Tuesday, December 1, 2009

TheMilitary-Industrial Complex from an Ecological Perspective

I found this wonderful article tonight. 20th Century history where humans inhabit the landscape as "detritovores":
"...When General Eisenhower, as retiring president, warned the American people to beware of unwarranted influence wielded by the military-industrial complex, it was presumably political and economic influence that he had in mind.

But the military-industrial complex was a vast conglomeration of occupational niches. As such, it wielded an altogether different (and even more insidious) kind of influence. The military-industrial complex helped perpetuate the illusion that we still had a carrying capacity surplus; it made it profitable for the living generation to extract and use up natural resources that might otherwise have been left for posterity. It absorbed for a while most of the excess labor force displaced by technological progress from older occupational niches that had been less dependent on drawing down reservoirs of exhaustible resources. It thus helped us believe that the Age of Exuberance could go on.

Nor was General Eisenhower alone in missing the ecological significance and over-emphasizing the political elements in the trends of' his time. His young, articulate, and sophisticated Bostonian successor launched a new administration with an inaugural address whose inspirational quality lay partly in its eloquent resolution of American ambivalence. If we wanted to maintain full employment, we dreaded achieving it by means of an arms race. Subtly, and with the gloss of' high idealism, John F. Kennedy reassured the nationwide television audience on that crisp, brilliant January day in 1961 that the temporary occupational niches of the military-industrial complex could be long-lasting and could be made more honorable than horrible. There was to be a "new Alliance for Progress," and we were to hope for emancipation from the "uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of' mankind's final war." But the conflict-bred niches would last, for "the trumpet summons us again . . . to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle year in and year out . . . against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself." Under both parties, the military-industrial complex enabled us to be preoccupied with matters that helped us ignore resource limits. It helped thereby to obscure the fact that population was expanding to fill niches that could not be permanent because they were founded upon drawing down prehistoric savings, exhaustible fossil energy stocks.

The human family, even if it were soon to stop growing, had committed itself to living beyond its means. Homo sapiens, as we saw in Chapter 9, was capable of transforming himself into new "quasi-species." By the Industrial Revolution humans had turned themselves into "detritovores," dependent on ravenous consumption of long-since accumulated organic remains, especially petroleum...."[1]

Industrialization: Prelude to Collapse
by William Catton
(Excerpt from Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change)

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