By Engler, Yves
Canadian Dimension , Vol. 43, No. 5
REDUCING THE SIZE of the Canadian Armed Forces should be a priority for those of us that want a more peaceful world. It should also be a priority for anyone concerned about the environment.
Rarely is the environmental impact of the Canadian military questioned despite the fact that producing tanks or fighter jets consumes significant amounts of energy and causes many waste products. Once built, planes, tanks, and naval vessels all guzzle petrol even if they are rarely used outside of practice drills. For this reason, the Department of National Defense (DND) emits more greenhouse gases than any other federal government agency.
Military pollution reaches the highest clouds and the bottom of the ocean floor. According to Navy guidelines, Canadian submarines are permitted to dump oily bilge water into the sea. Similarly, naval frigates are allowed to use the ocean as their trash can. But in September 2007 the Globe and Mail uncovered changes to Navy policy that allow ships to dump food waste in the Arctic sea. Considering the extent to which militarism contributes to global warming, it is ironic that the change in policy was partly prompted by rising temperatures in the north that make it more difficult to store waste on board ships.
Even after they are no longer operational, naval vessels continue to pollute the ocean. In April 2007, U.S. and Canadian gunboats disposed of HMCS Huron 100 km off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Officially, the method of disposal was listed as "firing by naval sea sparrow missiles, aircraft machine guns, and naval gunnery (including MK48 torpedoes)." HMCS Huron was sunk 2 km down to the ocean floor. In response, Jennifer Lash, from the group Living Oceans, complained that the military was "treating the ocean like a garbage dump ... No one even knows what kind of marine life there is down there."
All across the country, military training has damaged ecosystems. Government files suggest that there are ninety-two underwater spots in Canada potentially laden with unexploded ordnance. …