WHO Is Responsible for the CO2 Build-up?

At the most basic and most fundamental level, living systems are defined by the ability to capture the sun’s energy and use it efficiently and competitively. Applying energy theory to cultural systems is tricky and, because humans and their cultural systems are relatively new on the planet, we do not yet know that these systems will face the competitive test successfully though many of us fear that they will not.
So to answer the question about who is responsible for increasing CO2, most of us know that we all are, to larger or smaller extent, and most of us have for a long time been aware of this and have done things to trim our personal CO2 outputs. We know we need to go much further and our societies need to change policies drastically. We also know that control of energy is a big, and I would say the biggest, driver of cultural change over time. It also is a driver of population growth, and population growth feeds back into the system and increases pressures on energy.
The simplest statement of the energy thesis as applied to human cultures is in my fellow anthropologist Leslie White’s book (1949) The Science of Culture; Farrar, Straus and Company, New York, but even a more specific and more nuanced examination of prehistory would arrive at the same conclusion.
With the drive for increased energy has come the application of energy to military domination, a trend that can be traced back at least 5000 years—likely longer. Today, it is clear that military CO2 uses are implicated in rising CO2, in the US and elsewhere. It’s hard to get accurate information on how much energy the military uses and how much CO2 it puts into the air. In recent months, we are told, the defense department is trying to use more renewable sources of energy but in so doing it has come under criticism by Senators such as John McCain, who argue against any such restrictions on the military. So this is what we are up against in developing sane energy policies.
To get a sense of the problem, I recommend The Green Zone, subtitled The Environmental Costs of Militarism, by Barry Sanders (AK Press, 2009). The author discusses the difficulty of getting data on this topic—and the difficulty helps explain why little is written about the topic and makes the book even more valuable and worth reading. Though slightly out of date, the book still gives the picture. About 3/4ths of its energy consumption goes to fuel, and the US defense establishment purchases more light refined petroleum than any other organization, or any other country, in the world (p. 50). Other chapters discuss environmental and health problems that our passion for military hardware, whether deployed or not, produces.
Stopping coal trains and stopping fracking are two goals at the top of my list, but in working to do these, we also need to not forget that militarism and the continued push for domination and control lie barely below the surface. Without recognizing and addressing these, we don’t stand a chance.

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