I’m reading The Nutmeg’s Curse by Amitav Ghosh. The book shows how capitalism leads to domination and destruction of this sensitive planet, a living system on which we depend.
On the subject of our use of fossil fuels and how they affect the environment, he begins with a steam-powered battleship called the Nemesis that allowed the British to destroy the Chinese navy in 1840.
“Since then the use of fossil fuels in war-making has risen in a steep curve. During the Second World War the American military’s consumption of petroleum amounted to one gallon of petroleum per soldier per day; during the first Gulf War this rose to four gallons per soldier per day; in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rate of consumption surged to sixteen gallons per soldier per day.”
“Today the Pentagon is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States – and probably in the world. The U.S. military maintains vast fleets of vehicles, ships, and aircraft, and many of these consume huge amounts of fossil fuels. A non-nuclear aircraft carrier consumes 5,621 gallons of fuel per hour; in other words, those vessels burn up as much fuel in one day as a small midwestern town might use in a year. But a single F-16 aircraft consumes a third as much fuel in one hour of ordinary operations – around 1,700 gallons. If the plane’s afterburners are engaged, it consumes two and a half times as much fuel per hour as an aircraft carrier – 14,400 gallons. The U.S.Air Force has around a thousand F-16’s, and they are but a small part of the air fleet.”
“In the 1990’s the three branches of the U.S. military consumed approximately 25 billions tons of fuel per year. This was more than a fifth of the country’s total consumption, and “more than the total commercial energy consumption of nearly two thirds of the world’s countries”. During the years of the Iraq War, the U.S. military was consuming around 1.3 billion gallons of oil annually for its Middle Eastern operations alone.”
The author continues with statistics and points out the Department of Defense “generates 500,000 tons of toxic waste annually, more than the top five US chemical companies combined, and it is estimated that the armed forces of the major world powers produce the greatest amount of hazardous waste in the world.”
As we struggle to get money for climate change, we and other countries continue to fund the military without question even though the military is well aware of the dangers of climate change. They’re already dealing with the problems of sea-level rise affecting many of their bases. In addition, “In 2018 Hurricane Michael struck the Tyndall Air Force base in Florida with great force, damaging seventeen jets, each worth a third of a billion dollars.”
This book is depressing and I’m reading it slowly but I think we all need to be aware of our increasing dependence on the military and how both political parties vote to support their insatiable demands.
Are we spending money in a way that makes sense when it comes to continuing to live on an inhabitable planet? Not all of us are going to want to, or be able to, head out to Mars. I like it here.