Massive loss of life usually occurs during war, and we also take for granted the devastating environmental impact of war. Please spare a second thought for it on the International Day of Peace on September 21st. There’s hope, but we must act now.
How do we define war?
“War, what is it good for?” “Absolutely nothing!” Edwin Starr’s 1969 hit single still rings true today, but let’s be honest, there has never really been a time in human history when we were not launching something at each other: from rocks to boulders, from arrows to spears, from boomerangs to catapults… Historically, war was principally fought over control of resources such as water, food, trade routes, etc. Of course, there have been many other reasons including religion, personal vendettas, political conflict, or ideology such as communism or fascism. Nowadays though, we seem to fight over Gold, Oil or Drugs and the Military-Industrial complex has a lot to answer for in terms of environmental disasters: from lead bullets to depleted uranium ammunition, from bombs to missiles, from grenades to rockets, from Agent Orange to DDT, from naval mines to land mines, from tanks to APCs, from drones to fighters, from submarines to aircraft carriers, and the list could go on and on… You cannot have a war if the enemy cannot defend themselves, right? That would be a massacre, so both sides are usually armed by the same unscrupulous companies. Apart from this being a humanitarian disaster in itself, from an environmental point of view the impact of the use of these weapons of mass destruction is disastrous for the environment, because these machines and weapons were never designed with ecology in mind, nor are the long term impacts of their use considered until long afterwards.
What happens in war (and what should not)?
War has always meant a great waste of money, resources and lives. As a matter of fact, the United States military has bases in nearly every other country and spends around $700 billion every year, which is almost as much as all of the other countries combined. That means every living American pays more than $2,100 per year in taxes to maintain it, which could obviously be much better used for education, welfare or health care. During its 245 year history (since 1776), the US military has been at war for 228 years, and their carbon emissions alone would make it the 47th most polluting country in the world. Modern warfare has also weaponized technology on the battlefield with a wide array of supposedly “smart devices”, like guided bombs, unmanned drones, etc. Music has also been weaponized for many years too, most famously celebrated in Vietnam War films where helicopters fly in low playing loud music to frighten the locals, not to mention its use in modern torture where heavy metal is played loudly to prisoners. Cyber warfare is also a hot topic as countries battle each other with cyber attacks, fake news and even election interference via social media platforms. Controversy surrounds satellite and mobile phone networks (including 5G), as surveillance is increasing worldwide under the guise of improving telecommunications. Conspiracy theories will continue to circulate as long as scientific reports concerning safety and testing continue to be mostly inconclusive, but many governments are still allowing companies to install masts approximately 300 metres apart. We should not forget militarized crowd control via Active Denial Systems, which use very powerful directed 5G technology. Sadly, I envision a future similar to that of the “Terminator” films.
What happens after war?
Once the warring is over, and the casualties of war have been counted, a real environmental disaster begins to unfold. The war machinery is often simply abandoned on the battlefield, or worse, finds its way into the hands of rebels and terrorist organizations, often plunging the war-torn country into civil war. We are talking about tonnes and tonnes of expendable equipment, ammunition, fuel, oil, clothing, food, etc, and I do not recall seeing too many clean up operations to remove the junk left behind. Farmers often return to their lands and their livelihoods after all this and find them, oh, and maybe land mines! That is, farmers, their children and their livestock discover them even years after they were deployed (In 1997, the Ottawa Treaty banned them and almost all countries accepted, except the USA, Russia, China and a few others). Old unstable ammunition, grenades and bombs are regularly pulled out of battlefields and many old farm workers report shrapnel wounds. I even found an old grenade buried in my garden, and the police bomb squad had to come and destroy it. Cities that were carpet-bombed, like London, Dresden, Rotterdam, Saigon, etc unearth unexploded bombs more often than we can imagine (Fortunately, that practice was outlawed in 1977). They may also be unlucky to find that biological warfare or chemical weapons have been used, although most of these are banned too, and recently, white phosphorus and depleted uranium ammunition were used in Syria. Vietnam is still suffering from the after effects of DDT, Agent Orange and Napalm. Anyway, this contaminates the soil and water making farming virtually impossible, causing crop failures, and people and their animals to get sick and die. Nuclear weapons have only ever been used in war by one country and its effects are still being felt in Japan today. Since 1945, at least 2,624 devices have been detonated, and radiation levels are rising all over the globe. Radioactivity is leaking into the sea from several sources (including old nuclear submarines, radioactive material dumping grounds, Bikini Atoll testing and disasters like Fukushima and Three Mile Island). This is spreading worldwide in ocean currents, probably causing wildlife to develop cancer, mutate or worse, and obviously, human health is probably affected too. So, there you were thinking sharks were bad, but they are not the only dangerous thing at sea, as naval mines are constantly being discovered around coastlines like that of Great Britain, and much like land mines in Afghanistan and Korea, nobody knows for sure how many were made, or even where they were deployed. Fishermen often pull them up in their nets and they often break away from their moorings, finding their way to shipping channels or beaches and their delicate condition means they explode easily, causing havoc, but that is, after all, what they were designed to do in the first place.
How does humanity benefit from war?
Peace (Relative): It is difficult to say we benefit, because war is tragic, but historically the winner of a war got the spoils. Nowadays, the threat of war diminishes the threat of war actually occurring, because we have come to a stage with the evolution of weaponry that we could destroy our entire planet in a matter of minutes.
How to Save Our Shrapnel?
Individually: We must try to find diplomatic solutions to all types of conflict, and violence should be the very last resort, not the first.
Collectively, including Governments: We have to hold those accountable for violent crimes, which occurs frequently and especially during war. The Geneva Convention protects the rights of civilians and soldiers alike.
Unpopular opinion: We should stop invading other countries for their resources, oh, and then abandoning them at a moment’s notice after we have “pillaged their village”. It makes us no better than the Vikings. We have been warring over GOD (Gold, Oil, Drugs) for too long now, but I imagine we will soon start fighting over fresh water and land for growing crops as Climate change wreaks havoc on the planet, so protecting it from further environmental disasters and cleaning up our mess must be top priorities.
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Save Our Shrapnel Test
Here are 10 questions...
How it started
How it's going
SOSquiz Glossary of Terms (with links to Wikipedia)
AEEA (Asociación Española de Educación Ambiental)
ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network)
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Coronavirus (Covid-19 or SARS Cov-2)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
National Security Agency (NSA)
Particulate Matter (PM 10, 2.5 & UFP)
Quality of life (QOL)
Ultrafine particles (UFP)
World Wide Web (www)