Science and Wars Against the Environment
By Mary Lynn Cramer
Submitted by Author
Thursday, Apr 27, 2017
|At the Boston Science March this past Saturday, April 22 , I did not notice any signs proclaiming “SCIENCE FOR THE PEOPLE, NOT FOR PROFIT” or “SCIENCE FOR PEACE, NOT FOR WAR.” (1) Were there any? The few scientists I have known personally believe that science is value-free, unconcerned with politics or morality. It exists as pure truth born of the scientific method. And as the Science Guy exclaimed at the march in Washington, D.C., scientists can save the world. (2)
Just about everyone appreciates the research, experimentation, and creativity that has resulted in everything from the electric light bulb to call-forwarding (I mention these only because they are said to have been invented by humble people working in their own homes, on their own time), as well as all the latest modes of communication and transportation, and medical interventions we depend upon today. At the same time, it is difficult for me to forget other often-unacknowledged uses and abuses of the “scientific method.” Maybe the least discussed in the history of science in this country is that of the contributions made by the many Nazi scientists snuck into the US after the end of WWII, protected and valued because of their scientific work on rockets, lethal gases, and inhumane psychological and physical experimentation carried out on civilian prisoners.(3) Closer to home today, I think also about the several medications scientifically proven to be beneficial, and “tested” by the same pharmaceutical companies who market them. Thankfully, I have refused a couple of those physician-recommended products that later proved to be dangerous, carcinogenic, and were subsequently taken off the market. In the same light, it is hard for me not to react to the “science” programs on NPR that focus on how technological innovation is going to free all workers from menial labor. This passionate optimism contradicts actual experience reported in the news else where about the most modern ‘automated” factories being set up in poor Southern states, where workers barely make minimum wage, have no medical insurance or paid leave, work very long hours, and suffer horrible accidents when the “robotic” assembly line breaks down and no one knows how to fix it. People lose digits, limbs, and one young woman working on the assembly line was killed when the automated process stapled her to the front fender of an automobile. The particular factory in this story was South Korean owned, and the technician whose aid workers sought to help free the woman did not speak English; he just walked off the job.(4)
At the end of this week, we will also see Climate Marches. (5) Here again, it is hard not to notice how much global warming and earthly destruction has been facilitated by scientific innovation, especially that employed by the US Military and Industrial Leaders. In fact, some of the leading scientists protesting global warming have done their most productive work for projects directly related to the military and “global competition” (increasingly militaristic rather than economic). The representatives of amoral, politically unbiased scientific research refer to “workers” as “consumers,” and insist we can each contribute to saving the planet by making changes in our daily lives: use recycled toilet paper and new LED lights, buy a Prius, and have solar panels installed in your house. (What percentage of Americans owns their own house, or can afford a Prius?) When asked about the much larger contribution made to environmental problems by US military-industrial production, necessary infrastructure and distribution systems throughout the global market, my personal experience is that most scientists don’t know, don’t have the data, and aren’t interested.
As long as science is set above or outside of any discussion of morality, consequences, or social responsibility, it will continue to be difficult to find the data supporting the observation that the military-industrial complex (with all its essential infrastructure construction, transportation, labor, resources, and materials, as well as the employment of destructive weapons) accounts for most of global pollution, while if working people all went “green” today that would have a negligible impact on climate change. I hope to see marchers making more connections between War and Warming in the upcoming Climate March. Here is one of the early attempts to focus on this larger cause of environmental catastrophe (6):
“High-technology warfare damages the environment and threatens life in ways that cannot be measured. It is clear, however, that modern warfare is the most reckless and dangerous threat to the habitability of the planet that human abuses of technology have produced. The Gulf war is a case study of the ecological perils of war. To count the ways weapons kill in our technologically advanced times, you must look far beyond battlefield casualties. Deadly radiation is released from bombed nuclear power plants and toxins are released from chemical and biological factories. Radioactive shrapnel from uranium-tipped missiles and shells render whole regions uninhabitable. The crush of thousands of tanks and heavy armored vehicle and the concussion from thousands of tons of high explosives pulverize fragile ecosystems. And the massive fires that result from bombing oil refineries and storage tanks, and the ignition of crude oil at wellheads pollute the atmosphere around the world. Whole water systems are destroyed and polluted, and sewage systems crushed beneath the earth ooze cesspools throughout cities and towns. Full-scale modern warfare attacks life on the planet…
“…In August 1990 the Pentagon and the White House signed an agreement to waive National Environmental Protection Act requirements for U.S. military operations in the Gulf. The act mandates that the federal government must fully study any environmental effects of a proposed project, and must then allow review by the public. Keith Schneider would later write in the New York Times, ‘Concerned that war efforts could otherwise be hampered, the White House has waived the legal requirements for assessments of the effect that Pentagon projects have on the environment….’
“By waiving the law’s requirements, the Pentagon could ignore the environmental impact of its massive mobilization and assault. The waiver also set a precedent endangering other environmental laws…On November 6, 1990, at the Second World Climate Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Jordan’s King Hussein warned, “A war in the Gulf would not only result in devastating human death and injury and tremendous economic loss and prolonged political confrontation between Orient and Occident, it could also lead to an environmental catastrophe that would be swift, severe, and devastating.’ In presenting the conclusions of Jordanian scientists, Hussein said,’ The impact of a war on the 50 million barrels of oil that Kuwait produces, set in flames, could increase atmospheric carbon dioxide from these fires and the result could cause a global warming and result in lower food production.’…His predictions turned out to be accurate.”
During the past 25 years, or from the time of the Gulf War up to the seven simultaneous wars waged by Obama (and which Trump is continuing), would we suspect that “high technology warfare” could have increased global warming…or not? Even if we don’t have all the necessary data, what might we conclude? John Lawrence writing in the SD Free Press has done an excellent job of estimating military costs and causes of climate change given the available data in 2014. In establishing that the US Military is a major contributor to global warming and the largest single consumer of energy in the world, Lawrence states that “the US Air Force is the largest oil consumer. Not only does the military consume a lot of oil, they pay outrageous prices for it. The Pentagon pays an average of $400 to put a gallon of fuel into a combat vehicle or aircraft in Afghanistan. The DoD uses 4.6 billion US gallons of fuel annually, an average of 12.6 million gallons of fuel per day.”
Besides oil, Lawerence cites the DoD use of electricity: “In FY 2006, the DoD used almost 30,000 gigawatt hours of electricity at a cost of almost $2.2 billion. The DoD’s electricity use would supply enough electricity to power more than 2.6 million average American homes….In fiscal year 2012, the DoD consumed about a billion gigawatt hours of site delivered energy at a cost of 20.4 billion dollars. While consuming that amount of energy, DoD emitted 70 million metric tons of CO2.” Missing from the DoD’s data are the “energy use and costs arising from the contractors to support military operations both domestically and abroad”.
In his study, Lawrence refers to another very important report, The Military Assault on Global Climate which includes data regarding the US Air Force (“the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world”): “ A quarter of the world’s jet fuel feeds the USAF fleet of flying killing machines; in 2006, they consumed as much fuel as US planes did during the Second World War (1941-1945)—an astounding 2.6 billion gallons” (7)
Most of the “political scientists” look at this backassward: i.e., they think that global warming causes war, and never ask if waging war might have been an initial cause of environmental devastation in the first place. That connection apparently never occurs to them. (8) Google it: There are numerous articles noting that the military is concerned about global warming; none pointing out that the military is concerned about being a major contributor to global warming. (9)
If the only moral outrage protestors express is at Trump, we will experience no radical change in our political or environmental climate. Obama, who received the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize because he promised to get rid of nuclear weapons, was also the President who authorized building more nuclear warheads than any other President. As John Pilger notes: “Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers - truth-tellers - than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried.” Pilger concludes that Obama ran “an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.” (10)
Think about it: Compare the US 2010-2015 investment of $56 billion for clean energy, with the $1 trillion Obama committed for modernizing nuclear weapons. As environmental engineer and professor of environmental health, Patricia Hynes points out, “Climate change is inevitably an issue of peace because the Pentagon is the single largest contributor of climate change emissions in the world. And as the Pentagon goes, so go the military budgets of other major powers….Growing global militarization portends greater military build up in Russia, China, NATO and the Middle East and greater climate change emissions.” She also emphasizes that pollution and environmental destruction caused by war has greatly compounded the very process of reconstruction: “Between 2003 and 2007, the Iraq war generated more carbon dioxide equivalent in greenhouse gas emissions each year of the war than 139 of the world's countries release annually. Re-building Iraqi (and Syrian and Yemeni) schools, homes, businesses, bridges, roads, and hospitals pulverized by the war will require millions of tons of cement, the most fossil fuel intensive of all manufacturing industries.” (11)
I talked with one science enthusiast who for several years has had a very well paid job with one of those cutting-edge “off-shore” companies` (actually US land-based but tax-free) working on military-industrial applications of cyber-technology all week, while demonstrating against the use of weaponized drones and cyber-surveillance products on weekends. When I asked if there was any contradiction in carrying out these seemingly conflicting roles, the calm response was simply “well, you don’t expect me to compromise my standard of living do you?” Apparently not: Science is a method, free of any conflicting moral or political complications. And Climate Science---might it benefit from a revolutionary paradigm shift?
(1) See here
(2) “Science must shape policy. Science is universal. Science brings out the best in us. With an informed, optimistic view of the future together, we can, dare I say it, save the world!” See here
(3) Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program to Bring Nazi Scientists to America by Annie Jacobsen. (Little, Brown & Company, 2014)
(4) “Bride-to-Be Crushed to Death by Car-Factory Robot;”(Failing to find the radio program discussing US-based foreign car production in the Southern US, I did find there were hundreds of reports of workers maimed and killed in the US, Europe, Asia and elsewhere by “robots” or automated assembly lines.) See here
(5) See here
(6) The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf, pp 94-95, by Ramsey Clark
(7) See here
(8) See here
(9) See here
(10) “James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, ‘[One] great myth we're seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who's trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He's the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He's committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that's attached to actual policy. It isn't.’" See here
(11) See here
Mary Lynn Cramer, MA, MSW, LICSW has degrees in the history of economic thought and clinical social work, as well as over two decades of experience as a bilingual clinical social worker. For the past ten years, she has been deeply involved in “economic field research” among elderly women and men dependent upon social security, Medicare, and food stamps, living in Section 8 HUD housing projects. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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