Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Ecology and War: The Wiki Review

So, a while back I wrote a couple of posts about the effect of war on the environment: (

By the standards of this generally idiosyncratic and opinionated blog they were actually pretty scrupulously researched. However, I neglected that most venerated source of amateur research knowledge - Wikipedia.

While reading about the military and civilian uses of depleted uranium (scary stuff - look it up some time) I found that there is a Wikipedia article titled 'Environmental impact of war'. Sadly it is pretty much useless. Despite having multiple issues that should be apparent to a literate reader with no expertise in the subject matter it does not even seem to have warranted a clean up label from the ruling Wikipedia cabal.

The most glaring error is a dominant focus on the long term and cross-generational effects of various chemical and nuclear weapons on human beings. Of course humans play a dominant role in most of the Earth's ecosystems but there are plenty of other places where the human impact of war is addressed. In my humble opinion a better use of a page specifically about ecological effects of warfare would be to focus on animals, plants and the general environment.

The historical section (necessarily a whirlwind tour in such a short article) appears to be randomly organised. For example the Vietnam war and Rwandan genocide are lumped together without any apparent rhyme or reason. Surprisingly this section is actually rather good with interesting points made about the US use of herbicides and the pressure that Rwandan refugee camps put on the surrounding ecosystem. Similarly the brief paragraph on the Iraqi oil spills caused by Saddam's scorched earth policy in the first gulf war is thought provoking about the effects of war in a major oil producing country.

We then have another confused list of general environmental hazards from unexploded ordinance to the use of Agent Orange. Again there seems to be more focus on issues that the authors were interested in than on those that genuinely caused environmental damage. At a glance I'd say that increased military use of fossil fuels (potentially offset by the usual domestic economic slow down?), intentional flooding and nuclear testing are most likely to have a major environmental rather than merely human significance.

So unfortunately not much of an asset to anyone considering the effect of war on the environment. Whole swathes of history are ignored with no real consideration of the (likely lesser) effects of war before the modern era. Geographically the picture is better than you might expect with the case studies taken from numerous continents but coverage remains piecemeal and incomplete. Here's hoping some community minded editor takes an interest in it soon!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Osborne gets back on his hobby horse

Anybody else worried about the fact that we are meant to hand our economy over for another four years to the party that took approximately 3 miliseconds after the Scottish referendum to swing from appealing for them to stay to pandering to British nationalists?

Labour may have their issues but at least they aren't total two-faced hypocrites.