Category Archives: Air National Guard

The US Military Pollutes More Than Entire Countries

The U.S. Military Emits More Carbon Dioxide Into the Atmosphere Than Entire Countries Like Denmark or Portugal

Original Article Link

But no one knows exactly how much, because the Pentagon’s reporting is spotty. A Humvee gets between four and eight miles per gallon; an F-35 requires 2.37 gallons per mile.

In the fall of 2018, Neta C. Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University, prepared to teach a class on climate change designed to help students think about the issue in a big-picture way. Crawford’s research expertise is in war, so she wanted to include a statistic on the military’s contribution to greenhouse gases.

“I thought, ‘Well, maybe I should just tell them what the emissions are for the U.S. military,’” Crawford says. “It was meant to be a line on a slide in a lecture.”

But when she went to look up the figure, she couldn’t find anything reliable. Instead, she found scattered and incomplete data on how much fuel the military consumed and how much carbon it emitted. The information that did exist largely didn’t include overseas operations, even though the United States had been at war for nearly two decades. Major categories of fuel consumption, like much of the fuel used for aviation, seemed to be missing.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol—the world’s first legally binding, international climate treaty—created a reporting loophole for militaries, exempting many of the greenhouse gases emitted during military operations from counting against a country’s emissions totals. While the 2015 Paris Accords did away with this exemption, they didn’t replace it with an obligation. Rather, the decision of whether to report military emissions—and how to calculate them—was left up to individual countries.

The result is a gap in our understanding of the United States’ climate footprint. Research from academics like Crawford, who now studies the issue, shows that the Department of Defense is a major producer of greenhouse gases, with more emissions than many industrialized nations. The United States—and other countries—have said they are committed to reducing military emissions, and earlier this summer, NATO released its Action Plan on Climate Change and Security, acknowledging that better emissions data would help guide member states’ military planning. But there is no consistent methodology and reporting requirement for these emissions. As the United States and other countries work toward net-zero emissions by 2050, Crawford and others say, the lack of clear data from the U.S. Defense Department—the world’s largest employer—and other militaries is a major stumbling block.

“We’ve got these kind of just little fragmentary bits of information and data about how big this problem is,” says Doug Weir, the research and policy director for the U.K.-based Conflict and Environment Observatory, which studies and works to reduce the environmental consequences of military activity. “Until states actually start reporting it, then you can’t really do anything about it.”

On the final evening of negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol, at the end of an all-night session in December 1997, U.S. negotiators pushed through one last demand. The final draft of the climate agreement included two sentences that exempted emissions from multilateral operations—activities that involve more than two countries—and from ships and aircraft involved in international transport. That meant that much of the carbon emitted during U.S. military operations overseas would not need to be tracked and reported to the United Nations—which was effectively the negotiators’ goal. In testimony to Congress on the Kyoto negotiations, the U.S. lead negotiator, Stuart Eizenstat, stated, “We achieved everything [the Department of Defense] outlined as necessary to protect military operations and our national security.” (In the same hearing, Sen. John Kerry, now the U.S special presidential envoy for climate, praised Eizenstat, saying, “I thought it was a terrific job, and I thank you for it.”)

Ultimately, the United States never even ratified the Kyoto Protocol—largely because of concerns that countries such as India and China weren’t required to reduce emissions—but the damage was done. The U.S. military was not required to develop a methodology for tracking its carbon emissions, and the militaries of other countries that did ratify the treaty remained largely exempt from reporting.

Nearly 20 years later, the 2015 climate agreement signed in Paris did away with the automatic exemption for military emissions. Now, the choice of whether or not to report those emissions—and what, exactly, to report if a country chooses to do so—is left up to individual governments. As a result, the full picture of military emissions, from the United States and other countries, is still unclear.

“The level of reporting between countries varies a lot,” says Linsey Cottrell, the environmental policy officer at the Conflict and Environment Observatory. “Sometimes reporting is not occurring, [or] it’s reported elsewhere. So it’s hard to determine what contribution the military makes to the overall totals.”

The United States does report military emissions to the United Nations—sort of. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that military emissions, if reported, should be included in a category marked “nonspecified.” That same category also includes things like civilian waste incineration, so it’s essentially impossible to parse out which specific emissions come from military sources. And certain major military sources of emissions—like fuel during multilateral operations—are listed in the United States’ reporting as “included elsewhere,” though it’s unclear where. Other categories of military fuel consumption aren’t reported at all.

“It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle,” Crawford says. “And some of the puzzle pieces are in different units and forms.”

Crawford’s hunt for a clear statistic on military emissions to show her class led her to a new research focus: trying to puzzle out just how much fuel the U.S. military consumes and thus how much carbon it emits. Using Department of Energy data, Crawford found that the U.S. military is a major polluter. Since the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the military has produced more than 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases. Crawford acknowledges her data is likely incomplete—but even with the available data, she found that the U.S. military emits more than entire countries like Portugal and Denmark, and that the Department of Defense accounts for nearly 80% of the federal government’s fuel consumption.

Some of this is because the U.S military owns a lot of property—and has a lot of buildings to heat and power. In 2018, the Defense Department had some 585,000 facilities, spread over 27 million acres in 160 different countries. Each of these buildings emit greenhouse gases; in 2013, Crawford’s report found, the Pentagon building itself emitted more than 24,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Crawford found that installations account for about a third of Defense Department energy consumption. But the overall number has slowly decreased over the last decade, in large part due to energy initiatives across the service branches.

 

The vast majority of military emissions come from operations—moving people and things around. The workhorse equipment needed to accomplish this task, particularly when it’s built to withstand combat, can be notoriously inefficient, Crawford’s report notes. Even nonarmored vehicles guzzle gas: A Humvee gets between four and eight miles per gallon. But by far, the most fuel-thirsty equipment in the military is aircraft. In fact, of the 100 million gallons of fuel the Defense Logistics Agency bought in 2018, about 70 million gallons were jet fuel.

But the United States’ reporting of military fuel consumption omits much of the fuel used to power aircraft and ships, particularly those operating overseas. The government’s own description of how it calculates international military transportation fuel for greenhouse gas emissions specifies that all Army and most Marine Corps fuel, and any fuel delivered outside of the United States, not be counted. This leads to huge gaps in reporting, Crawford says.

“You have to count it,” Crawford says. “Jet fuel is the biggest greenhouse gas from the military.”

Take the F-35, DOD’s controversial replacement for the F-16. The new plane burns more fuel than its predecessor: about 5,600 liters of fuel per hour, versus 3,500 liters per hour for the F-16, according to the newspaper Dagsavisen in Norway, where environmentalists have protested the purchase of the planes. Crawford calculated that the Air Force’s version of the plane, the F-35A, gets about 2.37 gallons per nautical mile. Note that’s not miles per gallon—that’s 2.37 gallons of fuel burned for every mile traveled. On a single tank of gas, one plane can produce almost 28 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The United States plans to buy close to 2,500 of the planes, with the expectation that they’ll fly until at least 2070.

Military equipment is purchased with the understanding that it will be around for a long time, which critics argue contributes to the difficulty of reducing military emissions.

“They can’t just switch off [the F-35 program],” says Oliver Belcher, a professor at Durham University who has studied military emissions by tracking Defense Logistics Agency fuel purchases. “Despite these sort of pronouncements to green the military and all the rest of it, every major weapon system developed, from fighter jets to aircraft carriers to you name it, is extremely carbon-intensive. … Weapons systems lock in certain carbon-intensive technologies.”

Part of the difficulty in tracking military emissions is there are so many moving parts. A military is a sprawling, bureaucratic apparatus, with people and things constantly going in different directions.

“When you’re in a theater of operations, there isn’t somebody there who’s accounting for every single bit of, this Humvee goes here, and that Humvee goes there,” Belcher says. “[It’s] extremely difficult to keep track of.”

Belcher’s research works to develop better methodologies for tracking and estimating military emissions. He’s not the only one. Last summer, in its climate change action plan, NATO announced that for the first time, it would develop a way to help member states calculate their military emissions. It also floated the possibility of helping member nations develop targets for military emissions reductions—though it noted that any reduction targets would be voluntary.

Weir was skeptical that the plan will include comprehensive emissions accounting. But, he says, any mention of reducing military emissions is welcome progress. “The fact is it’s on the agenda. It’s being talked about.”

Militaries themselves are taking notice. Last month, the head of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air ForceSir Mike Wigstonannounced plans for the service to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, a decade earlier than the United Kingdom has legally committed to reach net zero across the country. He highlighted sourcing jet fuel from more sustainable sources, like ethanol or recycled waste oil, and a zero-emissions aircraft flying by the end of the decade.

“I’ve been working on these issues for quite a long time,” Weir says. “The change in dynamic around this topic over the last 18 months has been pretty astonishing.”

In early November, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said President Joe Biden’s goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 would affect the Defense Department. “The department is committed to meeting the challenge, by making significant changes in our use of energy and increasing our investments in clean energy technology,” she said. Hicks highlighted a more sustainable supply chain, as well as a zero-emissions nontactical vehicle fleet and hybrid-electric tactical vehicles, as among the department’s goals. “As a nation and a department, we must do our part to mitigate climate change itself.”

At the beginning of November, as world leaders met in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit, Crawford, Belcher, Weir, and Cottrell, along with other academics and activists, gathered in an Arctic basecamp tent in the city for a panel discussion on the state of military emissions and to launch a new website dedicated to corralling disparate emissions reporting. The site pulls government reporting on countries’ military emissions, as well as data like gross domestic product and military expenditure, into one database to make comparisons between countries easier and to show more clearly the state of reporting.

Although military emissions were not on the formal agenda at the United Nations meeting, more than 200 civil society organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, signed on to the Conflict and Environment Observatory’s call for governments to commit to meaningful emissions reductions ahead of the summit. During protests at COP26, climate activists called out the U.S. military specifically for its role in climate change.

“Not only have Western-induced wars led to the spikes in the carbon emissions, they have led to use of depleted uranium and they have caused poisoning of air and water,” Ayisha Siddiqa, a Pakistani climate activist, told a crowd during a youth protest.

“What we’re trying to do at COP26 is really get this on the agenda for COP27,” Belcher says.

Belcher and Crawford say the military is taking the threat of climate change seriously, and they acknowledge some of its green initiatives. But they argue that in the absence of reporting requirements, there’s a lack of real accountability. That makes it easy to avoid confronting some of the tougher questions about military operations and climate change—things like continued investment in carbon-intensive technologies, or “national security” as an automatic trump card.

But in the face of a global crisis, not thinking through those trade-offs head-on is a mistake, Crawford says. “You have to start questioning everything,” she says. “We don’t have time to have unquestioned assumptions.”

This War Horse feature was reported by Sonner Kehrt, edited by Kelly Kennedy, fact-checked by Ben Kalin, and copy-edited by Mitchell Hansen-Dewar. Kehrt is based in California. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired Magazine, The Verge, and other publications. She studied government at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and served for five years as a Coast Guard officer before earning a master’s in democracy studies from Georgetown University and a master’s of journalism degree from UC Berkeley. 

WashPo Magazine: Lake Superior’s Forever Chemicals

Story and photographs by Shantal Riley
JANUARY 12, 2022

“A mass of gray clouds loomed over a panorama of humid wetlands in late summer on the Bad River Reservation in northern Wisconsin. Carpets of bright-green grass blanketed the glassy surface of the water, accented here and there by clusters of purple loosestrifea spiky invasive plant, as an aluminum skiff glided silently over the water. Edith Leoso, tribal historic preservation officer for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, leaned over the edge of the boat, running her hand across the bushy grass tips and loosening showers of wild rice. “If it sinks to the bottom, that means it’s ripe,” she said.

The wild rice is sacred to the Ojibwe, also called Chippewa. “We were from the East Coast, originally,” she told me. “There was a prophecy that said there would be a light-skinned race that would come across the great salt water. In their coming, they would bring destruction upon us. In order to maintain our way of life, to maintain who we were as a people, we would have to move to the West.” There would be signs along the way: “We would know when we arrived at our final stopping place when we saw food that grew on top of the water,” Leoso said. “That was our manoomin. … ‘Mino’ in our language is good, and ‘min’ is seed. So, ‘good seed.’ ”

The rice grows on the Kakagon-Bad River Sloughs, which sit atop 16,000 acres of wetlands on the southern rim of Lake Superior. The area serves as a spawning ground for lake sturgeon, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike. Both fish and wild rice are staple foods of the Anishinaabe, as the Ojibwe call themselves.

 

Early last year, the state of Wisconsin issued a fish consumption advisory that recommended eating no more than one meal a month of Lake Superior rainbow smelt, caught by tribes and local anglers during smelt runs in the spring. It was the first advisory for any of the Great Lakes warning of fish with elevated levels of PFAS — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of man-made chemicals linked to cancer that have shown up in drinking water systems around the country.

PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment. After years of industrial use, the federal government recently took steps to regulate them. But will it be enough to assure the safety of the Indigenous people who have fished on the lake for thousands of years — and depend on the fish for survival?

A few days earlier, I was in a small plane flying over the deep green forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The plane shook violently from turbulence as it approached Keweenaw Bay, a V-shaped inlet on the southern shore of the lake. A thin layer of smoke had settled on the water, blown in from wildfires burning hundreds of miles away in Canada.

 

The lake tribes live in close-knit communities that I knew I’d need help to access. So, I retained a local, Charlie Rasmussen, to advise me on various aspects of the trip: He warned me about spotty cellphone coverage, which roads were under construction and where deer liked to dart out in front of traffic; he also gave me leads on locals I could speak to about fishing. (He is a writer, photographer and communications officer for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nonprofit that supports member tribes through natural resources management, conservation and public information. But his work with me was in a freelance capacity.)

A rental car secured, I drove an hour south along Highway 41, to the L’Anse Reservation, where a pocket of woods was quiet but for water spilling over a mossy rock ledge. Jerry Jondreau was trying to catch brook trout on Silver River, which twists its way through the reservation. The reservation is home to the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), one of about a dozen bands, including the Bad River Band, who live around the lake.

 

 

The lake itself is often hailed for being the cleanest of the Great Lakes. But Jondreau said its pristine reputation is a misconception. “I can’t bring fish back to the family from the lake,” he explained. “We don’t eat as much fish as we used to.”

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake on Earth by surface area, spanning a vast 31,700 square miles. Surrounded by dense forests and relatively sparse populations, more than 80 species of fish live in its cold, remote waters. While the fish are abundant, they’re rife with contaminants: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, the pesticide toxaphene — all linked to cancer — and mercury, left behind as a legacy of mining in a rugged region known as Copper Country. There are enough pollutants now circulating in the great lake that Michigan lists more than a dozen consumption advisories for its fish, and the pollution runs headlong into areas where tribes practice subsistence fishing.

On a windy August afternoon, the choppy waters around Lake Superior’s Madeline Island glittered with flecks of sunshine. Boats headed north, fishing poles straining toward wakes churning behind them. In 2019, Wisconsin scientists took samples from fish swimming near the island, considered the spiritual homeland of the Ojibwe. Six fish species had detectable levels of PFAS — and rainbow smelt had an average of seven times the amount of PFAS that were found in the other fish, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It was enough to trigger the January 2021 consumption advisory for Wisconsin waters. Two months later, Minnesota and Michigan followed suit with their own advisories.

PFAS were introduced to Americans in the 1940s. Prized for their resistance to heat, oil and water, they were key ingredients in products like Scotchgard and Teflon. Today, they’re found in food packaging, carpets, furniture, clothing, makeup and everyday household items like dental floss. They’re used on an industrial scale in nonstick and waterproof coatings, electronics, degreasers and fire foams. The chemicals have been linked to a host of serious health problems: high cholesterol, liver damage, suppression of the immune system, thyroid disease, kidney and testicular cancer, among others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some take years to be eliminated from the human body.

“They dissolve easily in water,” says environmental engineer Christy Remucal, who studies PFAS in her lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Remucal was not involved in the testing of the Lake Superior fish.) So, the chemicals move around the environment fairly easily, she told me — and there are thousands of them. One of these, called PFOS, or perfluorooctane sulfonic acid — found at airports and military sites with histories of fire foam use — tends to build up in fish.

But Michigan scientists were puzzled when the little smelt showed higher levels of PFOS than larger, predator fish such as lake trout. “Typically, the higher up on a food chain that you go, you’re going to have higher levels of contamination,” explains Brandon Armstrong, an aquatic biologist with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), referring to a process called biomagnification. “It was surprising to see such a high level of PFOS in smelt because they feed low on the food chain,” he says. “They’re eating small fish and zooplankton out in the glades. They’re not a top-predator species.”

 

Smelt is just one among many fish that tribal communities in the lake basin depend on. Indeed, food sovereignty was a cornerstone of 19th-century treaties in which the Ojibwe ceded millions of acres and retained their rights to fish, hunt and gather. These rights were challenged a century later, when William Jondreau, an Ojibwe man — and grandfather of Jerry Jondreau — was arrested for catching lake trout when it was out of season. He claimed, under treaty rights, that he was free to fish on Keweenaw Bay, where his people had fished for centuries. His case went before the Michigan Supreme Court and, in the 1971 landmark Jondreau decision, the court ruled that the 1854 treaty with the Chippewa superseded state fish and game laws.

The decision reaffirmed his people’s right to hunt and fish on ceded territories. But there has been a steady “devaluation” of treaty rights since, Jerry Jondreau argues. “In those agreements, we retained our rights to hunt, fish and gather,” he says. “In exchange, the U.S. got all the land. It’s accruing wealth. But the fish, the water … those things are becoming sick.”

 

On the Bad River Reservation, a flash of lightning lit up a dark cloud over the Kakagon River. Seconds later, a low rumble of thunder rolled through the wetlands. Edith Leoso watched from the back of the boat as it sped inland. The rice harvest would be plentiful this season, she said. But the smelt population is in decline — and has been for years. Even so, she said, “people are still smelting when they shouldn’t be. We should leave that fish alone.” They’re fishing out of necessity,she explained, regardless of consumption advisories: “We don’t recognize them if we have to feed our families. That’s the bottom line.”

Michiganalso lists consumption guidelines for fish in hundreds of smaller lakes and rivers. “Fishing is a primary source of subsistence for Ojibwe tribes throughout the basin,” says Valoree Gagnon, director of university-Indigenous community partnerships at the Great Lakes Research Center of Michigan Technological University. “So, when you’re asked to lower fish consumption, you’re not just losing meals, you’re losing all those practices associated with fishing: sharing knowledge and passing that to future generations. It changes all kinds of social dynamics.”

The lake tribes have been proactive in response to environmental threats to their water. In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the Bad River Band the authority — known as “treatment as a state” — to set its own water-quality standards. A decade later, KBIC received the same authority.

 

Researchers are doing additional testing to identify possible sources of PFAS in Lake Superior. But contaminated sites already identified may hold clues. The chemicals have been found at the Duluth Air National Guard Base, adjacent to a PFAS-polluted creek that leads to Saint Louis Bay, at the southwestern corner of the lake in Minnesota; they were first detected at the Duluth air base in 2010, said Bioenvironmental Manager Maj. Ryan Blazevic of the 148th Fighter Wing in an email. The wing “no longer conducts fire protection training in a manner that discharges firefighting foam,” he said. (Firefighter training is a common source of PFAS at military bases.)”

find more at this link  much more to the story

There is not enough accountability.  Bribery rules, along with conflicts and those who harm hide behind the corporate charters [that mean anything the money says they do.]  – Brad

Postpone Request for National Guard: 11 Jan 22 “Open House”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 10, 2022

Contact: Tom Boswell, 608/718-7312

 

Safe Skies Clean Water Asks Air National Guard

and Dane County Airport to Postpone “Open House”

 

Madison – The Safe Skies Clean Water Coalition has called on the Wisconsin Air National Guard and Dane County Regional Airport to postpone an “Open House” scheduled for Tuesday, January 11, at Madison College. The purpose of the event is to update the public on plans being undertaken by the Wisconsin Air National Guard (WANG) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to remediate PFAS pollution originating with the Truax airbase.

 

location  https://isthmus.com/locations/madison-college-truax-campus-mitby-theater

 

This is not the right time to hold this event,” the coalition wrote to Colonel Bart Van Roo, commander of the 115th Fighter Wing at Truax. “We are in the height of another public health crisis. Many of the families who are and will be most impacted by the water pollution and dangerous noise levels of F-35 fighter jets are not likely to further jeopardize their health and safety by attending an indoor event at this moment.”

 

The coalition is one of several groups that has been advocating for the Air National Guard, Dane County and the City of Madison – all designated by the DNR as responsible parties in the water contamination crisis – to be more forthcoming in communication with the public. But Safe Skies Clean Water said “this is not the appropriate time for this event.”

 

Representatives of the NGB and a Maryland-based engineering firm are to present information on the remediation process and progress to date and address questions and comments from the public. The event is scheduled for 6 pm at the Mitby Theater on the Truax campus of Madison College.

 

We are frankly skeptical concerning the motivation of the Air National Guard and Dane County Regional Airport for scheduling this Open House while the pandemic is peaking, the weather is inhospitable, the students and faculty of Madison College are on winter break, and the event was announced during the winter holiday,” said Safe Skies Clean Water.

The Air Force, National Guard Bureau and Air National Guard have proven to be toxic neighbors. Now they plan to initiate yet another assault on our public health by foisting F-35 fighter jets on an already compromised community that doesn’t want them. We are asking the Air Force and Air National Guard to be better neighbors. We know you would rather be protecting us from real threats like pandemics and national disasters rather than making war on us. We ask you to postpone this event and to halt the construction at the airbase until the site investigation and PFAS remediation is completed.”


 

Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin is a nonprofit coalition of residents and organizations in Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin opposed to the proposed bed down of F-35A fighter jets at Truax Field.

For more,  safeskiescleanwaterwi.org 


“There is a problem.  Let’s put it on the table, get people engaged in it, hold polluters accountable and clean it up.”

  • Dr. Maria Powell, MEJO
  • Brad Geyer, Veterans for Peace, Former WI Air National Guard and US Air Force

WI Environmental Health Network: Forever Chemicals Wisconsin

Madison Environmental Justice: PFAS Related

 

Living Under Warplanes Interview On WORT 89.9 FM With Documentarian Nina Berman

A Public Affair Radio: Living Under Warplanes With Documentarian Nina Berman

WORT 89.9 FM Community Radio – Thursday Talk with Allen Ruff

Nina Berman Website 

“Communities across the country are living with military fighter jets overhead. Here in Madison, F35 Jets are scheduled to bed down in early 2022, despite public outcry. A new film by documentarian, photographer, Nina Berman, “When Jets Fly” shows the experiences in Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle. The project features the people living there, whose voices are often interrupted by fighter jet.

Nina Berman is documentary photographer, filmmaker, author and educator. Her wide-ranging work looks at  American politics, militarism, post violence trauma and resistance.  She is the author of Purple Hearts – Back from IraqHomeland, and An autobiography of Miss Wish.”

 



Related article on Intercept 

WHEN THE JETS FLY: NEW WARPLANES TURN U.S. TOWNS INTO SONIC HELLSCAPES
“U.S. communities are beset by deafening roars from a generation of louder military aircraft — and they are fighting back.”
Nina Berman
December 17 2021

“THE SOUND of the U.S. military’s latest generation of warplanes is quite literally deafening. The vibration shakes your insides. Conversation stops. Stress floods your body. And just when you think it’s over, another jet, and another and another, roars above rooftops, until it feels as though the sky is going to crack open.

This is the situation on Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle and in communities across the country, where civilians find themselves living amid sonic warscapes as the U.S. military practices for battle above their homes, schools, and playgrounds. In 2016, I went to Whidbey as part of a video research project on the environmental impacts from the production and testing of U.S. weapons. The Navy operates a base on the island where pilots train on Boeing-made EA-18G Growlers, which are electronic-attack aircraft designed to disable enemy communications and defenses.

Pilots practice touch-and-go landings and take-offs to simulate conditions on aircraft carriers. They use two runways, one on the base and a smaller one that is located near homes, schools, and a national historic reserve in the town of Coupeville. I met residents who were desperate and angry. They spoke of feeling anxious, of not being able to sleep or socialize, of homes shaking from within. I met one woman who bunkers down in her basement and cries while her husband sits inside with protective ear muffs and self-medicates when the jets fly.

Multiple studies show both auditory and non-auditory impacts from noise pollution of this magnitude, including cardiovascular disease, tendency to dementia, anxiety, depression, and negative childhood learning outcomes and hearing loss. On Whidbey, noise levels can reach 120 decibels outdoors and 90 decibels have been reported in some indoor locations. A jackhammer at five feet away is about 100 decibels, for comparison. The jets fly very low, day and night for hours at a time, sometimes past midnight.

I returned to Whidbey in the summer of 2020 and the situation was worse. The Navy had increased its Growler fleet. More areas were being impacted, including the San Juan Islands and the Olympic National Forest, which the Navy uses as an electronic warfare range.

In 2019, the Navy was sued by the Washington attorney general and a local non-profit, Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve (COER). Earlier this month, in a scathing opinion, Chief Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creatura said the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider war-training impacts on childhood learning, on the region’s bird population, and on greenhouse gas emissions. He also said the Navy should have more thoroughly researched training locations where there would have been less harm, such as the desert in El Centro, California.

The judge’s ruling does not provide a remedy. Instead, he has asked the parties to submit their suggestions within 30 days. For residents, the most obvious solution is to relocate the Growlers.

THE STRUGGLE against military encroachment on civilian spaces is not unique to Whidbey. Since 2019, residents in the Burlington, Vermont area have been living amid the sonic roar of  F-35 attack aircraft. Twenty F-35s are now stationed at the Vermont Air National Guard station at Burlington International Airport. Pilots fly several hours a day, Tuesdays through Fridays and some weekends and nights. They train over the most densely populated areas of the state, including the town of Winooski, just north of the airport and home to a significant refugee population.

Saddam Ali and his wife Rajaa and children are one of those new families. They escaped Iraq and every time they hear an F-35, it brings them right back to the war they had fled. “I feel like I am still living in Iraq when I hear the sound of the planes,” said Rajaa. “We feel stress. It’s from this, of course. It’s really disturbing.”

Despite vigorous opposition from Vermonters in the form of protests and local resolutions against the planes, both of the state’s senators, Democrats Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, supported the Air Force’s basing decision. They say it was needed to ensure the long term viability of the Air National Guard base but critics vigorously dispute that and say the base would exist with or without the F35s, and they point instead to Leahy’s cozy history with military contractors.

The F-35s are being rolled out at Air National Guard bases around the country, including Madison, Wisconsin, which is scheduled to receive the planes in 2023. Flight operations in Madison would increase by 47% over the current F-16s and make approximately 1,167 nearby homes “incompatible for residential use.” That doesn’t mean the Air Force will buy out these homeowners. The FAA would need to decide whether those homes should be sound-proofed or demolished and the homeowners compensated. In Vermont, if the authorities decided to sound-proof, it would take 26 years to fix 2,600 of the most-impacted homes at a cost of $4.5 million a year, according to a Burlington airport study.

But how do you sound-proof a park, or a playground, or your own backyard?”