the future climate warlords of northern california
According to the group of tree-hugging, granola-munching hippies known as the United States military, climate change poses the most significant risk for worldwide conflicts in the near and far future, as fallout from more powerful storms and stress on vulnerable infrastructure drives failing states to the brink, emboldening terrorist groups, igniting civil wars, and creating refugee crises. This inability to deal with floods, droughts, famines, and pandemics, and the resulting conflicts, are expected to be the leading cause of death for millions in the next few decades.
But while the Pentagon is focused on failed and failing states where it conducts most of its very expansive and secretive counter-terrorism work, a recent incident in Northern California shows that even wealthy nation states aren’t immune to the same threats. In Mariposa, a militia known as Echo Company handed out pancakes, sandwiches, and recruitment materials to evacuees of the Oak Fire, ostensibly to help the overburdened local emergency services. Which would be a nice gesture if you ignore this groups’ history and ideology.
You see, Echo Company is actually a splinter group of the California State Militia, kicked out for “militant activity and incitement” at the peak of the COVID pandemic. That means the seemingly nice gentlemen in fatigues serving breakfast and offering you more information about their little social club actually want to take up arms against the government and hope that you’ll join them if you see that between bouts of planning to bring about a fascist dystopia in a violent coup, they also make mean pancakes and help out tired firefighters.
And partially because America is, well, having some serious structural issues right now, Echo Company was able to get the local sheriff’s department to softly backpedal their initial warming about their activity, steamrolling their way into unearned legitimacy. Believe it or not, this is the exact tactic used by ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups, straight from their field manual Management of Savagery. Where local services are failing and social cohesion is frayed, swoop in, offer help, insist on providing it no matter what, then start recruiting after doling out favors.
Of course, this tactic isn’t exclusive to the Middle East. Mafias in Italy and the IRA in Ireland had been employing the same strategy for decades with various levels of success. As long as they get new members and supporters out of their consent-optional do-gooding, they’re hoping you won’t start doing your research and wondering why they’re so dead set on trying to bring about neo-feudal societies complete with warlords, and often a good touch of ethnic cleansing, and so many of their solutions to social problems involve guns, bombs, and kidnappings.
Now, you may ask why left wing groups don’t do something similar to counterbalance far right militias showing up to climate emergencies, but that’s beside the point. Local services should have the staffing, resources, and funding to feed evacuees, tackle the fires, and make repairs quickly and efficiently. The whole fact that the government and society at large is looking out for its citizens is the point, and that’s what will effectively undermine the cult-like message groups such as Echo Company are trying to spread: join us, we’re the only ones who care.
Consider that the Syrian civil war, which created waves of refugee crises in Europe and ISIS, was most likely triggered by climate change induced crop failures, and droughts in Africa have been driving wave after wave of migrants trying to escape their failing, and increasingly violent homes. Just imagine how much worse the situation will become if we do nothing to address it in a global, coordinated manner. Thousands of Echo Companies will be busy recruiting soldiers as War Boys to their Immortan Joes in a Mad Max world in which they think they’ll thrive.
We have to take them seriously because as we saw time and time again, they’re not just playing around. Giving them and their enablers more and more opportunities to further destabilize social fabrics and reshape them into something more totalitarian and hostile seems foolish at best, and dangerous at worst. But if we refuse to take our social contracts seriously and don’t clean up the damage caused by our pollution, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing at a cost measured in trillions of dollars and millions of lives.