Earth Notes: The earth and its people searching for peace
By Sally Chappell
Let’s think about the effects of military spending on the environment. Even as the presidential and congressional candidates from our two major political parties avoid the issue, we all know that the United States has the most powerful military in the world and spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined (according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). All people desire peace and security, but are war and preparations for war undercutting the means for the planet to support us all so that we can live in the peace and security we so desire?
It is hard to determine just how much money American taxpayers are handing over to the U.S. Department of Defense. In an article entitled The U.S. Military Budget Is the Work of True Scam Artists, William Hartung informs readers that the Department of Defense is the only federal agency that can’t pass an audit. We could, however, be spending a trillion dollars in one year according to “an analysis by the Straus Military Reform Project…if we count related activities like homeland security, veterans' affairs, nuclear warhead production at the Department of Energy, military aid to other countries, and interest on the military-related national debt.” As Dwight Eisenhower warned, "We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security."
Patricia Hynes, director of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, records the legacy of military activities affecting the environment including chemical waste pollution, nuclear weapons waste pollution, biodefense research and climate change in her essay, The Invisible Casualty of War: The Environmental Destruction of U.S. Militarism. She concludes by saying, “Governments at war honor the fallen and give lip service to the ‘collateral damage’ of civilians injured and killed, while they treat military pollution as the necessary cost of waging war and disdain any responsibility for remediating environmental contamination.”
The term, "ecocide" was coined during the Vietnam War. That's why we're all familiar with Agent Orange. Landmines, depleted uranium and other tools of war foul land, air, and water. The displacement of people from their homes in the large numbers we're seeing now represents chaos for both humans and animals as habitats are wiped out and the means for earning a living destroyed. Refugees traumatized by the loss of their homes are often stigmatized, further contributing to their mental anguish.
As long as we're hell bent on war, we might consider Bill McKibben's idea to label climate change as the enemy and mobilize our forces in the same way we did for World War II. He depicts climate change as World War III and says we are presently losing (New Republic, August, 2016). "Defeating the Nazis required more than brave soldiers. It required a wholesale industrial retooling," he argues. The creation of Clean Energy Victory Bonds, an amendment to the Senate Energy Bill introduced this past February, did not pass, but with public pressure, it could come up again. Shifting from weapons and other hardware production to a renewable energy infrastructure is doable. Besides, all the F-35s, B-21s and Zumwalt destroyers do not protect us from the homemade bombs that our own citizens deploy randomly throughout the country.
Think of what could be done with the one trillion dollars the U.S.A. plans to spend over the next three decades modernizing its nuclear arsenal (armscontrol.org/factsheets/USNuclearModernization). The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, committed to a world free of nuclear weapons, poses 15 moral reasons to abolish nuclear weapons (David Krieger, wagingpeace.org). Its Peace Leadership Director, Paul Chappell, promotes peace literacy as a foundation for solving problems between people and among nations. Veterans for Peace sees "the connection between the endless wars abroad, our bloated military industrial complex, and the inequities it brings to the poor and marginalized all over the world [as well as the] need to understand that dropping more bombs, killing innocent civilians in Muslim countries and the resort to military solutions is robbing the world's children of healthcare, education and meaningful jobs to build a safer and more secure future."
In April of this year, the Vatican hosted a conference challenging the "just war" theory. The core themes were: experiences of nonviolence; Jesus' way of nonviolence; nonviolence and just peace; and moving beyond unending war. This conference can be viewed online at nonviolencejustpeace.net. Napoleon Bonaparte put it well when he said, "There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit." May we use our treasure to heal the wounds that have been inflicted on the earth and its inhabitants.