What we talk about when we talk about war

Burning oil wells in Kuwait 1991

We talk about loss of life, politics, strategies, national identities, war crimes, armies, disruption, uncertainty and destruction.

We don’t usually talk about the environment, or when we do, it’s only when we see spectacular images. The old military scorched earth tactic to destroy crops and starve a populace isn’t the only way entire regions are devastated.
Environmental degradation; toxic waste from munitions, chemicals, fuel; pollution of air and water by military activities; habitat destruction for plant and wildlife.

According the Carlotta Gall (NYT), total forest area decreased 38 percent in Afghanistan from 1990 to 2007.  This is a result of illegal logging, which is associated with the rising power of the warlords, who have enjoyed U.S. support.  Refugees in search of fuel and building materials contribute to deforestation. Ever wonder how all those people fleeing conflict stay warm? Drought, desertification, and species loss that accompany habitat loss have been the result.  Moreover, as the wars have led to environmental destruction, the degraded environment itself contributes in turn to further conflict.

Costsofwar.org uses Afghanistan as an example for war-accelerated wildlife destruction. “Bombing in Afghanistan and deforestation have threatened an important migratory thoroughfare for birds leading through this area. The number of birds now flying this route has dropped by 85 percent.

“U.S. bases became a lucrative market for the skins of the endangered Snow Leopard, and impoverished and refugee Afghans have been more willing to break the ban on hunting them, in place since 2002.  Foreign aid workers who arrived in the city in large numbers following the collapse of the Taliban regime have also purchased the skins.  Their remaining numbers in Afghanistan were estimated at between 100 and 200 in 2008.” (http://costsofwar.org/article/environmental-costs#_ftnref6)

So as wars continue and others heat up in the Middle East, again, let’s spare a thought for what inevitably comes after but is rarely discussed, much less resolved.

The effect of a real war on the environment.

A couple of links:



One thought on “What we talk about when we talk about war

  1. Pingback: What we talk about when we talk about war (III) | champagnewhisky

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