What are the consequences of framing climate change as a national or global security issue rather than a social justice or human rights one? It’s a question very few people are asking, but it came to my attention recently while reading an article in Red Pepper magazine.
We increasingly hear about impending resource threats – whether that be energy, water or raw materials – and the need to secure their long-term supply. That then raises issues of control. A case in point being China with its vast stash of rare earth elements, trying to restrict their production and tightening up on exports.
Control, well … powerful nations are good at that. Establishing borders, building armies. Preparations for future conflict. Military intelligence is keeping a watchful eye on all this climate stuff, mainly it seems in the interests of protectionism – and that makes me a little uneasy.
When three US generals clubbed together to voice an opinion on global warming, they said that climate change “acts as an accelerant of instability around the world and it poses clear dangers to America’s homeland security”. The Pentagon has already been drilled to stand guard against ‘climate surprises’ which could throw off its efforts to secure the future of its nation.
This is pretty much what climate change and the reactionism of sustainability has become about. National interest – or, at eye-level – business interest. Who is leading on this agenda apart from scientists? Besides the military (who do most of their work behind closed doors), it’s the multi-nationals, who with their global supply chains, stand the most to lose if suddenly the river basins dry up.
Don’t get me wrong, some of these global corporations are doing admirable work in trying to mitigate against these risks. In many cases, they are compensating for woeful government inaction. We should never forget that and be thankful for it. But the underlying business case here is about corporate survival – and continual profit.
I do believe in the midst of all this green thinking we have lost sight of what really matters. Compassion and societal well-being. In the future, there will be global food crisis. Land grabs. Social unrest. Mass migration. It won’t be long – climate refugees are already appearing on the horizon.
And yet what is civilised industry investing in? Creeping securisation; high-tec border control systems, crowd restraint technologies, compliance weapons. If this is starting to sound somewhat dystopian well, that’s because it is. We are weaving a climate narrative based on fears about overpopulation, overconsumption and inequality with little thought on what is being secured for whom, and at whose expense.