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The Kindest Cut of All

December 10, 2013 – Picking up where we left off last week, businesses at the leading edge of climate change understanding have discovered that the cost of climate change inaction is greater than the cost of grappling with climate change.  No surprise to climatologists, this is a concept badly in need of promulgation.  The response in Washington is and will always be, but where do we find the money?  The answer is simple.  No one wants to be the first (or second, or third) to say it out loud, but it has to be said.  The money will, and must, be taken out of the defense budget.  Smaller percentages will come from entitlements’ budgets.  These are all tough pills to swallow, but the alternative is unimaginably worse.

The defense budget currently stands at $530 billion, not including any ongoing wars.  That number needs to be cut dramatically, and it needs to be cut right away.  Halving the defense budget within five years would afford the United States $265 billion per year with which to mitigate climate change, and ameliorate its ever-increasing consequences.  Helping poorer, more vulnerable nations would also be a possibility.  Decreasing the defense budget by $200 billion dollars, with the remainder coming from entitlements, could accomplish the same thing. 

Speaking as an older American with only a few years left in my working life, I guarantee you I understand how these changes could impact those of us looking forward to retirement.  I’ve worked for 27 of the last 38 years, and paid into social security for 21 of them.  Doug and I hope to move to the Pacific Northwest, but only if we feel comfortable with regard to our future income.  A decrease in social security payments could very well scuttle those plans, but what choice have we got?  The correct answer is no choice.

There will be those who will argue that decreasing our defense budget is impossible; the United States has acted since World War II as the world’s policeman.  This is a fact that will not brook argument.  The problem with this argument is that it only takes into account the past.  It gives not even a nod to the catastrophic changes we face in the not-distant future.  Then there are those who will exclaim yes, exactly!  How much more will our military might be essential to a functioning world?

To which one can only respond that beyond a certain point, the breakdown of civilization precludes functionality.  We must and can address environmental issues with the greatest priority.  To simply accept that we will be overwhelmed by events, and that the one decisive answer comes out of the end of a gun, is to relegate ourselves to the dustheap.  To accept eventual irrelevance by means of inaction fails to recognize our responsibility to make G-d manifest in the world.  Our gorgeous planet was given to us as a gift, bequeathed to us by a loving Creator.  Accepting responsibility may not be much fun, but it makes a worthwhile future a possibility.

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