leroymoore

Militarism versus the environment

In Democracy, Environment, Justice, Peace, Politics, War on June 11, 2017 at 8:58 am

By Tom Mayer, Boulder Camera, 6-10-17

President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget calls for a significant jump in the Pentagon’s vast budget, though it falls short of the historic spending bonanza sought by more hawkish Republicans. Pentagon budget documents released on May 23 call for $574 billion in general defense funding, with an additional $65 billion for supplemental wartime spending, for a total of $639 billion. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
Many things block significant action about climate change, but the foremost obstacle may be the world’s continuing addiction to militarism. Some 80 percent of countries maintain standing armies, but the United States is by far the world’s deepest militarist addict. U.S. military spending is over a third of the world’s total and exceeds that of the next six largest spenders combined. Whereas no foreign country has a military base in the USA, we have approximately 800 military bases in 70 different foreign countries. Our country is also the worlds leading weapons exporter.

Militarism harms the environment in many different ways. It undermines the trust and cooperative spirit necessary for coordinated action about climate change. At this very moment, militarism is poisoning the relations of the United States with both Russia and China. Yet without environmental collaboration between these three countries no decisive action about climate change is possible. Apparently world political leaders would rather feed their military addictions than rescue the planet from impending disaster.

Militarism is enormously expensive. American military expenditures consume 54 percent of all discretionary federal spending and, in 2015, equaled $1,854 per capita. Such spending expropriates resources desperately needed for building a clean and sustainable economic infrastructure. Moreover, militarism pushes technological innovation in energy-squandering directions rather than along the resource-conserving paths required by a sustainable environment. Military innovations use technologies that make prodigal use of fossil fuels and/or nuclear energy.

Military establishments are dreadful polluters. The Pentagon is the world’s largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels as well as the world’s largest source of greenhouse gasses. The U.S. military uses (on average) over one million barrels of oil per day and generates about 5 percent of current global warming emissions. The Pentagon devours about one-quarter of the world’s jet fuel. Ecologists estimate that the world’s combined militaries produce fully two-thirds of the ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC-113) in our planets atmosphere. Military devices are notorious gas guzzlers. An F-16 Fighter Jet uses 28 gallons per minute. A U.S. battleship consumes 98 gallons per minute. A B-52 Stratocruiser burns 500 gallons in a single minute.

Militarism perpetuates the threat of nuclear warfare, which — needless to say — would have devastating consequences for our planet. A limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would kill around 50 million people. A massive nuclear war would cure the problem of global warming and impose an omnicidal (life destroying) nuclear winter in its stead. The United States has committed itself to a trillion-dollar modernization of nuclear weapons. This means that the nuclear nightmare threatening the Earth will be extended for several generations at least.

Even without warfare, military pollution is staggering. Almost 900 of the EPA’s 1,300 superfund sites are abandoned military bases, weapons production facilities, or weapons testing sites. Nuclear weapons pollution is particularly problematic. Over 5,000 Department of Energy nuclear weapons facilities have required environmental remediation. The former Hanford, Wash., nuclear weapons facility may be the world’s largest environmental cleanup site with a projected budget in excess of $100 billion.

Militarism and the military industrial complex is closely associated with the fossil fuel corporate complex. The U.S. military establishment guarantees energy corporations access to fossil fuel resources. Energy corporations return the favor by endorsing bloated military budgets and supporting the weapons industry. The upshot of this institutional nexus is an environment-corrupting global imperialism. The project of building an American world empire has, since the end of World War II, fomented U.S. aggression in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Chile, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iraq, Libya, and Syria (among other places).

And last, but certainly not least, militarism systematically generates warfare, which is catastrophic for both human beings and the environment. Wars have killed about 200 million human beings since 1900 and have wrecked ecological damage that will require centuries to mitigate. The pace of warfare with its concomitant calamities does not appear to be slackening.

In his valuable book “The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism” (2009), Barry Sanders writes: “[T]he awful truth” is that “even if every person, every automobile, and every factory suddenly emitted zero emissions, the Earth would still be headed first and at full speed toward total disaster for one major reason. The military — that voracious vampire — produces enough greenhouse gases, by itself, to place the entire globe, with all its inhabitants large and small, in the most imminent danger of extinction” (p.22).

(http://www.dailycamera.com/guest-opinions/ci_31051257/tom-mayer-militarism-versus-environment)

Tom Mayer is a professor emeritus at University of Colorado

 

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