Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Every time I get an email from the University of Maryland administration, I suffer from an often unexplainable sense of uneasiness.
This university’s recent communications were no exception, as university President Darryll Pines announced a series of new green initiatives as part of his inauguration. He introduced a number of sustainability measures and planned carbon credit purchases meant to turn the university into a carbon-neutral campus by April 2025. And, as a nice cherry on top, he announced plans to replace all 1,070 fossil fuel vehicles in the university-owned fleet with electric cars.
“It is my hope that these measures will help inspire every one of us to commit to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions, for our planet and for our people,” Pines said.
These proposals, at least on their face, should have alleviated my trepidation — but they didn’t. It was only after Pines boasted about this university’s “commitment” to environmental change that I realized what was nagging at me.
This university heralds itself as a top green college, yet it willfully neglects to see the tacit effect its business decisions have on the environment. This isn’t to say on-campus carbon neutrality and lowered greenhouse emissions aren’t solid, admirable goals — but their impact is negated by the school’s relentless support for the environmental leviathans of war: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. Until this university ends its partnerships with the companies that harm the environment the most, its commitment to sustainability and climate action is nothing but a joke.
There’s a long and storied relationship between this university and the nation’s premier defense contractors and warmongers. Its partnership with Lockheed Martin, this country’s largest defense contractor, goes all the way back to 1944. This partnership is virtually depicted in an 800-word homage to Lockheed Martin’s impact at this university, but its impact is also physical. The company has its own “partnership suite” in the Kim Engineering Building and has donated millions upon millions of dollars to the school.
But don’t worry, this university doesn’t only embrace the number one defense contractor. It also partners with Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, two other corporations who just happen to also fall in the top 10 largest defense contractors. Northrop Grumman gave the university $1.1 million to create the Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students honors program to more efficiently funnel top students into cybersecurity and defense. Raytheon got invited to the party, too, snatching up a prime location in College Park’s Discovery District, meant to provide a link between students, staff and the defense conglomerate.
The war atrocities these companies enable are well documented. They’re killers-by-proxy. They create many of the aircraft, weaponry and ammunition used by the American military. Time and time again, their instruments of war are used both in battle and in the killing of innocent civilians, whose main crime was the audacity to be trapped in a war-torn state. But far less attention is paid to the disastrous environmental consequences of war.
Perpetual military preparedness has come at a hefty price to the environment. While the U.S. military touts the largest military spending in the world, the Department of Defense also holds the unfortunate honor of representing the world’s largest single user of petroleum and producer of greenhouse gases. Almost half of their energy consumption comes from jet fuel alone, driven by 13,000 expensive toys. The expanse of these three defense contractors’ reach goes beyond the United States military, too. In total, just three of their top military aircraft — the F-16, the C-130 and the T-38 — total over 4,300 operational planes across the globe.
Through its energy-intensive nature, aviation’s environmental impact is disastrous. No human activity emits as many harmful emissions over a short period of time — which directly contributes to the warming of our planet. The massive amount of output from these manufacturers results in copious usage of resources, especially considering the amount of waste left when aircraft are decommissioned.
We also can’t overlook the more obvious, explicit effects war has on the environment. War causes resource scarcity, pollution and literal destruction of land and habitats. Massive bombs and missile tests pollute and destroy both land and sea, leaving behind a world less able to support its biodiversity.
Yet again, this test case shows this university will always put business interests over all else. Despite these companies profiting from war — and even rubbing their hands in delight in anticipation of global climate disaster — the administration cares more about the money and prestige that comes out of these corporate partnerships than anything else. This university’s two-faced sense of moral superiority on environmental issues has never been clearer.
These military partnerships won’t go away anytime soon. This university has broken bread with military contractors for almost 80 years. Pines’ administration cannot claim to be committed to the reduction of greenhouse gases. Their active support of climate change’s greatest contributors says otherwise.
Jake Foley-Keene, opinion editor, is a junior government and politics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.