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Cutting the Pentagon Budget: A Step to Curbing Climate Change and Healing the Planet

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Message Mark Dunlea

Earth Day was created to help heal the planet. 

One of the major sources of scarring of the planet is the Pentagon and its massive budget. 

The drive for oil - the use of military might to secure American access to foreign fossil fuels starting - is a major cause of the huge military expenditures. The Pentagon is the world's largest user of fossil fuels as well as America's largest polluter. 

Returning the US' military policy to one of national security - protecting our borders rather than seeking world domination - would reduce climate change and pollution. It would free up needed funds for domestic investments, including pursuing a sustainable green agenda to promote full employment and a carbon neutral economy. 

The secretive nature of the military presents a challenge in getting reliable data on its environmental impact. 

Prior reports found that the Pentagon generated more toxic waste than the five largest US chemical companies combined, making it the country's largest polluter. 900 of EPA's 1,300 Superfund toxic sites are military related. Millions of Americans have had their drinking water poisoned by the military. 

Environmental destruction has often been a direct goal during military conflicts. Ecological destruction is immense during times of armed conflict, such as the US wars in the Middle East. Throughout history water has been re-routed and poisoned to injure one's opponents; croplands have been laid to waste. The US used Agent Orange in Vietnam to destroy the tree cover of supply routes. Similar destruction has taken place in countries targeted by the US war on drugs. 

The Pentagon is a major factor in our country's unquenchable thirst for oil. Our fossil fuel addiction led us to invade Iraq, overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953, and to oppose the democratically elected President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.   The Department of Defense (DoD)   uses 360,000 barrels of oil each day, making it the single largest consumer of petroleum in the world. There are only 35 countries in the world consuming more oil than the DoD. 

A study by a Princeton researcher estimated that over 30 years the US spent $7.3 trillion dollars just to keep aircraft carriers in the Middle East to protect the supply routes for oil. The military's protection of oil supplies is a massive taxpayer subsidy to the fossil fuel industry. Were these costs factored into the price of gasoline at the pump, the price would more than double. 

The Pentagon blocked EPA's efforts for 20 years to study the toxicity of perchlorate which has been released into the groundwater from more than 12,000 military sites that do live explosive training. In 2011 EPA ruled that perchlorate may have an adverse effect on the health of persons. 

The Navy wrought 60 years of ecodestruction on Vieques in Puerto Rico through its live bombing. Many of the practice ranges, which cover vast areas, are essentially no-go-zones in perpetuity due to the unexploded ordinance. The military fences them off rather than cleaning them up. 

Nuclear weapons pose an even greater threat to the environment and human life. Besides the immediate impact on the areas bombed, even a small-scale nuclear war would quickly devastate the world's climate and ecosystems for years. For instance, most of the world would be unable to grow crops for more than five years after a conflict. 

The mining of uranium, often on indigenous lands (e.g., Navajo in Arizona), has resulted in high levels of cancer. Weapons grade nuclear material is far more radioactive than that used for energy production. Storage for hundreds of thousands of years is a major problem. Significant environmental contamination of surrounding communities have resulted from nuclear weapon facilities such as Rocky Flats CO and Hanford WA. 

The increasing use of depleted uranium as defensive armor plating and armor-piercing projectiles by the US in the Middle East and the Balkans has generated controversy over its environmental and public health impact. 

And then there is the issue of the increasing militarization of space. The impact of Navy sonar testing on marine wildlife such as whales and dolphins. The atmospheric impact of aviation in general but particularly the high-performance, high altitude US Air Force. 

The military has taken some steps in support of a green agenda. The US Air Force   is the largest generator and user of solar energy in the country, and that the Navy is pushing ahead with a major biofuels program. 

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President of Green Education and Legal Fund Inc. Executive Director of Hunger Action Network. Author of Madame President: The Unauthorized Biography of the First Green Party President. Co
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