“Warfare in the modern era...results in environmental destruction of such a degree that it has been described as ecological holocaust.”
Let’s look at the different aspects-
The U.S. military is responsible for half of the worldwide use of CFC which accounts for 13 percent of overall ozone depletion. CO2 as a result of military activity up to 10% of total global emissions. The world’s military forces are responsible for the release of more than two-thirds of CFC-113 into the ozone layer. The US military is the world’s single largest polluter & generates more toxics annually than the top five chemical companies combined. The Pentagon is the single largest consumer of oil worldwide. The Environmental Impacts of War hardly need stating: Burning oil wells, (e.g. the largest oil spill ever to hit the Mediterranean); the cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions littering the countryside; killing, mutilating, and poisoning; the defoliated landscape after chemical spraying, or indeed massive forest fires; down to bombed sewage systems poisoning the groundwater.
In 1989 the Department of Defence purchased 2 billion barrels of oil for military use - enough to run all of the U.S. public transit systems for 22 years. With Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya that’s likely to be a lot higher now! Approximately one quarter (42 million tons per year) of the world’s jet fuel is used by armed forces.The worldwide military use of aluminium, copper, nickel and platinum is greater than the entire Global South demand for these materials. Globally, up to 1.5 million km2 of land are controlled by armed forces (same size as Mongolia), not including the area occupied by arms producing companies.
Even War Games cause severe degradation. Bombing ranges transform the land into wasteland. Shooting ranges for tanks and artillery contaminate soil and groundwater with lead and other toxic residues. Recovery can take thousands of years. Nuclear test sites = permanent contamination. Not to mention the low-level flights, which disrupt wildlife migrations and behavioural patterns. Anywhere in the world, a military presence is the single most reliable predictor of environmental damage. Virtually all of the world’s nuclear bomb test sites, as well as most uranium mines and radioactive dumps, occupy Native lands. Not unlike other toxic military activities. The US military (the world’s single largest polluter) is responsible for 27,000 toxic hot spots on 8,500 current and former military properties.
A group of activists managed to get inside the ExCeL Centre! They unfurled a Stop the Arms Fair banner in front of a green howitzer that has been supplied to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, Indonesia, Thailand, and used in Mali, Lebanon and Afghanistan.
But even where no military is present the environmental impact of the industry supporting it is devastating. Take for example the cost of aluminium production. 30% of all aluminium produced goes to the arms trade. Aluminium smelting is one of the most environmentally destructive processes. Bauxite is the raw material. It involves destruction of tropical rainforests, appropriation of indigenous lands, and chemical pollution to river and groundwater systems. ‘Land regeneration’ is a total myth, as can be seen in e.g. Jamaica, India, Trinidad, Australia. Aluminium smelting requires vast energy input – thus ‘clean energy’ is produced by damming all of Iceland’s major glacial rivers and destroying Europe’s last remaining great wilderness.
As a lorry laden with equipment and destined for DSEI came into view, over 100 activists descended into the road to chants of “repression starts here… lets stop it here!”.
It’s not simply that militarism causes massive environmental damage. It’s also that, even if we arbitrarily separate them, they are both parts of the same system of domination, oppression, and destruction. Capitalism results in the need for continuous war and the military-industrial complex. It also demands ever increasing rates of resource extraction - with the inevitable environmental degradation and climate change that results.