With corporate media paying nonstop attention to the proxy war in Ukraine and the flood of refugees (at least, those refugees who look like well-fed Europeans) and moderate attention to galloping inflation, and economic sanctions against Russia with consequent fuel and food shortages yet to come, who noticed this catastrophic news?
This morning I had to scroll through a couple of screens of my big daily newspaper to find an article on the subject after I’d seen the headline on Twitter yesterday. I went looking for it because it was a headline that stayed with me, a reminder that the most pressing security threat to humans — no matter what wars are raging — is climate crisis.
Both poles experienced temperatures 70 degrees Farenheit (21 degrees Celsius) higher than normal last week, and scientists speculate that their previous belief in the relative stability of the eastern ice sheet may have been in error.
The East Antarctic Ice Sheet holds so much frozen water that, if it goes, the melting will cause planetary oceans to rise 160 feet (48.768 meters).
That seems like a hell of a lede to me, but what do I know?
One thing I do know is that militarism, and in particular U.S. militarism, is a major driver of global warming and climate crisis.
I’ve been collecting research and reporting on this for years. It’s a little know fact that is routinely ignored in the corporate press, even when they are cheerleading for war.
Space exploration including rocket launches are also in the news, consistently reported in tones of breathless excitement, but it also contributes to climate change as well as other environmental harms (think PFAS and toxic rain) and damage to the ozone layer.
We ignore these realities at our peril. Because one thing I know for certain:
our planet’s atmosphere is not patriotic and there are no good or bad emissions.
Scientific information is routinely subject to political control, but that does not change facts on the ground.
Ground that is not yet underwater, at least for now.
The Kaua’i Climate Forum invited me to present at their monthly zoom meeting on how the U.S. military contributes to climate chaos. Their January 12 forum included three outstanding climate and militarism activists based in Hawaii: Ann Wright of Veterans for Peace, Koohan Paik-Mander of Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, and Kip Goodwin of Sierra Club. Here’s the full recording:
Like many zoom recordings, the first few minutes are spent waiting for attendees to enter the room, so I suggest you skip the first 4 minutes to get to Andrea’s introduction of the sponsoring organizations, the topic, and the speakers. My 20 minute presentation with slides starts at the 10:45 point.
If you are short on time you can see just my recorded presentation here (the time difference between Maine and Hawaii made me beg off on presenting live way past my bedtime).
However, you will miss a lot if you don’t hear the shorter presentations that follow mine. I’ve transcribed some excerpts from their remarks.
Andrea Brower, moderator, Gonzaga University adjunct faculty, Sociology & Environmental Studies:
This is a radically underdiscussed topic…we really can’t talk about the climate crisis without discussing the U.S. military…Hawaii is where the U.S. military is arguably the biggest polluter, and Red Hill is just one example of many.
Ann Wright, retired Colonel U.S. Army & U.S. State Dept, organizer with Veterans for Peace:
“Most of the time we think of military pollution interms of what we’ve seen in wars…Iraq oil fields that were blown up…Iraq & Afghanistan burning pits…now dealing with the health problems that were caused…just as in the Vietnam war the health problems that were caused by Agent Orange…a legacy that the Vietnamese are still dealing with
Right here at Red Hill…we have 93,000 people most of them on military base housing…who are dealing with not having potable water…we are dealing with parts of the climate chaos, with how the repositories of fuel that the military says they have to have for national security… What is national security? Do you have n.s. when you’re killing your own people with the materials that you’re using for what you say in n.s.? our HI congressional delegation has picked upt hose terms. Congressman Kahele “the fuel insecurity is really n.s. & we’ve got to resolve this issue of having jet fuel 100 ft abo ve the main aquifer of Oahu.”
Right here we’re dealing with the tangible effects of military pollution
Marine Corps Osprey go out on training missions and they now are buzzing Molokai …protests because these planes come in so low, shaking the windows…if you look at how much fuel they’re using…the training and preparations are killing our enviro, killing our climate. something that well all here in the haw islands HI’s congressional delegation which typically loves everything military gets huge amounts of their campaign funds from military-related industries. Well finally we have one time when our entire delegation has said no to the military & we need to keep after them to say no to the military which has been used to getting just as a matter of fact.”
Laurel Brier, retired social worker & lead organizer for the Kaua’i Climate Forum:
“[military emissions are] the whale in the room…there’s no greening war
Bill McKibben’s not talking about it, Greta’s not talking about it”
Koohan Paik-Mander, journalist & board member, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space:
“Spread the truth! The media is complicit, the Democrats are complicit…all we have is ourselves.”
Kip Goodwin, peace and justice activist with Sierra Club & Democratic Party Environmental Caucus:
“Homeland Defense Radar Hawaii (HDRH) to be built [in one of two locations in Hawaii]…would have one purpose: to detect the launch of a intercontinental ballistic missile from North Korea …this radar has lost support among DOD strategy planners …because hypersonic missiles can evade the radar…the HDRH has been zeroed out of the last two defense auth bills in favor of a network of satellite detection systems…
What’s keeping the HDRH alive is procurements won by our congressional delegation…one thing Republicans and Democrats in Washington can agree on is voting more funding to the Pentagon than it even asks for…the military would invest $1 billion of our taxpayer structures in a tsunami-zone..sea level is expected to rise at that location 3 feet by the end of the century. The military’s answer to that is to put the radar complex on a platform 27 acres…that would require 80,000 truckloads of concrete and in-fill…disrupting daily life and commerce for a year or more..
The background for all this is the headlong rush into a nuclear arms race.
Opinion polls show that the treaty… that makes ownership of a nuclear weapon illegal under international law signed by 86 countries has overwhelming support worldwide. But nuclear weapons state the U.S., influenced by the weapons industry, lacks the political will to pursue treaties to place limits on nuclear warheads and missiles. There can be no greater harm than a nuclear exchange.”
My favorite comment during the discussion period came near the end.
Young antiwar activist SL:
“Whenever I hear people talking about climate change, especially young people, we’re not very good at
making the connection to militarism around the globe, and connecting domestic capitalist failures to imperialist aggression abroad.
I’m curious because many of you have been working the space where climate change and antiwar efforts overlap, what do you think we can do as young activists to bring those two conversations together more and work together in organizing?
“Have meetings and talk about the two subjects together. Have some good graphics that show the two subjects together…Host the dialog!”
My comment: that could look like sharing this blog post, these presentations, and/or the research they were based on.
Or maybe you’d like to apply for this job newly created by the Conflict & Environment Observatory.
Vacancy: Campaigner (military and #ClimateChange) Location: #HebdenBridge, UK, hybrid/remote. Salary: £30,000. Hours: Full time – 37.5 hours. Contract: Until Dec 2023. Closing date: 18 Feb 2022. You must be eligible to work in the UK.