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A WGS Quarterly Publication

Militarism, Environmental Justice and Sustainability
By: Ellen-Rae Cachola

In the San Francisco Bay Area, redevelopment planning and gentrification has pushed working class and working poor communities of color to the Southeast part of San Francisco (Bayview Hunter's Point, Excelsior, Visitacion Valley).  These communities have also been sites of high rates of homicide and gang violence.  However, in step with California state funding, San Francisco has increased its police force and surveillance equipment in order to deal with issues of community safety. 

The defeat of Affordable Housing Proposition B (“set aside' fund that 21/2 centers from every $100 of assess property will b spent on developing affordable housing)  in San Francisco's November 2008 election reveals how private developers will not be regulated in building high income housing.  This has placed working class and working poor families on high economic stress because of the need to work an extra job to afford housing costs.  The extra stress on families, produces conditions for less guardianship of youth in families and less time for to advocate for resources and inter-community support.  Liquor shops at corners and underground drug and sex trafficking rings are examples of sources for economic survival.  Joining the military becomes attractive for youth of color because it provides a way up and out of their social and economic conditions.  The violence of their everyday desensitizes them from the violence they must commit in war.  Policy makers are not  making strong enough connections between the San Francisco' redevelopment is increasing cost of living for homeless, working class and working poor.  This causes issues of urban poverty, economic segregation, community violence and out-migration of communities of color to cheaper suburban areas like Antioch and Pittsburgh/Bay Point to be individualized in public discourse as the fault/choice of communities to endure or fix the situations they are in. 

I suggest that the demilitarization movement make clearer connections with the Green Jobs and community based environmental justice Movements.  The Green Jobs movement, headed by leaders like Van Jones, provide ideas to solving the social, economic and ecological insecurity here at home.  By supporting the development of jobs that restore environments and supports the community social fabric, the demilitarization movement would be intervening in the continuous flow of American youth to be soldiers abroad.  However, the Green Jobs movement is not perfect. 

The demilitarization movement must bring its critique of corporate resource hegemony, imperialism, and colonialism in supporting environmental justice efforts that advocate for communities' self-determination for their right to healthy lives and non-toxic environments.  This means that the demilitarization movement is both aware and engaged of how bases abroad are connected to the militarizaiton of communities in our own backyards.  What are the ways that we can be attentive to our participation in displacement of communities at home and abroad, which produces social insecurity and economic inequity?  What are the ways that we can frame our advocacy and activist practice to multiply our resistance? How can we engage the Prison Industrial Complex, affordable housing, police brutality, domestic violence, inter-community violence (black on black/brown on brown/brown on black violence) movements as saying something how militarism is produced and perpetuated within national borders? 

I see the Women for Genuine Security as weaving multiple issues in our practice.  We are a U.S. based network, as well as connected to an Asia-Pacific-Carribbean network.  We connect, engage and support other organizations who are working on issues of militarism: base expansion, cultural survival, ecological contamination, sex trafficking/sexual abuse, military recruitment, among others.  We focus on building relationships with others in the network of organizations.  Its not about “knowing” the issue so that “we” (as in the U.S. based org) can fix it for them.  Rather, its about listening to the people's experiences and stories, in order to understand ourselves and how our stories link to their stories.

I suggest then that we use this time in the conference to listen to each other's issues and stories.  How do they connect to our stories?  How can we understand issues as interconnected, and engage in building relationsips with other individuals/organizations to manifest an activist practice of interconnection, and design shared meaning to support our local and translocal practice. Therefore, issues of housing security, education, cultural, social justice work, environmental restoration, ending military investment funding at home and abroad, among other social justice efforts, will not seem overwhelming. Rather, it would be based on building human relations, so that we can identify the activities we can do locally, within our means, and collaborate with others who specialize in their work, which in turn, informs our practice and analysis.  The idea is to build community so that we may move out of an isolating activist practice that thinks that we must do all we can, without looking around, to see the work that others are already doing.

Ellen-Rae Cachola is a member of Women for Genuine Security, Manilatown Heritage Foundation and the League of Young Voters.  She has worked on web development, digital archiving and youth political organizing to educate others on the impacts of dominant discourses of development and natioanl security on people, namely women and youth, in the Asia-Pacific the U.S.  Ellen-Rae currently has a Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from California Institute of Integral Studies, and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

Terri Kekoolani performing traditional Kanaka Maoli song and dance in the opening ceremony and vigil at the Pentagon, Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases, February 27, 2009
Photo by Lindsey Kerr


April 2009 Newsletter
Hita I Manao’tao Yini na Tano
Militarism, Environmental Justice, and Sustainable Communities
Bases, Violence Against Women, & Resistance
Insight Interview with Ikehara Eriko
Anti-militarism Fashion Show
Printable Version: April 2009 Printable 11X17 Newsletter







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