others together in order to have the sort of Occupy 2.0 coalition we need to effect change. A big chance to do that is coming up around September 21st which is the International Day of Peace and the time when a rally and all sorts of events for the climate will be happening in New York City.
At WorldBeyondWar.org you'll find all sorts of resources for holding your own event for peace and the environment. You'll also find a short two-sentence statement in favor of ending all war, a statement that has been signed in the past few months by people in 81 nations and rising. You can sign it on paper here this evening. We need your help, young and old. But we should be especially glad that time and numbers are on the side of the young around the world, to whom I say along with Shelley:
Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few.