Militarizing the Environment: Climate Change and the Security State by Robert Marza

militarizing the enviromentOk- so not a beach read, but if you happen to be interested in the intersections of climate change and the military industrial complex, then maybe it is a beach read. A depressing one, but an important one. Marzac, a professor of postcolonial and eco-critical literature at Purdue University, traces the ways the US military thinks about climate change and other “environmental issues” through a 400 year history of “enclosure movements” and colonial projects. In short, he argues that the unpredictability and risk posed by climate change become the material used to justify the expansion of military powers into more and more aspects of human and nonhuman life. Climate change is a “threat multiplier” according to the Pentagon, and hence the USA needs to multiply its threat-responding capacity. More drones, more ships, more guns, more bombs. More flexibility to use these in different scenarios. The ultimate irony is of course that the US military, now and throughout recent history, has been the single greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions driving anthropogenic climate change.

In sum, it’s a vicious cycle. And it’s a cycle marked by some truly and morbidly fascinating stories that Marzac weaves into his long form indictment on the “greening” of the US war machine. Did you know the famous Ethics 101 “prisoner’s dilemma” game was devised by the RAND corporation to help justify the growth of US nuclear arms? Or that the UN has discussed forming an environmental peacekeeping force called “the Green Helmets?”

This is a challenging read, but one that I feel should appeal to anyone interested in environmental studies, military history, economics, or science and technology studies.

Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating:  Recommended

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