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Elephant In The Room: The Pentagon's Massive Carbon Footprint

(Image: Anthony Freda. Used with permission)

It’s not news that climate change threatens the security of every person on planet Earth. The Union of Concerned Scientists predicts 6-16 inches of sea level rise by the year 2050. The threat is apparent in the Marshall Islands, which just set its own ambitious goal for reducing carbon emissions in the wake of catastrophic storms and coastal flooding in the South Pacific. The threat is apparent in California, where prolonged drought has led to wildfires like the one that crossed a busy highway and caused several vehicles to explode in flames.  The threat of weather extremes is apparent in Sydney, Australia, which saw snowfall this winter for the first time since 1836.

Pushing Up

By Kathy Kelly

Last weekend, about 100 U.S. Veterans for Peace gathered in Red Wing, Minnesota, for a statewide annual meeting. In my experience, Veterans for Peace chapters hold “no-nonsense” events.  Whether coming together for local, statewide, regional or national work, the Veterans project a strong sense of purpose. They want to dismantle war economies and work to end all wars. The Minnesotans, many of them old friends, convened in the spacious loft of a rural barn. After organizers extended friendly welcomes, participants settled in to tackle this year’s theme: “The War on Our Climate.”

They invited Dr. James Hansen, an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, to speak via Skype about minimizing the impacts of climate change.  Sometimes called the “father of global warming”, Dr. Hansen has sounded alarms for several decades  with accurate predictions about the effects of fossil fuel emissions. He now campaigns for an economically efficient phase out of fossil fuel emissions by imposing carbon fees on emission sources with dividends equitably returned to the public.

Dr. Hansen envisions the creation of serious market incentives for entrepreneurs to develop energy and products that are low-carbon and no-carbon.  “Those who achieve the greatest reductions in carbon use would reap the greatest profit. Projections show that such an approach could reduce U.S. carbon emissions by more than half within 20 years — and create 3 million new jobs in the process.”

Hermes in the Anthropocene: a dogologue

For an actress or an actress and dog
By Karen Malpede

I was in conversation with my dog, Hermes. He lay on the floor next to my desk.

“Kawhren,” Herm said. He has trouble with “r” sounds and speaks with a slight accent that must be cocker spaniel. “Why cannot people, undewhrstrand?”

“I don’t know, Herm,” I said. I find I often answer his questions this way.

He returned to gently licking his left paw.

“Do you rwhemembwer the days of yowre?”

“Herm, whatever are you talking about?”

“The days of yoehre, Kawhren. (pause) Befowre…”

He turned to grooming his right paw. Herm has huge feet of which he is quite proud. Finished grooming himself, he stretched and performed upward and downward dog on the rug, wagging his tale in recognition of his perfect form. Then he looked up at me.

“When you was young.” He said.

“Oh, yes, I do remember, Herm,” I said. “I used to ride my bicycle down streets lined with old elms whose branches touched forming a canopy above my head. That was before Dutch Elm disease.”

“Why would anyone hurt a twree?” Herm asked, aghast.

“You pee on trees,” I reminded him.

“Big twrees, only, Kawhren, nevewhr pee on little twrees.”

Hermes lay down; his two back legs splayed out, head on his paws.

I used to ride horses into the deep woods. I used to head out alone, bareback, no one else but me and my horse, sometimes at night, under the moon, but most often in the middle of the heat of the Midwestern summer’s day. From the cool woods, we’d come into a small round meadow, shaded and sheltered by trees. I’d slide down his warm flesh, lean my cheek against his neck. I’d lie down, my horse grazing at my side, my eyes ground-level, I would stare into the miniature world. Graceful long-necked insects with delicately-etched transparent winds balanced on spindly legs atop slender blades of grass bent by their weight, and chattered back and forth. Busy ants carried burdens twice their size. Worms surfaced and dove. Spiders wove translucent webs. Bees darted and drank. Linnet wings, the words pop into my head, beautiful like so many of nature’s names on the tongue. Staring into the miniature world of meadow grasses and bugs eye-level to the child belly pressed to the earth is how the world of fairies, hence fairy tales, began.

“Kawhren,” Herm said, coming, now, to the point of his discourse,“you neverh thought when you were young that people would hurwt the wowrold!”

“Never, Herm.” That wasn’t true. I was a child in the worst days of the Cold War; we thought nuclear weapons would destroy the world. My world in the secret meadow with the piebald grazing at my side was going to be blown apart. Now, we watch the ice melt and wait…But from these thoughts, I could protect my dog.

“I neverh would huwrt,” Hermes said.

“Well, you eat raw beef and chicken, Herm.”

“And pizza crwusts,” he said.

“From the street, ick,”

“No one is pewrfect, Kawhren,” Herm answered. “We is each one of us comprowmized.” “But that does not mean,” he continued emphatically, standing up, “that we should not twry. In evwry way we know.” He rested his chin on my leg. “I twry by being a good dog.”

“This is true, Hermes,” I said, rubbing his head, “you are the best dog I know.” Unlike his sister, Cleis, whom I dearly love, Hermes is universally kind, friendly and biddable.

“Cleis does not talk,” Herm said, reading my mind.

“That is true, Herm,” I replied, although Hermes speaks to me inside my head and I must verbalize for him, Cleis, no matter how hard I listen remains resolutely silent. I cannot hear the sound of her voice. When Cleis wants to be a brat, as in the park, she closes her ears to the sound of my voice, nose to the ground, running in large circles, free and feral. I call after her, foolishly chase her. I beg her with biscuits. When she is tired, she sits.

I had a riding teacher who used to say, “They tell me the horses are the dumb animals, but I wonder,” referring to those of us struggling to communicate with the thousand pounds of flesh between our legs without being summarily tossed off.

“Kawhrewn,” said Herm, “why are people so dumb?”

He was angry, now.

For added emphasis he barked. Cleis barked, too. Then as often happens, their barking accelerated until they were howling together, wildly, with abandon.

Once the cacophony stopped, Hermes pulled himself very straight; front legs planted, back legs extended, his head up. He spoke with gravitas, “Ourhr beautiful worwold. Ourhr only one.”

Call for Sanity on Sixtieth Anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto

The original Einstein-Russell manifesto

It was exactly 60 years ago that Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein gathered together with a group of leading intellectuals in London to draft and sign a manifesto in which they denounced the dangerous drive toward war between the world’s Communist and anti-Communist factions. The signers of this manifesto included leading Nobel Prize winners such as Hideki Yukawa and Linus Pauling.

They were blunt, equating the drive for war and reckless talk of the use of nuclear weapons sweeping the United States and the Soviet Union at the time, as endangering all of humanity. The manifesto argued that advancements in technology, specifically the invention of the atomic bomb, had set human history on a new and likely disastrous course.

The manifesto stated in harsh terms the choice confronting humanity:

Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto forced a serious reconsideration of the dangerous strategic direction in which the United States was heading at that time and was the beginning of a recalibration of the concept of security that would lead to the signing of the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968 and the arms control talks of the 1970s.

But we take little comfort in those accomplishments today. The United States has completely forgotten about its obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty, and the words “arms control” have disappeared from the conversation on security. The last year has seen the United States confront Russia in Ukraine to such a degree that many have spoken about the risks of nuclear war.

As a result, on June 16 of this year Russia announced that it will add 40 new ICBMs in response to the investment of the United States over the last two years in upgrading its nuclear forces.

Similar tensions have emerged between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Isles and between the United States and China over the South China Sea. Discussions about the possibility of war with China are showing up in the Western media with increasing frequency, and a deeply disturbing push to militarize American relations with Asia is emerging.

But this time, the dangers of nuclear war are complemented by an equal, or greater, threat: climate change. Even the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, told the Boston Globe in 2013 that climate change “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’

More recently, Pope Francis issued a detailed, and blunt, encyclical dedicated to the threat of climate change in which he charged:

It is remarkable how weak international political responses (to climate change) have been. Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.

As the 60th anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto drew near, I became increasing disturbed by the complete inaction among the best-educated and best-connected in the face of the most dangerous moment in modern history and perhaps in human history, grimmer even than the catastrophe that Russell and Einstein contemplated. Not only are we facing the increased likelihood of nuclear war, but there are signs that climate change is advancing more rapidly than previously estimated. Science Magazine recently released a study that predicts massive marine destruction if we follow the current trends, and even the glaciers of the Southern Antarctic Peninsula, once thought to be the most stable, are observed to be melting rapidly. And yet we see not even the most superficial efforts to defend against this threat by the major powers.

I spoke informally about my worries with my friend John Feffer, director of Foreign Policy in Focus and associate of the Asia Institute. John has written extensively about the need to identify climate change as the primary security threat and also has worked closely with Miriam Pemberton of the Institute for Policy Studies on efforts to move the United States away from a military economy. Between the two of us we have put together a slightly updated version of the manifesto that highlights climate change — an issue that was not understood in 1955 — and hereby have published it in the form of a petition that we invite anyone in the world to sign. This new version of the manifesto is open to the participation of all, not restricted to that of an elite group of Nobel Prize winners.

I also spoke with David Swanson, a friend from my days working on the Dennis Kucinich campaign for the Democratic nomination back in 2004. David now serves as director of World Beyond War, a broad effort to create a consensus that war no longer has any legitimate place in human society. He offered to introduce the manifesto to a broad group of activists and we agreed that Foreign Policy in Focus, the Asia Institute and World Beyond War would co-sponsor the new manifesto.

Finally, I sent the draft to Noam Chomsky who readily offered to sign it and offered the following comment.

Last January the famous Doomsday Clock was moved two minutes closer to midnight, the closest it has been since a major war scare 30 years ago.  The accompanying declaration, which warned that the constant threat of nuclear war and “unchecked climate change” severely threaten human civilization, brings to mind the grim warning to the people of the world just 60 years ago by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, calling on them to face a choice that is “stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” In all of human history, there has never been a choice like the one we face today.

The declaration on the 60th anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto is displayed below. We urge all people who are concerned about humanity’s future and about the health of the Earth’s biosphere to join us in signing the declaration, and to invite friends and family members to sign. The statement can be signed at the petition page on DIY RootsAction website:

Declaration on the 60th Anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto

July 9, 2015

In view of the growing risk that in future wars weapons, nuclear and otherwise, will be employed that threaten the continued existence of humanity, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them.

We also propose that all governments of the world begin to convert those resources previously allocated to preparations for destructive conflict to a new constructive purpose: the mitigation of climate change and the creation of a new sustainable civilization on a global scale.

This effort is endorsed by Foreign Policy in Focus, the Asia Institute, and World Beyond War, and is being launched on July 9, 2015.

You can sign, and ask everyone you know to sign, this declaration here:

Why is this declaration important?

Exactly 60 years ago today, leading intellectuals led by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein gathered in London to sign a manifesto voicing their concern that the struggle between the Communist and anti-Communist blocs in the age of the hydrogen bomb guaranteed annihilation for humanity.

Although we have so far avoided the nuclear war that those intellectuals dreaded, the danger has merely been postponed. The threat, which has reemerged recently with the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, has only grown more dire.

Moreover, the rapid acceleration of technological development threatens to put nuclear weapons, and many other weapons of similar destructiveness, into the hands of a growing circle of nations (and potentially even of “non-state actors”). At the same time, the early possessors of nuclear weapons have failed to abide by their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to destroy their stockpiles.

And now we are faced with an existential threat that may rival the destructive consequences even of a full-scale nuclear war: climate change. The rapacious exploitation of our resources and a thoughtless over-reliance upon fossil fuels have caused an unprecedented disruption of our climate. Combined with an unmitigated attack on our forests, our wetlands, our oceans, and our farmland in the pursuit of short-term gains, this unsustainable economic expansion has brought us to the edge of an abyss.

The original 1955 manifesto states: “We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings,” members of the human species “whose continued existence is in doubt.”

The time has come for us to break out of the distorted and misleading conception of progress and development that has so seduced us and led us towards destruction.

Intellectuals bear a particular responsibility of leadership by virtue of their specialized expertise and insight regarding the scientific, cultural, and historical forces that have led to our predicament. Between a mercenary element that pursues an agenda of narrow interests without regard to consequences and a frequently discouraged, misled, and sometimes apathetic citizenry stand the intellectuals in every field of study and sphere of activity. It falls to us that it falls to decry the reckless acceleration of armaments and the criminal destruction of the ecosystem. The time has come for us to raise our voices in a concerted effort.

Initial Signers

Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus, MIT

Last January the famous Doomsday Clock was moved two minutes closer to midnight, the closest it has been since a major war scare 30 years ago.  The accompanying declaration, which warned that the constant threat of nuclear war and “unchecked climate change” severely threaten human civilization, brings to mind the grim warning to the people of the world just 50 years ago by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, calling on them to face a choice that is “stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” In all of human history, there has never been a choice like the one we face today.

Helen Caldicott, author

It was the Russell Einstein manifesto on the threat of nuclear war 60 years ago that started me upon my journey to try to abolish nuclear weapons. I then read and devoured the three volumes of Russell’s autobiography which had an amazing influence upon my thinking as a young girl.

The manifesto was so extraordinarily sensible written by two of the world’s greatest thinkers, and I am truly amazed that the world at that time took practically no notice of their prescient warning, and today we are orders of magnitude in greater danger than we were 60 years ago. The governments of the world still think in primitive terms of retribution and killing while the nuclear weapons in Russia and the US are presently maintained on hair trigger alert, and these two nuclear superpowers are practicing nuclear war drills during a state of heightened international tension exacerbated by the Ukrainian situation and the Middle East. It is in truth sheer luck that we are still here on this lovely planet of ours.

Larry Wilkerson, retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

From central Europe to Southwest Asia, from the South China Sea to the Arctic, tensions are on the rise as the world’s sole empire is roiled in peripheral activities largely of its own doing and just as largely destructive of its power and corruptive of its leadership. This, while humanity’s most pressing challenge–planetary climate change–threatens catastrophe for all.  Stockpiles of nuclear weapons add danger to this already explosive situation.  We humans have never been so powerfully challenged–and so apparently helpless to do anything about it.

Benjamin R. Barber, president, Global Parliament of Mayors Project

Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything

David Swanson, director, World Beyond War

John Feffer, director, Foreign Policy in Focus

Emanuel Pastreich, director, The Asia Institute

Leah Bolger,  chair, coordinating committee, World Beyond War

Ben Griffin, coordinator, Veterans For Peace UK

Michael Nagler, founder and president, The Metta Center for Nonviolence

John Horgan, science journalist & author of The End of War

Kevin Zeese, co-director, Popular Resistance.

Margaret Flowers, M.D., co-director of Popular Resistance

Dahr Jamail, staff reporter, Truthout

John Kiriakou, associate fellow, Institute for Policy Studies and CIA Torture Whistleblower

Kim Hyung yul, president of the Asia Institute and professor of history, Sook Myung University

Choi Murim, professor of medicine, Seoul National University

Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel

Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Colonel and former US diplomat

Mike Madden, vice president, Veterans For Peace, Chapter 27 (veteran of the US Air Force)

Chante Wolf, 12 year Air Force, Desert Shield/Storm veteran, member of Chapter 27, Veterans For Peace

William Binney, former NSA technical director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis and co-founder of the SIGINT Automation Research Center.

Jean Bricmont, professor, Université Catholique de Louvain

Emanuel Pastreich is the director of the Asia Institute in Seoul, South Korea.



Enbridge Stuffs Provision into Wisconsin Budget to Expedite Controversial Piece of "Keystone XL Clone"

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On Thursday, July 3 on the eve of a long Fourth of July holiday weekend, Canadian pipeline company giant Enbridge landed a sweetheart deal: a provision in the 2015 Wisconsin Budget that will serve to expedite permitting for its controversial proposed Line 61 tar sands pipeline expansion project.

Hillary Clinton State Dept Emails Contain Redacted Job Description for Top Energy Diplomat; Lobbyist Gets Job

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The U.S. State Department released a batch of 3,000 searchable documents formerly stored on the private hard drive and in a private email account of Democratic Party presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Among them: a fully redacted job description for State Department International Energy Coordinator/Diplomat-At-Large.

Historic Peace Ship Is Re-Launched

By Arnold Oliver

Along the rugged coast of northern California’s Humboldt County, maritime history is being made. June 20th marked the launch ceremony of the rebuilt sailing ketch, the Golden Rule, after four years of hard work by a restoration team led by Veterans for Peace. As we shall see, the Golden Rule is no ordinary sailboat.

If you are old enough, you may recall that in the 1950’s, the U.S. military used the Marshall Islands as the primary site for its atmospheric nuclear weapons testing. As is now known, those huge nuclear detonations in the Western Pacific were wreaking havoc on the environment and human health. In fact, with each monstrous explosion, readily detectable clouds of radioactive fallout wafted around the planet, and contamination began to turn up in cows’ and mothers’ milk. Increasingly, skepticism grew about government assurances that there was no danger.

Then, in 1958, the Golden Rule arrived on the scene. The Hugh Angelman-designed 30-foot ketch was purchased by a group of activists who soon set out on a voyage of nonviolent protest toward the Marshalls. Their plan, which was well publicized, was to sail into the target zone and sacrifice both boat and crew if need be to bring a halt to the tests.

Militarism is a bad deal

By Tom H. Hastings

When Benjamin Netanyahu courted, received, and responded to an invitation to address a far rightwing Republican Congress in order to publicly, internationally diss President Obama, he scolded our President, saying the proposed deal to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb was a “bad deal.”

I’d like to channel Bibi. Militarism is a bad deal.

When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems start to look like nails. The only tool America has, in the minds of a warmongering Congress, is our military. Oh—excuuuuse me—our sacred military.

How has that military been doing at solving our nation’s problems? A very small but representative sampling:

Appeals Court Rules Keystone XL South Approval Was Legal, Lifting Cloud Over TransCanada

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In a 3-0 vote, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Tenth Circuit has ruled that the southern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline was permitted in a lawful manner by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Keystone XL South was approved via a controversial Army Corps Nationwide Permit 12 and an accompanying March 2012 Executive Order from President Barack Obama. The pipeline, open for business since January 2014, will now carry tar sands crude from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas without the cloud of the legal challenge hanging over its head since 2012.

Revealed: Energy Transfer Partners’ 'Pipeline-for-Prostitute' Landman

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

By Steve Horn and David Goodner

A DeSmog investigation has uncovered the identity of a land agent and the contract company he works with that allegedly offered to buy an Iowa farmer the services of two teenage sex workers in exchange for access to his land to build the controversial proposed Dakota Access pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

Dahr Jamail: The Navy's Great Alaskan "War"

It isn’t the best of times for the American Arctic and let me explain why.

Finally! Some climate crisis honesty: Forget About a 2 Future; It Will be 4˚-6˚C Degrees, and Soon

By Dave Lindorff


            A tectonic shift is occurring suddenly in the debate over climate change.


A New Dark Age

By Robert C. Koehler

“What struck me” journalist Christian Parenti said in a recent Truthout interview, referring to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, “was the fact that these local towns and states around the region were sending the only resources they had to New Orleans: weapons and militarized gear.

“After 30 years of the War on Drugs and a neoliberal restructuring of the state at the local level, which is not a reduction of the public sector but a transformation of the public sector, the only thing local governments had were weapons.”

Parenti’s observation summed up a deep sense of puzzled frustration I’ve been feeling for a long time, which has been growing in intensity since the Reagan era and even more so since 9/11 and the unleashed Bush agenda. Fear, exploited and unchecked, triggers a deep, “rational” insanity. We’re driving ourselves into a new Dark Age.

The driving force is institutional: government, the mainstream media, the military-industrial economy. These entities are converging in a lockstep, armed obsession over various enemies of the status quo in which they hold enormous power; and this obsession is devolving public consciousness into a permanent fight-or-flight mentality. Instead of dealing with real, complex social issues with compassion and intelligence, our major institutions seem to be fortifying themselves – with ever-increasing futility – against their imagined demons.

Parenti went on, in his interview with Vincent Emanuele: “So, less money for public housing, more money for private prisons. It’s a literal transfer of resources to different institutions, from a flawed social democratic institution like public housing, to an inherently evil, but still very expensive and publicly funded institution, like prison.”

As American society militarizes, it dumbs itself down.

The only surprising aspect to a recent story in the U.S. edition of The Guardian, for instance – about how the Houston office of the FBI broke its own rules in beginning an investigation of opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline – was how unsurprising it was.

In essence, the FBI office violated the department’s internal rules – “designed,” according to The Guardian, “to prevent the agency from becoming unduly involved in sensitive political issues” – by beginning a surveillance operation against anti-pipeline activists without receiving high-level approval to do so. Furthermore, “the investigation was opened in early 2013, several months after a high-level strategy meeting between the agency and TransCanada, the company building the pipeline,” The Guardian reported.

“… At one point, the FBI’s Houston office said it would share with TransCanada ‘any pertinent intelligence regarding any threats’ to the company in advance of a forthcoming protest.”

Perhaps the only surprising thing about this revelation is that the agency has internal rules designed to keep its nose out of sensitive political issues. Obviously, they’re easily circumvented. What’s not surprising is the corporate-FBI alliance to stand tough against “environmental extremists” or the agency’s lumping of environmental protests with other “domestic terrorism issues” – its pathological fear, in other words, of peaceful protest and civil disobedience and its inability to see the least bit of patriotic value in their cause.

This is the case despite the long, honored tradition of protest and civil disobedience in the United States and the widespread public awareness of the need to protect our environment. Doesn’t matter. In the realm of law enforcement, a simple moralism too often prevails: Get the enemy.

Imagine, just for a moment, an American law enforcement institution that operated out of an emotional state other than armed self-righteousness; that regarded the security it was established to protect as a complex matter that required cooperation and fairness and was ill-served by intimidation. Imagine a law enforcement institution capable of learning from past wrongs and not automatically donning riot gear in the face of every challenge to social conditions – and not automatically manning the firehoses.

What I see our powerful, status-quo institutions doing is arming themselves against the future. Consider the enemies: poor people, immigrants, protesters of all sorts . . . whistleblowers.

“A federal court in Alexandria, Virginia sentenced former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling to three and a half years in prison on Monday in a case that has received widespread condemnation for revealing the ‘rank hypocrisy’ of the U.S. government’s war on whistleblowers,” Common Dreams reported.

Sterling was convicted, on circumstantial evidence, of leaking classified info to New York Times journalist James Risen about a bizarre CIA operation called Operation Merlin. If true, Sterling committed the crime of embarrassing the U.S. government by outing an ill-conceived CIA plan to pass flawed information about nuclear-weapon design to Iran, which may actually have furthered Iran’s weapons program. The government has no right to hide its operations – and certainly not its mistakes – from the public. By pretending that it’s defending “our” security by doing so, even as it ignores and fails to invest in true measures of security, such as a rebuilt social safety net, it squanders its legitimacy.

And the more legitimacy it squanders, the more it militarizes.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at


Dimock, PA Lawsuit Trial-Bound as Study Links Fracking to Water Contamination in Neighboring County

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A recent peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed what many fracking critics have argued for years: hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas can contaminate groundwater. 

Brother of Hillary Clinton's Top Campaign Aide Lobbied for Fracked Gas Export Terminal Co-Owned by Qatar

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Anthony "Tony" Podesta began lobbying in late 2013 on behalf of a company co-owned by ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum aiming to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the global market. Tony is the brother of John Podesta, former top climate change adviser to President Barack Obama and current top campaign aide for Hillary Clinton's 2016 bid for president

Tony Podesta Golden Pass LNG

Brother of Hillary Clinton's Top Campaign Aide Lobbied for Fracked Gas Export Terminal Co-Owned by Qatar

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Anthony "Tony" Podesta began lobbying in late 2013 on behalf of a company co-owned by ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum aiming to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the global market. Tony is the brother of John Podesta, former top climate change adviser to President Barack Obama and current top campaign aide for Hillary Clinton's 2016 bid for president

Tony Podesta Golden Pass LNG

Grand Canyon Sized Outrage Over Plans for Grand Canyon

"What a horrible idea! Leave this magnificent place as nature made it!" — Mikell Werder

"NO! NO! NO! Leave our natural wonder ALONE!" — cathy blaivas has posted a lot of petitions, but most have not gathered 30,000 signatures in the first day. This one's off to an enthusiastic start and includes comments like these.

"The Grand Canyon is a world treasure; leave it alone!" — Carol & David Moudry

"Developing the Grand Canyon would be and is one of the worst ideas ever!!! Where will this money grubbing desire stop?" — Joseph Gleason

What has people so upset? One of the most deservedly celebrated natural wonders in North America is also among the most endangered. Plans for uranium mining, a tourist tram line, and massive "development" threaten the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. So we're going to deliver this petition to the U.S. Forest Service.

A mining company, Energy Fuels Resources, is seeking to reopen the Canyon Mine uranium mine near the south rim of the Grand Canyon and sink an additional 1,200 feet of shaft to reach ore. A proposed 1.6-mile tramway would take tourists from new commercial developments on the canyon's rim to the canyon's floor. The nearby town of Tusayan, Ariz., is proposing a mega-development that the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park has called one of the greatest threats in the park's 96-year history. The Stilo Development Group, based in Italy, would build in Kaibab National Forest, and profit from, 2,000 homes, 3 million square feet of commercial space, a spa, a dude ranch, and even a water slide -- with no source of water identified. Porca miseria, cosa farete, amici nostri italiani?!

People are taking this very seriously:

"This leaves me speechless. What has become of America? If we allow even the Grand Canyon to become a sacrifice zone for profit, maybe America isn't worth saving. I have visited the Grand Canyon, and it is magnificent. Let's keep it that way." — Lucia Dutton

"It boggles the mind that anyone would even consider developing this unparalleled resource. This is only shameless profiteering." — Rod Danner

It boggles the mind because even as we go merrily about rendering the earth uninhabitable, we expect the Grand Canyon to remain unharmed. Instead it could exist for millions of years with human-made touristy crap clinging all over it. There may be few if any people to see it, but we still know it will be that way, and it upsets people. I mean, what if our grandchildren survive and have to look at it? So, we're asking the Forest Service to reject the town's special use permit.

Numerous petition signers are denouncing greed:

"What hideous, short-sighted proposals. Must every natural wonder be peed-upon by developers/profit making interests? Hearing of this makes me sick at heart, especially since commercial interests get their way so much of the time in the U.S. where nothing is sacred except for the dollar. The uranium mine proposal is equally appalling. What is the end use of this uranium …for another Fukushima? …for depleted uranium in missiles and bullets (which cause birth defects, cancer, immunity problems as in Iraq). These development ideas are not meant to serve the public; they are for individual short-term-profit...where everything and everybody is for sale. Do not sell out the Grand Canyon." — Kathy Hamilton

"This whole area is known to the world as a beautiful wonder which would be protected forever by any other nation. The Forest Service is our only hope for protection of our treasured Grand Canyon here in the US, as corporate greed has overrun our very government! PLEASE PROTECT IT!" — Dorothy Richmond

People who've seen other spots ruined want this one spared:

"Really? you want to spoil that beautiful place? Just came back from Phoenix and that has been over built and ruined with only fountains and Wisconsin style grass to replace the beauty of the desert. Please leave the Grand Canyon alone." — Joan Ouellette

"The Grand Canyon is too important to sell off. It is irreplaceable, and the kind of development under consideration will destroy this Natural Wonder forever. Doesn't the Grand Canyon belong to all of us? Doesn't the Grand Canyon belong to Future Generations? Is there nothing more important than profits anymore? Do not sell what belongs to ME. Do not sell what belongs to YOU. Do not sell what belongs to OUR FUTURE. Thank you." — marcus white

"Anyone asking the Hopis about these plans?" — Lynne Lee

A number of commenters appeal to enlightened capitalism:

"Please do not allow any construction whatsoever in or near the glorious Grand Canyon, which is not only a national treasure but a treasure for the entire planet - worth so much more than any amount of uranium or additional tourist dollars! Indeed, many tourists will avoid an over-exploited Grand." — Judi Avery

"The fact that it is unspoiled by development is the major attraction. This is just more pandering to corporations if development and mining is allowed." — Marshall A. Boyler

Some ask the Forest Service to do its job:

"I had the impression that this was set aside to be preserved for future generations, not EXPLOITED/destroyed by this one. DO YOUR JOB." — jon cooper

Some ask those involved to find their lost souls:

"The natural world does not exist for human plunder and commercial profit. It is inconceivable to me that anyone could visit the canyon and completely miss its beauty and sacredness. Anyone who can stand on the edge of this awesome site and scheme about how to make money has truly lost his/her soul." — Wallace Schultz

Mother Earth is Weeping for her Children: The US Military Must Stop Environmental Ecocide

By Joy First      

As I traveled to DC to risk arrest in an action organized by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance (NCNR) I was feeling nervous, but also knowing this is what I needed to be doing.  This would be my first arrest since I was arrested at the CIA in June 2013, and served a one-year probation sentence after an October 2013 trial.  Taking almost two years off from risking arrest helped me to really examine what I was doing and why, and I was committed to continuing to live a life in resistance to the crimes of our government.

I have been a part of NCNR for 12 years - since the run-up to the war in Iraq in 2003.  As the number of people involved in the anti-war movement declines, I know that we must keep up the resistance.  Though we don’t have big numbers now, it is more important than ever that we speak the truth about what is happening in the wars in Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen, in the drone warfare program, and in looking at ways in which the climate crisis is exacerbated by the military.

There are so many ways in which the military is destroying our planet through the use of fossil fuels, nuclear weapons, depleted uranium, spraying poisonous chemicals on fields in the “War on Drugs” in South America, and through the several hundred military bases around the world.  Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam War is still affecting the environment.  According to Joseph Nevins, in an article published by, Greenwashing the Pentagon, “The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.”


NCNR began planning an Earth Day action several months ago where we hold the military accountable for their role in the destruction of the planet.  I was sending quite a few emails to various individuals and lists as we continued our planning.  Then about 6 weeks ago I was contacted by Elliot Grollman from the Department of Homeland Security.  He wondered what we were doing, and as a way to try and get more information from me, he asked if he could help facilitate our action on April 22.  What was very surprising to me was that he told me he knew about our action by reading my private email correspondence.  We cannot ever think that anything we say will not be monitored.  He called my home phone number in Mount Horeb, WI at 7:00 am on the morning of the action.  Of course I was in Washington, DC and my husband told him that and gave him my cell phone number.

On Earth Day, April 22, I joined other activists to deliver a letter to Gina McCarthy, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, calling on the EPA to do their job in monitoring and bringing an end to the military’s complicity in causing climate chaos, and then we went to the Pentagon where we would try to deliver a letter to the Secretary of Defense.  Both of these letters were mailed several weeks before the action and we never received a response.  In both of these letters we asked for a meeting to discuss our concerns. 

About thirty people gathered outside the EPA at 10:00 am on the day of the action.  David Barrows made a large banner that read “EPA – Do Your Job;  Pentagon – Stop Your Ecocide”.  There was a picture of the earth in flames on the banner.  We also had 8 smaller posters with quotes from our letter to Ashton Carter.

Max started the program and talked about Mother Earth weeping as she was being destroyed by her children.  Beth Adams read a statement, followed by Ed Kinane reading a statement by environmentalist Pat Hynes.

We had the letter we wanted to deliver to the head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, or to a representative in a policy-making position.  Instead the EPA sent someone from their Public Relations office out to receive our letter.  They said they would get back to us, and I will be surprised if they do. 

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo then spoke.  Marsha had been an employee of the EPA until she blew the whistle on activities they were part of that were killing people.  When she spoke up they told her to keep silent.  But Marsha talked about how she would see people like us outside the window protesting against the EPA.  Those protestors gave her courage to continue to push for an end to the crimes being committed by the EPA, even though she was fired.  Marsha told us that by us being outside the EPA, we were offering inspiration to people who wanted to speak up, but were feeling scared to do so.

We had more work to do and so we left the EPA and took the Metro to the Pentagon City mall food court where we had a final briefing before heading over to the Pentagon.

We had about fifty people processing to the Pentagon with people holding puppets made by Sue Frankel-Streit taking the lead.

As we approached the Pentagon I could feel the butterflies in my stomach and my legs were feeling like they were turning to jelly.  But I was with a group of people who I knew and trusted and I knew that I needed to be a part of this action.

We entered the Pentagon reservation and walked on the sidewalk towards the Pentagon.  At least 30 officers waiting for us.  There was a metal fence along the sidewalk with a small opening that we were ushered through onto a grassy area.  This area on the other side of the fence was designated as the “free speech zone”. 

Malachy led the program and, as usual, he spoke eloquently about why we need to continue this work.  He talked about NCNR writing letters to elected and appointed officials over the last several years.  We have NEVER received a response.  This is chilling.  As citizens, we should be able to communicate with our government about our concerns.  There is something gravely wrong with our country that they do not pay attention to what we say.  If we were lobbyists for a defense contractor, big oil, or another big corporation we would be welcomed into the offices on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon.  But we, as citizens, do not have any access to government officials.  How do we try to change the world when those in power refuse to listen to us?

Hendrik Vos spoke movingly about how our government supports undemocratic governments in Latin America.  He talked about the importance of our civil resistance action with our willingness to risk arrest.  Paul Magno was inspiring as he talked about the many civil resistance actions that we are building on, including the Plowshare activists.   

After listening to the speakers eight of us who were risking arrest walked through the small opening onto the sidewalk to try to deliver our letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, or a representative in a policy-making position.  We were on a sidewalk that the public regularly walks on to enter the Pentagon. 

We were immediately stopped by Officer Ballard.  He did not look very friendly as he told us we were blocking the sidewalk and that we had to re-enter the “free speech zone”.  We told him we would stand against the fence so people could freely pass by.  

Again, someone with no power from the PR office came to meet us and accept our letter, but we were told there would be no dialogue.  Ballard told us we had to leave or we would be arrested. 

We were eight concerned nonviolent individuals standing peacefully against the fence on a public sidewalk.  When we said we couldn’t leave until we talked to someone in a position of authority, Ballard told another officer to give us our three warnings.

Malachy began to read the letter we wanted to deliver to Secretary Carter as the three warnings were given.

After the third warning, they closed the opening to the free speech area, and about 20 officers from the SWAT team, who were waiting 30 feet away, came charging at us.  I will never forget the look of rage on the face of the officer who came towards Malachy and violently snatched the letter out of his hands and put him in cuffs.

I could see this was going to be another violent arrest at the Pentagon.  In April of 2011, NCNR organized an action at the Pentagon and there was a lot of violence by the police at that time also.  They knocked Eve Tetaz to the ground and violently wrenching my arm up behind my back.  I heard reports from others that they were also roughed up that day.

My arresting officer told me to put my hands behind my back.  The cuffs were tightened and he jerked them tighter still, causing a great deal of pain.  Five days after the arrest my hand is still bruised and tender.

Trudy was crying out in pain because her cuffs were so tight.  She asked that they be loosened, and the officer told her that if she didn’t like it, she should not be doing this again.  None of the arresting officers were wearing nametags and so could not be identified.

We were arrested at around 2:30 pm and released around 4:00 pm.  The processing was minimal. I noticed some of the men were patted down before we were put into the police van, but I wasn’t.  Once we arrived at the processing station, they cut our handcuffs off immediately as we entered the building, and then the women were put in one cell and the men in another.  They took mug shots of all of us, but did not fingerprint any us.  Fingerprinting takes a long time and maybe when they got our ids, they found that all of our fingerprints were already in their system.

Arrested were Manijeh Saba of New Jersey, Stephen Bush of Virginia, Max Obuszewski and Malachy Kilbride of Maryland, Trudy Silver and Felton Davis of New York, and Phil Runkel and Joy First of Wisconsin.

David Barrows and Paul Magno provided support and were waiting to meet us as we were released.

We were at the Pentagon exercising our First Amendment rights and our obligations under Nuremberg, and also as human beings concerned with the plight of Mother Earth.  We were on a sidewalk that was used by the public peacefully asking for a meeting with someone in the Pentagon, and then reading the letter that we had sent to the Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter. We did not commit a crime, but we were acting in resistance to the crimes of our government, and yet we were charged with violating a lawful order.  This is the definition of civil resistance

It is a very serious problem that our calls for peace and justice are going unheeded by government officials.  Even though it seems like we are not being listened to, it is very important to continue to act in resistance.  I know that even when we feel like we are ineffective, acting in resistance is my only choice to do what I can to make a difference in the lives of my grandchildren and the children of the world.  Though it is difficult to know whether we are being effective, I believe that we all must do everything we can to continue our work for peace and justice.  That is our only hope.

Pictures from the arrests at the Pentagon.

Eight Climate Activists Arrested at Pentagon on Earth Day

Members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] have been active in challenging U.S. invasions and attacks of Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.  Frequently NCNR members have been arrested, and then in court speak out against such U.S. policies. On May 23, 2013, for example, members of NCNR filed a criminal complaint with the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia against the CIA’s use of drone strikes to assassinate people in various countries, including Pakistan. The citizen activists never received a response.

More than thirty activists gathered at the Environmental Protection Agency on EARTH DAY in a protest organized by NCNR.  The purpose of the demonstration was to urge the EPA to challenge the Pentagon for its role in contributing to climate chaos, environmental destruction and threatening all life on the planet.  A letter was sent to Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, seeking a meeting with her or a representative to discuss what NCNR members perceive to be ecocide being committed by the Pentagon. Beth Adams, an activist from Western Massachusetts, expressed her grave concern for what is happening to Mother Earth.  Ed Kinane, a peace activist from Syracuse, read a powerful statement by Patricia Hynes indicting the military enterprise as a global polluter. And Marsha Coleman-Adebayo's, an EPA whistleblower, told the crowd of her travails inside the agency which she detailed in her book “No Fear: The Whistleblower's Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA.” Eventually an EPA functionary came out to accept a copy of the letter sent to McCarthy.  NCNR representatives were told a response would be forthcoming.

Later people gathered in Virginia for a march to the Pentagon. Then Hendrik Voss, an organizer from SOA Watch, delineated the awful role our government has played in supporting undemocratic governments in Latin America.  For example, he highlighted U.S. support for the coup government in Honduras.  Then Paul Magno, a D.C. peace advocate with forty years of experience, reminisced about all of the years protesting U.S. warmongering.  Finally, a Pentagon official in the office of Ashton Carter, Secretary of Defense, came out to accept a copy of a letter sent to his boss requesting a meeting to discuss the Pentagon’s role in climate chaos.

However, while he accepted the letter, he could only promise it would be delivered to Carter’s desk.  Since there was no indication that a meeting would actually take place, eight citizen activists refused to depart.  They were moved to remain, as they perceived that the Pentagon is unwilling to end its activities which threaten the planet.  All eight were arrested and charged with failure to obey a lawful order.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 from 10:15 to 11:30 AM & from 1:30 to 3:30 PM

WHERE: EPA, 12th and Pennsylvania Ave. NW, & at the Metro entrance at the Pentagon, Arlington, VA

WHY: The Pentagon is the largest consumer of fossil fuels globally, has a nuclear arsenal that can destroy ALL LIFE on the planet, already used depleted uranium with lethal and drastic effects on human life and the environment in places like Iraq, and used chemical agents in Latin America in waging of the “war on drugs.” This war has destroyed livelihoods and inflicted lethal and life altering health effects on poor people in South America and brought profits to the large multinational corporations. The waging of and planning for war is destroying our planet!

The letter sent to Ashton Carter made this point:  “As people of conscience, we are very concerned about the devastation that the U.S. military is causing to the environment. According to Joseph Nevins, in an article published on June 14, 2010 by, Greenwashing the Pentagon, ‘The U.S. military is the world’s single biggest consumer of fossil fuels, and the single entity most responsible for destabilizing the Earth’s climate.’” The activists still hope for a meeting with Pentagon officials to address the climate crisis.

NCNR citizen activists believe they have the right and a Nuremberg responsibility to highlight perceived illegal government operations. The arrestees, Steve Bush, from Virginia, Felton Davis and Trudy Silver, from New York City, Joy First and Phillip Runkel, from Wisconsin, Malachy Kilbride, Maryland, Max Obuszewski, Baltimore, and Manijeh Saba, New Jersey, are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on June 4.  The planet is in grave danger.  Unless the citizenry take further action to stop the Pentagon’s warmongering, Mother Earth is doomed. 

Emails: How Obama Administration Secretly Approved Expanding Piece of Enbridge's "Keystone XL Clone"

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

DeSmogBlog has obtained dozens of emails that lend an inside view of how the U.S. State Department secretly handed Enbridge a permit to expand the capacity of its U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline, which carries tar sands diluted bitumen ("dilbit") from Alberta to midwest markets. 

"Carbon Copy": How Big Oil and King Coal Ghost Write Letters for Public Officials, Business Groups

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Billings Gazette has revealed that coal mining company Cloudpeak Energy ghost wrote protest letters to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) on behalf of allied policymakers and business groups. 

Reporter Tom Lutey examined numerous letters written to DOI from Montana-based stakeholders and noticed something unusual: the language in every single letter was exactly the same. That is, the same except for a parenthetical note in one of them instructing the supposed writer of it to "insert name/group/entity."

Saving Passengers of the Good Ship 'Titan… Earth'

On 15 April 1912, the Titanic, the largest ship afloat at the time it entered service, sank in the North Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage. The large and unnecessary death toll – more than 1,500 passengers and crew – was the result of many factors.

Understanding the psychology that underpins these factors teaches us why so many people died in the Titanic disaster. This, in turn, gives us insight into how we might be able to improve our chances of averting the sinking of the Good Ship Earth and losing most of its passengers in the years now immediately ahead.

BNSF Challenges Lawsuit From Engineer Who Ran For His Life From Exploding Oil "Bomb Train"

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) has responded defensively to the oil-by-rail lawsuit filed by former BNSF locomotive engineer Bryan Thompson, a case recently reported on by DeSmogBlog.

ALEC Climate Denial: Corporate Bill Mill Threatens Lawsuit For Saying So

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has threatened public interest group Common Cause with a lawsuit for pointing out what the public record has made clear: ALEC denies the scientific consensus on climate change.

As first reported by The Washington Post, ALEC's lawyers Alan Dye and Heidi Abegg wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Common Cause president Miles Rapoport. Dye and Abegg demanded that Common Cause stop calling ALEC a cog in the climate denial machine. 

"We demand that you cease making inaccurate statements regarding ALEC, and immediately remove all false or misleading material from the Common Cause, and related, websites within five business days," they wrote. "Should you not do so, and/or continue to publish any defamatory statements, we will consider any and all necessary legal action to protect ALEC."

ALEC critics call the organization a "corporate bill mill." 

Dye and Abegg also demanded an immediate and public retraction of statements the Common Cause has made about ALEC with regards to climate denial.

ALEC Climate Denial Lawsuit

Image Credit: Common Cause

Further, Dye and Abegg argued that ALEC — contrary to the vast amount of evidence collected by those who research the organization — does not deny climate change.

Disclosure Fail: Industry Reps Testifying for Denton, Texas Fracking Bill Left Ties Undisclosed

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

March 24 hearing prior to the passage of a controversial bill out of committee that preempts cities in Texas from regulating hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") for oil and gas obtained from shale basins, featured numerous witnesses who failed to disclose their industry ties, including some with ties to the Koch brothers

We could all soon be crying 'I can't breathe!': Catastrophe Looms by Century’s End if Climate Change isn’t Sharply Curtailed Now

By Dave Lindorff

Harold Wanless, a leading climatologist and geologist based at the University of Miami, returns to's “This Can’t Be Happening!” program to revisit his year-ago claim that global warming and sea level rise are going to be much more severe than the consensus predictions of the UN Climate Committee, NASA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and other official groups.

BNSF Engineer Who Manned Exploding North Dakota "Bomb Train" Sues Former Employer

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) employee who worked as a locomotive engineer on the company's oil-by-rail train that exploded in rural Casselton, North Dakota in December 2013 has sued his former employer

Casselton North Dakota Oil by Rail Explosion

Photo Credit: Shawn Rode

Filed in Cass County, the plaintiff Bryan Thompson alleges he "was caused to suffer and continues to suffer severe and permanent injuries and damages," including but not limited to ongoing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) issues.

Thompson's attorney, Thomas Flaskamp, told DeSmogBlog he "delayed filing [the lawsuit until now] primarily to get an indication as to the direction of where Mr. Thompson's care and treatment for his PTSD arising out of the incident was heading," which he says is still being treated by a psychiatrist.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the oil-by-rail world, the only time to date that someone working on an exploding oil train has taken legal action against his employer using the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

BNSF Engineer Casselton Lawsuit

Image Credit: State of North Dakota District Court; East Central Judicial District

On Climate, Defense Could Preserve and Protect, Rather Than Kill and Destroy

By Emanuel Pastreich, Truthout | Op-Ed

Desert.(Photo: guilherme jofili / Flickr)Holding the line against the Kubuchi Desert

One hundred groggy Korean college students stumble off the train in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, blinking in the bright sunlight. A 14-hour train ride from Beijing, Baotou is by no means a popular destination for Seoul's youth, but then this is no shopping excursion.

A short, elderly man in a bright green jacket leads the students through the crowd in the station, hurriedly giving orders to the group. In contrast to the students, he does not appear tired at all; his smile is unimpaired by the journey. His name is Kwon Byung-Hyun, a career diplomat who served as the Republic of Korea's ambassador to China from 1998 to 2001. Whereas his portfolio once covered everything from trade and tourism to military affairs and North Korea, Ambassador Kwon has found a new cause that demands his full attention. At 74 years of age, he has no time to see his colleagues who are busy playing golf or for indulging in hobbies. Ambassador Kwon is in his little office in Seoul on the phone and writing letters to build an international response to the spread of deserts in China - or he is here, planting trees. 

Kwon speaks in a relaxed and accessible manner, but he is anything but easy-going. Although it takes him two days to get from his home in the hills above Seoul to the front line of the Kubuchi desert as it makes its ineluctable way southeast, he makes the trip often, and with enthusiasm. 

The Kubuchi Desert has expanded so that it is just 450 kilometers west of Beijing and, as the desert closest to Korea, is the main source of yellow dust that showers down on Korea, blown by high winds. Kwon founded the NGO Future Forest in 2001 to combat desertification in close cooperation with China. He brings young Koreans and Chinese together to plant trees in response to this environmental catastrophe in a novel transnational alliance of youth, government and industry.   

The Start of Kwon's Mission

Kwon relates how his work to stop deserts began: 

"My effort to stop the spread of deserts in China started from a very distinct personal experience. When I arrived in Beijing in 1998 to serve as ambassador to China, I was greeted by the yellow dust storms. The gales that brought in the sand and dust were very powerful, and it was no small shock to see Beijing's skies preternaturally darkened. I received a phone call from my daughter the next day, and she told that the Seoul sky had been covered by the same sandstorm that had blown over from China. I realized that she was talking about same storm I had just witnessed. That phone call awakened me to the crisis. I saw for the first time that we are all confronted by a common problem that transcends national boundaries. I saw clearly that the problem of the yellow dust I saw in Beijing was my problem, and my family's problem. It was not just a problem for the Chinese to solve." 

Kwon and the members of Future Forest board a bus for an hour ride and then make their way through a small village where farmers, cows and goats gawk at these odd visitors. After a 3-kilometer walk over bucolic farmland, however, the scene gives way to a terrifying specter: unending sand stretching to the horizon without a single trace of life.

The Korean youth are joined by Chinese peers and are soon hard at work digging into what remains of the topsoil to plant the saplings they have brought with them. They join an increasing number of young people in Korea, China, Japan and elsewhere who are throwing themselves into the challenge of the millennium: slowing down the spread of deserts. 

Deserts like the Kubuchi are the product of reductions in annual rainfall, poor land use and the desperate attempt of poor farmers in developing regions like Inner Mongolia to obtain a little cash by cutting down the trees and bushes, which hold the soil and break the winds, for firewood.

When asked about the challenge of responding to these deserts, Ambassador Kwon made a brief response, "These deserts, and climate change itself, are such an overwhelming threat to all humans, but we have not even begun to shift our budget priorities when it comes to security."

Kwon hints at the possibility of a fundamental shift in our basic assumptions about security. We are visited now by the forerunners of climate change, whether the terrible wildfires that swept the United States in the summer of 2012 or the danger to the sinking nation of Tuvalu, and we know that drastic action is required. But we are spending over a trillion dollars a year for missiles, tanks, guns, drones and supercomputers - weapons that are as effective in stopping the spread of deserts as a slingshot is against a tank. Could it be that we need not take a leap in technology, but rather a conceptual leap in the term security: making the response to climate change the primary mission for those well-funded militaries.

To drown by desert or drown by ocean?  

Climate change has borne two insidious twins that are greedily devouring the patrimony of the good earth: spreading deserts and rising oceans. As the Kubuchi desert slouches east towards Beijing, it joins hands with other rising deserts in dry lands across Asia, Africa and around the world. At the same time, the oceans of the world are rising, growing more acidic and engulfing the coastlines of islands and continents. Between these two threats, there is not much margin for humans - and there will be no leisure time for far-fetched fantasies about wars on two continents.

The warming of the earth, misuse of water and soil, and poor agricultural policies that treat soil as something to consume rather than a life-sustaining system, have contributed to the catastrophic decline in agricultural land.

The United Nations established the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 1994 to unite stakeholders from around the world to respond to the spread of deserts. At least a billion people face a direct threat from spreading deserts. Moreover, as over farming and declining rainfall impinge on the brittle ecosystems of dry lands, home to an additional two billion people, the global impact on food production and on the sufferings of displaced people will be far greater.

So serious is the emergence of deserts on every continent that the United Nations designated this decade as the "Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification" and declared the spread of deserts "the greatest environmental challenge of our times."

The UNCCD executive secretary at the time, Luc Gnacadja, stated bluntly that "The top 20 centimeters of soil is all that stands between us and extinction.

David Montgomery has detailed the severity of this threat in his book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. Montgomery stresses that soil, often dismissed as "dirt," is a strategic resource, more valuable than oil or water. Montgomery notes that 38 percent of global cropland has been seriously degraded since 1945 and that the rate of cropland erosion is now 100 times faster than its formation. That trend has combined with increasing temperatures and decreasing rain to make the western regions of America's "breadbasket" marginal for agriculture and subject to increased erosion from heavy rains. In short, even parts of the heart of America's breadbasket, and the world's, are on their way to becoming deserts.

Montgomery suggests that areas like Inner Mongolia that are suffering from desertification today "serve as the canary in the global coal mine in terms of soil." Those expanding deserts should be a warning about things to come for us. "Of course, in my home, Seattle, you can reduce the rainfall by a few inches a year and raise the temperature by one degree and still have evergreen forests. But if you take an arid grass region and reduce the rain by a few inches a year - it already was not getting that much rain. The decline in vegetation, the erosion by wind and the resulting depletion of the soil is what we mean by desertification. But I would like to stress that we are seeing soil degradation around the world, but we only see the manifestations clearly in these vulnerable regions."

Meanwhile, melting polar ice caps are driving a rise in sea levels that will threaten coastal dwellers as shores vanish and extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy are becoming regular occurrences. The National Academy of Sciences issued a report titled "Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future" in June 2012, projecting that global sea levels will rise 8 to 23 centimeters by 2030, relative to the 2000 level, 18 to 48 centimeters by 2050, and 50 to 140 centimeters by 2100. The report's estimate for 2100 is substantially higher than the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's projection of 18 to 59 centimeters, and privately, many experts anticipate a more dire scenario. That catastrophe will be within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren.

Janet Redman, director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, has watched climate policy from the 40,000-foot level of climate summits. She draws attention to how Hurricane Sandy has brought home the full ramifications of climate change: "Hurricane Sandy did help to make the threat of climate change quite real. Such extreme weather is something ordinary people can feel. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, says this hurricane was a result of 'climate change,' and he is a very mainstream person."

Moreover, when New Jersey governor Chris Christie asked for Federal funds to rebuild the seashore, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg went much further. Mayor Bloomberg said we need to use federal funds to start rebuilding New York City itself. "He said explicitly that the sea levels are rising, and we need to create a sustainable city right now," recalls Redman. "Bloomberg declared that climate change is here. He even went as far as to suggest that we need to restore the wetlands around New York City to absorb these sorts of storms. In other words, we need an adaptation strategy. So the combination of an extreme weather event with a powerful argument from a mainstream politician with high public/media visibility helps to change the dialogue. Bloomberg is not Al Gore; he is not a representative of Friends of the Earth."

An ambient worry may be condensing into a new perspective on the definition of security. Robert Bishop, former CEO of Silicon Graphics Inc., founded the International Centre for Earth Simulation as a means to make climate change today understandable to policy makers and industry. Bishop notes that Hurricane Sandy will cost something like $60 billion, and the total cost for Katrina and Wilma, and the ultimate cost of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill cleanup, will total about $100 billion each.

"We are talking about ecological disasters that weigh in at 100 billion dollars a pop." He notes, "Those sorts of disasters are going to start changing perspectives in the Pentagon - because they clearly put the entire nation at risk. Additionally, the rise of sea level along the United States' Eastern Seaboard threatens to create major future costs. Big money to protect cities located on the coasts will soon be required. Norfolk, Virginia, for example, is home to the only nuclear aircraft carrier base on the East Coast, and that city is already suffering a serious flood problem."

Bishop goes on to explain that New York City, Boston and Los Angeles, "the core centers of civilization" for the United States, are all located in the most vulnerable parts of the country and little has been done to defend them from the threat, not of foreign troops or missiles, but of the rising ocean.

Why climate change is not considered a "threat"

It would not be true to say that we are doing nothing to address the environmental crisis, but if we are a species facing extinction, then we are not doing much.

Maybe part of the problem is the time frame. The military tends to think about security in fast motion: How can you secure an airport in a few hours, or bomb a newly acquired target within a theater of operations within a few minutes? That trend is exacerbated by the increasing speed of the cycle of intelligence gathering and analysis overall. We need to be able to respond to Web-based network attacks or missile launches instantaneously. Although rapidity of response has a certain aura of effectiveness, the psychological need for a fast answer has little to do with real security.

What if the primary security threat were to be measured in hundreds of years? There does not seem to be any system in place in the military and security community for grappling with problems on such a time-scale. David Montgomery suggests this problem is one of the most serious facing mankind today. For example, the loss of topsoil globally is something on the order of 1 percent a year, making it a shift that is invisible on the policy radar screens in Washington DC. But that trend will be catastrophic for all of humanity in less than a century, as it takes hundreds of years to create topsoil. The loss of arable land, combined with the rapid increase in population around the world, is without doubt one of the greatest security threats we face. And yet few in the security community are focused in on this issue.

Janet Redman suggests that we must find some sort of a long-term definition of security that can be accepted in security circles: "Ultimately, we need to start thinking about security in an inter-generational sense, as what might be called 'inter-generational security.' That is to say, what you do today will impact the future, will impact your kids, your grandchildren and on beyond us." Moreover, Redman suggests, climate change is just too scary for many people. "If the problem is really that severe, it could completely undo everything we have come to value; destroy the world as we know it. We will have to change the way we live our lives. From transportation to food to careers, the family; everything would have to change."

Jared Diamond suggests in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive that societies have periodically confronted harsh choices between short-term benefits for the current rulers with their comfortable habits and the long-term interests of future generations, and that they rarely have displayed understanding of "intergenerational justice." Diamond goes on to argue that the more the changes demanded go against core cultural and ideological assumptions, the more likely the society is to fall back on massive denial. If the source of the threat is our blind assumption that material consumption embodies freedom and self-realization, for example, we may be on the same track as the vanished civilization of Easter Island.

Perhaps the current obsession with terrorism and endless military expansion is a form of psychological denial by which we distract our minds from climate change by pursuing a less complex problem. The threat of climate change is so enormous and threatening that it demands that we rethink who we are and what we do, to ask ourselves whether or not every cafe latte or Hawaiian vacation is part of the problem. Far easier to focus attention on an enemy out there in the mountains of Afghanistan.

John Feffer, director of Foreign Policy in Focus and harsh critic of what he terms "the Pentagon's obesity problem," sums up the underlying psychology most vividly:

"Here we are, trapped between the spreading sand and the rising waters, and somehow we simply cannot wrap our minds around the problem, let alone find a solution.

"It's as if we are standing in the middle of the African veldt. From one side a charging elephant is bearing down on us. From the other side, a lion is about to pounce. And what are we doing? We're focused on the lesser threats, like al-Qaeda. We're focused on the ant that has crawled onto our toes and sunk its mandibles into our skin. It hurts, sure, but it's not the major problem. We're so busy looking down at our toe that we've lost sight of the elephant and the lion."

Another factor is simply a lack of imagination on the part of policy makers and those who create the media that informs us. Many people are simply incapable of conceiving of the worst-case environmental catastrophe. They tend to imagine that tomorrow will be essentially like today, that progressions will always be linear, and that the ultimate test for any prediction of the future is our own personal experience. For these reasons, catastrophic climate change is inconceivable - literally.

If it is that serious, do we need to turn to the military option?

It has become a standard line for politicians to praise the US military as the greatest in the world. But if the military is completely unprepared for the challenge of spreading deserts and disappearing soil, our fate could resemble that of the forgotten emperor from Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Ozymandias," whose colossal, ruined statue bears an inscription:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Fighting spreading deserts and rising oceans will take colossal resources and all of our collective wisdom. The response involves not only restructuring our entire government and economy, but also recreating our civilization. Yet the question remains: Is the response a mere reshuffling of priorities and incentives, or is this threat the true equivalent of war, i.e., "total war," different only in the nature of the response and the assumed "enemy?" Are we looking at a life-and-death crisis that demands mass mobilization, a controlled and rationed economy and large-scale strategic planning for the short and long term? Does this crisis demand, in short, a war economy and a complete rethinking of the military system?

There are tremendous risks involved in invoking a military response, especially in an age when a violent mindset permeates our society. Certainly opening the door for the Beltway bandits to set up for business in the temple of climate change would be a disaster. What if the Pentagon were to seize on climate change to justify even more military spending on projects with little or no applicability to the actual threat? We know that in many fields of traditional security this tendency is already a serious problem.

Certainly there is a danger that military culture and assumptions will be incorrectly applied to the issue of climate change, a threat that ultimately is best addressed by cultural transformation. As the United States has serious problems reining in its impulse to employ the military option as a solution for just about everything, we need, if anything, to rein in the military, not to fuel it further.

But as regards climate change, the situation is different. Reinventing the military for the purpose of combating climate change is a necessary, if risky, step, and that process could fundamentally transform the culture, the mission, and the priorities of the entire security system. We have no choice but to engage in the debate with the military.

Unless the true security concerns are grasped, from desertification and rising oceans to food scarcity and aging populations, it may be impossible to find a collective security architecture that will allow for deep cooperation between the militaries of the world. After all, even if the US military were to draw down or resign from its world-police role, the overall security situation would likely become more dangerous. Unless we can find room for cooperation between militaries that does not require a common potential enemy, we are unlikely to reduce the terrible risks we presently face.

James Baldwin wrote: "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed if it is not faced." For us to wish that the military would simply become something different of its own accord accomplishes nothing. We must map out a path to transformation and then pressure and prod the military to assume a new role. So the argument against military involvement is valid, but the truth is that the military will never agree to a deep reduction of military budgets to support spending to address climate change through other agencies. Rather, the danger of climate change must be made visible within the military. Moreover, the introduction of sustainability as a key principle for the military could go far to remedy militarism and the mentality of violence that plagues American society by channeling the energies of the military into the healing of the ecosystem.

It is a truism of the military that it is always preparing to fight the last war. Whether the African chiefs who fought European colonists with charms and spears, the Civil War generals passionate for horses who disparaged filthy railroads, or the generals of World War I who sent infantry divisions into machine-gun fire as though they were fighting the Franco-Prussian War, the military tends to assume that the next conflict will be merely a scaled-up version of the last one.

If the military, instead of postulating military threats in Iran or Syria, takes engagement with climate change as its primary mission, it will bring in a new group of talented young men and women, and the very role of the military will shift. As the United States starts to reassign its military spending, so will other nations of the world. The result could be a far less militarized system and the possibility of a new imperative for global cooperation.

But the concept is useless if we cannot find a way to goad the US military in the right direction. As it is, we are spending precious treasure on weapons systems that don't even meet military needs, let alone offer any application to problems of climate change. John Feffer suggests that bureaucratic inertia and competing budgets are the primary reason we seem to have no choice but to pursue weapons that have no clear application: "The various organs of the military compete with each other for a piece of the budgetary pie, and they don't want to see their total budgets go down." Feffer implies that certain arguments are repeated until they seem like Gospel: "We have to maintain our nuclear triad; we have to have a minimum number of jet fighters; we must have a Navy appropriate for a global power."

The imperative to just keep building more of the same also has a regional and political component. The jobs associated with these weapons are scattered across the country. "There isn't a congressional district that isn't connected in some way to the manufacture of weapons systems," Feffer says. "And the manufacture of those weapons means jobs, sometimes the only surviving manufacturing jobs. Politicians cannot ignore those voices. Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts was most courageous in calling for military reform, but when a backup engine for the F-35 fighter jet that was manufactured in his state was up for a vote, he had to vote for it - even though the Air Force declared that it was not needed."

There are some in Washington DC who have started to develop a broader definition of national interest and security. One of the most promising is the Smart Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation. Under the direction of Patrick Doherty, a "Grand Strategy" is taking shape that draws attention to four critical issues that radiate out through society and the world. The issues treated in the "Grand Strategy" are "economic inclusion," the entry of 3 billion people into the world's middle class over the next 20 years and the implications of that change for the economy and the environment; "ecosystem depletion," the impact of human activity on the environment and its implications for us; "contained depression," the current economic situation featuring low demand and harsh austerity measures; and the "resilience deficit," the fragility of our infrastructure and overall economic system. The Smart Strategy Initiative is not about making the military more green, but rather about resetting the overall priorities for the nation as a whole, including the military. Doherty thinks the military should stick to its original role and not stretch out into fields that are beyond its expertise.

When asked about the general response of the Pentagon to the question of climate change, he identified four distinct camps. First, there are those who remain focused on traditional security concerns and do take climate change into account in their calculations. Then there are those who see climate change as another threat that must be taken into account in traditional security planning but as more of an external factor than a primary issue. They voice concerns about naval bases that will be underwater or the implications of new sea lanes over the poles, but their basic strategic thinking has not changed. There also those who advocate using the massive defense budget to leverage market changes with an eye toward impacting both military and civilian energy usage.

Finally, there are those in the military who have come to the conclusion that climate change demands a fundamentally new national strategy that spans domestic and foreign policy and are engaged in a broad dialogue with varied stakeholders on what the road forward should be.

Some thoughts about how to reinvent the military, but fast!

We must put forth a plan for a military that devotes 60 percent or more of its budget to developing technologies, infrastructures and practices to stop the spread of deserts, to revive oceans and to transform the destructive industrial systems of today into a new, sustainable economy. What would a military that took as its primary mission the reduction of pollution, the monitoring of the environment, remediation of environmental damage and adaptation to new challenges look like? Can we imagine a military whose primary mission is not to kill and destroy, but to preserve and protect?

We are calling on the military to do something that at present it is not designed to do. But throughout history, militaries often have been required to completely reinvent themselves to meet current threats. Moreover, climate change is a challenge unlike anything that our civilization has ever encountered. Retooling the military for environmental challenges is just one of many fundamental changes that we will see.

A systematic reassignment of every part of the current military-security system would be the first step toward moving from a piecemeal to a fundamental engagement. The Navy could deal primarily with protecting and restoring the oceans; the Air Force would take responsibility for the atmosphere, monitoring emissions and developing strategies for reducing air pollution; while the Army could handle land conservation and water issues. All branches would be responsible for responding to environmental disasters. Our intelligence services would take responsibility for monitoring the biosphere and its polluters, assessing its status and making long-term proposals for remediation and adaptation.

Such a radical shift of direction offers several major advantages. Above all, it would restore purpose and honor to the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces were once a calling for America's best and brightest, producing leaders like George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower, rather than political infighters and prima donnas like David Petraeus. If the imperative of the military shifts, it will regain its social standing in American society and its officers would again be able to play a central role in contributing to national policy and not watch with their arms tied as weapons systems are pursued for the benefit of lobbyists and their corporate sponsors.

The United States faces a historic decision: We can passively follow the inevitable path toward militarism and imperial decline, or radically transform the present military-industrial complex into the model for a truly global collaborative to combat climate change. The latter path offers us the opportunity to correct America's missteps and to set off in a direction more likely to lead in the long run toward adaptation and survival.

Let's Start with the Pacific Pivot

John Feffer recommends that this transformation could start with East Asia and take the form of an expansion of the Obama Administration's much-vaunted "Pacific pivot." Feffer suggests: "The Pacific Pivot could be the basis for a larger alliance that postulates the environment as the central theme for security cooperation between the United States, China, Japan, Korea and other nations of East Asia, thereby reducing the risk of confrontation and rearmament." If we focus on real threats, for instance how rapid economic development - as opposed to sustainable growth - has contributed to the spread of deserts, the decline of fresh water supplies, and a consumer culture that encourages blind consumption, we can reduce the risk of an arms buildup in the region. As East Asia's role in the world economy increases and is bench-marked by the rest of the world, a regional shift in the concept of security, along with an associated change in military budgeting, could have immense impact globally.

Those who imagine that a new "Cold War" is sweeping East Asia tend to overlook the fact that in terms of rapid economic growth, economic integration and nationalism, the eerie parallels are not between East Asia today and East Asia during the ideological Cold War, but rather between East Asia today and Europe in 1914. That tragic moment saw France, Germany, Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the midst of unprecedented economic integration and despite talk and hopes of lasting peace, fail to resolve long-standing historical issues and plunge into a devastating world war. To assume that we face another "cold war" is to overlook the degree to which the military buildup is driven by internal economic factors and has little to do with ideology.

China's military spending reached $100 billion in 2012 for the first time, as its double-digit increases push its neighbors to increase military budgets as well. South Korea is increasing its spending on the military, with a projected 5 percent increase for 2012. Although Japan has kept its military spending to 1 percent of its GDP, freshly elected prime minister, Abe Shinzo, is calling for a major increase in Japanese overseas military operations as hostility toward China hits an all-time high.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon encourages its allies to boost military spending and buy US weapons. Ironically, potential cuts in the Pentagon budget are often presented as opportunities for other nations to increase military spending to play an increased role.


Ambassador Kwon's Future Forest has been immensely successful in bringing Korean and Chinese youth together to plant trees and build a "Great Green Wall" to contain the Kubuchi Desert. Unlike the Great Wall of old, this wall is not meant to hold off a human enemy, but rather to create a line of trees as an environmental defense. Perhaps the governments of East Asia and the United States can learn from the example set by these children and invigorate the long-paralyzed Six Party Talks by making the environment and adaptation the primary topic for discussion.

The potential for cooperation between both military and civilian organizations concerning the environment is tremendous if the terms of the dialog are expanded. If we can align regional rivals in a common military purpose that requires no "enemy state" against which to close ranks, we may be able to avoid one of the greatest dangers of the current day. The effect of defusing the situation of competition and military buildup would be an enormous benefit in itself, quite distinct from the contributions made by the climate response mission.

The Six Party Talks could evolve into a "Green Pivot Forum" that assesses the environmental threats, sets priorities between stakeholders and allocates the resources needed to combat the problems.

Copyright, Reprinted with permission.

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