Earth Day in the U.S. usually means celebrating earth’s beauty, learning how to make our lives greener, and marveling at the smart cookies jumping in now with more ecologically friendly products and services. With Al Gore, Arnold (see Newsweek 4.16.07) and Tom Friedman (New York Times Magazine, 4.22.07) on board, we finally have some blue, purple, AND red team leaders facing up to the climate crisis, even if none of them are perfect.
But there’s still a big piece missing in our usual Earth Day thinking. It’s a piece that could make all of these efforts useless if we don’t plan for it now. Massive, widely dispersed fighting– ‘climate conflict’—could grow exponentially with rising oceans, dwindling fresh water, useless farmland, refugee surges (desperate people wanting in, desperate people trying to keep them out), catastrophic storms, and the mega-epidemics that will come with climate crisis. Already, last week the U.N. Security Council had its first, highly controversial debate on climate conflict, re the recent U.N. report on climate change.
Now behind the scenes, the ‘big boys’ know all of the dangers of course, and their preferred solution is clear: get control of everything and everybody by military force. This scenario is known as ‘Fortress America’ or ‘American Empire’ in the futurist trade, and we’ve already been warned about bankruptcy as the economic Achilles heel of this one.
But matters are actually even worse than that. Right now the real scenario we are living is this: highly destructive, muscle-bound conventional military power that fails to bring order and peace pitted against highly flexible terrorist activity that can flummox the first but also fails to bring order and peace. Both destroy precious ecological and social resources we will all desperately need as the climate crisis worsens. And should nuclear materials be used or nuclear facilities bombed by either bunch, the damage explodes exponentially.
To save the earth and ourselves, WE MUST LEAPFROG THE WAR/TERRORISM MODEL OF HUMAN ‘PROBLEM SOLVING.’ Right now we can practice doing this by defusing the growing American confrontation with Iran-by talking, as the bipartisan Iraq Study Group has recommended.