For the better part of their existence, the global anti-war and the environmentalist movements have typically existed side by side, each pursuing noble but separate aims. Today, however, a new trend has become apparent: the mutually reinforcing interaction between human violence and planetary change. No longer can peace and the environment be seen as separate issues. Consequently, no longer can the two movements merely work side by side; they must work as one.
From Violent Conflict to Environmental Stress
Data collection on war-related environmental effects is dangerous, complex and costly, meaning that our understanding of the environmental impact of war remains limited. First and foremost is the challenge of simply getting scientists, data, samples and instruments into and out of war zones safely. Not everything can be measured remotely; ground-based field work is necessary. And measurement is critical because the relationship between war and environmental harm is not as straightforward as we might think. Occasionally, war benefits the environment by reducing harmful peacetime economic activity, as during the Balkan wars in the 1990s, or creates safe havens for wildlife fauna and flora, as in the Korean demilitarized zone today. Nevertheless, the existing research into the effects of violent conflict on ecology suggests at least three clear, and harmful, dynamics.