Today being Remembrance Day, there are a lot of news stories, chain e-mails, facebook posts, and the like, all glorifying our veterans. In particular, I saw a photo of a little boy, maybe 8 or 10, in a military-style uniform, saluting a casket in a military graveyard. The caption says “Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll take care of Mom”.
This is sad, to me, on so many levels, though maybe not the intended one. It is touching, and all, but if his father is a recent casualty, especially an American one, he probably died in a war that was not about freedom, or defending his country, or even defending innocents in another country. Although thinly veiled under a guise of promoting democracy, most of the wars that the First World has taken an interest in are based on resources…mostly oil.
You see, First World folks, including myself, and, if you are reading this post on a home computer in a climate-controlled home, probably you too, use a disproportionate amount of all of the world’s resources, including oil. We have central heating and air conditioning in our homes, drive car long distances to work, import food grown thousands of miles away out of season, and use and dispose of millions of tons of plastic stuff that we really don’t need, or maybe even want, but feel we have to acquire and replace in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses.
Peak oil is a certainty – sooner or later, we will have used up half of the oil that ever existed. In fact, it is commonly believed that the global peak occurred around 2005. Not that oil will run out anytime soon, but it will get more expensive, harder to find, and subject to more demand as there is less available. People get all upset about mining the tar sands in Alberta, but then turn around and support a dirty wars in third-world Middle Eastern countries that are all about resource extraction and have a much greater environmental and civilian toll than the tar sands ever will. Sometimes, these same folks drive gas-guzzling SUV’s and complain about the price of gas, without apparently recognizing the hypocrisy. Or buy a new wardrobe a few times a year. Or always have the latest iPhone. Eat imported baby spinach and red peppers in January, and meat two meals a day. Bulldoze trees and agricultural land to build 4,000 square foot houses on 1 and 2 acre lots with HOA agreements not to keep gardens or livestock.
I am no angel when it comes to resource use. Canadians are some of the worst culprits on earth. I have central heating, and commute 25 miles to work. I eat imported oranges and bananas. I have a child (first-world children are huge resource guzzlers). I recognize this, and am working towards doing things differently, by buying second-hand, driving smaller vehicles, avoiding useless and unnecessary consumerism, growing food, and the like. I would like to do so much more, but it will be a gradual process, because my corner of the world is not set up for truly low-resource lifestyles, and it can be costly and difficult to break out of that mold.
If people really wanted to honor our military and our veterans, we would do everything in our power not to embroil ourselves in pointless and unnecessary resource wars. We would lobby for better public transportation, urban bike lanes, and higher fuel efficiency standards. We would support local farmers, and eat the majority of our food in-season. We would buy durable, rather than disposable, goods, and repair them when they broke down, rather than always having the newest gadget. We would change our mindset and our consumption. We would learn to scale back, rather than demand that our men and women in uniform sacrifice themselves for our greed and selfishness. I do not recall the exact statistics, but I am sure I have read that if North Americans returned to the standard of living we had in the 1950’s, we could be independent of imported oil altogether.
There are fights that need to be fought, and we need the courageous men and women in uniform to protect those who cannot protect themselves. I have nothing but respect for the selflessness of our serving and veteran military members. Remembrance Day is about remembering our veterans, but it is also about remembering the horror of war, and the reasons to avoid it at all costs. Let’s make sure that the sacrifices that are made are truly necessary, and not just to support our cushy lifestyles.