INTRO: Environmental sustainability will create national security. That’s according to a colonel and a captain who worked in the Defense Department in Washington. They published a document last year called The National Strategic Narrative. It’s meant to spark citizen action. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus reports on how educators are trying to use the narrative to find answers to America’s greatest problems.
Captain Wayne Porter now works at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. He’s working on a Ph.D. in system dynamics.
“We need to reprioritize the resources of the country and a strategy based on our enduring interests of prosperity and security. But in a sustainable manner for a planet that’s going to have 9 billion people on it by 2050.”
Captain Porter says education should be the first priority. Second priority is:
“Security very broadly defined and that is I define security is freedom from anxiety. What makes you anxious? So it’s freedom from economic collapse. It’s freedom from pandemic diseases. It’s freedom from hateful ideologies. It’s all kinds of things other than just freedom from attack. So that was the second priority and the third priority was the development of renewable resources.”
So food, water and energy. They’re needed for sustainability. That’s what drew in Susan Santone. She heard about the National Strategic Narrative then she co-organized the meeting in California based on it. Santone runs a small non-profit in Ypsilanti called Creative Change Educational Solutions. She critiques the conventional view.
“The environment is shown as one factor of production: land, labor and capital. No where in this model do you see the environment serving as the source of all materials. Nor do you see the environment serving as the sink into which all wastes go.”
Think sulpher in the air from coal-fired power plants, uranium stored in the Nevada desert, and sewage pumped into lakes and rivers. Santone has educated teachers in River Rouge, Ypsilanti, at Michigan State University and Oberlin College. She believes sustainability should be taught across every subject because human survival depends on it.
“Energy from the sun is the ultimate energy source. People who say that technology will save us; there is infinite substitutability well guess what where does the technology come from? It’s made out of the environment. All the wastes go back into the environment. Wastes transform but they don’t go away. When you burn that gas it’s turned into carbon dioxide emissions.”
Santone’s shock that military men want to be environmental stewards is shared by Phoebe Knight Helm. She just retired as President of Hartnell College, near the meeting in Monterey. Knight Helm is not impressed with military might.
“The motivation for that strength has historically been driven by fear. And I think he (Capt. Porter) is saying let’s not drive it by fear. Let’s drive it by a greater good. Let’s drive it by we want peace in the world. And we can have it if we engage in a better distribution of resources.”
The meeting was mainly educators, including three from Michigan. They felt validated that military officers believe education leads to national security. Artemio Paz is on the Oregon State Board of Education. He was an artillery officer in the Vietnam War and is now an architect.
“We need to look at the epistemology of American education right now. What are the foundational premises. And one of the god terms right now is security. Who can question that? Everybody is on board there. Then you create these narratives that are so self-serving and you help corporate continue business as usual.”
Or as Ypsilanti’s Susan Santone says:
“In terms of the educational paradigm, we’ve talked about this idea that the end goal is to be competitive in the global economy. That’s replaced citizenship as the goal of education.”
Or trading citizenship for consumerism. Consume government services. Consume private sector services.
Do you remember high school history class? President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a military industrial complex. Workers fill jobs in companies geared toward war. This was part of the reason why America went to war in Iraq. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have said how tough they’ll be on Iran. It is a familiar narrative that might not be strategic.