A PEACE/ECOLOGICAL MANIFESTO
The goal of a peaceful world ultimately depends on building global cooperation and achieving human security for all, within the regenerative limits of our finite planet.
But humanity currently faces two existential threats to its existence: nuclear annihilation and ecological collapse, the latter arising mainly from global warming and species extinction.
Military strategists, and their political collaborators, believe they can deliver collective security against these harms through the ruling doctrine of “national security”. They believe they can deter the threat of potential nuclear aggression through accumulating more destructive nuclear weapons, and thus keep the peace. Ominously they are now extending this same reliance on militarization to the task of dealing with the destabilizing effects of global warming; climate change, too, is seen as an ever more exigent national security threat. These strategists have identified extreme weather as a “threat multiplier”, exacerbating national conflicts, generating political disorder, and providing fertile terrain for terrorism and civil war. Severe weather events, intolerable temperatures, desertification and famine also foment northward migration, and, in their framing, put border security at risk. Finally, climate change is seen as opening up new regions for resource extraction and navigation (the Arctic), and hence new theatres of military contestation.
What follows from the national-security doctrine is an unending justification for the expansion of military budgets. More funding is allegedly needed to build new generations of weapons, to buttress operational capabilities in new theatres, to intervene in collapsed states, to fortify borders, and to build the analytical, police, digital and intelligence skills to assert hegemony in this dangerous world. Not coincidentally, expanded military and security budgets also serve the interests of the military-industrial-security-intellectual complex. This vast amalgam of vested interests is an expansion of the “military-industrial complex” about which President Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans in 1961. It is a powerful buttress of conventional thinking about security.
But militarism and the national-security system are not the solution to the civilizational challenge, but a major element of the problem. States, on a global level, plan to spend vast sums on new generations of nuclear weapons and expanded military and police capabilities in the next decade. However, citizens will end up more insecure and vulnerable as a result. Bloated militaries will not save us from new pandemics, global warming, mass poverty and vast intra-national and international inequalities. New, complex nuclear weapons systems increase the risk of accidental exchanges, and the potential for a nuclear winter. And the armed forces are a major source of the greenhouse gas emissions that propel global warming.
Beyond these immediate concerns lies a deeper reality. Indirectly, militaries and security forces buttress the status quo, which in our case is a fossil-fuel status quo. But what we need is systemic change to deal with problems, especially global warming and inequities, that are deeply rooted in our socio-economic system.
We need a redirection of the vast sums expended on weapons systems. These funds need to be channelled into climate-change mitigation and adaptation, into overcoming poverty, into forestalling pandemics, and into alleviating global injustices. We, as a society, need to rethink our priorities and, above all, what it means to be “secure”.
We at Science for Peace, along with many other peace, environmental and social-justice organizations, call for human security and global cooperation as an alternative to obsolete notions of national security. This proposal is not Utopian, but a practical necessity. Our present course leads to societal and ecological destruction. We need an alternative vision.
“Human security” emerged in the 1990s to challenge both mainstream development doctrine, with its focus on growth through markets rather than on human needs, and the doctrine of national security. The latter is a state-based notion of security, which is premised on military prowess and the ability to deter or defeat all “threats” to maintaining a country’s economic and political power. In contrast, human security proposes that the proper focus for security is the individual within society, not the nation-state.
Peace on a global basis is possible only if the basic rights of all, as spelled out in the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, are met. Human security encompasses four sets of fundamental rights: political/personal security, economic security, health (including food) security and ecological security. The last is the prerequisite for life itself, and thus a prerequisite for all other rights.
Global cooperation is also essential to the survival and flourishing of human beings and other species. The challenges posed by nuclear weapons, global warming and species extinction are global in scope and require global cooperation and action. Yet this cooperation is unlikely to arise if states are armed to the teeth and if a powerful military- industrial-security-intellectual complex prevails, with its vested interest in the prevailing national-security doctrine. The deep tensions between the United States and its two nuclear-armed adversaries, China and Russia, not only raise the spectre of a nuclear exchange, but also undermine the cooperation needed to prevent catastrophic climate change.
We need therefore to re-envision what we mean by security. The measure of a state’s success is not military prowess and the ability to intimidate other states. It is to advance human security, which can only be achieved through disarmament, the redirection of financial and intellectual resources from military uses, global cooperation, and ecological balance. The fate of our species and of our fellow species, whose survival is intrinsically as important as our own, depends on our finding this new path.