Environmental Justice and the Anti War Movement
Global Warring = Global Warming
By Misty & Rachel for our summer zine, 2016
Debating the reality of climate change is like debating the possibility of breathing oxygen: whether you understand it or not, it continues to affect your life in an immediate way. The mounting evidence that humans are causing the earth to heat up is only eclipsed by the fact that we have done so little about it. And while some people try to deny that the problem exists, it’s important to remember that global warming is not controversial among scientists. With record high temperatures, rising sea levels, and more severe weather extremes, we are no longer talking about what might happen on a warmer planet, we are facing that reality now.
One of the biggest contributors to the problem is war. Military conflicts waged over resources like oil are wreaking havoc on our one and only planet. Paradoxically, militarism is one of the most oil-exhaustive activities we engage in. And the US military is one of the biggest culprits. Our troops use obscene amounts of fossil fuels to operate. Take the B-52 Stratocruiser, which guzzles 55 gallons per minute; ten minutes of flight uses as much fuel as the average driver does in one year of driving! And for years the Pentagon has exempted itself from any international agreements on emissions reductions. The recent Paris agreement lifted this exemption, which is important, because any discussion of national emissions reductions that does not include the Pentagon is pointless.
In addition to its impact on the climate, war contributes to habitat loss, species endangerment, pollution, and water contamination- not to mention the devastating effects of actual chemical warfare (like the white phosphorus that the US military used in Iraq in 2004, or the depleted uranium that was left littered throughout the country and is causing cancer and birth deformities at a higher rate than in the victims of Hiroshima). All of this makes war very environmentally un-friendly.
War creates refugees, and so does climate change.
We need to look at climate change as a social justice issue. The fact is, the top 20% of the developed world uses 80% of the resources. And securing access to those resources has been part of the violent legacy of this country since its inception. When trade agreements and puppet governments destroy the environment and oppress workers in the name of being “good for business,” we know it is bad for the planet as a whole.
Poor people around the world are disproportionately affected by climate change, which they are -for the most part- not causing. Severe storms, floods, droughts, and forest fires kill many, and affect the quality of life for all. There are parts of the world that are becoming increasingly unlivable as weather patterns become more unpredictable and natural disasters more frequent. The rich will likely be fine, but the people without means will be devastated.
The same can be said of any war zone. Collapsed bridges, bombed-out hospitals and schools, and dead or missing loved ones affect every aspect of life. With no infrastructure, no economic opportunity, and no safety, people cannot continue to live in areas of conflict- even if they wanted to- so they become refugees. It is not a mark of shame to flee a war zone or an area altered by climate change. Access to food, clean water, and a place to live are all basic human rights. These people need to be able to travel freely and safely to other areas. It is their right. And it is our duty to help them.
What can you do?
Think globally, act locally.
And remember your dollar is your vote.
Climate change is a complicated issue which will require a myriad of solutions. But human beings have always been inventive. There’s no reason to believe that the path away from fossil fuels will be any less creative and diverse. We have the technology to create 100% renewable energy; it already exists. What we need, is to build public support for developing this technology, and to pressure our government to take climate change seriously, to change our environmentally-damaging military habits, and to protect those affected by war and climate change.
We can also live more responsibly in our own lives. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Buy local. Drive less. We need to end dependence on oil and excessive resource consumption, and be ready to adapt to a changing planet. We need to stop waging war, which is both causing climate change and is caused by our entitled greed for resources. The world has enough space, food, and industry for everyone. We need to ditch the model that says that if we help out others, there will be less for us. The only way to get through this transition is by working together. Remember that it starts with you, and those around you. Together we can build a better world.