Anthropology, the Anthropocene, and the Military

January 31, 2015

Andrew Bickford

In recent months, the United States Department of Defense spoke out on climate change. While many seemed surprised that the DoD had quietly been thinking about and planning for the effects of climate, the US military’s concern for weather conditions and climate change is actually nothing new. Military strategy has always tried to take into account weather conditions and their impact on battlefield conditions, troop morale, logistics, and the ability to maneuver. What is interesting about the US military’s concern with climate change is that it has been seemingly at odds with the “official” position of many of its key governmental supporters. While members of Congress and the Senate and members of the conservative or anti-science chattering classes may continue to deny the reality of climate change or the role of human activity in bringing about a new geo/environmental era, the military has quietly gone about studying and planning for the impact of this new reality for decades. Two recent reports, the “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” and the “Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan FY 2014,” detail the military’s thinking about climate change, how changing environmental conditions will impact its ability to carry out missions, and how the DoD will also create new forms of missions and operations stresses and challenges.

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