The Impact Of War and Weapons On Humans And The Environment
War shows little regard for human life, so it is no surprise that the environment is often another casualty of war.
Millions of people are involved in armed conflicts in the world today. Many of these conflicts occur in highly populated, poorer nations, which contain unique biodiversity. These also tend to be regions that are already suffering from severe environmental neglect such as countries in South Asia, Africa and South America.
The whole process of war is destructive to the environment. War preparations - especially the testing of weapons and military training exercises - military activity during a war, and the after-effects of war - pollution, unexploded shells and land mines - all have devastating effects on the environment. War destroys homes and infrastructures, while creating social problems and the displacement of people. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are forced into camps, which cause deforestation and pollution. Refugees frequently come into conflict with wildlife and cause their extinction. The civil wars in Rwanda and Congo, for example, have caused major problems for the mountain gorillas there.
Armies show little or no consideration for the environmental impact of building roads and fortifications or for the waste they produce. Tanks and personnel carriers destroy vegetation and render soil infertile by compressing the underlying layers of soil.
Air strikes and ground fighting directly impact on wildlife and human populations. For strategic reasons, warfare often takes place in mountain, river and forest regions, where there are high concentrations of wildlife. The noise and disruption, results in the wildlife migrating to neighbouring areas or perishing in the now inhospitable environment.
There are also cases of deliberate destruction of the environment as a war tactic, such as on the Chilean Argentine border in the 1970s.
The environmental impact of the weapons used - particularly if they are biological, chemical or nuclear - is catastrophic. There are also very great environmental risks involved in the manufacture and disposal of these weapons. The effects of biological weapons, once used, are irreversible. The radiation produced by the explosion of nuclear bombs and by weapons made from depleted uranium lasts for hundreds or thousands of years.