War and Climate change: two sides of the same coin

ipcc-report-climate-change-mitigation-fossil-fuels-coal-oil-decarbonization-unfccc-722x509THIS month in Taranaki, the annual Petroleum Summit is happening. This is a meeting of major oil and gas corporations with government ministers and officials to discuss current and new fossil fuel exploration. At this event, vast areas of land and sea will be offered up for exploration in the 2017 Block Offer.

In response to that, a large coalition has come together calling for a blockade of the Summit. Auckland Peace Action will be there blockading in solidarity with our allies and comrades in the Climate Justice Movement, because we see war and climate change as two side of the same coin.

Imperialism, war and oiL

Wars are primarily waged in order to acquire resources. With more resources, nations or groups become both richer and more powerful. All sorts of reasons are used to justify war, like terrorism, religious and ethnic differences, and territorial claims, but when the dust settles, the reality is that war is about getting resources (access to them & control of them). Modern warfare is almost all about control of oil and natural gas. Foreign intervention is 100 times more likely if oil reserves are present in a country experiencing civil war.

The current struggles in the Middle East – and the involvement of both the United States (and its allies) and Russia (and its allies) – are predominately about oil and gas. They are not new struggles, nor are they primarily about religion. They are really about strategic control and who has it. Religious and ethnic tensions are manipulated and exacerbated by those with specific economic interests. We, the public, are sold emotive narratives that cloak the real economic drivers of this continual war and vast human misery. In the midst of all of this, oil and gas corporations reap record profits

Similarly, at home, indigenous peoples are resisting the relentless grab for oil and gas on their lands and their waterways. When they resist, they are criminalised and, of late, called “terrorists”. From the gargantuan tar sands on the lands of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in occupied Canada; to the Dakota Access pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation; to the poisoned waters of the Ogoni Peoples’ Niger Delta compliments of Royal Dutch Shell; to aggressive oil drilling in the wilds of Mapuche land in Patagonia; to unconsented oil and gas exploration on Māori lands and seas across Aotearoa, unwanted fossil fuel projects are proceeding protected by the state’s military arsenal.[1]

The push for war is primarily the desire for oil and gas resources. The cause of climate change: the use of those very same resources. The US military is the world’s largest consumer of oil; it is also overwhelmingly the largest and most active military on the planet with involvement in most of the globes’ current major conflicts.

So the world is locked into fighting these endless “wars on terrorism” (or whatever word is useful at the time) for resources that if used will cause rapid catastrophic climate change. It is, quite simply, insanity. War causes climate change.

And, the opposite, too

The causal effect also works in reverse. Along with rising sea levels, crop failures, massive biodiversity loss, and extreme weather events, wars will be one of the effects of climate change. As resources become scarcer, and millions (perhaps billions) of people are forced to migrate, those with power in society will seek to exploit divisions in order to retain their positions of domination and control over these diminishing resource bases. Similar attempts to maintain power by divide and rule have historically been very successful.

We are already witnessing the rise of fascism across the globe. The politics of fear, terrorism and “national security” dominate the global political agenda.

Many people seek comfort from the enormous challenges that we are confronting. They are seeking easy answers to very difficult questions. In our society those with power are quick to blame the most powerless: the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, the Māori. These are time-tested strategies for maintaining control. They are also the strategies of global horror and genocide.

Build Solidarity Now

We can see the picture before us: our world in ruins with a collapse of the global ecosystems that keep us alive. It is not a nightmare, but one clear possibility.

There is, however, another possibility. And each and every one of us has a role to play in making it a probability. It is called solidarity, and it isn’t just an idle word. It means taking action.

One side of that action is joining together to collectively support each other, the people in our immediate communities and across the globe. That is one way we can transcend the tactics of divide and rule. By building understanding, relationships, trust, and confidence across struggles, and building networks of mutual aid to improve our real material conditions, we can create a different future.

The other side of solidarity is taking action to dismantle the systems of oppression, of violence, of exploitation. For Auckland Peace Action, that means taking to the streets, and taking non-violent direct action. We will not be idle while those who profit from war, climate change and human misery conduct their businesses. We will confront them, and do our best to stop them.

Its time for you to take action, too. So we hope you will be on the streets 21-23 March in Taranaki. We’ll be there with you!

[1] In 2012, the NZ Navy was deployed to protect Brazilian oil company Petrobras against Bay of Plenty iwi Te Whanau Apanui who mounted a flotilla in opposition to oil exploration in their customary waters.

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