Working towards peace and sustainability

Connecting the Climate and Militarism

Many of us compartmentalize important issues, failing to recognize how most issues are more symptoms rather than causes. They then tend to see these concerns competing with each other for the attention of citizens, when, in fact, they complement each other. This means that work that gets to the root of things can actually move us forward on multiple fronts.

As Memorial Day is coming up next Monday, let’s take this as a starting point. While Memorial Day started out as a holiday to remember those who lost their lives in war—a day for decorating graves with flowers—it has evolved into another opportunity to wave the flag and, in many places, celebrate the weapons of war.

While recognizing the pain and loss that war brings and honoring the memory of the fallen is a positive action that would logically lead to a rejection of war-making, this message has been largely co-opted into a “Support the Troops” trope, which is interpreted as “Support the Wars the Troops Have Been Sent to Fight.” Thankfully, our good friends in Veterans for Peace (VFP) have stayed true to the somber task of memorializing those who we’ve lost in war.

Peaceworks, therefore, is proud to co-sponsor the Memorial Day peace gathering that VFP will be holding at Stephens Lake Park, starting at noon, Monday, May 30. You can find details HERE
and we hope you will join us.

What’s the Climate Connection?

We, of course, oppose war and militarism because they are barbaric; they involve killing and maiming others, destroying life and both the built and natural environments, and they are very costly, with huge opportunity costs; that is there are much better things that could be done with the money spent.

But, in addition there are specific climate concerns that go with a highly militarized economy. These include:

  The military burns enormous amounts of petroleum fuels for planes, ships and other vehicles. Overall, the U.S. military is the world’s largest single consumer of fossil fuels.

  The extraction of materials, processing thereof, and fabricating the materiel of war, including weapons, vehicles, munitions and more, is also energy intensive and thus has an oversized carbon footprint.

  As we’ve seen in recent pictures from Ukraine, war entails destroying buildings, roads and other infrastructure that took significant energy to construct and will require the use of lots more energy to replace.

  Climate change, if not addressed promptly, is almost certain to lead to the dislocation of tens if not hundreds of millions of climate refugees, leaving inundated coastal communities, and regions experiencing severe drought and/or heat that will make regions of the planet uninhabitable. This will likely lead to conflict as some countries close their borders, as the availability of food is limited, etc. It would be much better to prevent these problems than to respond to them militarily later on.

  As mentioned above, war and militarism are very costly in the economic realm and the money being wasted on unnecessary military spending could be much better utilized by investing in addressing the real security threats we face. At the top of that list is dealing ASAP with the climate crisis.

What are the Root Connections?

Our participation in war and militarism goes hand in glove with our view of the environment as something to dominate, control and employ in pursuit of our own desires as opposed to sharing and caring for nature and other people. This is part of a top-down system that defines success as winning vis-à-vis others.

We are taught from childhood that we succeed by outdoing and controlling others. Our culture is atomistic and we are taught to prioritize winning, whether in sports, in the academic realm, in social hierarchies, and in terms of our careers, our status and possessions, etc. We are also taught that might makes right—both physical and, more importantly, economic and social power.

The system of hierarchy and control is evident in the garrison states humanity has created all around the planet, as well as in our addiction to burning ever larger amounts of fossil fuels without concern for the Earth or for the generations to come after us. We prioritize “me” and fail to care for “we;” a we that includes all beings and the fragile balance of life.

The time has come for us to get to the root of so many of the problems created by humanity and now threatening not just our well-being, but rather our very survival. We hope you, in the Green Team, will join us in working for a thoroughgoing transformation of our culture to one that’s co-operative, peaceful, just and sustainable. We also hope you will join us on Memorial Day.

The Challenge of Ending the Ukraine War

Peaceworks unequivocally condemns the illegal, immoral and dangerous Russian invasion of Ukraine. This unjustifiable action has cost the lives of thousands, has injured many thousands more and has led to more than ten million Ukrainians being displaced from their homes. The war has also delivered serious harm to the natural environment and destruction of much of Ukraine’s built environment. This is an unfolding tragedy and, unless immediate action is taken to end the hostilities, many more will be impacted and the danger of a wider conflict grows daily. We must address this situation and do so now.

Under international law, to engage in a war of aggression—as opposed to self-defense—is the most serious violation of international law, a Crime Against the Peace, as defined by the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles. Russia is clearly the aggressor and is rightly condemned for it actions.

That said, many actions by our own government have set dangerous precedents that make the U.S. appear hypocritical at best in its response to Russia’s actions. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq immediately comes to mind for many of us. In fact, U.S. has repeatedly invaded and occupied other countries from Grenada and Panama, to Afghanistan for example. Our government has also illegally bombed many countries, from Somalia and Libya to Serbia, Mali and many more.

The U.S. has also supported aggression of allies and client states, from the Moroccan invasion and annexation of the Western Sahara to similar actions by the Indonesians against East Timor and Turkey against Cyprus. At the moment, the most egregious such action is the support of the Saudi and UAE war against Yemen, which has created what the UN has deemed to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. And, for decades, our government has been involved in covert actions and coups in literally dozens of nations around the world.

Follow the Money

The United States currently spends as much on our military as the next 11 biggest spenders combined. This includes China, Russia and a number of U.S. allies. Our Military-Industrial Complex profits handily from the sale of arms to us, the taxpayers, as well as to other nations around the world. These massive corporations have a vested interest in there being enemies, as this provides the rationale for buying and deploying more weapons systems. And, actual hostilities use up these weapons and that fuels demand, leading to even greater profits.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was surely celebrated in the suites. Not only were stockpiles of arms being sent to Ukraine, which would then need to be replaced, but Russia’s aggression is being used to pressure other members of NATO to increase military spending. Meanwhile, last year Biden upped Trump’s last Pentagon budget, and Congress increased that, with spending reaching a new record high. And now, Congress has approved, and Biden has signed off on, a $782.5 billion Pentagon budget for the current fiscal year which is $42 billion more than the fiscal year 2021 budget.

The Broader Threat

The long-run implications of the conflict are deeply troubling. President Biden has joined the Ukrainians in portraying this as the beginning of an ongoing, global conflict between autocratic states and the democracies of the world. Much like the Cold War, which lasted more than 40 years, this conflict holds the potential for dividing the world into enemy blocs for many years to come. This presents us with great risk of expanded hot war, potentially involving the unthinkable; the use of nuclear weapons. And, at the very least, it spells an enmity that distracts us from addressing the world’s greatest threats including climate change, poverty, water and other resource shortages, pandemics and more.

Seeking Solutions

There are no easy answers to the conundrum we face. Our first step must be to seek a ceasefire. From there, we can seek face-saving compromises that allow us to settle the current conflict and move forward toward a common security future. A ceasefire, if attained, should be followed by agreement that Ukraine will be neutral, that its territorial integrity will be respected with the caveat that the Donbas, in the eastern provinces will be granted autonomy. 

This approach would be in line with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the 2014 Minsk Agreement, and would allow Putin’s government to claim that its objectives have been met, while it would leave Ukraine intact with security guarantees to be negotiated. And it would avoid a wider conflict, or more loss of life and limb.

One very tricky detail has to do with the call for a war crimes tribunal. While ideally this would be held, the reality we face is that this would back Putin into a corner. He’s not going to negotiate an end to the war if it means him being arrested and tried for Russia’s crimes. We should also recall that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice and others who masterminded the Iraq War have never been held accountable for their war of aggression and Russia is as unlikely to send Putin to be in the dock at the Hague, as our government is to send those Americans who led us down that criminal path.

The settlement of the war in Ukraine can be laid out as a condition to opening negotiations for mutual, verifiable agreements to limit arms—including nuclear and conventional weapons—and avoid a ramped-up arms race that threatens all of our futures, and robs our progeny of safe and secure lives. This is, therefore, in the interests of the NATO nations, Russia, Ukraine and truly all humanity.

President Biden: Declare a Climate Emergency!

More than a year into the Biden administration we, in the climate action movement, are facing some difficult realities. While the program Joe Biden ran on was reasonably good on climate concerns, to date very, very little has been accomplished. Why is this and what can be done about it?

To begin with, as most reading this already know, the combination of the general unwillingness of any members of the GOP in Congress to support meaningful climate action, the razor-thin majorities that the Dems have in both houses of Congress, the filibuster rule in the Senate and the opposition of at least two nominally Democratic senators to abandoning it for any purpose have made the prospects for passing the sorts of legislation we need slim to none. And this situation is likely to get worse after the mid-term elections.

To spread a little icing on the cake, Biden has been saddled with an ongoing pandemic, an economy that hit the skids and then hit inflation, both due to the pandemic, a foreign policy crisis that rivals any seen in decades and a partisan division so intense that many, perhaps most, Republicans question whether Biden actually won the presidency. As a result, while the President continues to pay lip service to climate action, he is actually doing very little right now to move forward on the climate front.

The sad irony is that there’s actually much Biden could do without Congress, and taking such action he could potentially rally large numbers of citizens and voters in the run-up to the November mid-terms.

The way forward, as we’ve been saying for many months, is to declare a Climate Emergency.

As our allies at the Center for Biologic Diversity point out, there are “key climate steps the president could take under the National Emergencies Act, the Defense Production Act and the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Declaring a national emergency would allow the president to halt crude oil exports, stop offshore oil and gas drilling, restrict international fossil fuel investment and rapidly manufacture and distribute renewable energy systems.

“‘Declaring a climate emergency isn’t a catch phrase, it’s a vital suite of actions to protect people and the planet from this crisis,’ said Jean Su, director of the Center’s energy justice program and co-author of the report. ‘In the face of delayed climate legislation, President Biden should use his tremendous executive powers to turn this emergency into an opportunity for profound economic and social transformation.’”

Green Team members, we urge you to join in the efforts of more than 1,000 organizations across the country to press President Biden to do the right thing. You can send him a clear, brief message if you click

You can also contact President Biden's Chief of Staff Ron Klain, at (888) 431-7599. He needs to hear, and pass on to the President, our concerns. Our message must be clear. We are in an emergency and we need to take urgent action to address this.

Looking for more info? Click HERE.

And, for the 10 essential steps President Biden must take, click HERE.

Ukraine, Gas Prices and Climate Change

Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine is a tragedy that urgently requires our attention. The world must unite to not just condemn, but act to end this illegal, immoral and very dangerous war. We urge all Green Team members to make your voice heard on this. We also urge you to recognize that the war on Ukraine is not the only such war going on. U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for example, have been waging war on Yemen, aided and armed in part by the U.S., causing similar death, destruction, starvation, dislocation and other adverse consequences.  Our condemnation of war and militarism must be inclusive.

But, our focus here today is the impact of the war, particularly as it comes to energy and climate. As everyone knows, energy prices have been on the rise for many months now. After energy usage and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tanked in 2020 during the early part of the pandemic, global economies came roaring back in 2021 and it’s recently been announced that 2021 set new GHG records. Increased demand and the lead time required to bring new capacity on-line accounts for a significant portion of the increases we’re all seeing at the pumps.

That said, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the uncertainty that’s come with it, have added an additional dose of pain and it is unclear how high prices will go. It is unfortunate that the main result of the price spike, at least in the short run, is likely to be record profits for the oil producers and a bite out of the budgets of families, felt especially hard by those with lower incomes, those who have longer commutes and those whose vehicles are gas-guzzlers. And we, of course, are also paying more for the natural gas most of us use for home heating, water heating, cooking, etc.

Actions We Can Take:

In order to keep our energy use affordable we can pursue several strategies, some of them short term, others that will kick in over time. First, dealing with transportation, we should be thinking of replacing gasoline and diesel-burning vehicles with EVs, as we can afford to do so. For most of us, however, this will not be immediately doable.

We all can, however, check out the long list of transportation fixes from walking, biking and using transit, when feasible, to carpooling and combining trips to reduce overall mileage driven. We can keep our tires fully inflated and unload heavy things we’re carrying around unnecessarily. We can also avoid idling, turning our engines off when we’re not actually going somewhere. One might also see if they can take Amtrak instead of flying for long distance trips. And, rather than heading thousands of miles away for vacations, consider staycations and trips to some of the beautiful places here in Missouri. Each of these might seem small, but they add up when everyone gets on board, so please share these ideas and, besides doing what you can, please encourage others to do the same.

On the public policy front, you can encourage the Biden administration to pursue a windfall profits tax on the massive profits of the oil industry. The government could then redirect these unearned corporate revenues into bikeways, walkable cities, mass transit, high-speed rail, etc. We can also urge the administration to fast-track approval for new wind farms (off-shore and on-shore) as well as solar farms, to dramatically and rapidly increase our supply of renewably generated power that can substitute for fossil fuels. Some of this can be accomplished without overcoming a Senate filibuster if the President declares a climate emergency. It would be good to encourage this too.

One can urge action by the administration by clicking HERE.

Lessons We Can Learn:

The Ukraine situation provides many lessons that we should take to heart. First, we all know that, if we are interested in addressing the climate crisis, we need to get off fossil fuels ASAP. An added lesson is that renewables are essential to energy independence. In a world running on fossil fuels, the large producing countries have great leverage over countries without much oil and gas. Europe is now wrestling with their dependence on Russian gas and oil. Other countries, such as Japan, are dependent on Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. Renewables can free us from this undue influence and fuel our economy, rather than exporting our dollars as we import their fuels.

Another lesson is that nuclear power plants, in addition to their other problems (costs, waste, safety, proliferation, etc.), are also a huge security risk, be this due to war or terrorism. The plants and their waste pools constitute inviting targets in a time of war. While we are glad that the reported fire at the largest nuclear plant in Europe did not cause any radioactive releases, we are still concerned as to what might develop in the days and weeks of war ahead. No new nukes would also be a good message to send to President Biden.

Final Thought:

We all want to see an end to the Russian war on Ukraine. We can show our solidarity with donations and also by joining the weekly peace vigil that Peaceworks has organized. We will be out each Wednesday, 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the intersection of Broadway and Providence with signs and banners calling for an end to the war. Please join us for any portion of that time you can.