Research in the UK turns up the unsurprising fact that a tiny group of humans cause the lion’s share of air pollution via air travel. I’m old enough to remember when the fawning press called these elites “the jet set” due to their excessive use of machines that allow for swift travel.
The wealthy use travel to show off their privilege. For example, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz flying to Cancun during a statewide power outage last winter in Texas.
Or, in an anecdote I was told by an Afghan friend, a bride in Kabul flying to Dubai for her wedding makeup.
Of the two examples, one was the direct result of unprecedented freezing weather crashing a U.S. state’s (unregulated) power grid.
Thus, climate change begets climate change.
My friend and neighbor Barry Dana, past chief of the Penobscot Nation, has been ringing the alarm bell about air travel for years. His response to my sharing the news that a handful of people cause most of the climate damage due to aviation was, “I see flying to be one thing we have in our daily choices that we have the power NOT to do.” He is critical of Native environmental activists who fly in indigenous experts from around the globe to confer about our climate problem.
My response is to listen to Barry, an educator for traditional wisdom about how to live sustainably on this planet, and to make my choices accordingly.
But the elephant in the climate change room is actually military aviation.
Neoliberal rag The Guardian naturally did not offer this context in their article about elite air travel.
Source: Brown University, Watson Institute, Costs of War Project
Luckily for us, academics have been studying military contributions to climate crisis for a while now. I’ve been collecting their reports here for a few years and was excited to learn that peace activist emeritus Kathy Kelly referred to my collection in an interview recently. Podcaster Kollibri terre Sonnenblume characterized this as:
“most US Americans are ignorant of the consequences of US militarism.”
Like The Guardian, the corporate press here in the U.S. works overtime to ignore the real drivers of climate change. To help craft this false narrative, military emissions were exempt from being quantified in the Kyoto climate protocols, and were made optional in the Paris climate accords. Because our planet’s atmosphere isn’t affected by pollution if it has the right flag on it?
Now, with a former Raytheon board member heading the Pentagon, this problem is unlikely to be addressed. The U.S. military is well aware that climate change is a thing and they have lots of contingency plans for dealing with the coastal flooding of many of their 800 bases around the planet.
I founded the Maine Natural Guard to help people connect the dots between climate crisis and U.S. taxpayer funded military aviation. So few people seem to care that we bomb civilians constantly no matter which of the two corporate parties is in power at the moment, but many do care about the existential threat of climate emergency.
I’m glad to see Veterans for Peace has a web page for their Working Group on Climate Crisis and Militarism with their #1 focus: “The unequal burden of both climate change and militarism on people of color and the poor.”
This point is important to bear in mind as we witness the ramp up to war with China, Russia, or (are the generals insane?) both. When I read Ann Wright’s comprehensive review “In Alarmist Turn, NATO Is Increasingly Positioning Itself In Opposition To China, I saw our carbon bootprint spreading like the stain it is.
Want to be part of the solution?
Add your name to join the Natural Guard effort from wherever you are!
I pledge to speak out about the effects of militarism on our environment, because the commons we all share that sustain life are valuable to me.
In discussions about security and safety, I will remind others of the need to count in the cost in pollution and fuel consumption of waging wars all around the planet.
In discussions about acting soon to protect our loved ones from the effects of climate chaos, I will remind others of the need to examine the role of the Pentagon and its many contractors in contributing to planetary warming.