Ted Glick is on the 44th day of his fast, by my count, as part of his effort to bring awareness to and demand action concerning global warming. On Sunday through Tuesday, October 21 to 23, there will be a series of protests and actions grouped under the name “No war, no warming.” It is an attempt to bridge the two issues of ending the war in Iraq and global warming by taking immediate action to:
Stop the war in Iraq and future resource wars by ending our addiction to fossil fuels;
Shift government funding to rebuild New Orleans and all communities suffering from racism and corporate greed;
Go green and promote environmental justice with new jobs in a clean energy economy.
In my last post, I argued that it is important for environmental activists to build coalitions with others that are working for progressive change, for instance among European-Americans and African-Americans. In this post, I want to discuss the meaning of peace, war, and the military, and how integrating these issues might help in the fight to save the biosphere — and how people might understandably feel that such issues might hurt such efforts as well.
In this era of an alleged “war on terror” (really more of a police investigation of terror), people are skittish about criticizing the military. Taking on the military might seem futile, might seem to alienate a large constituency of people open to action on global warming. While I don’t hope to change that perspective with this post, I want to at least offer a few ideas to think about.
First of all, the long-term military capability of the U.S. is dependent on our ability to produce the machinery that is used by sustainable energy, transportation, and agricultural sectors of the economy. The reason: the military depends on a healthy manufacturing sector in order to produce its tanks, jets, and ships.
Throughout human history, powerful countries keep repeating the same process: They build up their economies because of technological innovations, and then they take the great wealth produced by the expanding economy and squander most of it on the pursuit of empire. The UK invented the industrial revolution, created the world’s largest empire, and is now a virtual economic colony. The Soviet Union built up its economy to the point where the launch of the Sputnik satellite 50 years ago terrified the U.S. into building up its science education system; then the USSR collapsed by turning the entire country into a military-industrial complex.
And the United States? It dominated the 20th century in manufacturing, particularly machinery, building up an economy that its biggest corporations are now busy disassembling, while the military budget and wars are bankrupting the country. Pretty soon, the U.S. Air Force will be flying jets from Volvo and the Army will be driving tanks from Daimler Benz, with a force full of mercenaries.
Machiavelli of The Prince fame warned the Italians to avoid this fate in the 1500s, so this behavior is nothing new. The Italians wound up being conquered for a few centuries; Americans’ standard of living will shrink if this process continues, as I will explain in my next post, but the American military empire will certainly collapse along with the manufacturing sector.
Now, I’m not advocating maintaining an empire. In fact, the irony of military power is this: the less you build it up, the better it will be when you need it. That’s the lesson of World War II, when the U.S. had a smaller army than Bulgaria at the start of that conflict, but left the war with the biggest military system in history. America’s huge, world-class manufacturing base could be converted to emergency military use.
So what we need is an economy that is humming on all cylinders, aggressively pursuing clean energy technologies, rail technologies, organic agriculture technologies. Can you imagine how the U.S. could turn from being an $800-billion-per-year net importer to a net exporter by leading the world in solar photovoltaics, solar thermal systems, wind, and geothermal heat exchange? And what if the U.S. had the world’s fastest trains, not Japanese or the French?
This, then, might be a goal to build a coalition around: to turn the U.S. from empire building to renewable-energy and train building; from military innovation to clean energy innovation; from invading other countries in order to grab what’s left of the world’s oil, to working with other countries to build sustainable economies throughout the world.
We can turn from encouraging global warring to preventing global warming.