Dandelion Salad has another great post on the seemingly endless pile of data supporting impeachment of Vice Pres Cheney and Pres George Bush. It really got me thinking about all the ways that war destroys, aside from the human devastation. Something that doesn’t get discussed EVER, is the environmental impact of war. We’ve all seen the horrific battlefields, with scarred trees, burned fields and bomb craters, but there is so much more to it than that.
What about the poisoned water, the landslides from lack of root based plants? What about the deforestation that leaves animals and humans alike without homes or sustenance?
I started doing some snooping and came up with more than I could have imagined.
www.ppu.org offers this account from Vietnam:
The US military carried out a massive herbicidal programme in Vietnam for almost a decade. With 72 million litres of chemical spray, they defoliated the forests which provided cover for guerrillas.
‘All our coconut trees died,’ recalled a woman ten years later, in hospital with a third miscarriage, and also having chemotherapy; she asked not to be indentified. ‘Some of our animals died, and those that lived had deformed offspring. The seeds of the rice became very small, and we couldn’t use them for replanting.’
People exposed to the spray suffered headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness and chest complaints. Meanwhile, Agent Orange’s carcinogenic dioxin was sinking into the soil, washing into the sea, and entering the food chain, where it is still at work today. Children born since the war have consumed high levels of dioxin; and many fathered by men exposed to the spray (many of whom are now dead or suffering from cancers) have spina bifida and other congenital abnormalities.
And we’ve talked extensively on the lack of water. Here’s a snippet on war over water:
Soldiers besieging Sarajevo cut off the electricity supply, and with it the water pumps; people lining up at wells and stand pipes were easily and routinely picked off by snipers or attacked with mortar fire. It’s been common practice in war zones for belligerents to fill wells with rocks, steal pipes and pumping systems, dynamite dams, and pollute what’s left. A revolt in Iraq was crushed by draining the marshes on which the rebels lived and depended. Millions have died in war zones and refugee camps from water-borne diseases.
And water looks increasingly likely to be a cause of war, because there is simply not enough of it to go round. In the mere 40 years up to 1990, global water-use tripled. Its use is inequitable and profligate where it’s relatively easy to get. A western family can use 2000 litres a day; in Africa a few litres of untreated water each have to be carried, often for long distances or in war conditions. The world population is still growing, while water tables fall, underground aquifers empty, lakes shrink and wetlands dry up.
There are fears for war over the Euphrates, the object of a vast damming operation in Turkey which will cut Syria’s water supply by a third – and Turkey threatened to cut Syria off altogether for supporting Turkish dissidents. There are fears for war over the river Jordan: Israel, bent on self-sufficiency, claims all the water it can; but Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians need supplies too. There are fears for war over the Nile: Egypt is diverting river water to irrigate the desert, to grow crops instead of importing them; eight more countries, including drought-devastated Sudan, are in the queue. President Sadat has said: ‘The only matter that could take Egypt to war again is water’
Still interested in learning more?
Here’s a journal article called Impact of War on the Environment by Svetlana Turyalay and Elchin Hajiyev.
Here’s a powerpoint presentation by EnviroAgainstWar.org called The Iraq War: Environmental Impact Assessment
Civil War in Sudan: The Impact of Ecological Degradation by Mohamed Suliman
Here’s a training video shown to American service men and women about Depleted Uranium in Kosovo: (I doubt the citizens of Kosovo were shown this video)