What Now?

Remember that  careful list you think about making early in the year about how much you will spend on holiday shopping and then it all goes to hell in late December when you mostly just want to get done and go home…

With almost no debate

The U.S. Senate approved a $636 billion military spending bill on Saturday that funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and also includes money to extend jobless aid and Medicare payment rates for two months.

By a vote of 88-10, the Senate approved the bill and sent it to President Barack Obama to sign into law. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Wednesday.

The bill covers Pentagon operations through September 30, 2010. But the $128 billion approved for ongoing wars probably will not be enough to cover Obama’s plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan

…lawmakers funded 10 more Boeing Co C-17 transport planes than the Pentagon had asked for, at a cost of $2.5 billion.Congress also kept alive over the Pentagon’s objections the troubled VH-71 presidential helicopter, made by Lockheed, and an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter made by General Electric Co and Rolls Royce Group Plc.

Then there was the health care bill that we were told last summer would cost a trillion dollars over 10 years.  The cost of the current plan is unknown because the Senate has devolved into  a last minute Christmas shopper who has to buy a gift no matter what it costs, might find a bargain or have to pay full price but hey as long as you get  it before Christmas who cares.  And then  there is the Copenhagen “agreement“:

“Finally we sealed a deal,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “The ‘Copenhagen Accord‘ may not be everything everyone had hoped for, but this decision…is an important beginning.”

But a decision at marathon 193-nation talks merely took note of the new accord, a non-binding deal for combating global warming led by the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

The 193 nations stopped far from a full endorsement of the plan, which sets a target of limiting global warming to a maximum 2 degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial times and holds out the prospect of $100 billion in annual aid from 2020 for developing nations.

The plan does not specify greenhouse gas cuts needed to achieve the 2 Celsius goal that is seen as a threshold for dangerous changes such as more floods, droughts, mudslides, sandstorms and rising seas.

If asked, I wonder how President Obama would characterize his leadership style, because I don’t know what you call it when the Congress spends the better part of a year crafting an expensive, deadly healthcare plan while barely blinking an eye about spending even more money on poorly defined wars  while completely trivializing the issue of climate change that ought to be a national emergency priority item.

Without a question we need to re-prioritize our thinking and change our framework, to wit, profit at the expense of human rights and environmental degradation should be considered a treasonous act.  We also need to play a little round of six degrees.

The U.S. military is arguably the world’s biggest polluter.  When we spend money on the military we need to take into account that aside from funneling that money from education, health care and other vital services that make us more secure, we are also contributing to the further environmental degradation of the planet.  And courtesy of IrishAntiWar.org, here are some other connections between military spending and the environment:

  • Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends.
  • CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road for one year.
  • If the war was ranked as a country in terms of annual emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do.
  • The $600 billion that the US Congress has allocated for military operations in Iraq to date could have built over 9000 wind farms (at 50 MW capacity each), with the overall capacity to meet a quarter of the US’s current electricity demand and cut 1/6 of the country’s total CO2 emissions.
  • In 2006, the US spent more on the war in Iraq than the whole world spent on investment in renewable energy.
  • US president Obama has committed to spending $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of green energy technology and infrastructure. The US spends that much on the war in Iraq in just 10 months.

I’ve also been thinking about the odd juxtaposition of the use of abortion rights as a tool of white, conservative American men to jettison meaningful health care in this country and the increasingly louder drumbeat, mostly by white, liberal American men to tie the benefits of family planning to the use of population control for the sake of the planet. Really?  Using the latter line of reasoning we should also cut maternal health care funds such as they are because hell, half a million (almost exclusively non-white) women die of maternal mortality every year and if we can up that number, that means less babies and mothers and that is good for the planet.  It is no accident that the colonization and control of women’s lives is being ratcheted up at the same time we trash the planet.  And we need to make that connection.

Derrick Jensen has an eloquent vision of the first step of what it would take to re-frame the discussion of how we are going to walk in this world, and I’ll leave you with that:

A lot of the indigenous people with whom I’ve worked have said to me that the first and most important thing any of us needs to do is decolonize our hearts and minds. Decolonization is the process of breaking your identity with and loyalty to this culture-industrial capitalism specifically, and more broadly civilization-and remembering your identification with and loyalty to the real physical world, including the land where you live. It means re-examining premises and stories this culture handed down to you. It means seeing the harm this culture does to other cultures, and to the planet. It means recognizing that we are living on stolen land. It means recognizing that the luxuries of this way of life do not come free, but rather are paid for by other humans, by nonhumans, by the whole world. It means recognizing that we do not live in a functioning democracy, but rather in a corporate plutocracy, a government by, for, and of corporations. Decolonization means recognizing that neither technological progress nor increased GNP is good for the planet. It means recognizing that this culture is not good for the planet. Decolonization means internalizing the implications of the fact that this culture is killing the planet. It means determining that we will stop this culture from doing that. It means determining that we will not fail.

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