By Evelyn Miller
This September 17, Mass Peace Action joined with Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, Boston Extreme Energy, and other Peace Action affiliates to represent the anti-militarists at the March to End Fossil Fuels in New York City, where we gave our all and left our mark.
MAPA was one of 700 other organizations to march on September 17 to demand that President Biden take immediate and bold action to address the climate crisis. Up to 75,000 individuals took to the streets of Manhattan on this day, many of them to promote their own specific messages and demands, from socialist agendas to veganism to anti-French neo-colonialism. But despite the differences amongst the many hubs, organizers, and attendees that gathered on Broadway, every one of us was united by two common sentiments: outrage at our world leaders for failing to address catastrophic climate change as well as a real passion for our climate, the overall planet, and the protection of its inhabitants.
The anti-militarism hub, led by CODEPINK, was one such group with a powerful message. Linking war, militarism, and climate change, the hub worked to communicate the undeniable fact that the US military is the world’s largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gasses. This so-called “elephant in the room” was visually represented at the march with an over 10 foot tall inflatable elephant with “US MILITARY = #1 POLLUTER” inscribed on its side. This (quite literally) massive message traversed the streets of Manhattan, making it from Broadway all the way to 1st Ave with the help of the hub’s organizers.
MAPA helped take the anti-militarism agenda one step further by raising the importance of addressing both climate change and nuclear weapons. Linking these two existential threats, and the activists organizing to defeat them, is a major priority for MAPA and its Twin Threats Campaign. Activists distributed hundreds of flyers reading “Extinction Competition,” with pictures of a mushroom cloud alongside a burning forest and an online action in support of important federal bills. These two threats have a long list of interconnections that receive insufficient attention — something MAPA hopes to change. By calling attention to these connections MAPA activists hope to impart the necessity of addressing both threats in tandem.
Ben Grosscup and the People’s Music Network put on a spectacular pre-march performace, with new songs written for the occasion.
The demands of the overall anti-militarism hub included cutting the Pentagon’s budget and diverting funds to climate adaptation and mitigation, reporting emissions from all military operations, reducing all US emissions by 50%, and signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The march as a whole also had clear objectives. The main demand was for Biden to declare a “climate emergency” — but what exactly does this mean? Under the US National Emergencies Act of 1976, the president can declare a “national emergency,” giving the executive government expanded powers, especially in the event that Congress has been ineffective in addressing an important issue (in this case, climate change).
Historically, national emergencies have been declared countless times, with many still in effect. While plenty of these declarations have been warranted, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a vast list of instances in which the grounds for invoking the NEA did not live up to the definition of “emergency.” The act has often been misused. Take for instance Trump’s 2018 declaration which allowed him to redirect government funds to the construction of his preposterous border wall with Mexico after Congress denied him funding. Given the drastic nature of the climate crisis, activists are pressing us to ask the question: how haven’t we made such a declaration with respect to global climate devastation which today can be felt right here on US soil in the form of rampant wildfires, floods, destructive weather events, etc., and with the worst yet to come?
If President Biden were to declare a “climate emergency” — as a handful of senators pressed him to do back in July of 2022 to no avail — the powers available to him could be creatively implemented so as to activate the policies needed to properly mitigate and adapt to climate change. A 2022 article published by The Hill identified such powers as the Defense Production Act, which could provide funding for clean energy deployment, and the International Economic Emergency Protection Act, which could be used to prohibit imports of “harmful climate products” such as “chemical compounds that warm the planet and illegally harvested timber from the Amazon.”
These are certainly provisions that the president could use to officially mitigate climate change. An emergency declaration could ultimately be President Biden’s chance to actually address one of the most urgent issues of our time and set the trend for treating it appropriately — as an emergency.