Jeremy Deaton seems to be a fine writer on the subject of climate change right up until he stumbles across the propaganda of the U.S. military. I highlight this as the latest example of something that is so typical as to be nearly universal. This is a pattern across major environmental groups, environmental books, and environmentalists by the thousands. In fact, it’s in no way limited to environmentalists, it’s just that in the case of environmentalism, blindness to the damage done by the U.S. military is particularly dramatic in its impact.
“Forget About Saving Energy. This Is About Saving Lives.” That’s a fine title for an article about anything other than the military, which is of course designed to destroy lives, or as Republican Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee honestly put it in a recent debate: “to kill people and break things.” In fact, this is brought out by Deaton’s sub-headline: “Energy efficiency is making the Navy a leaner, meaner fighting machine.” What does a meaner fighting machine do better? Kill people and break things.
But Deaton, who as a good environmentalist is supposed to care about the earth, reveals that, as is typical, under the spell of military propaganda, he only actually cares about 4% of the humans on the earth. The other 96% can be damned:
“Fossil fuels are a huge liability for American soldiers. Marine convoys loaded down with gas are sitting ducks for enemy bullets and roadside bombs. Using less energy means shorter supply lines: fewer targets, fewer casualties, more American soldiers making it home to their families.”
What do those supply lines supply exactly? The instruments of mass killing, of course. The idea that a killing machine is “saving lives” turns out to be the idea that while engaged in massive killing it hopes to lose fewer of its own: “It’s about tightening the gears on the war machine.” Of course if it ceased occupying the world’s oceans and shores, stirring up trouble, and fighting wars, it would save every single one of its sailors (or soldiers or Marines). An agressive global military with a few windmills save lives in the same way that buying an enormous ice cream sunday that you didn’t want saves money when it’s on sale.
Deaton quotes the Secretary of the Navy, whether copied and pasted straight off a press release or not, as saying, “Sailors and Marines come to grips with the fact that these programs help them become better warfighters.” And what do war fighters do? They fight wars. They kill huge numbers of people and create huger numbers of injuries and trauma-victims and refugees. Deaton repeatedly stresses that energy efficiency improves the ability to commit mass murder, because he clearly sees this as preferable to actually giving a shit about the planet. He quotes a Wilson Center think tanker (n., one who thinks tanks): “Their desire for energy efficiency is completely mission driven. There’s nothing ideological about it, and it’s very, very practical.” Right. God forbid they should ideologically care whether the planet maintains an inhabitable climate.
Even if you love or tolerate wars, an environmental military is like a diet coke. As World Beyond War points out, the military fights its wars for fossil fuels and consumes more of them in the process than anyone else does doing anything else. Oil can be leaked or burned off, as in the Gulf War, but primarily it is put to use in all kinds of machines polluting the earth’s atmosphere, placing us all at risk. Some even associate the consumption of oil with the supposed glory and heroism of war, so that renewable energies that do not risk global catastrophe are viewed as cowardly and unpatriotic ways to fuel our machines.
The interplay of war with oil goes beyond that, however. The wars themselves, whether or not fought for oil, consume huge quantities of it. One of the world’s top consumers of oil, in fact, is the U.S. military. The U.S. military burns through about 340,000 barrels of oil each day. If the Pentagon were a country, it would rank 38th out of 196 in oil consumption.
The environment as we know it will not survive nuclear war. It also may not survive “conventional” war, understood to mean the sorts of wars now waged. Intense damage has already been done by wars and by the research, testing, and production done in preparation for wars. Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War “rivals infectious disease as a global cause of morbidity and mortality,” according to Jennifer Leaning of Harvard Medical School.
Perhaps the most deadly weapons left behind by wars are land mines and cluster bombs. Tens of millions of them are estimated to be lying around on the earth, oblivious to any announcements that peace has been declared. Most of their victims are civilians, a large percentage of them children.
The Soviet and U.S. occupations of Afghanistan have destroyed or damaged thousands of villages and sources of water. The Taliban has illegally traded timber to Pakistan, resulting in significant deforestation. U.S. bombs and refugees in need of firewood have added to the damage. Afghanistan’s forests are almost gone. Most of the migratory birds that used to pass through Afghanistan no longer do so. Its air and water have been poisoned with explosives and rocket propellants. A few solar panels will not fix this.
If militaries were made green in terms of their operations, they would lose one of their main reasons for war. (Nobody can own the sun or the wind.) And we would still have a long list of … More reasons to end war.