If money talks, what does it say that Canada spends 12 times more on the Department of National Defence than it does on Environment Canada, and 120 times more on defence than it does on climate change mitigation?
Last year we spent $18.8 billion on defence, our largest single program expense, more than double what we spent on crown corporations, and three times what we spent on the departments of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries & Oceans combined. The defence budget is our fastest growing expense and will surpass $30 billion in 2027.
We're following the lead of the US, which has long been the big spender at the officer's club. According to the Centre for Research on Globalization, in 2007 "the US Navy had 285 combat and support ships and around 4,000 operational aircraft. The US Army had 28,000 armored vehicles, 140,000 High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, more than 4,000 combat helicopters, several hundred fixed-wing aircraft and 187,493 fleet vehicles."
All those instruments of destruction run on oil and emit greenhouse gases. The US military is, in fact, the largest polluter in the world, and uses six percent of the world's energy. If it were a country, it would be the 38th largest consumer of oil---sucking back 320,000 barrels of oil everyday---right behind The Philippines (population: 90 million).
The world's militaries release nearly a 10th of all carbon emissions, yet are exempt from international climate change treaties. That exemption was a neat trick by the Bush administration, which lobbied for it in Kyoto and still didn't sign the damn treaty.
Canada also chooses destruction over protection. Almost all the money we spend in Afghanistan is for fighting. A mere sliver goes to humanitarian aid.
The impact of these "investments" is beyond tragic. Putting aside the obvious direct human toll, consider the even more lasting remnants.
Since 1991 the US military has turned the world's breadbasket, Eden itself, into a Woody Guthrie dustbowl ballad. Iraq is suffering a massive water shortage, and 90 percent desertification. Its floodplains are dry and its groundwater severely depleted, its marshes have been drained and the former food exporter now imports 80 percent of its sustenance.
Lucky Iraqis who don't get blown up or starve to death might live long enough to die of depleted uranium induced cancer. A leaked UK Atomic Energy report revealed that the 50 tonnes of depleted uranium unleashed on Iraq during the first Oil War could "cause up to half a million additional cancer deaths over several decades."
Back in ancient history, the military used Agent Orange to defoliate Vietnamese forests, expose enemy troops, destroy crops and starve peasants. Fourteen percent of South Vietnam's forests were destroyed.
Vietnamese children born long after the war have dioxin levels 300 times higher than the acceptable level. They have suffered birth defects, skin and lung cancers and serious mental and psychological challenges.
The damage is not all in far away hotspots. John Hummel, a health researcher in British Columbia, identifies 12 Canadian federal sites contaminated with chemical or biological weapons. Those don't include military oceanic contamination.
Right here in Halifax, a $42.7-billion company, Lockheed Martin, enjoys Canadian and Nova Scotian subsidies. Last year, the company won $1.8 million in payroll rebates from the province, after promising 100 new jobs. This was after it got $2 billion from the feds to upgrade and maintain Navy frigates in Halifax Harbour.
"For a billion dollars we could have 6,000 new jobs at Environment Canada," notes Tamara Lorincz, director of the Nova Scotia Environment Network.
She adds that Nova Scotia is the only province to have a Minister of Military Relations and an Advisor of Military Affairs. According to the province's website, "This reflects on the long and proud history of the relationship between the military and its host province of Nova Scotia."
"Even my enviro friends have a heroic vision of the military," Lorincz says. "But Canada ranks 55th in peacekeeping, our focus has shifted away from peace."
This shift doesn't reflect Canadian values as expressed in polls. Our top priorities are always health, education and environment. So why does government spend this way?
"Lockheed Martin has 21 paid lobbyists on Parliament Hill," Lorincz says, "and none from environment, women or peace groups, which can't afford it."
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