Opinion: Militarism and Climate Change

Climate Change and Nuclear War. Cartoon by Joe Kandra

by Denis Dettling Kalthofer

With Putin’s horrific war against Ukraine raging, it is understandably easy to forget
about climate change. Social movements, like the fight against climate change, often start
small, get put on the back burner and/or stay small for years, despite the best efforts of its
advocates. Then quickly, some pivotal factors and events, and how we interpret these,
change everything.

When a few “advisors” didn’t resolve the Vietnam “conflict”, the draft was instituted to
recruit young men to fight that war. The war dragged on and on. Every week, someone’s son
came home in a body bag. This not only made it a lot easier to question the alleged reasons
for the war, but it caused a wholesale social earthquake. Eventually, they had to suspend the

Similarly, the nuclear arms race between the US and Soviet Union was a great concern
to many Americans. The escalation went on and on until it reached the level of mutually
assured destruction (MAD) before the absurdity of the concept of surviving a nuclear war set
deep enough into collective consciousness to bring about the signing of treaties.

Fast forward to 2020. Despite widespread awareness of climate change, climate denier
Trump looked like he would be reelected. Then the Covid pandemic hit the US. Whether
because of deforestation and habitat loss causing animals and humans to live too closely
together, or because of some virus escaping a lab, the effect was world-wide and we were not
prepared. Had it not been for Trump’s delayed response to the problem, he might well have
been reelected.

Now climate change is fast becoming an unprecedented catastrophic emergency, yet
little has actually been done to alleviate the problem. What will the pivotal factors and events
be that will bring the climate movement to the fore? Will it be another season of record
storms? What might hit people the most could be double-digit inflation, with the
unprecedentedly huge military budget as the single greatest cause.

Reducing the military budget and divesting from arms production would have three
great benefits: It would reduce inflation, which affects the poor and lower middle classes more
than anyone else. It would greatly reduce green house gases, because the military are the
single greatest users of fossil fuels and emitters of green house gases. Finally, it would free
up badly needed funds for the effort that will be needed for a true green new deal to succeed.
The time has come to turn the defense of access to fossil fuels into the defense of our most
vulnerable citizens, and of our mother earth. The earth sustains us and we do not exist
without her.

— Denis Dettling Kalthofer