Waging War On the Environment

The US Navy is being sued by more than 7,000 residents of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. The island contains a former bombing range where immense amounts of toxic chemicals have been released into the environment.

Dr. John Wargo, who studies the effects of toxic chemicals on people, told CNN that Vieques “is probably one of the most highly contaminated sites in the world.” Concentrations of chemicals released on the island could cause cancer, birth defects, or damage to the nervous, immune and reproductive systems. Numerous unexploded bombs continue to corrode at the site, leaching more chemicals into the environment [1].

The government’s response to the lawsuit rests on “sovereign immunity”, a doctrine holding that peons may not sue the king. They will try to hide the harm they’ve done and go on poisoning humans.

The US Department of Defense has a disastrous environmental record. The illnesses that resulted from nuclear testing are obvious examples, but the Department of Defense causes more pollution than any other organization in the world.

The environment is not some unimportant outside entity. Like the market, it is a concept that we are all a part of.

The human costs of military pollution should not be ignored. In “Military Pollution: The Quintessential Universal Soldier”, Lucinda Marshall describes numerous cases of contamination by defoliants, petroleum substances, rocket fuel, lead, mercury, and radioactive materials. Higher than usual rates of cancer and other illnesses have been found near military sites [2].

A non-toxic environment is no more a luxury than is adequate nutrition.

Military and covert actions in foreign countries destroy countless unique and irreplaceable lives – that is their assigned task. But with all the harm the Department of Defense has done to Americans it might be asked: what are they actually defending? What is the purpose of their daily operation of death and destruction?

They military defends “the nation” – a concept whose interests are defined by those in power. They don’t defend you as an individual. They might defend you as a token of power. If it’s not in the national interest for you to live, your life will be written off for the glory of leaders.

We can expect no less from an organization that exists to kill people in order to increase the power of rulers and the profits of war industries.

Less horrific, but pervasively harmful, is local destruction of wilderness. It is considered progress to turn an area of unlimited benefit to human growth into superfluous shopping centers or tame parks, which can be more easily controlled while the kids are escorted to supervised areas. Each taming of the environment is a crackdown on the ability of individuals to find their own way of interacting with other parts of nature.

Wilderness is as valuable to human flourishing as cities. Powers local and global attempt to assign us our roles in the world. When authorities try to minimize urban and rural wildness, they assault the expression and development of freedom.

The loss of wilderness is certainly not nearly as horrific as kids set on fire, people buried under the rubble of their homes, or the poisoning of land by those who pretend to defend it. Or as disastrous as poisoning an entire country by destroying its infrastructure with toxic chemicals and blockading it – and then acting like you’re a hero for doing so. But it is related.

At the root of institutionalized death and destruction lies the desire of authoritarians to control what doesn’t belong to them – the lives, liberty, and loot of other individuals. Each consistent strike against control – against authority itself, not the changing of guards or victims – wedges further into the cracks that can set empire crumbling to pieces. Cultivating independence physically and mentally challenges the evils that reach with instructions or bombs toward every individual.

Power structures alternately serve themselves or other power structures. They will not willingly be held accountable to the non-powerful individuals they take from. Anarchists neither build power structures nor lay claim to the lives of others. A freed market full of libertarian consciousness and ecological consciousness is the best hope for the flourishing of all humans on this planet and those people colonize.

Anarchism doesn’t promote struggling to the highest status in the way that dominant rank-obsessed societies do. The fewer grand projects and politically-driven development plans this results in, combined with the decreased work time needed in a freed economy, will leave land and time open to create lives for ourselves.

And there will be plenty of structures to squat and rebuild.

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/02/01/vieques.illness

[2] http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0327-21.htm

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The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory