Forty years after the United States stopped spraying herbicides in the jungles of Southeast Asia in the hopes of denying cover to Vietcong fighters and North Vietnamese troops, an air base here is one of about two dozen former American sites that remain polluted with an especially toxic strain of dioxin, the chemical contaminant in Agent Orange that has been linked to cancers, birth defects and other diseases.
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The carbon footprint of war: 690 million tonnes CO2e: a ‘limited’ nuclear exchange 250–600 million tonnes CO2e: the Iraq war since 2003. The direct human costs of wars are so great that it might seem flippant to think about their environmental impacts. But modern armed forces are rapacious consumers of energy and kick out vast quantities of carbon – emissions that may contribute towards human harm well beyond the battlefield.
Climate change is acknowledged to be the major problem currently facing the human race, and the need to reduce our carbon footprint becomes ever more urgent as the scientific predictions of the effects of climate change become increasingly dire. Whether we are fully aware of the social and political consequences of striving for a significant reduction is more questionable. The Carbon Footprint Wars identifies the many dangers inherent in the projected solutions – such as retreating from the spread of globalization, the current socio-economic paradigm for world trade. The war of words that is being waged over the appropriate way to deal with our collective carbon footprint has critical implications for us all.
Conservation efforts are only as sustainable as the social and political context within which they take place. The weakening or collapse of sociopolitical frameworks during wartime can lead to habitat destruction and the erosion of conservation policies, but in some cases, may also confer ecological benefits through altered settlement patterns and reduced resource exploitation. Over 90% of the major armed conflicts between 1950 and 2000 occurred within countries containing biodiversity hotspots, and more than 80% took place directly within hotspot areas.