Triennial Day 2 Part 3

Blog by Milan Rai

What was the “breaking news” I promised at the beginning of the last posting? Well, yesterday I sat in on a discussion group that decided to put forward a major proposal to the council of War Resisters International, suggesting an investigation of the feasibility and desirability of WRI addressing the extent to which climate change, and in particular the threat of runaway climate change, affects the anti-militarist and social justice struggles it is currently involved in, or supporting.

The peace movement, by and large, operates on the assumption that the basic fabric of life will continue to be much as it is, with perhaps some deterioration or some improvement. (I only know of the British and US peace movements, but my impression is that this is a more general phenomenon.) We assume a continuing stable climate framework within which our opponents and ourselves will continue our struggle.

This is not a tenable assumption.

Desertification, floods and inundation, drastic changes to food production (for example the likely geographical shift and modification of the monsoon on which hundreds of millions of Asians rely) and the resulting large-scale migrations, will have a dramatic effect on the national security debate throughout the world, as more far-sighted military planners recognise.

Unlike many other issues, unlike many traditional peace movement issues, climate change is an issue with a clock on it. There is a limited period of time within which changes can have a significant effect before we reach a tipping point where our carbon emissions begin to have non-linear effects. One tonne of CO2 produced after that tipping point will have a dramatically larger effect than one tonne of CO2 produced before that point.

This point was made forcibly by Indian author Jai Sen, wrapping up a workshop on climate change, war and resistance yesterday.

Three people huddled together after the meeting (I sat in) to draft a proposal to the WRI council and to work out how to make it fit the organisation. Perhaps this will lead to something that can be useful to anti-militarist and social justice movements all over the world.

If so, it will have come out of an Indian initiative, starting with Jai Sen’s email two days before the Triennial, challenging in the most genial and charming manner the inadequacy of the proposed agenda to deal with the potentially shattering effect of climate change on all the issues to be discussed at the conference.