[Throughout human history there have been] many deliberate acts to destroy or exploit the natural environment to achieve military goals. In the 5th century BC the retreating Scythians poisoned the water wells in an effort to slow the advancing Persian army. Roman troops razed the city of Carthage in 146 BC and poisoned the surrounding soil with salt to prevent its future cultivation. The American Civil War saw the widespread implementation of ’scorched earth’ policies.
At this moment the world is witnessing a continuing humanitarian and environmental catastrophe in the western region of Darfur in Sudan, which has seen the poisoning of water wells and drinking water installations as part of a deliberate government-supported strategy by the Janjaweed militia to eliminate or displace the ethnic black Africans living in that region.
environmental damage and exploitation is still largely regarded, as rape once was, as an ‘unfortunate but inevitable’ consequence of war. It is, of course, true that war and armed conflict are inherently destructive of the environment, but that is no reason to allow leaders to deliberately or recklessly target the environment in order to achieve their military goals.
By the Pentagon’s own figures, the U.S. military uses more fossil fuels than any other single entity. But the Pentagon’s figures only take into consideration vehicle transport and facility maintenance. They don’t account for the energy needed to build something like the massive imperial embassy or mega-bases in Iraq or reconstruct the rest of the country. They also don’t factor in the energy used by related branches, like NASA, the nuclear industry, or the thousands of contractors that make or do things for the military.”
Yet the U.S. military isn’t listed as one of the World Wildlife Fund’s ‘footprint issues’. Nor is it mentioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council or Sierra Club as the largest consumer of the ‘dirty fuels’ both lobby against.
Wendell Berry, who … spent most of his life linking issues of the environment to the many maladies of our society, once said that just as military violence is ignored by most conservationists, violence against the earth is a matter ignored by most pacifists. The antiwar and environmental movements must bond over this common enemy and see, as Berry put it, that we cannot hope to end violence against each other until we end our violence against the earth.
You could, perhaps, call it the “military-ecological complex”. For the world’s most powerful armies are going green, trying to kickstart an environmental-technological revolution in civvy street in the process.
Half of [the US military] wartime casualties are sustained by convoys, which are mostly carrying fuel and are a favoured target for enemies. It estimates that every 1 per cent of fuel saved means 6,444 soldiers do not have to travel in a vulnerable convoy.
One simple innovation – insulating tents in Iraq and Afghanistan with a layer of hard foam, reducing the need to heat and cool them – has saved 100,000 gallons of fuel a day. The Pentagon aims to get a quarter of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. It is to buy 4,000 electric cars (the world’s largest single order) for use on its bases, and is developing hybrid armoured vehicles for the battlefield.
It has saved fuel by cutting the weight of aircraft – removing floor mats, redundant tools, loading thick manuals on to laptops, and using lighter paint – and within seven years plans to fly them on a 50/50 blend of ordinary fuel and biofuel, probably made from algae.
Scientists hope that the massive spending power of the military will spin off environmental technologies into civilian life, as jet engines, microchips, and global positioning systems did in the past. “We can be a test bed for a lot of things that normally would not seem to make powerful economic sense,” said the US Assistant Army Secretary, Keith Eastin.
Go green, army. Photography by jrseles.
Being the devils advocate for a second: If they did go to war to secure oil in the first place how ironic if the warfare itself will lead to less need for oil!