Currently, and in the near future, vulnerable communities within American borders will be battered by increasingly unnatural disasters. In addition to this grotesque reality, more people outside the United States borders will be displaced by unlivable conditions in their homelands, which means many more people will quite justifiably seek refuge elsewhere.
These unsettling realities come with many resulting issues. Within the United States, the current administration instills a negative national perspective on refugees and immigrants, is frugal when it comes to providing support for low income people, and is apathetic towards communities forced to live with the consequences of natural disaster wrecked neighborhoods (caused by national interests, I might add). Outside of the United States borders, developing countries are affected by the ever present need for this superpower to bring democracy in the form of armed troops and tanks to protect their oil and gas interests. This results in unlivable conditions in homelands, and a global refugee crisis.
All of these issues have the potential to be addressed—with an acknowledgement of climate change and the measures needed to end the human actions causing it. Climate change has proven itself to be the foundational cause of the majority of world issues.
The United States has the means to invest however much it costs to transform to a zero-carbon economy, build resilient infrastructure for communities, and secure a livable future for all. However, it continues to militarize the budget, cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and shrink public resources to make people increasingly more expendable—which only further execrates the limited time we have to address the climate crisis. Imagine how much any portion of the current $700 billion in Pentagon spending could do if our government decided to fight climate change instead of waging endless war.
The U.S. military’s global presence is incredibly wasteful, and is itself thought to be the largest institutional consumer of oil in the world. That’s to say nothing of the reality that securing access to foreign oil resources and perpetuating the global fossil fuel economy has been a major motivator of U.S. wars. Between one-quarter and one-half of interstate wars since 1973 have been linked to oil.
In Syria, water and climatic conditions have played a direct role in the deterioration of their economic conditions, which is one factor causing their continued civil war. Conflicts, by nature, are often unable to be pinned to one cause. However, the presence of international actors protecting their (oil) interests can be attributed as one of the major motivations for the 8 year conflict in Syria, along with most all Middle Eastern countries that are plagued with a resource curse and war. This international presence is partly due to the unwillingness to address the realities of climate change, head-on.
United States imperialism seems to be persistent; however, climate change begs not only a regime change in America, but also a complete change in what is familiar. If the United States and other top world polluters were to end their need for oil and gas, the result would be a withdraw from developing countries—allowing them to deal with their internal struggle; without influence from countries only concerned with protecting their own interests.
Tackling the issue of climate change can address issues under this umbrella (some not addressed in this post, but still important and tied to climate justice): the global refugee crisis, war caused by oil, low income families within United States borders who have lost homes due to natural disasters, disregard for native land, and corrupt corporations and politicians.
Right now, climate advocates are organizing in support for a Green New Deal; this aims to transform all U.S. energy systems to renewable energy over the next 10 years, with a federal job guarantee for all the work involved in shifting to a zero-carbon economy and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Newly elected politicians in Congress like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are cleverly reshaping the usual arguments about how to pay for such an enormous project.
We already have limited time, so let’s start now, and organize behind this measure for the sake of our planet and for the people who inhabit it.