To Defend and Protect: A Case Study of the Values-based Model of Climate Engagement in the United States Military

By Preeti Simran Sethi.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Climate change is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, yet climate skepticism and inaction persist and, in some instances, are increasing. This failure is one of culture, not science. The values-based frames of communication developed by the United States military demonstrate climate engagement among diverse constituents is achievable. The Department of Defense is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States and ranks as one of the top 50 greenhouse gas emitters in the world. While the institution’s 2011 global energy expenditures approximated $13.5 billion USD, and Department of Energy defense-related activities budget request for fiscal year 2014 is estimated at 17.8 billion USD (U.S. Department of Defense 2013), these costs extend well beyond the bottom line. As a result, the military has taken active steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions and scale-up renewable energy as a means of reducing dependence on hostile nations, protecting fuel convoys, and increasing military effectiveness capability — a model of engagement in which resource conservation and emissions reductions are positive byproducts, not the end goal. This case study will articulate a model of “secondary sustainability,” explaining the psychological barriers to engagement on climate change and detailing how expanded discourse on national security and energy independence, revised framing of efficiency and return on investment, and activation of cultural values of patriotism and self-sufficiency have not only fostered broader engagement within the Department of Defense but hold great potential for wider activation.

Keywords: Sustainability, Climate Change, Engagement, Barriers, Values, Culture, Identity, Security, Military, Defense, Energy, Risk, Natural Resources, Efficiency, Framing, Journalism, Communications

The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.61-68. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 368.492KB).

Prof. Preeti Simran Sethi

Associate, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist and academic who teaches and reports on sustainability. She is an associate at the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Sustainability Society Institute in Australia, and the contributing author of “Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy,” the 2008 Axiom Award winner for best business ethics book. Sethi is dedicated to the application of innovative forms of communication to forge a redefinition of environmentalism and sustainability that include voices from rural and urban communities. Her research focuses on social and behavioral change to advance sustainability and efforts to bring new constituents into sustainability discourse and engagement.