The global dimension of the pandemic today seems to presage a deceptive scenario with regard to the problems that states will have to face when the inescapable tangles of environmental collapse will make their appearance with dramatic urgency. Today, we are facing a common enemy, and this makes it easier to unite our efforts—in this case, in the search for a vaccine—but in the future this will not be the case.
The environmental catastrophe we are facing as a result of climate chaos will not have the traits of an invisible enemy that will unite us in the struggle to fight it. Instead, it will have much more complex forms, and, most of all, dynamics that will tend to divide and even pit the actions of the various national governments against each other.
The environmental catastrophe is likely to manifest as the submergence of vast areas of land, desertification, reduction of river courses and lakes, decrease in the area of fertile land, scorching summers, loss of crops, floods, scarcity of raw materials. When this environmental scenario will appear in all its unmistakability, given the current world order, it will be difficult to imagine a concerted and unified response by individual states.
The current equilibrium, based on the most unrestrained competition, which has dotted the Earth with hotbeds of war, cannot deal with environmental emergencies in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity, as one can deal with a pandemic. Dramatically, it is all too realistic to imagine that the lack of fundamental resources to maintain the economic standards of the various countries will sharpen the edges of competition, with the possibility of armed conflicts with unpredictable outcomes.
We must remember what has already happened, an experimental proof of what could happen again with very different outcomes. It is worth remembering the expression George W. Bush used to absolve himself from the obligations of the Kyoto Protocol: “The American way of life is not negotiable.” This meant that a country with 4% of the world’s population, but which consumes 30% of the planet’s resources, refused to share the collective responsibility for the choices that global warming was imposing on everyone. But Bush’s position, recently reiterated in more aggressive and grotesque forms by Donald Trump, must lead us to a reflection on the role of the United States on the world scene.
The United States is a country that has undergone a fracture of its internal and international balances in the last 30 years. With the collapse of the USSR, its ruling groups have lost their historical enemy, a fundamental pillar for their dominance over the West. Communism’s role as a target had provided an unparalleled hegemonic tool, both for internal support and for imposing cultural models on the rest of the world, as well as possibilities of interference in territories as distant as the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Now, it is exactly this destabilizing imbalance that shows how deeply divided the U.S., as a country, is internally, together with the spasmodic search by its ruling groups for a new enemy that would justify the continuity of its imperial policy and recover support on the domestic front. But that’s not all. In the international politics of the U.S., an important role is played by the Pentagon, which is the biggest arms factory of the planet. An industry that represents one of the components of its economic development: both indirectly, for the military supremacy that it ensures, and for the increase in GDP. And this has been part of the strategic awareness of the ruling groups for some time.
Already in 1950, during the Truman administration, what was theorized was “not only the full compatibility between bread and bombs, the welfare state and warfare state, but their close interdependence: the growth of the latter would feed that of the former, in a virtuous spiral that was potentially unlimited” (M. Del Pero, Libertà e impero. Gli Stati Uniti e il mondo, ed. Laterza). Therefore, the “American way of life” is also propped up by the success of its military industry, thanks to an increasing number of armed conflicts around the world.
This is the substantial continuity of U.S. military policy, made possible by NATO: the survival of the Cold War, to which Europe continues to remain subservient. Will the 70 million citizens who elected Trump be willing to give up “America first”? What is the EU waiting for to break away from NATO and favor a more balanced ordering of world powers, the only possibility to avoid the struggle for scarce goods becoming our final war?
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