[From Civilian-Based Defense, Vol. 8, February 1993, Number 3, pp. 1-9, Published by Civilian-based Defense Association]
CIVILIAN-BASED DEFENSE AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Paul Emile Anders
How can defense against foreign aggressors be provided without excessively damaging the environment? Vice-President Al Gore is an ardent environmentalist and author of a book on environmental preservation, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, but as a U.S. senator he tended to be promilitary. For example, he voted against the Leahy amendment to the Fiscal 1993 Defense Authorization Bill to halt production of the B-2 stealth bombers at fifteen planes instead of the twenty planes requested by the Bush administration. Gore’s environmentalism and advocacy of a huge military establishment are fundamental contradictions, because war and preparation for it are environmental disasters. The United States, for example, by the military’s count, has about 20,000 polluted military sites (Shulman, ”Toxic,” p. 18). Even in peacetime the world’s military industrial complex puts enormous strain on the environment. Environmental damage from CBD compared to the military would probably be low, making CBD increasingly attractive as the need grows for environmentally sustainable alternatives.
The World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission), set up by the United Nations as an independent body, defined sustainable development in its 1987 report as development “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (p. 43).
The report noted that “the next few decades are crucial” (p. 22). Realization of the need to create a sustainable world is growing, and it is becoming harder to dismiss warnings of the seriousness of environmental problems. The Union of Concerned Scientists has, so far, collected over 1600 endorsements from prominent scientists for its ”World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.” Endorsers include “102 Nobel laureates—a majority of the living recipients of the prize in the sciences. They say:
Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.
Although environmental concerns may not by themselves cause many people to espouse CBD, such concerns will help move people in that direction. For example, a more sustainable world would lessen the perceived need for foreign goods and for the military to protect that supply, especially oil (witness the Gulf War). Among the important factors involved in comparing the environmental advantages of CBD compared to military defense, are military pollution, the need for some decentralization, specific environmental advantages of CBD, and its connection with environmentalists.
Besides CBD’s other advantages over military defense, which this magazine has presented for many years, CBD environmental cost could be kept low if it were properly prepared. War causes tremendous environmental damage. Some examples:
1. In the Gulf War, Iraq dumped 240 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf. (For comparison the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound was about eleven million gallons [Boston Globe, Jan 6, 1993].) The Associated Press reported that “John H. Robinson, the top US government expert on oil spills, said last summer that Saudi beaches were virtually lifeless, with sea grasses wasted, marine creatures gone. Kuwait coral reefs were about 90 percent destroyed. Iraq also damaged 730 Kuwaiti oil wells, causing a billion gallons of crude to spill onto the desert, killing plants, birds and insects.”
2. Shyam Bhatia, reporter for the Observer newspaper, indicates that President Saddam Hussein of Iraq is poisoning the wells and draining the water supplies of Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq. Iraq’s forces are attempting to turn the Shiites’ marsh land haven into a desert (“New Repression of Iraqi Shiites Reported,” Boston Globe, Feb. 28, 1993).
3. In the Vietnam War, the U.S. government pursued a conscious program of defoliation with toxic Agent Orange.
Since 1978 the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques forbids environmental modifications for military purposes, but not all countries signed, e.g., France (Cramer, p. 13). And international agreements may be disregarded. Witness Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against the Kurds.
The existence of nuclear power plants adds a dangerous new element to war. Where they exist they blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear war. In Europe, for example, a conventional war in which nuclear power plants were hit, whether accidentally or intentionally, could render much of the continent uninhabitable, the equivalent of many Chernobyls. In a 1988 speech, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said, “If, God forbid, a conventional war breaks out on the continent, who will guarantee that the warring sides will not, deliberately or accidentally, launch a strike against nuclear power stations? And will it take many such strikes to inflict irreparable damage on all the population of Europe and, indeed, other continents?” (Arms Control Reporter, Dec. 1988, 703.B.19). (In 1987 France and the Federal Republic of Germany had 70 nuclear power plants [Hungarian Engineers for Peace, p. 17]). CBD would lessen the justification for such intentional targeting. An attack on the nuclear power plants of unarmed opponents would be seen as disproportional and would outrage world opinion. Also, the absence of armed resistance would reduce the danger of accidental targeting. Article 56 of the Geneva convention of 1949 forbids attacks on nuclear power plants (see Cramer, p. 14), but accidental or intended attacks are clearly possible or even likely in a large-scale war. It would be in the interests of any country, including countries adopting CBD, to eliminate such vulnerable targets and move towards decentralized, renewable sources of power. The recent case in Pennsylvania where an intruder drove through the main gate at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, crashed through a fence and into a door, and then hid for four hours (Wald, N. Y. Times, Feb. 11, 1993), highlights just how vulnerable nuclear power plants are, even to individual action. When a country builds a nuclear power plant, it is like giving its enemies a nuclear weapon.
Having nuclear power plants helps a country develop the expertise to develop nuclear weapons, although much more is required, such as weapons–grade material. The danger of environmental catastrophe from the production and use of these weapons is clear from the nuclear bombing of Japan, the widespread contamination from the testing and manufacture of nuclear weapons, and the possibility of nuclear winter (Sagan, p. 12) in the event of their large-scale use.
MILITARY PRODUCTION AND PREPAREDNES
The U.S.Nuclear Weapons Complex, under the management of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has produced a horrendous amount of contamination. The book Facing Reality: A Citizens’ Guide to the Future of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex has catalogued some of the more egregious instances of pollution by the complex. The expected thirty- year job to contain it will cost billions of dollars. Three instances from the Guide’s “contamination sampler” illustrate the problem:
• The Fernald Feed Material Production Center in Ohio emitted between 600,000 and 3,000,000 pounds of toxic uranium dust into the air and water. Known contamination of residential well water was kept secret for years during the 1980s…
• Hanford Reservation in Washington has released massive quantities of radioactive isotopes into the air, soil, groundwater and Columbia River. Dozens of huge tanks are filled with waste of unknown composition; some of them have generated compounds that risked causing a disastrous explosion. Thousands of cubic feet of highly radioactive reactor fuel rods were recently discovered buried in shallow trenches.
• Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has one of the world’s largest radioactive dumps, containing more than 12,000,000 cubic feet of radioactive waste, and is still adding about 180,000 cubic feet per year. More than 2,000 contaminated sites have been identified, with an expected cleanup cost of more than $2 billion. (p. 2)
Pollution on the 22,000-acre Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod illustrates the military’s insouciance with nonnuclear materials. Women living in Falmouth, just south of the reservation, have cancer at a rate 46 percent higher than women elsewhere in the state. Just west of the Reservation, in Bourne, women have a 37 percent rise in cancer (Shulman, Threat, pp. 147-148). Seth Shulman notes that ”the military’s environmental studies estimate that personnel at the base have dropped as many as 6 million gallons of aviation fuel simply to test planes’ automatic fuel release mechanisms. The military has also dumped and burned solvents like benzene and toluene, flammable wastes, lubrication fluid, diesel fluids, hydraulic fluids, transformer oils, and paint thinner. Many people, however believe that elevated disease in the area may be due primarily to the high levels of TCE [trichloroethylene] dumped by the military” (Threat, p. 148). As a base commander said at a community hearing in Virginia, “We are in the business of protecting the nation, not the environment” (Renner, p. 152).
Because of its huge size, the military degrades the environment even by its day-to-day operations. The scope of these operations staggers the imagination. For example, in 1991 Serge Schmemann noted that in the Russian Federation, “according to various official figures, the military absorbed 40 percent of the machinery output, 50 percent of the Russian Federation’s industrial output, 40 percent of the national budget, 18 percent of the gross national product.” The world’s military machines are voracious consumers of energy, land, and natural resources. According to the Center for Defense Information, for example, the U.S. military annually uses enough fuel oil to run the United States’ public transit system for more than ten years (Shulman, “Toxic,” p. 23). The military’s pollution-producing consumption in most countries dwarfs the pollution that probably would be created by implementing and maintaining CBD.
The military not only damages the environment by its current practices, but also uses many of our scientists and engineers to develop new weapons. We need their expertise to help solve our nonmilitary problems like creating sustainable societies, not to develop new weapons. Military research and development (R&D) siphons off much of the world’s total R&D. For example, last year the United States spent 3.3 billion dollars developing the quixotic Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). The world simply cannot address the real problems of environmental degradation and at the same time siphon off a large part of its R&D and economic resources to the military. CBD might free resources to address this degradation.
– In the name of national security, the military is often exempt from environmental regulation. The military also tends to demand secrecy. The less known about a military’s capability, the less likely it will be successfully attacked. Environmental damage caused by the military is thus insulated from exposure by the media, government regulation, and private whistle blowers. The Soviets, for example, used the ocean around Novaya Zemlya as a nuclear dumping ground, including nuclear reactors and entire submarines (see Cramer, p. 15).
War and preparation for it do not foster environmental sustainability. We need to consider what more sustainable societies would be like and how CBD would suit such societies. The environment is not the main reason for advocating CBD, which stands on its own merits as a defense. However, the need to restructure society in accordance with an environmentally sustainable policy is becoming increasingly clear. The importance of making all activity, including defense, fit the policy will become increasingly clear too
. In the October 1992 issue of this magazine, Normand Beaudet remarked that economic decentralization and self-sufficiency diminish the need for military defense (see also Martin, p. 30; Jean-FranŤois Beaudet, p. 126; and Wittig, p.169). Smaller factories, storage facilities, etc., provide fewer tempting targets to attack and hence diminish the perceived need for military defense. As Herman E. Daly and John B. Cobb, Jr., have pointed out, “If smaller communities within regions are relatively self-sufficient, the life of the nation can continue despite extensive and widely dispersed attacks on its infrastructure” (p. 348). The plight of Armenia illustrates the consequences of dependence on foreign sources of power. On February 11, 1993 a gas pipeline supplying the only fuel to Armenia was blown up forcing the besieged republic to shiver through a fierce snowstorm without heat or light. Saboteurs trying to tighten a wartime blockade were suspected. The incident prompted Armenia to retaliate with warplanes and heavy artillery, and it was reported that forests and city parks were stripped bare for firewood (“Gas Pipeline to Armenia Explodes for Second Time”, Boston Globe, February 12, 1993).
Exemplifying the vulnerability of centralized commerce and administration was the bombing of New York’s World Trade Center Complex on February 26, idling most of the Center’s ten million square feet of office space. New York Governor Mario Cuomo called the bombing an ”economic catastrophe” for New York and New Jersey. This raises the complex question, beyond the scope of this article, of how to decentralize such facilities. Suburban sprawl is no solution, but some decentralization within compact urban areas seems desirable.
Decentralization that diminishes the need for the military and creates a favorable situation for CBD also can favor a more environmentally sustainable economy, with small family farms, renewable and other small and local sources of power, smaller manufacturing facilities, cottage industries with good earnings, etc. Such an economy entails less travel and less transport of food and other goods. As E.F. Schumacher said in Small is Beautiful, “Small-scale operations, no matter how numerous, are always less likely to be harmful to the natural environment than large-scale ones, simply because their individual force is small in relation to the recuperative forces of nature” (p. 33). Not all decentralization is good for the environment. Large subway systems, for example, may be advantageous. Human-scale cities are probably a key part of a sustainable society; suburban sprawl is probably not.
George Crowell notes that “A great variety of small-scale energy technologies based on the use of widely available sunlight, wind, water, and waste biomass could form the basis for a decentralized energy system. Not only would such a system be difficult for an invader to control, it would also be ecologically sound.” In addition Crowell has highlighted the general advantages (including their usefulness for NVCD [nonviolent civilian defense]) of family farms in Canada, as opposed to larger-scale agriculture and food processing. Moreover,”If urban people further developed close, personal working relationships with nearby farmers, sharing the burden of crop failures, and perhaps assisting them at harvest time, a food system supporting effective NVCD would be in place” (Crowell, p. 4-5). Although an invader could spray the defenders’ crops with herbicides, it would be a complex operation and probably would outrage world opinion. And defenders could have enough food stored to avoid immediate harmŃimportant if the invader needs victory quickly.
ENVIRONMENTAL ADVANTAGES OF CBD
As we move toward a more sustainable society, conditions may well become more favorable to CBD and the need for it more apparent. Consider, for example, that friendly relations between countries help to resolve international environmental problems, an increasingly important facet of international relations. The acid rain in Canada partly caused by U.S. emissions, for example, has not been eliminated, but the United States has finally agreed to measures designed to lessen it. It’s difficult to imagine North and South Korea, still at odds decades after the Korean War, resolving an environmental dispute. A CBD policy would tend to promote the friendly relations that enhance the solution of international problems. A country’s military often seems threatening to neighboring countries. A country that relied on CBD would tend to deal with other countries by cultivating positive relations through diplomacy, law, and cultural understanding, for example. Such positive relations will be important as environmental degradation leads to scarcer resources. Wars over resources may become common. The growing shortage of water in the Middle East, for example, poses a threat.
Are there spin-offs from CBD that would enhance a nation’s ability to meet environmental threats? CBD is based on people power. An essential facet of CBD is that people would learn and prepare it before a conflict starts. (This distinguishes CBD from spontaneous resistance to a putsch or invasion.) Some of the tactics of CBD have also been used in environmental causes; for example, demonstrations and boycotts. An attitude is also learned. Resist oppression. Don’t suffer passively when you are threatened. That attitude can be useful in insisting that environmental degradation not threaten our welfare.
More commonly the influence has flowed in the other direction: people learned the tactics of nonviolent action as environmentalists, tactics that can be used for CBD. Confrontational tactics may in the future have a diminished role in preserving the environment. Getting to environmental sustainability calls for a cooperative approach that encompasses business interests and all segments of societyŃan approach, for example, that would also be useful in establishing a policy of CBD.
CBD and the Environmentalists
The anticipated environmental benefits of CBD and the relative lack of environmental damage from it compared to the military should make CBD an attractive method of national defense for at least some environmentalists, and most people consider themselves environmentalists. According to a 1989 CBS-New York Times poll, three fourths of the American public endorsed the statement, “Protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high, and continuing environmental improvements must be made regardless of cost.” The number agreeing with the statement rose from 45% in 1981 to 74% in 1989 (William Schneider, “Welcome to the Greening of America”, National Journal, May 27, 1989). Although people actually seem much less willing to pay for environmental improvement then the survey indicates, the increasing percentage agreeing with the statement is encouraging.
Could CBD be promoted to environmental groups? Invasion scarcely threatens North America, for example. But the environmental threat from the military has concerned people, and proponents of CBD have potential allies among environmentalists.
Various organizations have already shown an interest in both environmentalism and social defense, as, for example, the Fšderation Gewaltfreier Aktionsgruppen (FšGA) Graswurzelrevolution in Germany(Ohne Waffen, pp. 4,33-35). Some Greens have been in the forefront as proponents of CBD, for example, the late Petra Kelly.
It will do us little good to escape militarism and war if we wreck the environment with nonmilitary pollution. CBD proponents should confront the planet’s environmental problems and promote sound public environmental policy and live in an environmentally sustainable way, for example, by using recycled materials, working to make alternative energy sources available, and advocating for a more just and humane society. These changes are not only valuable in themselves, but they will attract environmentalists to CBD.
Countries where CBD becomes part of national defense policy should implement it in an environmentally sound manner. As CBD takes shape, its promotion will require buildings and equipment. Environmental savvy should guide decisions about acquisition and use. Travel should be undertaken in accordance with sound environmental guidelines, favoring, for example, bicycles and public transit (where feasible) rather than cars. Interest is growing in living in a more environmentally sound way.
A sustainable society does not mean deprivation; it would foster a more satisfying life. People with beautiful cities and unspoiled countrysides, social justice, and a sense of empowerment would want to help defend their communities against aggression and perhaps do so with CBD. If attacked, they would more likely use CBD successfully. Although it is beyond the scope of this article to adequately picture a sustainable society, I will mention a few likely features. I rely here on the work of Donella and Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers Beyond the Limits, where the reader can delve more fully into this:
1. Obviously, constraint of pollution emission and in the use of nonrenewable resources.
2. A stress on “quality development, not physical expansion” (p.210).
3. “Material sufficiency and security for all” (p.211). 4. Acceptance of our need for love, beauty, community, and other nonmaterial values (p.216).
Beyond the Limits barely mentions defense, however; I propose that a sustainable society needs CBD.
The implementation of CBD should not be too drawn out. Indeed, progress toward sustainability will make conditions more favorable to CBD. Although research on CBD must continue, CBD should not be delayed for decades in waiting on research. Policy makers decide what to do based on the available options, one of which is CBD. Although CBDŃlike other new policiesŃis not a proven winner, war is a proven loser. Many aspects of CBD can be fruitfully investigated and researched, but the military is an environmental catastrophe and likely to remain so, whereas CBD can be an environmentally sustainable deterrent and defense. The World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity about environmental threats to the planet helps us to put decades-long scenarios for implementation of CBD into perspective: “No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished.” The sentiment of the Brundtland Commission was similar: “The next few decades are crucial…Attempts to maintain social and ecological stability through old approaches to development and environmental protection will increase instability. Security must be sought through change” (p. 22).
Finally, it might seem excessive to call for a different way of life, more self-sufficient and with diminished world trade, in the name of replacing armed defense with CBD. But the enormity of military expenditures, its pernicious effect on our values and on the environment suggest the opposite. These changes not only make a better defense, but also are important steps toward averting the global environmental catastrophe in the face of which the “World Scientists” warning to humanity was issued.
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Source: Civilian-based Defense