Twin Existential Threats Campaign

Peace Advocate May 2023

Photo: Mark Dixon via Wiki Commons

by Kathleen Malley-Morrison

The risks to life inherent in catastrophic climate devastation and nuclear weapons proliferation are increasingly recognized as intimately interconnected; indeed, organizations such as the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), and the Council for a Livable World (CLW) have labelled them twin existential threats. Of most direct relevance to the twinning label is the reality that changes in one existential threat can cause changes in the other threat; for example, catastrophic climate change dramatically increases the likelihood of armed conflict; which in turn increases the likelihood of nuclear war; conversely, any use of nuclear weapons, deliberate or accidental, will cause even more catastrophic climate change than is already occurring through militarism – particularly in the nuclear countries.

Beyond their mutually aggravating influences, nuclear weapons and climate devastation (including all the grievous forms of environmental harm associated with it) are connected in several additional ways. First, they are both anthropogenic – that is, born out of human behavior – with origins in an illicit alliance between: a) an extreme form of patriarchy that has created an economic system that prioritizes profit for the very few, a system protected and advanced by aggressive militarism and dependent on relentless exploitation of the earth’s resources; and b) an overriding suppression of feminism, in which empathy, compassion, and ethical sensitivity have been repressed by the patriarchs. This deadly pattern of behavior, fueled and abetted by deliberately manipulated racism, has been recognized as a violation of universal ethical principles (e.g., the Golden Rule) and international law. Examples can be found here and here.

Second, and more specifically, nuclear weapons and climate devastation are the offspring of ungodly power-and-profit obsessed “godparents”, who finance and profit from the earth-threatening activities of their gargantuan twins. To make matters even worse, these godparents appear to be congenitally blind to the effects of their profiteering on survival of life on this planet. Moreover, the godparents, the nurturers and safe-guarders of each twin, tend to be the same people – that is, the powers behind the generous (to the twins) financial institutions.

Here are some examples of those cozy incestuous relationships: Chevron, Shell, Formosa, Marathon Petroleum, Occidental Petroleum and ExxonMobil are among the most egregious corporations when it comes to pollution emissions, “accidents” (such as oil spills), ongoing expansion of fossil fuel related projects/permits, and overall detrimental harm to local communities. The leading financial institutions backing these specific companies and other fossil fuel companies across the world are Vanguard, BlackRock, Capital Group, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America. Now let’s consider the leading financial institutions investing in corporations that build and sell (for huge profits) nuclear weapons. These institutions include Vanguard, BlackRock, Capital Group, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America.

To make matters worse, there are the incestuous relationships among the fossil fuel and nuclear weapons corporations, the financial institutions, and members of Congress – a triumvirate that is part of what Republican President and war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower originally labeled the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex (MICC). This triumvirate works to insure Congressional support for ever higher, ever more wasteful, ever more dangerous budgets to the Pentagon and the euphemistically labeled Department of Energy (home of the budget for nuclear weapons) as well as for protecting the fossil fuel companies.

Historically, both the nuclear disarmament movement and the climate movement have had some successes – for example, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, with the renewed cold war, nuclear arms race, diversion of budgetary funds from environmental and social welfare programs to the Pentagon and Department of Energy, the Doomsday Clock is the closest to the midnight of Armageddon than it has ever been. A mass movement is needed to save us all.
The goal of this Twin Threats campaign is to build upon, expand, and encourage collaborations among major nuclear disarmament and climate campaigns such as Back from the Brink, Warheads to Windmills, the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, and the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club, with a particular focus on collaboration with campaigns within Massachusetts.

The Twin Threats campaign will include three major strategies: 1) public education (including outreach to communities of faith and social justice organizations) focused on the interconnections between the two threats and the ways in which profiteers and power mongers within the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex will increasingly endanger life on earth if there is not a unified effort to stop them and redirect the resources they control; this component will include at least one webinar as well as the creation, refinement, and distribution of flyers and other information at public events such as rallies; 2) No Nukes or Fossil Fuels (NONOFF) social resistance actions involving demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, lie-ins, etc., at significant locations such as the offices of members of the unholy triumvirate of defense contractors, their financial supporters, and representatives, senators, and other political figures who support military and fossil fuel corporations; and 3) legislative action whereby the campaign will file, endorse, and promote legislation that helps the joint campaign as well as each movement separately.

The twin existential threats are real but there are things we all can do to resist the corporations and politicians whose greed is catapulting life on earth towards extinction. We can do this by developing a mass movement that says, “hell no”, to nuclear weapons and “hell no” to continued rape and pollution of the planet.

You can help build this movement by joining established peace and environmental organizations like Mass Peace Action. If you belong to a union or professional organization, urge the whole group to join you and the activist organizations striving to protect life on earth. If you would like to join the Twin Threats campaign, please send an email to addressed to Kathie Malley-Morrison.

Have hope. Take action.