War vs. Environment
“Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary.” – 1992 Rio Declaration
From the Romans in 146 BC salting fields around Carthage to impair food production to the looting of Iraqi nuclear facilities in the last decade, the environmental destruction resulting from war has had an enduring legacy. While the spraying of Agent Orange (Complements of Monsanto Inc.) to defoliate jungles in Vietnam and burning of oil wells in Iraq have become icons of environmental warfare, many lesser-known but no less significant acts of ecocide have been perpetrated by warring states. Among them are the extensive toll of water contamination on environmental and health security and the impact of combat on endangered species. Although by no means comprehensive, the following examples illustrate some of the different forms of environmental degradation caused by war.
Since the 1991 Gulf War, concern over the health and environmental effects of depleted uranium (DU) weapons has continued to grow. Personally, I was informed countless times of the chances of exposure to DU in Iraq (2001-2007) and the effects of “overexposure” of DU. DU is an extremely dense metal made from low-level radioactive waste, DU is principally used by the United States, but also by other countries such as Britain, in defensive military armor, conventional munitions, and some missiles. Its ability to penetrate the armor of enemy tanks and other targets more readily than similar weapons made of other materials has made DU extremely valuable to the US military. Perhaps not surprisingly, the US military has downplayed potential health risks posed by exposure to DU. In many cases, scientific studies have linked reports between health problems and the excessive use of DU weapons. (World Health Organization,...
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