60-Second Earth

Another Casualty of War?: The Environment

From lingering pollution to feeding soldiers on bushmeat, war can be tough on the environment. David Biello reports


War is hell. And that hell involves the environment, whether forests, fish or fowl.

There's unexploded ordnance. Fuel spills and fires. Chemical defoliants, polluted water supplies, even the depleted uranium from modern armor-piercing bullets leaching into the land. The bid to build nuclear weapons in recent decades has left a legacy of toxic contamination across the globe, from Rocky Flats, Colorado to Mayak in southern Russia.

Then there are the conflict driven resource curses, like blood diamonds from West Africa or Congo's coltan, a metallic ore that supplies materials for consumer electronics.

War has wrecked whole cities, from the sacking of Troy to the bombing of Hiroshima. And it clears forests, for fuel and to make sure that enemies are not hiding in the bush. Such destruction also decimates flora and fauna. Memorial Day honors fallen military, but war is also hell on everything from civilians to civet cats and cypress trees.

War, on occasion, can also create oases. In places where humans have retreated thanks to ongoing conflict, like the Korean Demilitarized Zone, wildlife can thrive. Because, for the environment, dealing with normal human activity can be a battle.  

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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