Most people in the world will agree that war is a horrible thing. Throughout history, it has not only killed and maimed young men in their prime without regard to the justice or injustice of their cause, but, in its modern form, also brought death, homelessness, and misery to millions of innocent civilians. In addition, war has in our own time helped breed the spread of terrorism, raised the specter of nuclear holocaust and the annihilation of life as we know it, robbed us of wealth that might otherwise have been invested in meeting real human needs, and worked to further divide humanity at a time when we have better means than ever before to unite it in the cause of building a more just, secure, and happy world.
Many people will readily concede these points. Yet, without thinking too deeply on the matter, they then recur to the culturally conditioned notions that war has always been with us and is in fact necessary as a last resort when conflicts with other nations or groups within nations seem beyond conciliation by reasoned compromise.
To readers of this article who reject the inevitability of war, as well as to those who accept it, I recommend looking into the U.S.-based global anti-war activist organization World Beyond War (WBW). Under the direction of prolific author/speaker/debater/pod-cast interview host David Swanson, WBW is with steady purpose pursuing the ultimate goal of an internationally-binding abolition of war. As I learned in a recently concluded eight-week online study course conducted by the organization, it seeks to achieve that end on the basis of eight fundamental convictions: 1) War can be ended; 2) War is immoral; 3) War destroys freedom; 4) War destroys nature; 5) War can both destroy the environment and, given the current nature of international conflicts, also easily escalate to a nuclear phase capable of annihilating nature, civilization, and mankind by holocaust; 6) War impoverishes and wastes; 7) War can be replaced by an alternative Global Security System, which WBW has already developed and re-publishes annually in updated book form; and 8) War can only be ended by means of a mass global anti-war movement. WBW's task is to help grow such a movement and to propose new and more effective ways by which it can achieve its goal of abolishing war as an institution.
The Anti-War and Environmental Movements Are Natural Allies.
The particular purpose of this article is to expound an important point relating to the eighth conviction guiding World Beyond War's overall mission: namely, its task to propose new and more effective ways by which a mass movement to abolish war can better advance its cause. One such idea already gaining traction is that WBW and other anti-war groups join forces with activist environmental organizations that are open to coalition with them.
The rationale for this is that the anti-war message can reach a significantly larger audience, and gain a fairer hearing, if it is offered in combination with a message urging protection of the environment and efforts to combat global warming. This is so, in part, because of a major difference in how the anti-war and environmental messages are currently received. In contrast to the idea of war abolition, which at this stage will strike much of the public as either unpatriotic or quixotic, environmental issues have long held a prominent place in the national conversation over needed reforms and strike most people as at least well within the bounds of rational debate. In addition, efforts to protect the environment and combat global warming, even at some economic cost, have by now gained the active support of many citizens.
It is true that most activist environmental organizations have in the past been reluctant to ally with anti-war groups, fearing their own diminishment by association. But, in pursuing the WBW online study course, I discovered two facts that seem to make such alliances eminently logical. The first is that, due largely to their use of fossil fuels, the preparation for war and war-making itself constitute in combination by far the single biggest destroyer of the environment. The second fact carries equal weight. Because fully half of U.S. federal discretionary spending now goes to support wars and the preparation for war, resources to help meet a wide range of other pressing needs, including fast-paced creation of a green economy, have been greatly diminished. Moreover, both unchecked global warming, which would result from a rejection of efforts called for by environmental groups, and the growing possibility of nuclear holocaust, which could well result from a continued resort to war in an age of spreading nihilistic terrorism, represent in equal measure the greatest threats to mankind's survival in the whole of world history.
Earlier this year, WBW was able to successfully lobby leaders of the People's Climate March, held on April 29, to include peace in their platform, and I will note later a similar alliance scheduled for September. We can hope these collaborations represent only a beginning, since anti-war/pro-environment alliances are plainly win/win. For WBW, they mean wider exposure for the anti-war message. And for environmental organizations, considering that war and the preparation for war constitute the single biggest destroyer of the environment, no coalition partners could better reinforce their message than those seeking to abolish war.
Eliminating War Is Essential to Securing the Environment.
As I learned in the WBW online course, in excerpts from Part II of David Swanson's book War No More: the Case for Abolition, and the WBW book A Global Security System: an Alternative to War, eliminating war and the maintenance, testing, upgrade, and building of the machinery of war is essential to ending further degradation of the environment and preventing what might well be cataclysmic effects produced by global warming. Here are some reasons why:
--The burning of oil, along with the burning of coal and gas, is one of the world's greatest detriments to environmental health. Yet, each day, the U.S. military pollutes the air with all manner of weaponry, burning through 340,000 barrels of oil. No other U.S. institution consumes nearly as much oil as the military.
--There is a close interdependence between OIL and WAR. In the case of the U.S., a national dependence on oil makes it necessary to ensure control of oil imports from the Middle East and other oil-rich regions. That requires maintenance of a very big military, which is the country's biggest consumer of oil; and that in turn further exacerbates our national dependence on oil. If the U.S. military (and other militaries) were to go green, a major cause of war would be removed.