On Earth Day 2019, anti-war activists in Albuquerque, NM rallied to protest the greatest of all polluters, the biggest offender and vandaliser of the environment in the world: the United States military. With 800 bases in over 70 countries, there is no greater polluter of the air, the water and the land than the military.
Dozens of activists and community members demonstrated at the doorstep of Kirtland Air Force Base, a sprawling 50,000 acre military stronghold in southern Albuquerque, ironically situated within shouting distance of the “war zone,” one of the city’s most economically deprived neighborhoods.
The Pentagon and war-related industries are responsible for destroying the physical environment wherever they spread their tentacles – through war, military exercises, weapons testing, gratuitous pollution and waste. Albuquerque is no exception.
Not far beneath the site of Albuquerque’s Earth Day demonstration sits the largest aquifer contamination in U.S. history, caused by Kirtland AFB and never cleaned up. A plume of jet fuel–larger than the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill–caused by a 45-year continuous leak that began in 1953 is still spreading toxic carcinogens. Kirtland AFB continues to minimize the effects of this spill, refusing to take responsibility for its breach of the public trust. This is just one example of what happens on a global scale when the war machine conducts its dirty business.
Activist and co-emcee Karina Rodgers recounted her experience at a “public outreach event” organized by Kirtland AFB and the New Mexico Environment Department. When she asked, “Why did it take so long for the NMED and the KAFB to start treating the water,” an Air Force spokesperson condescendingly responded, “Science is complicated.”
The real reason jet fuel still poisons Albuquerque residents has nothing to do with “complicated science,” but with the fact that the rich and powerful of the U.S. capitalist economic system are not motivated by good will, and will never put the needs of the planet and people ahead of profits.
There is no better proof than the trillions of dollars spent by the ruling class on the Pentagon, while the amount appropriated for the environment is a tiny fraction of this gigantic sum.
At the protest, huge numbers of passing cars honked their support and gave enthusiastic thumbs-ups. Some pulled over and joined the rally. Activists from the Albuquerque chapter of Veterans for Peace bundled up and stood ground against an oncoming rain storm.
It was not only the jet fuel spill that brought Albuquerque’s Earth Day activists to Kirtland AFB. Activists also highlighted the need to resist the nuclear industry’s plans to turn southern New Mexico into a toxic-waste sacrifice zone by relocating every drop of high-level radioactive nuclear waste in the country, present and future, to this impoverished state.
Proposed by Holtec International and now under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the plan would incentivize the expansion of nuclear energy as the carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels–at the expense of solar and wind–with the alluring idea that populations could receive the benefits of nuclear energy production and then send away all the risks associated with storing lethal waste to far off New Mexico! Some high-level radioactive waste products won’t stop being dangerous for hundreds of thousands or millions of years. No radioactive waste treatment and management system is sophisticated enough to work for one million years. So, when leaks occur, the nuclear industry wants it to be the lives of poor and mostly Indigenous and Mexican American communities in New Mexico that they are gambling with.
The environmental racism could not be more apparent!
It is the Pentagon and war-industries that prowl around the globe defending the “right” of giant predatory corporations and the largest banks to plunge humanity into ecological crisis in the name of short-term profits. It is critical at this phase in world history that the movement to save the Earth deliberately challenge the militarism of the corporations, banks and capitalist politicians.