A Tale of Two Wars

With children rising in the streets, a 16-year-old nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and international rebellions  becoming ever more frequent, it seems like the ‘snowflake generation’ are rapidly becoming an avalanche.

Rallying to the green banner, the movement against Climate change is finally gathering momentum after years of slow growth. New science speaks gravely about the ‘insect apocalypse’, ‘mass extinction events’, and an ‘existential threat’ to life on planet Earth, and people are uniting in the fight for the crucial next 12 years. ‘The War on the Environment’  (WoE) may seem a distinct conflict to the ‘War on Drugs’ (WoD), but their battles are fought on the same ground. The wars are not only casually linked, but an end to the WoD would also be a significant step forward in reconciling humans to our planet.

‘Money’ is the clearest and most tangible link between the WoD and WoE. Since its inception, the WoD has cost trillions of dollars and generated no economic benefit. In the UK alone, our annual drug-enforcement budget comes to around 0.5% of our total GDP, whilst the US estimates that it has spent over $1trn on the WoD since 1971. This money therefore bleeds out of the global economy and loses its potential to avert climate disaster. Current estimates suggest a full transition to a ‘green’ global economy would cost around $30trn, so we need to start cutting unnecessary costs.

Not only does the WoD represent an abstract cost to the global economy, but innumerable environmental crimes have been committed in its name. The War on Supply has left environmental scars across the global, many of which are underreported and largely unknown. American funded campaigns of aerial fumigation by Colombian government, the deforestation of the Amazon for cartel Coca production, the introduction of Mycoherbicides into poppy fields, and the dumping of processing chemicals from labs are all clear examples of the direct impact of the WoD on our environment.

There is a final, subtle way in which the global WoD may be linked to our current environmental crisis. It has been argued by many that the selectivity with which we criminalise psychoactive substances has a lot to do with the states of consciousness they represent. The drugs we accept and consume socially tend to be mild stimulants, whereas empathy enhancers and psychedelics are prohibited. Scientific research has shown that empathy and environmentalism are strongly linked, but perhaps even more interesting, that environmentalism and the psychedelic experience are also linked. People who use psychedelics are significantly more likely to feel connected to the planet, and to report an intention to live in a more environmental manner. Therefore perhaps a more insidious impact of the WoD on our planet has been to criminalise the chemicals that may encourage us to save it, and it is possible that the use of psychedelics and other illicit substances may have a large part to play in our transition to a green society.

There are many battles in the war for a better world. But the solutions to one war are often the solutions to another. Big leaps in ending the WoD are being made across the world, and simultaneously the environmental movement is experiencing something of a renaissance. Through the wasting of resources, direct environmental destruction, and the criminalisation of consciousness the WoD has undoubtedly contributed heavily to our most pressing global crisis.

The movement to end the drug war and the environmental movement are two sides of the same coin; together, both conflicts can be brought to an end in which we save ourselves, and our home.