The U.S. Military: Enemy of the Environment

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Shutting down the Pentagon is a critical task in the fight to save our planet

by Chas Beshears
From Freedom Socialist, Aug-Sept 2008

It’s no secret that Planet Earth is wading into heavier environmental disaster by the hour. Be it deforestation, pollution, climate changing greenhouse gas emissions, or species extinction, the global ecosystem has been significantly altered. What’s too often not discussed is that world military activities are a huge source of this ecological degradation. Imagine advancing life by dismantling the militaries!

Not surprisingly, the United States military bears the biggest responsibility for military-caused environmental deterioration. This includes burning fossil fuels and poisoning the land.

Take oil for example. The U.S. military is the single largest consumer of energy in the world, three-quarters of which comes from petroleum. Each day this country’s military burns 340,000 barrels of oil. Taxpayers foot the Pentagon’s oil bill to the tune of $20 billion per year.

Half of this oil is used in jet fighters. A U.S. F-16 fighter jet, in less than 30 minutes, requires as much crude oil as the average U.S. driver needs for gasoline in a lifetime.

If the U.S. disbanded its armed forces, like Costa Rica and a few other countries, the fuel saved could run every mass transit system. Can there be any contest between the usefulness of free mass transit and a fighter jet?

How about toxic waste? The U.S. Department of Defense also tops the list on producing this deadly garbage. Even the top three international chemical companies combined do not surpass the 750 million tons of toxic waste that the Pentagon generates per year. This has created over 20,000 hazardous sites in the U.S. And our military still has 25 million acres of land at its disposal.

Besides bombs and bullets, global militarization also kills humans and other life through nuclear contamination. Radioactive fallout from nuclear testing has caused an estimated 150,000 premature deaths and 86,000 birth defects worldwide. The long term consequences of radioactivity are unimaginable, because land can be rendered uninhabitable for thousands of years or more.

The military indirectly worsens our natural habitat as well. Factories produce the weapons and vehicles that militaries consume. The electrical energy currently required to make these products comes primarily from, you guessed it, fossil fuels. Industrial production for warfare activities is very high, sometimes surpassing what’s manufactured for civilian use.

There is a solution. A demilitarized planet. This would significantly reduce the total environmental degeneration. It would also save $1 trillion in global resources, which could provide generous human services, and help smooth the transition to an existence sustained by renewable clean energy.

A world without standing armies and air forces and navies and marines can only be achieved under a socialist, democratically planned economy, which serves human needs and sustains a healthy habitat. With this as the foundation, creative progressive environmentalism would be unleashed.

What can we do? Work together to make the revolution happen sooner rather than later. The damage that’s already been done will only be mitigated through sane environmental policies.

With a commitment to being stewards of the planet, and with a scientific understanding of the delicate balance of life, we could even revitalize our environment. Reforestation and carbon sequestration are two examples.

The fate of the world really is in our hands!

Chas Beshears is politically active in Portland, Oregon and is currently attending law school. Email at

1 Comment

  • Excellent article!, we, costaricans, live the benefits of no army every day.
    Did you know that on the act of army abolition, back in 1940s, very few people clapped hands? Including the US delegation, of course.
    This is a good topic to analyze.
    I know it hurts the US pride (nationalism), but what about NASA?
    Is it worth its astronomic budget and environmental cost?
    Did you need to send a guy to the moon to be happy?
    Wasn’t any poverty in the world at that time?
    I can imagine a LOT of better uses for the money, including technology for a better world, not for taking a single man for a brief walk on the moon, for me that is selfish pride, nothing to do with the good values of our western double talk.