War and the Environment: Military Destruction in the Modern Age

War and the Environment: Military Destruction in the Modern Age

War and the Environment: Military Destruction in the Modern Age

War and the Environment: Military Destruction in the Modern Age


In recent times, the devastation occurring in places like Darfur has focused the world's attention on the intertwined relationship of military conflict and the environment--and the attendant human suffering.

In War and the Environment, eleven scholars explore, among other topics, the environmental ravages of trench warfare in World War I, the exploitation of Philippine forests for military purposes from the Spanish colonial period through 1945, William Tecumseh Sherman's scorched-earth tactics during his 1864-65 March to the Sea, and the effects of wartime policy upon U.S. and German conservation practices during World War II.


Charles E. Closmann

Military conflict is often a cause and consequence of environmental decline. in Darfur, for instance, climate change and desertification have exacerbated fighting between pastoralists and farmers, forcing more than two million people to flee their homes and villages in this arid region of Sudan. Huddled in camps along the Sudanese/Chadian border, the refugees are quickly exhausting scarce sources of water and timber, making a catastrophic situation even worse. Elsewhere, the United States and countries of the former Soviet Union continue to learn about the vast quantities of chemicals, depleted uranium, and other residues of their respective military systems that litter battlefields, storage depots, and installations around the world. the cost to remediate these sites will reach into the billions of dollars, a legacy extending far into the twentyfirst century. As these examples demonstrate, military operations (and occupations) can have devastating effects on natural resources, making a study of the relationship between war and the environment vitally important if societies are to avoid future conflicts and create a more ecologically sustainable world.

The nine essays collected here examine the historical connections between war and the environment. in so doing, contributors ask several basic questions: How has warfare transformed the environment over time, where environment is defined as climate, landscape, flora, fauna, soil, water, and built settlements with which human communities interact? in what ways have environmental conditions changed the character of combat, including not only their influence on strategies and resource use but also on how humans experience and remember military conflicts? And, finally, how should the effects of warfare on ecosystems, cities, and other features of our physical surroundings be measured?

For millennia scholars have been fascinated by the spectacle of war. Since at least the fifth century B.C., when Thucydides wrote his History of the Peloponnesian War, historians have chronicled the tactics of great generals and the ways in which war changes social institutions, topples monarchs, and expresses . . .

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