Turning U.S. Military Bases into Eco-Development Centers

This project could forge a diverse global coalition to press for the transformation of hundreds of U.S. military bases overseas into eco-development centers for launching the global green economy from the grassroots.

The world is facing two interlinked crises: militarism and global destruction of the environment. They are obviously related, in that the U.S. military is probably the most egregious polluter and waster of resources on the planet, and the Pentagon functions to protect the dominant role of transnational corporations, which are notorious violators of human rights and environmental justice principles. This project will seek to unify the peace movement and the green movement by working together on a visionary campaign that simultaneously addresses the environmental crisis and the need for the United States to make a transition from being an empire to being just one nation in a community of nations.

The more than 800 U.S. military bases around the world are part of an old model of domination, militarism, and environmental contamination. Instead of protecting the United States, these bases have made us the target of animosity and attacks from groups opposed to the U.S. presence on their soil. These bases represent institutional inertia rather than serving any real national security interest of the American people. Quite the contrary: by inserting thousands of young, poorly educated yet well-armed American males into foreign cultures they know little about, we are generating hostility and resentment that fuels the passions of those who would do us harm.

This project has an important national security component, given the fact that the force structure of the U.S. military is not appropriate for the current threats we face as a nation. The force structure and strategic doctrine of the U.S. military were forged over 60 years of preparing for a land war with Soviet tank armies on the steppes of Eastern Europe. Now the threat is a highly  motivated individual with a suitcase bomb containing radioactive material. The struggle against this type of zealotry cannot be won with tanks and bombs, it is a war for hearts and minds, and that war can be won with eco-development on a grand scale.

This campaign will call for handing U.S. bases back to their respective national governments, with the U.S. government and civil society institutions undertaking a clean-up campaign during the transition in ownership.  Through grassroots networks and donations from local citizens, the local governments will be encouraged to transform these bases into educational and experimental clean-tech centers promoting green practices that will help us address the environmental crisis, while generating good green jobs and eco-entrepreneurship.

The conversion of these bases into models of eco-development would be beneficial to the United States in many ways:

  • it would help transform the U.S. from a dominating empire into a global partner, thereby making us more appreciated and less of a target for terrorist attacks;
  • it would save the U.S. billions of dollars now being wasted on maintaining this global network of bases;
  • by helping countries develop more sustainable practices and cutting-edge green technology, it will have a positive impact on the planet we all share.


  • Unify diverse global movements that are now separated by tactical issues. Global Exchange already has close ties with many of these networks so we are well placed to play this match-making role. Existing programs such as Fair Trade and Reality Tours could introduce this new messaging with little additional cost.
  • Provide a positive and cohesive framework for thousands of groups around the world struggling to bring peace and to create jobs by saving the environment.
  • Put the U.S. government and military on the defensive instead of us always being on the defensive against their various wars and wasteful spending.
  • Get people like Congressman Dennis Kucinich to sponsor legislation aimed at switching resources from the military to eco-development.
  • Generate cross-sector collaboration between NGOs, governments, and green enterprises to transform the foreign bases.
  • Regain respect for America after the damage done by the Bush administration’s aggressive foreign policies.
  • Grow organic food that can be given to local service agencies helping the weakest sectors of the local population.
  • Innovate new technologies in toxic waste remediation through natural methods.
  • Create collaborative spaces where international youth brigades could come together to learn nonviolence and sustainable development practices.
  • Provide large enough space for permaculture “universities” to train the trainers who will then go out and instruct communities on green economy issues such as green building, energy conservation, renewable energy technology, urban agriculture, water conservation, natural purification of grey water and black water, clean-tech incubation, alternative transportation, neighborhood empowerment policies, and much more.

All empires collapse. The challenge before us is this: can we create a soft landing for the U.S. empire by transforming our military bases around the world into platforms for accelerating the transition to the next economy: the green economy.