Wednesday, June 8, 2011

War and the Environment - "Green" death machines

As I've mentioned previously, there are limits to what you can get away with in a "just war," and this is the basis of just war theory. Yet when one thinks of war, one rightly thinks about destruction - destruction of physical objects, destruction of lives, destruction of nature. At the same time, what goes on in the military during non-war time is equally damaging to the environment, and people around the world. In the end, however, no matter how much the killing machine reduces its environmental impact through measures like efficiency, or building solar panels, there is a schizophrenia about these actions - under no conditions is war benign to the environment, and under no conditions is preparing for war benign, either. But you may have come across this article, in which it is stated that the US military wants to go "net zero" for energy, water, and waste.

What are interesting, but sad, really, are the military's definitions of "net zero." For energy, that means that they'll just produce on site what they need, which is a lot (the US military uses as much energy as the entire country of Nigeria, with a population of one-hundred and forty million people). For water, "net zero" means that they'll purify the water they use before they reintroduce it into the watershed (this sounds good, credit given, but I am wary of the accounting), and for waste, "net zero" means "no landfilling" bur rather converting waste into things with "resource value." Hmmm...

So the military "cares" about the environment and is at the same time preparing to kill other people and destroy lives elsewhere when it inevitably does go to war? What is the difference between humans and the environment? And when does the environment go out of the window? Of course, when we the military feels the pinch to say "mission accomplished." Gone then is the care for the environment, because if success requires another building to be blown up with a missile made from metals and toxic chemicals, then, so be it.

What is a discouraging about all of this is that since the military is such a massive institution and organisation in the US, with expenditures and presences dwarfing the sum of the expenditures and presences of all of the other militaries of the world, any portrayal of the US military doing anything "green" is lauded and commended with no thought that the very notion of war is unsustainable. Would a "green" military entice more people to join it? Would it result in committing to it more young minds and hearts, who will wield a gun in promotion of peace and "environment"? With that in mind, consider the following headline:

The Navy will demonstrate the 'Green Hornet,' an F/A-18 Super Hornet powered by a 50/50 biofuel blend, on Earth Day, April 22, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., as part of its Energy Strategy.

You can read more here, here, here, here.

Do you find anything wrong with this? Is there something contradictory and morally depraved about this? I think so, and so does Matt, who told me about it. He said, "Last year, National Geographic ran an optimistic article, 'First Green Supersonic Jet to Launch on Earth Day.' It was a Navy F/A-18 Super "Green" Hornet(!) I was wondering how many things we could find morally/ethically wrong with this event and its implications - living plants harvested and chemically transformed to fuel a death machine to be launched on a day dedicated to our plant and the life it supports."
 couple of weeks ago the U.S. Army announced that it was on the verge of identifying a group of bases to adopt a net zero policy for energy, water and waste, and now we can all stop holding our breaths. The U.S. Army’s net zero bases were just announced and the program is even more ambitious than it first appeared. Net zero energy, water, and waste are assigned to six bases each, and two bases have volunteered to go net zero in all three categories. For those of you keeping score at home, that doesn’t actually add up to twenty, because some bases are going net zero in two categories. In any case, the point is to position the U.S. Army as a showcase, leader and learning center for sustainability, not only for the rest of the military but for the civilian world as well.

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