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Greening Military? On the Transformation of the Armed Forces in the Context of the “Zeitenwende” and Climate Crisis

“Greening Military?” is a joint project of the University of Dortmund (Bernd Sommer), the Military History Research Office in Potsdam (Frank Reichherzer), and the Rachel Carson Center at LMU Munich (Christof Mauch). The project is generously funded by the Volkswagen Foundation (Funding line: ‘Pioneering Research—Exploring the Unknown’). It will run from 2024 to 2027.

The fact that climate change and the associated environmental changes create a security risk has been discussed in research and also in the military for quite some time. The question, however, to what extent the military, armament, and a changed geopolitical situation are putting climate mitigation efforts at risk has so far received little attention. The military sector is one of the world's largest CO2 emitters and thus contributes significantly to the climate crisis. With the increasing scale of military activity, the short, medium, and long-term negative impacts on the ecosphere are also intensifying. Germany has obligated itself to become climate-neutral by 2045. At the same time, the defense budget was significantly increased following the Russian attack on Ukraine. “Greening Military?” takes a look at these conflicting objectives.

Until now, there have been scarcely any links between military studies and socio-ecological (transformation) research. In the project, representatives from the fields of environmental sociology, historical research, theology & ethics, life cycle assessment, and museum studies are working together in an inter- and transdisciplinary research network. The relationship between the modern military and its natural environment will be examined from various perspectives and analyzed in terms of its transformation in the light of “Zeitenwende” (Olaf Scholz) and the climate crisis.

The first phase of the project involves systematizing and surveying the military metabolism to date. Based on these results, the second phase of the project will identify and critically discuss socially negotiated greening strategies. Finally, in the third part of the project, a traveling exhibition on the military-nature nexus will be designed. Methodologically, the project relies on expert interviews, instruments from the field of eco-balancing, and transdisciplinary scenario techniques.

For further information, please visit the project homepage.