Dr. Glen Barry / Earth Meanders – 2004-04-17 10:36:24
(April 16, 2004) — America — land of plenty as well as the free and brave — is pursuing military solutions to environmental scarcity. The American lifestyle depends upon tremendous resource inputs from the rest of the world.
Accessing these resources; i.e. oil, timber and minerals, while marketing the American lifestyle, products and morals — including cars, Coca-Cola and Britney Spears — is a major cause of global conflict. America’s war on terror has become a masquerade that seeks to maintain a level of affluence at the point of a gun that the Earth cannot sustainably provide, and does little to identify and address the most serious underlying threats to global security.
For example, four percent of the world’s population cannot consume 25 percent of its oil without conflict.
Some one billion humans live with chronic hunger, while being bombarded with American marketing/propaganda that highlights the good life to be found in democratic consumption. Billions more eke out a meager living in landscapes scarred by industrial capitalism and terrorized by American corporate client governments.
Environmental Degradation and Terrorism
It is far from certain that democratic capitalism can provide plentiful, equitable, just and sustainable livelihoods to the world’s teeming masses. Islamic and other revolutionary responses capture well the frustrated aspirations of those that know only grinding poverty, violence, environmental damage, and life outside of the American safe zone of conspicuous consumption.
Unmet human need, environmental decline and an absence of justice in the face of American opulence and power fuels criminal acts of terror.
The American lifestyle is not currently sustainable — nor can it ever be universalized to the global population. Institutionalized over-consumption has caused looming ecological crises of mammoth proportions — including collapse of terrestrial ecosystems, water scarcity, climate change, and ocean dead zones – that threaten the existence of key human habitats and thus the very ecological foundation of being.
Perspective is dreadfully lacking in post-911 America. Loss of life in the attacks upon New York by a band of Islamic criminals, while horrific, is less than how many humans die each day from lack of clean water — a situation that is easily reconciled with modest investments. This is an example of environmental failures that are killing now and will do so more in the future.
The Rise of Conservative Fascism
American style liberal democracy – one of the greatest political philosophies of all time, particularly in terms of individual and minority rights — has been nearly totally usurped by conservative fascism, an unholy alliance of government, business interests and Christian fanatics. Islamic and Christian fanaticism are two sides of the same coin — forcing ones spirituality upon others, and seeking power to do so.
In particular, outdated resource oligarchies responsible for so much environmental and social damage (big oil with a Bush mouthpiece) have successfully lead a coup de tat to gain control of America’s federal government, and have preemptively launched an imperial war under false pretenses to protect their narrow interests. America’s military adventures may keep the oil spigot flowing a bit longer, but at the cost of
• 1) continued global economic inequities which breed terrorism and
• 2) further pushing the Earth’s environment past its capacity to support humanity well.
How then should America address the connected issues of conservative fascism, ecological sustainability and criminal terrorism? First of all, the body politic must come to terms with the war criminal George Bush.
One act by a bunch of lunatic thugs does not legitimize further crimes against humanity including unilateral perma-war, erosion of civil liberties (spying on citizens and indefinite detentions), nor corporate welfare at the expense of environmental protections. The reign of a tyrant must be ended and America’s recent past critically examined, as many nations including Germany, Japan, Italy and France have done in the past.
America’s future freedom, material wellbeing, and safety from a world that hurts, depends upon dramatic political, economic, social and environmental reform. The following agenda would provide a start towards a demilitarized and environmentally sustainable future, devoid of both criminal violence and shocking human misery:
• Immediate military withdrawal by the United States from Iraq, the Middle East and elsewhere.
• Major investments in energy conservation and renewable alternatives; including doubling energy taxes and new car energy efficiency requirements.
• Renewed vigorous support for international legal institutions and tribunals to punish criminal acts of terror, genocide and military adventurism.
• Launch major international initiatives to support community based sustainable development, and to slow and then reduce human population growth through non-coercive means.
• Eliminate corporate subsidies and gradually reduce military expenditures, channeling these resources towards conserving, protecting and renewing the land, air, water and oceans.
At a personal level, in addition for advocating for the above, there are a number of things each American can do to build a plentiful, just, equitable and sustainable future. Americans must be challenged to develop a personal notion of “enoughness.”
Such voluntary simplicity distinguishes between consumption for consumption’s sake and human needs and reasonable wants, focusing upon quality rather than quantity.
American citizens’ dreadful detachment from the World, as evidenced by lack of geographic knowledge, must be redressed. The world is a village — and reasonable aspirations of other peoples for a fair share of the wealth, and freedom from the American cultural monolith, are ignored at all our peril. America must engage with the World non-militarily.
And finally, the author challenges all Americans to reexamine their relation with the Earth.
Human societies and economies are entirely dependent upon the Earth’s ecosystems for our biological needs. We can no longer live as if the air, water, land and oceans are garbage dumps; but instead, must recognize them as human habitats required for life. Our life. As goes the Earth will go humanity.
Earth Meanders is a series of personal essays that places questions of environmental sustainability within the context of other contemporary issues, and can be found at the Eco-Portal at
Dr. Glen Barry can be reached at: USA firstname.lastname@example.org