War & Genocide on Earth Day

U.S. military aggression and imperial ambitions leave a trail of natural destruction — all under the guise of national security, writes Melissa Garriga

Damaged buildings in Gaza, Dec. 6, 2023. (Tasnim News Agency, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Melissa Garriga
On Earth Day Monday, prepare for the annual spectacle of U.S. lawmakers donning their environmentalist hats, waxing poetic about their love for the planet while disregarding the devastation their actions wreak.

The harsh reality is that alongside their hollow pledges lies a trail of destruction fueled by military aggression and imperial ambitions, all under the guise of national security.

Take Gaza, for instance. Its once-fertile farmland now lies barren, its water sources poisoned by conflict and neglect. The grim statistics speak volumes: 97 percent  of Gaza’s water is unfit for human consumption, leading to a staggering 26 percent of illnesses, particularly among vulnerable children. 

Israel’s decades-long colonial settler project and ethnic cleansing of Palestine have caused irrefutable damage to the land, air and water, consequently contributing to the climate crisis.

In fact, in the first two months of the current genocide campaign in Gaza, Israel’s murderous bombardment, which has killed nearly 35,000 people, has also generated more planet-warming emissions than the annual carbon footprint of the world’s top 20 climate-vulnerable nations. 

Yet, despite these dire circumstances, U.S. lawmakers persist in funneling weapons to Israel, perpetuating a cycle of violence and environmental degradation.

The ripple effects of militarism extend far beyond Gaza’s borders. In Ukraine, the Russia-Ukraine War has left a staggering $56.4 billion environmental bill, with widespread contamination of air, water, and soil. Landmines and unexploded ordnance litter 30 percent of the country, posing long-term risks to both the environment and human health. 

The United States’ answer to all this has been to reject diplomacy and fuel a long, protracted war with a seamingling endless supply of weapons and military support. A war that most experts will tell you is not a winnable war. The proxy war the United States is funding not only leaves Ukrainians at risk of never achieving peace but also significantly contributes to the ever-growing climate crisis. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a press event on continued support for Ukraine in January. (White House, Cameron Smith)

Then, there is the U.S. government’s desire to go to war with China. The U.S. military’s heavy footprint already looms large in the Pacific, and with the war drums now beating harder for war than ever before , the footprint is growing.

With over 200 bases dotting the region, the Pentagon’s voracious energy consumption fuels greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation, from polluted drinking water in Okinawa to severe contamination near military installations in Guam

Yet, the U.S. government insists that it is China that is its greatest enemy and not the looming threat of climate destruction. The U.S. military’s presence in the Pacific is destroying natural, indigenous ecosystems, favoring the idea of environmental destruction over attempting any form of diplomacy and cooperation with China. 

All of this destruction to the environment and acceleration of the climate crisis happens silently under the veil of “national security,” while discussions on how the environmental toll of war is the most significant national security threat are absent in D.C. 

While the threat of nuclear annihilation and civilian casualties rightfully dominate headlines, the ecological fallout remains an underreported tragedy. 

The Pentagon is the planet’s largest institutional emitter of fossil fuels; its insatiable appetite for conflict exacerbates climate change and threatens ecosystems worldwide. To make matters worse, the U.S. government wants to fund this destruction to the tune of nearly a trillion dollars a year while poor and low-wealth communities worldwide bear the brunt of climate catastrophes with little to no resources to protect themselves. 

At the heart of this destructive cycle lies a perverse economic incentive, where war becomes a lucrative business at the expense of both people and the planet. The narrative of gross domestic product growth masks the actual cost of conflict, prioritizing financial profit over genuine progress in education, healthcare, and biodiversity. 

Instead of war-economy metrics such as the GDP, we could embrace alternative metrics such as the genuine progress indicator (GPI) that reckon with the actual toll of war on our world. 

We can shift from endless growth towards genuine well-being by valuing air quality, food security, and environmental sustainability. 

This Earth Day, let us reject the empty rhetoric of environmentalism without action. Let us demand accountability from our lawmakers and insist on an end to the cycle of violence and ecological devastation. By prioritizing peace and sustainability, we can protect our planet and safeguard future generations.

Melissa Garriga is the communications and media relations manager for CODEPINK. She writes about the intersection of militarism and the human cost of war.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

14 comments for “War & Genocide on Earth Day

  1. Bob Martin
    April 22, 2024 at 21:53

    Excellent article! One comment though–not one mention of CAPITALISM, the underlying culprit. Until it is completely demolished, we are doomed because the environment, under capitalism, is mere fodder for more profits. It absolutely will, must, be sacrificed in its entirety.

  2. Rafi Simonton
    April 22, 2024 at 21:19

    The Cajun singer/songwriter had “Gotta go to work to earn the bread to buy the bread so I can go to work tomorrow.”

    Same logic as: “Gotta go to war to seize the oil to oil the machines to go to war tomorrow.”
    Or: “Gotta go to war to make the foes to have the foes so we can go to war tomorrow.”

  3. sisuforpeace
    April 22, 2024 at 15:31

    Thanks for this informative piece Melissa. Happy Earth Day is really Happy Life Day. The earth will still exist after we humans have destroyed the life support systems with which we require to live on planet earth – I’ll say once again Happy Life Day.

  4. shmutzoid
    April 22, 2024 at 12:20

    War. Climate change. Staggering inequality. — We can not vote our way out from these conditions. The profit motive inherit to a global capitalist system is not compatible with life/planet affirming policies.—- The entire world economy needs to be placed under the democratic control of the international working class and reorganized around socialist principles. Goals of maximizing social equality and minimizing harm to our biosphere. ———-Expropriate the ill-gotten trillions of dollars held by a handful of people in the world to address the needs of the worse off. Transform mega-corporations into public utilities..

    Sounds unreal, huh? And yet, does it seem any more real the present trajectory will somehow/some way change behind our current system??

  5. Frank Lambert
    April 22, 2024 at 11:13

    Excellent and definitely accurate narrative of the state of affairs by the war-happy misanthropes in Wash. D. C., the Pentagon, the CIA, and the Hollywood crowd, and of course by the financial shysters on Wall Street who profit tremendously from the perpetual/armaments war machine and the big stockholders in these “blood money” industries. The powerful AIPAC Lobby, feared by politicians in both the Repulsive and DemoRAT parties but probably getting “campaign donations in excess (under the table) amounts to give the green light to the Zionist regime in Israel for continuing with the Palestinian Holocaust in Gaza and soon the West Bank.

    But dear Melissa, and anyone else reading this, by continuous voting for the duopoly who care less about the American people and more concerned with enriching themselves progressive ideas for humanity and the destruction of the environment will not materialize. It takes courage and conviction to vote for alternative party candidates, which I have been doing since the year 2000.
    By repeating the political mantra that “alternative parties or their candidates can’t win” keeps the status quo in place as Ms Garriga has so eloquently stated.

    • Selina Sweet
      April 22, 2024 at 12:27

      A meaningful problem with voting 3rd party is the existing set up of rules established by the Business Party with its two flanks have made the legitimation of the 3rd party well nigh impossible. It would behoove us who are totally disaffected by the status quo to strategically, earnestly, and persistently to begin demolishing these rules. Learning the details of this self protective racket would be a good first step and making it well known to the citizenry. In other words, frequent essays about the absence of fair treatment of the voter and the hypercontrol which the two flanks exercise to keep the true needs of us from being rightly tended to.

    • David Rau
      April 22, 2024 at 12:50

      Frank, good comment well stated. Unfortunately the willfully ignorant population here in the US. have already bought into the bias propaganda spread by both main stream political parties. We may be on the brink of destruction. Anyway happy earth Day.

  6. April 22, 2024 at 11:07

    Excellent article!

  7. Vera Gottlieb
    April 22, 2024 at 10:04

    I wish I would live long enough (now 84yrs) to see these criminal countries get their due.

    • Charles E. Carroll
      April 22, 2024 at 13:11

      AMEN! At 79, I’m with you! Free Palestine!

  8. susan
    April 22, 2024 at 09:25

    Unfortunately, this world is inundated with maniacal hypocrisy and we, the people, have allowed the utter destruction to our beautiful planet – all in the name of avarice. Have a great earth day everyone realizing it may be our last…

  9. April 22, 2024 at 08:47

    In the lead up to the election, the Blue Team will continue to use fear of the Orange Man as their only playing card. The Blue Team has become at least as destructive as the Red Team, but they get away with it so often because so many Blue Team voters keep supporting them no matter what their policies are. If Biden somehow pulls off an election victory, he will be even more destructive than he already has been because he will have “a mandate” to continue genocide and ecocide in the name of “freedom”.

  10. Sunshine
    April 21, 2024 at 23:27

    All of the Pro-war-Gressives voted to send $60 billion to the far-right regime in Kiev.

    No pro-war-gressives thought that the money would be better spent on either helping the environment or helping Americans. They all thought that the best money ever spent is money spent on death, destruction, war and torture. Every single one of them.

    War is the most environmentally destructive activity possible. What is the carbon footprint of those long-range missiles that they just sent to the far-right regime in Kiev to mount long range attacks on Russian cities? What is the carbon footprint of a pair of F-16 fighters flying for one hour? What is the carbon footprint of an Abrams tank burning jet fuel? Or even the carbon footprint of all those diesel trucks that carry up to the army their tools of the trade?

    The Pro-War-Gressives just started chanting “Burn Baby Burn” to mother Earth. They don’t give a dang about us, as they give away nearly $100 billion while letting domestic spending shrink after the never-ending inflation. They don’t care about the planet. But they love the military industrial complex, and make sure it always gets lots of money.

  11. John prehn
    April 21, 2024 at 22:03

    Dear Melissa,
    Pointing out our fix is definitely step one, and you do it well. Next is what to do…and who will do it…If as many Americans as own AR-15s could come together to perform acts of resistance, it would be a big step. But, we are siloed, intentionally and effectively, as well as being way too comfortable given our actual situation. Guess we wait for the big tipping point…we’d best have a good plan ready. A heavy responsibility for our visionaries, ie, you! Thanks for this piece…keep them coming….

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