The U.S. Military's Impact on our Environment

By Alejandra Tolley

“War, What is it good for? Absolutely nothing,” is the first lyric to Edwin Starr’s revolutionizing anthem “War.” One of Motown’s first records to hold a political stance against the Vietnam War. A cataclysm that left an irreversible impact on our society and a symbol of American nationalistic violence. American warfare is an imperialist tool, racist and predatorial system used to kill the most vulnerable and an uncontrollable contrivance affecting our environment, leading it to be the single most significant contributor to climate change. It is producing countless human injustices and negatively altering our wildlife and marine life. Just like how Starr sang in his abounding hit, “War, it’s an enemy of all mankind.” 

The US Military promotes a nationalistic agenda that persuades us to think that we are the world’s leaders of freedom and protection. Still, in reality, it depicts itself as one of the most prominent dangers. These actions disguise themselves as needing to protect our lives and sacred rights, but in return, it is harming the most important entity that is holding our existence, our planet. As we celebrate this Earth Day, we encourage everyone to do their part in lowering their carbon footprint but also to hold these giant corporations and institutions responsible for devastating our foundation. 

According to National Geographic, the US Navy is one of the leading culprits harming our marine life. Naval sonar activity will use their form of echolocation, sending a pulse of sound deep into the ocean to detect any objects. This disrupts whales who are also using echolocation and alters their capability to do so. Actions like Sonar cause massive distress to blue whales leading them to strand themselves on beaches, who are in the midst of facing extinction. 

It’s reported sound travels 4.5x faster, and 60 feet deeper underwater, meaning seismic surveys are an extreme danger to our marine life. Seismic blasts are used by ships searching for oil or gas and will use air guns to shoot intense sounds into our oceans. These loud blasts can severely affect the hearing of different marine animals and contribute to whales’ changing behavior. 

Along with the US Military warranting multiple disruptions in our seas, it is the world’s largest oil consumer, leading in emitting greenhouse emissions. With the Department of Defense responsible for 70-80% of energy consumption, they are the largest fossil fuel burner. A leading source of global warming pollution that emits sulfur dioxide. A gaseous pollutant can aggravate our breathing and be extremely harmful to individuals with different respiratory defects. 

In 2017, it’s reported that the US Military purchased more than 260,000 barrels of oil a day, meaning they spent about $990 billion altogether. According to National Priorities, one B-52 jet uses as much fuel in an hour as one driver uses in seven years. 

These large amounts of burning fossil fuels carry out missions and maintain internal military operations that are increasingly destroying our planet. And with a carbon footprint of this size, the severity of harm is worrisome. Energy in Demand reported that even with new proposals of introducing more renewable energy on military bases, it can not diminish the amount of damage caused. 

Military force has led to several human injustices, including environmental racism and nuclear colonialism. The US Southwest has been the center point where the Department of Defense instituted testing, manufacturing, and disposing of atomic technologies. In Monument Valley, CO, uranium deposits contribute to air quality deterioration for mineworkers living near these radiation points. According to Environment and Society, Indigenous communities have been disproportionately affected by these testing sites. Also, there are currently over 500 abandoned uranium mines on Navajo land, causing tribal nations such as Navajo, Paiute, and Hualapai to face a high risk of cancer and multiple thyroid diseases due to degraded air and water quality. According to the University of New Mexico, numerous studies of uranium remnants were discovered in several Navajo men and women’s urine due to these active mines, signifying a direct result of nuclear colonialism. 

These noxious acts of war and military operations are nothing but a symbol of a hegemonistic power that needs to be held accountable for the amount of distress and ruination it has caused for our planet and Indigenous communities. Starr’s lyrics: “War has caused unrest within the younger generation, induction then destruction” still holds true to this day. Our duty is to make sure we keep holding these institutions responsible and to leave a planet for future generations to live and thrive on. 

War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. 

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