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Why Was An Action Making A Connection Between Militarism And Climate Chaos Subverted?

Above photo: Actress Jane Fonda marches during a climate rally outside US Capitol in Washington, DC on November 8, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images)

I support the impeachment of Donald Trump for myriad reasons. And I dream that the Senate will convict this criminal. However, even with Trump gone, climate chaos will continue to plague the planet.

The only hope for Mother Earth is for the environmental movement to recognize that unless we end militarism and imperialism, the world can’t survive as we now know it.  So any chance I get, I will say that the Pentagon is committing ecocide.

And it is obvious that Jane Fonda realizes the precariousness of the moment and that we only have about a decade to save Mother Earth. She has temporarily moved to Washington, D.C., motivated by Greta Thunberg, to organize Fire Drill Fridays, which started on October 11 with Fonda and others risking arrest on the U.S. Capitol steps. Each week until January 15, the Fire Drills will continue. Each Friday has a particular theme, and it was wonderful to discover that on November 8, the theme would be War/Military.  The promotional material made this point: “. . . we’ll need all hands on deck to connect the military and climate change!”

So Janice Sevre-Duszynska and I planned to risk arrest at the Capitol on November 8, as there is that urgency to make the connection between the Pentagon’s warmongering and its dire effect on the environment. To be frank, many of the environmental groups have not challenged the Pentagon.

Here are more of the promotional points made in the lead-up to November 8:

  • Funding endless war is an existential threat to human life and one of the leading causes of climate chaos.
  • It is essential that to save Mother Earth, major cuts to the military budget must be made and those funds diverted to programs designed to alleviate the effects of climate chaos. 
  • 64% of US discretionary spending is wasted on the military, which pollutes our planet more than 140 countries combined! 
  • The Pentagon is the single largest institutional consumer of fossil fuels in the world, and the United States military has an enormous “carbon boot print.”
  • If it were a country, its fuel use alone would make it the 47th-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, between Peru and Portugal.
  • And, for much of the past century, a major function of the military has been to secure access for US-based companies to fossil fuel resources in the Middle East and elsewhere.
  • Just 11% of the Pentagon’s current annual budget — about $80 billion — could produce enough wind and solar energy to power every one of the almost 128 million households in the United States.
  • As renewables get cheaper, that fraction gets even smaller. And with the right kind of regulatory structures, zero-carbon renewable electricity could effectively be made free after the initial investment of construction.  There are other costs associated with shifting to fossil-free electricity, of course — like developing battery storage, a resilient smart grid to transmit energy across large regions, and other sources of carbon-free energy like geothermal and tidal. But even accounting for these, one estimate calculates the total cost of shifting our electricity to 100% renewable energy over 10 years at $4.5 trillion. That’s still less than the $6 trillion that we’ve spent on almost two decades of endless wars waged since 9/11.

On November 8, a frigid Friday, we gathered near the Capitol with maybe two hundred people and heard from Jane Fonda, Phyllis Bennis and Ben Cohen who exhorted us to take serious action.  Janice and I were ready to risk arrest, and we were prepared not to pay out.  We wanted to take our case to court so that we could sound the alarm that judges and prosecutors must recognize that we have a right to a livable planet.

Unfortunately, amidst a lot of signs calling for Trump’s impeachment, we were informed that instead of the Capitol steps, we would march to the White House. Why were we marching to the White House?  The president is tone-deaf on climate chaos and is a known climate denier?

If we directed our message to Congress, at least we would have many supporters of the Green New Deal inside the Capitol.  I have no idea why this decision to go instead to the White House was made. I firmly believe, though, it was a bad decision.

As we marched, there was nary a sign about saving the planet from the effects of militarism. And the chants were about impeaching Trump. What was going on?

Once we got to the White House, it was difficult to discern what was the plan. I spoke to an influential member of Veterans for Peace who told me they were pulling out of the risk-arrest scenario, as militarism was no longer an issue.

Word came around that if you “wanted to get arrested,” go to the drive-in entrance to the White House. Janice and I were not there to get arrested, but we were prepared to deliver a message while risking arrest. Just hearing “Who wants to get arrested” suggested to me that this was not organized by skilled advocates. Nevertheless, Janice and I sat down with others at a blocked off entrance to the White House. Fonda came over and informed us that she would sit down with us until there were three warnings from the police, as she was advised not to get arrested that day. Of course, there were no warnings as the police presumably recognized the futility of bothering to take us into custody.

As far as I know, there was no communication with the White House, no letter listing our grievances or no demand that was delivered.  The Park Police and maybe the Secret Service looked at us with bemusement. It became obvious that there would be no arrests. But you could enjoy some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream at a nearby table. I did not partake as I was fasting.

Having participated in numerous environmental marches, we have noticed that the condemnation of the Pentagon’s ecocide is not highlighted. So we were really enthused to finally join an action making a direct connection between the Pentagon and climate chaos. But somehow the theme was perverted towards IMPEACH TRUMP.

On November 15, Jane and others were back at the Capitol. And there were arrests, and one of the arrestees was Robert Kennedy Jr. For the first four Fridays, Fonda got arrested each time. After the fourth arrest, she was jailed, and informed another arrest would result in a 30-day jail stay.

So the only Friday when there were no arrests was November 8. I would be indebted to anyone who could explain why a theme of war/military morphed into Impeach Trump.  I hope the theme that militarism is a major cause of climate chaos can somehow be inserted into one of the following Fire Drill Fridays. All we are asking is to give us another chance to highlight the connection between the Pentagon and climate chaos.

We must take every opportunity to convince Congress that it must declare a climate emergency.  To further understand the dire situation, read this article “Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’” on November 5, 2019 in The Guardian — The article written by Damian Carrington, Environment editor, also makes the point that “Most countries’ climate plans ‘totally inadequate’ – experts.”