Arms to windmills

IssueMarch 2005
Feature by Donnachadh McCarthy

February's climate change protest march in London brought back my memories of the huge protest march to Hyde Park after the recent third western invasion of Iraq in under a century.

As the then Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats it fell to me to address the largest war-time peace protest ever on behalf of the party in Charles Kennedy's absence. I had been urging Kennedy to tackle the issue of oil driven wars for some time but here I had an opportunity to address the issue myself. That morning I felt nervous as,instead of going out and using the expected crowd-pleasing Bush-bashing rhetoric, I wanted to speak about renewable energy and about the protesters' own responsibility for the creation of these oil wars. I believe passionately that the environment and world peace are completely intertwined issues in the 21stcentury.

One only has to read the words of the neo-conservatives who are driving the current American military expansion ism to realise this. Paul Wolfowitz wrote as US Under -Secretary of Defence that military intervention in Iraq was necessary to ensure “access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil”. The defeated USP residential candidate John Kerry said that America would be more secure if it produced “renewable sources of energy that no terrorist can sabotage and no foreign government can seize”. Even members of the UK cabinet have said providing our own renewable energy would be cheaper than repeated Middle-Eastern oil wars.

Yet the Bush administration continues to try to sabotage the modest Kyoto climate change treaty which was the reason for this February's march. However,as the protesters gathered out side the US embassy , they should have realised that just as the Blair government stood by the US in the illegal Iraqi invasion, so is it also guilty on glob -al warming.

Disposable society

Whilst stating publicly that global warming is the most urgent crisis facing our planet, Tony Blair at Davos refused to condemn US intransigence and instead tried to persuade the other major Kyoto signatories to dilute their commitments to suit the Americans. Similarly , in the EU, the UK government has been trying to renege on its carbon dioxide reduction commitments. Under Blair , Britain already emits over double the world average of global warming gases per capita and they are rising again, despite having fallen in the last years of the Tory government.

However, it is important not to simply blame governments if we have not put our own house in order. Peace campaigners have long linked Britain's political hypocrisy over arms exports with our inability to campaign internationally with integrity for peace. It is equally important however to link our own environmental lifestyles with the military actions in oil-producing countries. As long as the US public remains a gas guzzling 4x4-loving disposable society and the UK population also fails to reform their destructive lifestyles then our governments will feel forced to militarily ensure our oil supplies.

Reduce your participation

Just as it is important that environmentalists ensure their pension funds and savings are not invested in the arms industry, so it is essential that peace campaigners ensure that their lifestyles are as environmentally benign as possible. I deeply believe in the power of politics by example. Thus my own home was the first private house in London to export solar electricity from my roof in Peckham, the loo-water is supplied from a rain-harvester on the roof and my rubbish is now down to just over half a wheelie bin per year! There are a myriad small but significant things you can do to reduce your participation in the Bush/Blair petro /nuclear economy. Three really effective ones are:

  • Switch the electricity supplier for your home or business to a renewable energy supplier. FOE recommend Good Energy ( You can switch on line if you have your electricity bill to hand. It only roughly costs the equivalent of a can of coke per week.
  • Cut down your meat consumption to once or twice a week. The meat industry is a massive environmental destroy er ranging from rainforest destruction to global warming emissions of methane. [Editorialnote: never mind “cutting down”--go vegan!]
  • Use a bicycle for the short journeys under 2km around your home. As long as you remain part of the petro-economy you remain a supporter of the Bush/Blair military regime. Continue your crucial pro-peace and anti-arms industry campaigning but ensure that your own environ mental lifestyle is also part of the solution to tackling the brutality that caused such death and carnage in Iraq and is currently threatening Iran.