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The Military and Climate Change

The April 15th, 2007 Washington Post article called, “Military Sees Security Threat” by Juliet Eilperin adds fuel to my previous commentary on “Climate Change: Security or Aid.” It is amazing that only a few short months ago no one in the Bush Administration was taking climate change very seriously and now The U.S. military is calling it a potential national security threat.

A report released on April 16th by 11 retired generals says that “global warming presents a significant national security challenges to the United States.” According to the Post, the report says that global warming could destabilize “vulnerable states in Africa and Asia and drive a flood of migrants to richer countries.” The Post confirmed that “the military has begun studying possible future impacts of global warming with new intensity.”

The report notes that poorer states will find it increasingly difficult to meet their basic needs. Of specific note was the fact that 40% of the world population gets at least 50% of drinking water from glaciers which are now rapidly drying up. The inability of governments to protect and provide for its citizens will make such places as “ripe for turmoil, extremism and terrorism.” Vice Admiral Richard Truly was quoted as saying, “It’s going to happen to every country and every person in the whole world at the same time.”

What is interesting is that only a few short months ago the Bush Administration was still denying that climate change was even a reality. And yet, there are reports coming from the military that have been under way for a while that are warning that climate change could impact national security. There is little doubt that other developed nations are also reaching their own conclusions regarding the destabilizing effects of global warning.

This again raises the specter of military control in dealing with social issues. When terrorism erupted we saw our rights dwindle under the Patriot Act. And, while I supported some of its provisions, its implementation has left much to be desired. We are all familiar with the concerns over the privacy of our mail, phone calls and emails and the abuse by the FBI and CIA. To deal with the migration issue we used the umbrella of terrorism once again and now we have the start of our own Berlin Wall. If climate change is considered in light of terrorism, will the military will once again be in the forefront of shaping our policies? What rights and privileges will we use to combat rising sea levels, droughts and food shortages?

Can we avoid this growth in military dominance by taking a more active and urgent role is helping other countries cope with global warming? Wouldn’t it make sense to start now and work with the at risk countries to help them plan for possible disaster? We are walking a very thin line in allowing the military to place all social issues in the context of terrorism. While there is certainly a place for the military with regards to dealing with “real” terrorists threats, I am not sure that the best way to deal with our climate crisis is the militarization of the problem. How many more rights are we willing to sacrifice under the guise of security? If we do not take a more humanitarian position on these issues what will happen to our values as a nation? We need to think hard and fast here because Mother Nature has run out of patience.

Mr. Harris was born in Massachusetts. He attended The American University in Washington, D.C. and received his degree in Political Science. His graduate work was done at the University of Northern Colorado and Howard University. While in D.C., he spent several years working for local and regional government agencies. Upon moving to Maine he worked with three governors and served as the Assistant Director of the Maine State Planning Office. He worked on a White House Task Force for the development of a National Rural Policy and later served as Rural Policy Coordinator at the Federal Regional Council of New England. He has worked on gubernatorial and senatorial political campaigns and currently works in Special Education.

Mr. Harris is co-author of the novel WAKING GOD and is a nationally syndicated and featured writer for The American Chronicle. He is working on Book II of the Waking God trilogy and writing features for literary E-zines. His second novel, A MAINE CHRISTMAS CAROL has been released by Cambridge Books. Contributing writer for UPI’s Religion&Spirituality web site.

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