At the 2018 Scot.E3 conference we were fortunate to have a contribution from Andrew Feinstein from Corruption Watch and author of ‘The Shadow World – Inside the Global Arms Trade’. Andrew made the case that ending the arms economy should be an integral part of a broader strategy of tackling the climate crisis. In the course of the year this topic has been raised again at meetings that we’ve held or participated in. Some people have argued that whatever your opinion on the arms trade – taking arms divestment on board at the same time as taking measures to decarbonize is a distraction. Others have supported Andrew’s view and in the course of this debate the outline of a more developed and strategic view has emerged. We hope that this can be developed further in the course of the 2019 conference.
This autumn a number of peace organisations have joined up with Extinction Rebellion to organise around XR Peace. The London October rebellion included a number of actions highlighting the links between war and the environment. XR Peace has focused on the massive carbon footprint of the military, the environmental devastation cause by war and social and economic upheavals as a result of climate change as a cause of conflict.
In the discussions that we have been involved in throughout the year other reasons for including arms and ‘defence’ divestment in our strategy have emerged. The first is very pragmatic. There is a pressing need to switch from energy systems that produce green house gases (carbon emissions) to zero carbon technologies. These technologies exist and it perfectly possible to implement them. But to make the transition at the speed that is required requires the skills and labour of a large number of engineers, electricians and other specialists. Most of these jobs will have to be done by people already in the workforce. Some of them work in oil and gas and as these carbon-based sources of energy are phased out they can be redeployed in the new renewable industries. But there are not enough people in oil and gas – we also need the skills of those currently employed in the military industrial complex. Shifting from arms to renewables is morally right but it’s also an economic imperative if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Image: Pete Cannell CC0
There are of course other economic reasons too. Levels of investment and state support for the arms trade and for the military are huge. Our economies are distorted by the privileged position that the major arms companies (along with the big energy corporations) occupy. These privileges go hand in glove with eye watering levels of corruption and huge levels of corporate lobbying with a revolving door through which politicians and executives continually move and switch roles. It’s these relationships which actively oppose realistic attempts to take action over climate and as a movement we need to demand that state support and investment ends, lobbying stops and arrangements are put in place for a rapid shift to sustainable and ethical employment for those who work in these industries. These demands have a particular resonance in Scotland where the Trident nuclear system and arms manufacturing have had a disproportionate impact on our economy.
Image: Wikimedia Commons