Ok, so maybe not ALL Americans are. I’ve been seeing more and more folks out on bikes, and that’s awesome. It shows that some people are really thinking, linking our dependency on oil to the catastrophe in the Gulf. It’s not boycotting BP that will make change (especially since there are just as many people willing to line up at BP stations to make sure that local businesses aren’t punished for the actions of the corporation they’re franchised with), but ACTUALLY REDUCING OUR USE OF THE STUFF. This seems so simple to me that it shocks me that it’s apparently opaque to some people. Instead we’ve got folks boycotting BP but filling up their Hummers at the Exxon and idling their engines in the kid’s carpool line. Protest and such is just ego-stroking theater if it’s not backed up by effective action.
But no, the rather harsh title above was inspired by this little gem: Back to the Future robotic shoe laces. I shit you not. When we should be trying to find ways to use less energy, along comes this moronic item. Please tell me this is not going to be the next “must have.” And I thought Silly Bandz were stupid! At least they don’t involve a computer chip and an energy source.
Still, a million idiots using robotic laces for a year probably won’t throw the carbon into the air that one day of war does. My book focuses on war because it’s the number one way we’re making the planet uninhabitable. (There’s also the social-justice issues involved: killing civilians, recruiting our own military from among the poor and dispossessed, spending all our tax money on arms instead of education and health care, for starters.) Here’s a great essay by William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), posted at Common Dreams, about why in America war seems to have become a way of life: Hope and Change Fade, but War Endures. The whole thing is worth reading, but I won’t quote it all. He lists seven reasons WHY we insist on making war, but then, in a move that endears him to me (I like positivity!), he offers suggestions for how to cap each of those “wellsprings.”
1. Let’s reject the idea that war is either admirable or good — and in the process, remind ourselves that others often see us as “the foreign fighters” and profligate war consumers who kill innocents (despite our efforts to apply deadly force in surgically precise ways reflecting “courageous restraint”).
2. Let’s cut defense spending now, and reduce the global “mission” that goes with it. Set a reasonable goal — a 6-8% reduction annually for the next 10 years, until levels of defense spending are at least back to where they were before 9/11 — and then stick to it.
3. Let’s stop privatizing war. Creating ever more profitable incentives for war was always a ludicrous idea. It’s time to make war a non-profit, last-resort activity. And let’s revive national service (including elective military service) for all young adults. What we need is a revived civilian conservation corps, not a new civilian “expeditionary” force.
4. Let’s reverse the militarization of so many dimensions of our society. To cite one example, it’s time to empower truly independent (non-embedded) journalists to cover our wars, and stop relying on retired generals and admirals who led our previous wars to be our media guides. Men who are beholden to their former service branch or the current defense contractor who employs them can hardly be trusted to be critical and unbiased guides to future conflicts.
5. Let’s recognize that expensive high-tech weapons systems are not war-winners. They’ve kept us in the game without yielding decisive results — unless you measure “results” in terms of cost overruns and burgeoning federal budget deficits.
6. Let’s retool our economy and reinvest our money, moving it out of the military-industrial complex and into strengthening our anemic system of mass transit, our crumbling infrastructure, and alternative energy technology. We need high-speed rail, safer roads and bridges, and more wind turbines, not more overpriced jet fighters.
7. Finally, let’s banish nightmare scenarios from our minds. The world is scary enough without forever imagining smoking guns morphing into mushroom clouds.
Amen! He adds, though, “Nonetheless, if we as a society aren’t willing to work hard for actual change — indeed, to demand it — we’ll be on that military escalatory curve until we implode. And that way madness lies.” The same can be said of our dependence on oil. As I mentioned in my statement accompanying my poem, “Pallinode,” at Poets for Living Waters, the two issues are inextricable.