France was at war long before the attacks on November 13. However, those attacks have greatly served as a pretext to intensify military operations. Since the beginning of the 21st century, wars of plunder for control of resources have not been lacking: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, the Central African Republic,
to name a few. These conflicts have to be labelled for what they are, wars of imperialist intervention. France has no «positive role» in these interventions despite claims drawn from a colonial past.
These military interventions by the French state go largely unreported in the media. The little that is mentioned imposes a rationality based on security, with or without humanitarian packaging. The hawkish language is intended to anaesthetise or paralyse the population. Yet how is it possible not to recall the disasters that war creates, the millions of dead, wounded and displaced, the misery and despair that force populations to flee while those profiting from war, the multinational arms dealers, get ever richer? France is the fourth most important arms manufacturer in the world. The colossal cost of war diverts public money from vital social, cultural and ecological needs. Furthermore, the state, which carries out these wars like a pyromaniac fireman, drags us into a monstrous spiral of ever more hatred leading to ever more attacks. Rafale aircraft kill civilians just as innocent as those at Bataclan (theatre).
The acceptance that legal protection for the environment from the ravages of armed conflict needs improvement has a long history. During the last three decades, initiatives have repeatedly flowered, only to wither and die in seminars and conference rooms, while wartime environmental damage continues largely unchecked. What lessons should a new generation wishing to tackle the topic take from past failures?
As we reported earlier, Ukraine needs to find $30m to cover the cost of a two year programme of urgent environmental assistance, doubtless millions more will be needed beyond that. Damage to Ukraine’s natural environment and direct and urgent threats to public and environmental health thanks to damage to industrial sites are widespread. In Iraq and Syria, protracted conflicts are continuing to create new environmental threats and exacerbate pre-existing problems. Environmental damage from conflict is not just of historical or academic interest, it is threatening civilians and livelihoods around the world. How then to recapture a sense of urgency in efforts to minimize damage and ensure that environmental assistance gets to where it’s needed?
It is sheer coincidence that Paris was struck by terrorists on the eve of a key climate conference known as COP 21.
To some, the attacks may appear like an unfortunate distraction in the face of efforts to meet a civilizational challenge like no other. Yet there are important cross-connections between security and climate concerns.
Runaway climate change will impose growing stress on natural systems and human societies, and it could well usher in a whole new age of conflict. We live, after all, in a world marked by profound disparities in wealth, social and demographic pressures, unresolved grievances, and a seemingly endless supply of arms of all calibers. Far from being a separate concern, climate change is certain to intensify many existing challenges. More frequent and intense droughts, floods, and storms will likely play havoc with harvests and compromise food security. Extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and spreading disease vectors could undermine the economic viability and long-term habitability of some areas. The result could be escalating social discontent, mass displacement, and worse.
In fact, such scenarios are no longer mere conjecture. Consider Syria.
An argument can be made that COP21 must address the subject of war and peace as an ecological issue.
Because secrecy veils the true numbers, it is difficult to accurately determine the amount of atmospheric pollution caused by the military. Nonetheless, it is significant.
A certain correlation can be found between the biggest C02 emitters of the world
and those who are in charge of the most militarized complex.
How come the IPCC does not take into account this form of destructive human activity?
Let’s look at Aircraft emissions, for example.
To tackle the issue of military pollution we need real, hard data. This means finding the right means, the right people, in the right place to work with us.
The video shows one example of the polluting aspect from the impact of military conflict. Burnt fields, exploitation and outright theft of raw materials diverted to military rather than peaceful use, and the «differentiated status» granted to certain countries under the Kyoto Protocol are other examples of pollution-inducing military activities that should be explored and discussed.
US military operations to protect oil imports coming from the Middle East are creating larger amounts of greenhouse gas emissions than once thought, new research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows.
Green climate fund
The massive financial resources allocated, absorbed or confiscated by the military is another essential issue to be addressed, but we have to be smart because the armed forces are positioning themselves as part of the solution. And, whether we like it or not, they will have an influence amongst the various delegations. We must move beyond the previous idyllic concepts — that funding for missiles and tanks should be diverted towards so-called «development», for example. The «polluters pay» principle seems to have been forgotten. New proposals are needed, not only taxation of weapons transfers or eventual taxes on nuclear warheads but also other linkages that would create specific funds for discrete and compelling purposes. Money to aid and rescue refugees, assist NGO’s working on de-pollution and decontamination of military sites, funding to help and defend whistle blowers. We have an opportunity to highlight the huge gap between money spent by certain big powers on military assistance and that which is offered for climate assistance.
1 – Athena is the Greek goddess of war who disliked battles and preferred to end quarrels in a peaceful manner.
2 – Athena’s favourite creature was the owl, which to my mind symbolises the whistleblower.
Whistleblowers like the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES) which advocates for nuclear weapon dismantlement.
3 – “Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development”, in the words of Principle 24 of the Rio Declaration.
4 – Principle 25 of the same Declaration states: “Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible”.