Militarism vs climate

Letter by Malcolm Pittock, Bolton

I was rather disappointed by the editorial on the climate change and peace movements (PN 2578-2579). Although there is a large overlap in personnel between the two, their campaigns tend to run on parallel lines. But it is surely necessary, particularly at this stage, to make a much closer connection.

As they are presented, the main arguments of the climate change/environmentalist movement would still apply even if we lived in a peaceful world as they invariably relate to the effects of civilian activity upon the environment. The purely environmental cost of wars and preparation for wars needs not to be separately estimated and factored into every argument.

It has never ceased to amaze me that up to now it has not been, though militarism destroys, pollutes and poisons the environment, gobbles up non-renewable sources of energy and makes land dangerous to use and does so at a tremendous speed. People are still being killed in France and Belgium from ordnance from a war that took place a hundred years ago.

What I suggest is that peace activists and environmental activists try to produce a joint report on the purely environmental effects of war and preparations for war on the UK. And I hope that Peace News will initiate it. Once it is perceived as a necessary next step, and a step that can only bring the peace movement and the environmental movements together, I think that activists in other countries might well follow suit.

Editor response:

Dear Malcolm, thank you for these thoughts, which you sent in March! The delay in publishing your letter is entirely down to me. Your reflections are just as topical as ever, though. There is a US book called The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism, by Barry Sanders (AK Press, 2009), which argues that even if all civilian economic activity stopped, the scale and rate of growth of military emissions of greenhouse gases would be enough to drive the world into runaway climate chaos. We were due to have a workshop based on this book at this year’s Peace News Summer Camp but it didn’t work out. Watch this space!