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Militarism can be defined as: "The normalization of war and preparation for war, prioritizing the needs and interests of military institutions and extension of military culture and influence into everyday life such as in education, central and local government and business, charities etc." -ForcesWatch

War and militarism are climate issues

Many of the examples in this table were included from the event Climate Justice and Imperialism: Debunking Global Systems of Oppression.

Please note: the information includes in this table mainly highlights the environmental impacts of war. The enormous, horrific and multi-layered impact of war and militarism on humans who inhabit the environment cannot be understated, and is a critical part of understanding this as a climate justice issue. Some further examples to better highlight the human impact are included in the table titled 'examples from around the world.'

"Money for war, can't feed the poor"

Wars are fought over oil, gas and minerals

  • "We're at a moment in history where the climate crisis is both in large part caused by, and is also being used as, an excuse for, and to enable, increased war and militarism... not only is foreign military intervention in a civil war over 100x more likely where there is oil and gas, but also war preparations are the leading consumer of oil and gas." -Rachel Small, World Beyond War [1]
  • Western nations wage wars to secure access to fossil fuels, targeting governments that nationalize oil companies. The Middle East, which holds over half of the world’s oil reserves, has been a point of conflicts driven by imperialism and greed. 
  • "In Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan initially cut off Armenians’ gas supply and then their electricity. Throughout the harsh winter, Armenians could only sporadically access hot water thanks to solar water heaters. These renewable sources threaten the power of those who profit from wars and oil, thereby weakening the economic foundations of authoritarian regimes and reducing their incentives for military aggression." -Amara Possain [2]

"Money for war, can't feed the poor"

  • The United States has one of the largest militaries in the world. The Palestinian resistance movement has exposed the hypocrisy of states like the United States, who despite funnelling billions to support Israeli's war and genocide on Gaza, claim there is 'not enough money' to fund things like affordable housing, a climate transition and forgiving student debt.
  • The military budget in so-called Canada has increased over 70% in just a few years. We currently spend over 20 times on the military as the Canadian state than the federal government does on all environmental initiatives. - Rachel Small [3]
      • Canada is also spending more money on keeping climate migrants out than on stopping the climate crisis. "Canada is spending 15x more right now on the militarization of its borders than on the climate financing that is meant to mitigate climate change... in other words, Canada one of the countries most responsible for the climate crisis, is spending vastly more right now on arming its borders to keep migrants out that on tackling one of the crises that's forcing people to flee their homes in the first place." - Rachel Small
Mining minerals and burning fossil fuels for war
  • Not only are wars fought to extract more, but minerals extracted also circulate back into the construction of war machines.
  • "The Canadian mining industry is the global leader in mining for war machines from uranium, to metals, to rare earth elements used in every single F35 fighter jet bombing Gaza." -Rachel Small [4]
      • "Every single one of those F-35s has over 900 PBS of rare earth elements. These require open pit mines on an almost unfathomable scale to extract... and globally 1/4 of all greenhouse gas emissions come from mining... the field that Canada is the global leader on." - Rachel Small [5]
  • Military emissions aren't included in federal GHG reduction targets. A low estimate of global militarism’s contribution to global fossil fuel emissions is 5.5%. This is about 2x the GHG's of non-military flights. If global militarism were a country, it would rank 4th in greenhouse gas emissions. [6]

Military violence on Indigenous land defenders 

  • Indigenous peoples are regularly being attacked and surveilled by the Canadian and US military.
  • Abroad and all around the world, Indigenous land defenders against oil, gas and mining in their communities are met with militarized violence inflicted by their states. The companies extracting, transporting, burning and investing in this violence are companies from the Global North.
  • C-IRG, often deployed on Indigenous land defenders, is largely informed by former CIA director David Petraeus, the lead commander for the CIA who was on the ground during Afghanistan and Iraq. He's been testing his playbook on countering insurgencies on the Wet'suwet'en. - Maya Menezes [7]
Weapons kill people and the planet
  • Tens of millions of landminds and cluster bombs them are estimated to be on the earth. A 1993 U.S. State Department report called them “the most toxic and widespread pollution facing mankind.”
  • Land mines damage the environment in four ways: “fear of mines denies access to abundant natural resources and arable land; populations are forced to move preferentially into marginal and fragile environments in order to avoid minefields; this migration speeds depletion of biological diversity; and land-mine explosions disrupt essential soil and water processes.” - Jennifer Leaning
  • Toxins from war also remain in the land, air and water. For example, between 1944 and 1970 the U.S. military dumped chemical weapons into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. As the canisters of nerve gas and mustard gas slowly corrode and break open underwater, the toxins flow out, killing sea life and killing and injuring fishermen. [8]
  • We don't yet know the full extent of environmental degradation from Israel's attack on Gaza. A study by Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network explained in 2014, when Israel dropped 21,000 tonnes of explosives on the Gaza strip, it resulted in extensive soil damage and reduced agricultural productivity.

Examples from around the world

The occupation of Palestine[9]

Israel‘s occupation and apartheid, which denies Palestinians the right to manage their land and resources, makes them more vulnerable to climate-related events. Military powers are used to enforce the apartheid.  

  • Water: Gaza’s acute shortage of potable water from climate change was worsened by Israel’s restrictions on the entry of materials and fuel needed for wastewater treatment. Sewage infiltrated Gaza’s aquifer and flows untreated into Gaza’s coastal waters, damaging marine life and health. 97% of Gaza’s water is unhealthy for human consumption and contaminated water causes 1/4 of all illness in Gaza. While Palestinian villages struggle to adapt to water scarcity, Israeli settlements enjoy unlimited access to water for drinking, to irrigate crops and lawns, and for swimming pools. 640,000 settlers in the West Bank consume 6x the water of 2.9 million Palestinians.
  • Food: Israel’s military prevents Palestinians from using the 20% of Gaza's arable land next to Israel’s militarized fence, and targets Gaza’s farmland with herbicides. Israel's removal of olive trees to weaken Palestinians’ connection to the land and economic self-sufficiency is greenwashed by Israel's planting of trees. Israel has uprooted 800,000 olive trees since 1967. Olive trees represent peace and Palestinians connection to the land  
  • Energy: 98% of Israel’s electricity production comes from fossil fuels, and Palestinians are given an average of 12 hours per day to use it. Israelis are given unlimited access. Palestinians have turned to solar panels to create their own electricity. Panels have been targeted by Israel's bombing. Moreover, the Israeli military seizes solar panels sent by humanitarian aid groups for Palestinian communities, even while it has passed progressive laws requiring the installation of solar panels on all new buildings.
  • Waste: Israel routinely dumps its waste in occupied Palestine. Palestinians burn plastic waste for income, contributing to the increasing levels of cancer among Palestinians.
  • Funding from the West: Countries in the West support Israel's occupation by purchasing weapons and other goods from Israel, and selling weapons to Israel. Between 2018-2022, Canada imported $132 million dollars worth of weapons from Israel. Canadian companies such as Canada's big banks fund technology used by the Israeli military. For example, Scotia bank holds the largest foreign share of an Israeli weapons manufacturer. As of May 2024, over 30,000 Palestinians have been murdered from the war on Gaza.
 Military coup of Myanmar

  • Blood money campaign is a collective of Myanmar activists fighting to stop oil and gas revenues reaching the Myanmar military junta. They call for targeted sanctions of the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), impacting corporations like TotalEnergies, Petronas, PTTEP, and POSCO. Chevron has pulled out as a result.
      • Myanmar's military Junta enforced the Myanmar Conscription Law, forcing the peoples of Myanmar age 18-35 to serve. 2023 was the worst year for air strikes by the military on civilians in Myanmar since coup three years ago.
  • In addition to military violence, Myanmar has suffered massive climate change losses, ranking as the world’s second most affected country between 2000–2019.[10]
  • "An immediate consequence of the military crackdown is that key environmental activists left the country, were arrested or went into hiding. Local civil society organizations were able to advocate and take climate action, but now face considerable security risks and resource limitations." -Alex Lo and Shar Thae Hoy

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