Monday, August 22, 2011

That Darn Treehugging Military - a Thorn in the Climate Change Denier's Side

The military looks good in green. We've known that for quite some time and a trip to your local Army/Navy store will demonstrate as much.  As committed as Greenpeace or WWF may be to the natural environment, the military is the one branch of society that is committed enough to actually dress in a way that blends with nature. Whether military camouflage takes the appearance of a desert, an ocean, or a rain-forest, the military adjusts.

But this poorly executed comedic metaphorical imagery may not be too far from the truth. While Fox News may talk a great deal about the military, it appears the military has not been watching Fox News and it's reporting on climate change of late. The Pentagon has called climate change a "destabilizing geopolitical force" and that climate change "may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict." Thirty-three U.S. Generals and Admirals have asserted that "Climate Change is Threatening America's Security." A Lieutenant Colonel at the U.S. Army War College has written a report titled "Water: U.S. Strategic Response to Conflicts Over a Finite Resource." The U.S. Navy has expressed concern over the "risk and uncertainty" created by climate change and has even engaged in "war games" in order to "assess its ability to respond to possible climate change-related conflicts around the world." These games "involved scientists, water specialists, climatologists, aid workers, intelligence officials, business analysts and military officers" - now that is a collection of individuals not welcome on the set of Rush Limbaugh....they might just say something with which he disagrees.

Now the military is training its guns on energy efficiency and is moving away from oil toward renewable forms of energy.  As evidenced in this story, the U.S. Army recently determined that one out of eight Army casualties in Iraq resulted from the protection of fuel convoys. Thus a move toward renewable energy and energy efficiency aligns with military goals - protecting the lives of soldiers. We have already seen this in the context of our reliance on foreign oil - our individual reductions at home and a move toward renewables could dramatically reduce our implication in conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere. Yet for some reason, segments of society typically associated with hawkishness and military strength seem to be the least interested in reducing their carbon footprint - a contradiction of ideology to say the least.

Nonetheless, "the military is quickly becoming a leading buyer of cutting-edge renewable energy technology." Perhaps the greatest potential for this surge in investment is moving technologies to a place of commercial viability, as has happened in the past with GPS and the Internet. From solar and wind powered military bases to robots that run on wave energy, the military is leading the way.

One analyst recently summed it up best: "At a time when many conservative lawmakers are strongly opposing renewable energy and denying the science of climate change, it’s interesting that the Department of Defense – the nation’s largest energy user, representing 80% of federal sector energy consumption – remains fully committed to reducing energy consumption and developing renewable energy technologies."

I think if I really want to practice what I preach I should adopt the approach of the military and begin wearing Realtree camouflage to class (though, being from the woods of Alabama this would not be so unusual for me). In all seriousness, we could all learn from the military on matters of the environment. The military has not always been a bastion of environmental awareness, and a myriad of environmental problems are caused by and remain a part of military life. But unless the military is truly engaged in a vast left-wing conspiracy (I am pretty sure I will be the only person on the entire internet to type the phrase "military is truly engaged in a vast left-wing conspiracy..."), then I think we all should listen to what they have been saying recently about the environment - doves and hawks alike.

- Blake Hudson

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