Pope Francis Goes Green, Balancing Science and Religion (2/2)
In part two, Janet Redman and Blase Bonpane analyze the Pope’s encyclical, the military-industrial complex, war budgets and effects of GHG emissions on the poor.
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. This is segment two. We are having a discussion about Pope Francis’s encyclical about climate change and the environment, and we were in discussions with two guests.
And they’re joining us, one of them is joining us from Santa Barbara, California. That’s Blase Bonpane. And Blase is the director of the Office of the Americas. He served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala and has written five books, including Guerrillas of Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American Revolution. Joining us from Washington, DC is Janet Redman. Janet is the director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Welcome back, to both of you.
JANET REDMAN, DIR. CLIMATE POLICY PROGRAM, IPS: Thank you.
BLASE BONPANE: You know, our great Republican president Eisenhower should be heard by today’s Republicans, and I think the Pope would be very pleased with Eisenhower’s comments. He stated that every gun that is made is a theft from the poor. Nothing could be more correct than that. It’s a theft from the poor. He told us and warned us about the military-industrial–and he put in a word, Congressional, Wall Street complex, which was removed from his speech by some subversive, but it was in there initially. He was telling us–and we have seen the takeover of our nation by the military-industrial-congressional-prison-gun-process.
PERIES: And a symptom of that is being prepared for perpetual war and enacting ongoing wars, because once you develop these guns and build this machinery and buy this equipment, you actually have to do something with it.
BONPANE: Perpetual war means perpetual profit. We just had a statement from the CEO of Lockheed Martin saying, these are growth opportunities. The tension between Japan and China, the wars in the Middle East. These are growth opportunities. This is what we want, in other words. So we want perpetual war. We really don’t care about the lives of our wonderful young people who die in vain. We don’t care about the children in the Middle East. The majority of the people we’re killing are children. I think it’s time for us to take a spiritual perspective and understand that this is the face of evil. It’s what St. Paul called the principalities and powers. He used that as a word for diabolical.
PERIES: Janet, one of the things that we don’t often get a chance to address is the fact that the military is one of the greatest emitters of carbon emissions into the air. Can you tell us more about that?
REDMAN: Yeah. I think what’s interesting is that the emissions of the military are not always counted. I will say on behalf of the–not on behalf of the military. In the military’s defense, in the armed services’ defense in the United States, certainly they are greenwashing their image in many ways by talking about the emissions that they produce via their installments, their practices, their equipment, machinery, transport, and talk often about how they’re taking steps to reduce their emissions. In fact, there was a lot of conversation over the past few years about moving to biofuels, for example, in aircraft carriers.
That’s great. That’s wonderful. I kind of put that in the same category as Wal-Mart going to organic food. Great, it’s better than using–it’s better than having worst practices, but it certainly is a diversion, to say kind of look over here, and don’t look at the fact that our entire purpose for existence is to perpetuate violence, domination and imperialism. We don’t really use the military to protect ourselves. That would be a totally different conversation, I don’t think we would still be kind of [for] the military. But right now our military presence is really about securing resources.
So when we think about the emissions of the military and the emissions of the practices of the military, we also need to think about the emissions of the resources that our military is set up to grab. So when we think–again, we’ve had conversation after conversation about resource grab wars, particularly around oil, particularly in the Middle East, that those wars are not just to grab resources in the countries we occupy but to set a stage so we can ensure that we have resource flow to our own country, our allies, and the corporations who call our country home.
So we need to take a really big step back when we talk about military dominance and its role in the climate conversation. Again, one of the things that some generals have said before–many years ago there was a number of generals who produced a paper that said, actually, climate change is going to be one of the drivers of instability globally, and it will make us have to spend more money on our military if we don’t solve the climate change problem.
So if there are people out there who really think the military is about ensuring stability, then that’s another reason to solve climate change and to demand of the military that it change its practices and that it move out of the realm of, the role of ensuring that we have more access to fossil fuel, that we’re burning more, more fossil fuel and emitting more greenhouse gas. It’s a very dangerous feedback loop that we’re involved in with our military right now.
BONPANE: The most decorated general in our history was General Smedley Butler in the 1930s. He wrote the book War is a Racket, and he said, why don’t those oil companies put an oil pump on the flag and call it their flag? And that was Smedley Butler. Then by the same last name, recently, Lee Butler, who was in charge of SAC, the Strategic Air Command, all of the nuclear weapons we have, came out for absolute abolishing of nuclear weapons. And he’s just written his book, General Lee Butler.
So two generals with the same last name are telling us, time’s up for the war system. We have to build a peace system to be in sync with keeping this planet alive.
PERIES: Blase, what do you think of what Janet just said, in terms of the effects that climate change and the melting ice caps and the rising sea levels are having in terms of the poor, for example in developing countries. Island nations in particular are going to have rising sea levels, which is going to threaten their livelihood. They’re going to be looking to escape that environment, and the military thinks that this might be one of the greatest threats facing us today. Your thoughts on that?
BONPANE: We currently have tens of millions of people who are roving this earth looking for a place to stay. We have never had so many people disrupted since World War II, being disrupted, being uprooted, come second only to death. Once you’re totally uprooted like that you’re out of your culture, you’re out of your language. We are already seeing islands disappear. We’re already seeing the coasts rising throughout the Asian area and in many other parts of the earth. We have to be able to read the signs of the times. These great canyons, the Grand Canyon is like a book. A lot of pages there, the striations. Each striation is another billion years.
Here we are having done more damage in a few centuries than have been done in millions of years, and not to be in touch with that is to be vincibly ignorant, which means to have an ignorance which can be conquered and is not being conquered, and we can’t afford to be vincibly ignorant.
But our spending on war is destroying our education system. The colleges we have throughout the country, like the University of California, were free. They were public. And now, through some kind of disgusting privatization, students and their debt have increased more than credit card debt. This is very destructive. The infrastructure of our nation is being destroyed. As Dr. King said, every bomb that falls on Vietnam is falling on us. And that’s what’s happening with our perpetual war system, which is making people disgusting wealthy on the lives of our great citizens.
PERIES: Janet, last word to you.
REDMAN: Yeah, I think what’s really important right now, particularly in the context of this year and this next six months is that we’re about to enter into a global conversation on how to solve climate change. Again, so [inaud.] we’re talking about the UN climate summit in December.
I think what I’m taking away from this conversation right now is that none of that is on the table at this most important meeting where 196 heads of state will come and sign a new global climate deal. There isn’t conversation about militarism and war. There isn’t conversation, really, about talking about the drivers of poverty. There’s some language about poverty eradication and sustainable development, but are we really talking about changing the fundamental nature of our economy, changing our moral compass so we’re looking at the intersection of inequality and climate change, the intersection of poverty and those who are most impacted by economic systems that drive climate change and ecological destruction? That’s not even on the table. We’re going to be talking about, how can we get China to do more than we’re doing? Or how can we get China to do as much as we’re doing?
So I hope that one of the things that this encyclical does is actually move the conversation, heading toward this Paris climate deal, to compel all of us in civil society, in government, in the organizations that will be involved there in the leadership but also in the movements moving forward to really talk about this moral compass, to talk about the intersection of economy and environment, to talk about the intersection of ecology and inequality, and solve those root causes of both problems.
BONPANE: I was going to say that we developed after World War II the United Nations, which was to end the scourge of war. And it is so tragic that our country has taken over, and our president would actually ask Ban Ki-Moon not to list certain disasters, like what happened in Gaza, because, just for purely political reasons.
The President of the United States is not to tell the Secretary General of the United Nations what to do. The internationalism is required at this time. The laws of the United States, 4 percent of the world’s people, can do nothing to save the air which has no boundaries, nothing to save the one ocean that we have. Our laws are completely incompetent. International law and order is essential if we’re going to save this planet, and we have to look at it that way, and understand that we are very few–we’re really one people, if you look at it. It’s one race, it’s called the human race, and then we have all the wonderful flora and fauna that go with it. All of it is part of the unity that has to be saved.
Nationalism, at this point, and fundamentalist nationalism, is as outdated as the city-states of old. We have to grow up to the times. The world does not depend, and should not depend on what a few politicians in Washington want to do. Some of them are willing to have a war in order to get elected, because their objective is to get elected. We hear people like Senator McCain, I mean, he’s talking about bomb, bomb, bomb. Maybe he’s thinking of what he did in the past. But this is not the way to look at the problem today. We have to look at it globally. It’s a global problem, and we have to stop the parochial thinking, [I] might say, of just thinking about our rich, our Wall Street, their profit. I’m sorry, that is not the answer to the problem.
PERIES: Blase Bonpane and Janet Redman, I thank you both for joining us and helping us enrich this discussion at The Real News Network.
REDMAN: Thank you very much.
BONPANE: Thank you very much, Sharmini, and thank you, Janet.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.