Greenfield Recorder, June 7, 2022

This report “is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.” Such was the response of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to the Feb. 28, 2022report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) documenting the present and future impact of the climate crisis on humans and society.

Half the world’s population — more than 3.6 billion people, mostly poorer Africans and south Asian — live with heightened risk of lifethreatening floods, wildfires, heatwaves, rising sea levels, droughts, and climate-related respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses due to the apathy of wealthy, powerful governments. The privileged governments, most responsible for impending climate catastrophe, fail yearly to meet their inadequate greenhouse gas emissions targets and fall short in promised climate adaptation money to developing countries. Moreover, President Biden recently ordered more production of oil and gas on public lands, betraying campaign promises to “tackle the climate emergency,” a move that is moral madness.

We have barely enough time to save the planet and ourselves, the recent IPCC report ominously warns. By 2025 — just three years from now — if we have not stopped increasing greenhouse gas emissions, we will fail to keep climate crises from “putting us on track toward an unlivable world.”

Who, except climate scientists, youth activists and the most climatevulnerable of the world, are paying attention? Since February 20, 2022, western news media has focused laserlike on the criminal Russian war in Ukraine, a European war putting some 40 million Ukrainian people at risk, with barely a back page mention of the IPCC’s damning report and the billions of people of the Global South in the deadly path of climate Armageddon. The fossil-fueled war in Ukraine has preempted our global climate crisis and the desperate need for action. On April 6 more than 1,000 climate scientists engaged in unprecedented civil disobedience — blocking bridges and chaining themselves to fossil fuel-friendly banks and the White House fence. Their central message is that major governments are not diminishing their use of fossil fuels [in fact, the U.S. and NATO are expanding it, providing extremely fuel-intensive weapons to Ukraine], and that we are in the “11th hour in terms of Earth breakdown.”

“Everything we love is at risk … including civilization itself and the wonderful, beautiful cosmically precious life on this planet,” said climate scientist Peter Kalmus chained to the front door of major fossilfuel funder JPMorgan Chase building in Los Angeles. Kalmus and his fellow protesters were arrested by 100 LA police officers in riot gear.

Their April 6 action received miniscule media coverage. Follow the money Federal budgets are moral documents; they mirror a nation’s values and more tangibly, its heart and soul. President Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 allocates $813 billion to the Pentagon for weapons and war-making.

The proposed State Department budget for 2023 is $60.4 billion, about 7 % of the Pentagon’s budget. What does this say about the value our government places on peace negotiations for the goal of avoiding or ending war, allocating 7 cents for conflict resolution for every dollar dedicated to weapons of war? It’s not even 7 cents for peace negotiations since the State Department, allegedly our diplomacy arm in conflicts, negotiates arms deals
and military training, as they are currently doing in Ukraine.

Our government has failed to put the talent, tenacity and political will into negotiating an end to Russia’s war of aggression and to saving Ukraine from more inevitable death and destruction. Rather, it is stoking ongoing conflict, while widespread hunger from Ukrainian and Russian wheat, corn and cooking oil shortages grows and the planet more rapidly burns up.

If the federal budget mirrors a government’s heart and soul, which I think it does, our national government is riddled with heart disease and soul decay. If humanity and much of life on Earth is to survive, we desperately need a climate revolution and a peace revolution. We do not need another Cold War with Russia and China, nor hundreds of fossil fuel and weapons lobbyists lining the pockets of members of Congress, nor an elephant-sized U.S. military budget (the sole budget item Republicans and Democrats can agree on) in 2023, with crumbs from the master’s table left for diplomacy and clean energy.

P.S. On May 18, we honored student peacemakers in Franklin County, among them youth trained by Quabbin Mediation, who invest more passion, skill and purpose into peaceful conflict resolution in their schools than the U.S. is dedicating to ending the Russian/Ukraine conflict.

Pat Hynes, of Montague, is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice. Her recent book “Hope, But Demand Justice” was published by Haley’s Publishing and is available through local bookstores and online.