Climate Hawks and Enviro-Drones: Greenwashing Imperialism?
In addition to our War on Drugs and War on Terror, we now have a War on Climate Change. BPFers with interests in anti-militarization and environmental issues will want to read Turtles and Tomahawk Missiles, Together at Last? War is Not the Answer to Climate Change by Cyril Mychalejko.
Some environmental groups have embraced militarized language and weaponry as the most skillful means to care for our world. Enviro-drones are a new re-purposing of the unmanned military weapon. The World Wildlife Federation, with financial help from Google, is planning to use drones to track poachers in Africa. A climate hawk is a tough dude (emphasis on a militarized masculinity):
The health of Mother Earth just doesn’t move that many people. For better or worse, more Americans respond to evocations of toughness in the face of a threat. In foreign policy a hawk is someone who, as Donald Rumsfeld used to put it, ‘leans forward,’ someone who’s not afraid to flex America’s considerable muscle – Grist staff writer David Roberts, in his October 2010 column, Introducing ‘climate hawks’
Do we believe that a militarized War on Climate Change is really about saving the planet? Mychalejko makes the case that this is just a painted-green excuse for the mighty militarized force of U.S. imperialism to deepen its reach. He describes the military’s narrow interests in climate change:
- We need to combat climate change because the rising tides threaten our coastal military bases.
- We must protect our borders from an influx of “climate refugees.”
- We need greater military presence in “unstable” regions like Africa where global warming will hit hardest, and existing tensions will be exacerbated.
Environmentalists who have not integrated racial and economic justice into their work are more easily swayed by a “security” framing of the dangers of climate change:
“It’s dangerous that some liberal environmentalists bought into this climate conflict narrative about poor people of color becoming violent when climate change makes resources scarce. This narrative draws on deep-seated stereotypes of Africans in particular as savages and barbarians, incapable of technological and institutional innovation or cooperation,” said [Betsy] Hartmann, [director of the population and development program and professor of development studies at Hampshire College]. “The media loves this stuff because fear sells in this country, especially racialized fears of poor people. The tragedy is that this approach works against the kind of international solidarity we need to build popular, democratic and effective solutions to climate change.”
As Buddhists who care about climate change, can our understanding of interconnectedness help us remember that we need an internationally connected movement rather than an expansion of empire? How do we improve our relational skills and our ability to challenge the systems that lie about our separateness (like nationalism and racism), in order to actually build the kind of international solidarity we need?
What do you think about this use of militarized language to talk about climate change? Good strategy to get the suits in Washington to pay attention to this arguably most urgent of issues? Massive co-optation of the environmental movement as yet another excuse to spread empire? Is it critical to de-militarize our language in every instance? Or is it skillful means at times to use militarized language like targets, strategy, tactics, and militancy? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Top photo: Spc. Kim Browne / US Army