- Militarizing the Environment: Climate Change and the Security State by Robert P. Marzec
The world is witnessing a disturbing rise in militarism and global temperatures; the collision course of these trends is potentially catastrophic. Both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry pointed [End Page 208] to the recent drought in Syria as influencing the start of the civil war that has killed or displaced 13 million people. While so-called “climate hawks” have celebrated the US defense community’s growing acceptance and attention to climate change as a means of pushing through partisan gridlock on climate action, Robert Marzec’s new book, Militarizing the Environment, suggests taking caution before embracing military “adaptation” to climate change: “Not only has climate change been accepted, but it has also been adopted by the U.S. military as a clear and present danger” (8). Marzec characterizes the Pentagon and its boosters’ approach to climate change (a “threat multiplier,” in the words of former secretary of defense Chuck Hagel) as an argument for “the U.S. war machine [to] expand its power globally to avoid significant disruptions to international security” (7). This greening of the military is hardly new, Marzec argues. The apparent turn is part and parcel of a “pattern of thought” called the enclosure movement, which has been shaping colonial and postcolonial relations between humans, ecosystems, and economies for four hundred years. Enclosure is the act of bringing the commons (ecosystems managed under the collective-use rights of communities) under the scrutiny and control of private or state interests for the purpose of land “improvement,” “cultivation,” and “security.” Militarizing the Environment traces this pattern of thought and action—what Marzec calls “military environmentality”—in the second half of the twentieth century by reading policy, social movements, war games, and other texts through a kaleidoscope of theoretical lenses.
Marzec’s Militarizing the Environment joins a growing body of humanities research on war and the environment and, more specifically, on work that details the rich history of the US war machine’s discursive and material imbrications with environments. In doing so, Marzec takes up Rob Nixon’s call in Slow Violence for environmental literary studies to engage in “the environmental repercussions of American foreign policy, particularly in relation to contemporary imperial practices” (33).
Militarizing the Environment takes up this call by making three specific contributions. The first contribution is that Marzec draws readers’ attention to the imperialist character marking (US) military “adaptation” to climate change and its effects. Within the fierce political battles over climate change, the Pentagon’s long-standing acceptance of climate science and proactive planning for climate change perhaps has blinded scholars and activists to the nature of militarized responses to climate [End Page 209] change. Marzec’s book centers the high stakes of climate war games in an age of globalized security and environmentality. Marzec defines environmentality, at base, as a means of control that casts environmentalism as police action. By offering keywords and marshaling together a stable of theoretical frameworks—ranging from Foucauldian notions of biopower and disciplinary apparatuses to Derrida’s war machine, Agamben’s state of exception, Von Uexküll’s notion of the Umvelt, and the resistive traditions of ecological inhabitancy—Militarizing the Environment provides scaffolding upon which other scholars may further the study of militarization and environment. By fleshing out modern environmentality and its military genealogies, on the one hand, and casting enclosure as the “dominant paradigm of modernity,” on the other, Militarizing the Environment offers two capacious keywords for researchers and teachers of the environmental humanities. This is the book’s second major contribution. Marzec’s clear explication of each new theoretical term he introduces creates and openness for a variety of advanced, but perhapsout-of-field, readers. Third, Militarizing the Environment constantly works to build an archive of specific green military (mis)adventures within the ecoimperial history of capitalist enclosure and colonialism. This attention to history and discursive genealogy presents the climate security state as neither aberration nor...