Saturday, January 28, 2017

War As A Main Driver To Climate Chaos

Pentagon Planet image by Anthony Freda

This week scientists and environmentalists who work for the U.S. government were muzzled by the gang of thieves who have seized power in Washington DC. As one such step, the official twitter accounts of the National Park Service were brought to heel so that they would stop tweeting about realities like climate change.

National Park Service employees responded by setting up many alternative twitter feeds that cannot be so easily commandeered to suppress the truth. A favorite post from one of these newest accounts:

I am with Her, and in that spirit I offer this installment in a series of posts inspired by this podcast interview with Professor Tom Hastings of Portland State University. (My previous post focused on the Pentagon's carbon footprint.)

Hastings was interviewed by environmental activists Sherri Mitchell and Rivera Sun. Sun pointed out that "the U.S. has chosen to use extreme forms of violence to...dominate its territorial and economic interests around the world. This choice comes hand in hand with environmental devastation."

If you add the refugees from war to the refugees from climate chaos and then you look to the roots of both then you see this is really stemming from our methods of managing conflict. Our methods of managing conflict are the root of most of our environmental problems as well.

Mitchell observed that "worldwide... there's an incredible amount of land that's under the control of the military. How do we address those issues and try to clean up some of the lands?"

Hastings: "For many years the Center for Defense Information -- which was an organization composed of nothing but high level military officials, retired -- they presented their budget every year as an alternative to the budget presented by either the president or the Pentagon. And, on average, they came in at about 1/3 of the military budget.

The reason for that was that they proposed that we only defend the United States. They believed in military means, they just did not believe in imperialism. They didn't believe in global power projection. They didn't believe in having 800 military bases on the sovereign soil of other people's countries."

Hastings is engaged in studies of the theories of civilian based defense. He mentioned a recently published book, Security without weapons: Rethinking violence, nonviolent action, and civilian protection by M.S. Wallace saying, "She did a lot of field work with the very forward organizations that are providing nonviolent security such as nonviolent peace force but also folding in the theories of civilian-based defense."

We can begin to work our way out of looking at defending everything by the threat or the actual commission of violence. To look at those possibilities and then to run a cost benefit analysis.

Aleppo, 2014  Getty Images
Hastings described how he and graduate assistant Dana Ghazi presented U.S. senators with a cost-benefit analysis around bombing Syria.  Their report, from 2011, is rather prescient:

Key talking points:
  • The resultant costs of bombing and arming any faction in Syria are too high and will not lead to the expected outcome
  • There are many constructive nonviolent alternatives which should not be mistaken for inaction
  • Immediate strong steps are: arms embargo, support of Syrian civil society, pursue meaningful diplomacy, economic sanctions on ISIS and supporters and humanitarian intervention
  • Long-term strong steps are: withdrawal of US troops, end oil imports from the region, dissolve terrorism at its roots

Hastings added in the interview, "When you look at the thousands of analysts that the Pentagon employs it just really seems like they would throw in a few people from the field of conflict resolution...the costs of violent conflict are so high." He noted that when the government of Norway has a conflict, they call in a conflict resolution specialist. But "when the govt of the U.S. has a conflict, they call the generals.".

Hastings also noted his view that "granting to other people the same amount of sovereignty that we would expect for ourselves, the reasons to go to war...go away."

Mitchell responded: "I think that one of the things that that assumes is that the reasons that we're often given for going to war are accurate when we know that they're not. 

That the majority of the reasons behind our warring around the world are really about conquest. It's really about securing resources that belong to others. 

And so you know we have to do more than just address our sticking our nose into everybody else's business. We also have to really educate people about the fact that many of the dog and pony shows that we see in the media regarding war are really manufactured out of whole cloth. That there's very little reality to them."

Versions of this meme are being shared widely on the interwebs.

The conflicts of interest created when investors influence government policies that will benefit them financially are not a new problem, but they do appear to be ramping up under the new regime. Members of Congress work overtime to bring pork barrel "defense" contracts to their constituents always looking away from the environmental impact and hiding behind the claim that they produce needed jobs

Then, "national security" is invoked as the alleged reason why weapons must be deployed. Who speaks for Mother Earth?

Hastings believes that its is "100% up to civil society to address" this problem. He described an effort he was part of in Wisconsin to close a Navy base which "had a very faulty environmental impact statement." A coalition of Native and non-native environmental advocates won an injunction to close the base but "it took the Navy about ten minutes to go down to the circuit court in lift the injunction." The Navy's statement was without details; it simply cited the need for "national security."

Those who profit from rampant militarism are not likely to recognize that real national security is significantly at risk from climate chaos and environmental pollution that threatens life itself.

Still, Hastings is optimistic. He believes that "whichever administration is in power we're still able to do things at the civil society long as we  continue to build bigger coalitions on the ground, we can win."

Next up in my series of posts about the War On Mother Earth: superfund sites. Who created the mess, and why cleaning them up might be a path forward out of the militarized march to destruction that we're on.


Tom H. Hastings said...

Thank you for the work you are doing to call attention to the lunacy of war and the godawful costs of preparing for two or three simultaneous wars.

Lisa Savage said...

You're welcome, Professor Hastings. It's an honor to do this work with you and so many others.