If war were moral, legal, defensive, beneficial to the spread of freedom, and inexpensive, we would be obliged to make abolishing it our top priority solely because of the destruction that war and preparations for war do as the leading polluters of our natural environment.
I happened to read a report this week from a U.S. environmental think tank that advocates for the U.S. military to blow up trucks full of oil and gas. The trucks belong to ISIS, and the argument is that bombing trucks does less damage than bombing oil wells, and that — if you add in vague social and economic factors rather ludicrously quantified with numerical pseudo-precision — bombing trucks does less damage than doing nothing. The option of working nonviolently for peace, disarmament, aid, and environmental protection is not considered.
If we don’t start considering new options, we’re going to run out of options entirely. The roughly $1 trillion that the United States puts into militarism each year is the number one way in which war kills and the source of an infinity of not-yet-considered options. Tiny fractions of U.S. military spending could end hunger, the lack of clean water, and various diseases globally. While converting to clean energy could pay for itself in healthcare savings, the funds with which to do it are there, many times over, in the U.S. military budget. One airplane program, the F-35, could be canceled and the funds used to convert every home in the United States to clean energy.
We’re not going to save our earth’s climate only as individuals. We need organized global efforts. The only place where the resources can be found is in the military. The wealth of the billionaires does not even begin to rival it. And taking it away from the military, even without doing anything else with it, is the single best thing that we could do for the earth. The U.S. military is the leading consumer of petroleum around, the third-greatest polluter of U.S. waterways, the top creator of superfund environmental disaster sites.
Pre-presidential campaign Donald Trump signed a letter published on December 6, 2009, on page 8 of the New York Times, a letter to President Obama that 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.”
Among societies that accept or promote war making, those consequences of environmental destruction will likely include yet more war making. It is of course false and self-defeating to suggest that climate change simply causes war in the absence of any human agency. There is no correlation between resource scarcity and war or environmental destruction and war. There is, however, a correlation between cultural acceptance of war and war. But this world — and especially certain parts of it, including the United States — is very accepting of war, as reflected in the belief in war’s inevitability.
Wars generating environmental destruction and mass-migration, generating more wars, generating further destruction is a vicious cycle we have to break out of by protecting the environment and abolishing war.
Toward that end, many of us are planning an event in Washington, D.C., in late September that will bring together leading environmental and peace activists. You are encouraged to sign up and participate in #NoWar2017: War and the Environment.
We’re also taking a flotilla for peace and the environment to the edge of the Pentagon in the lagoon off the Potomac River. If you don’t have a kayak we’ll get you one. Sign up here.
Peace and planet! No more oil for wars!