As the saying goes: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
It can sometimes be baffling to realize why humans – with the acquired gift of common sense – would unleash the most extreme form of primal territoriality. It’s their version of survival – ensuring one’s society, lineage or creed can prosper without a looming fear of being snuffed out.
Territorial disputes often end with a victor and a vanquished – one that claims the territory to do as they please while the defeated party is either banished or subjected to the former’s whims. You can see that from animals in nature documentaries, and oftentimes, these instances are mostly a “one-and-done” situation.
In the case of mankind, however, these disputes can range between the aforementioned situation… or one that drags the entire planet into a matter that would eventually become a volatile, ticking time bomb.
Wars can summon the worst in people, epitomized through the pain and misfortune inflicted on the innocent bystanders drawn into it. Their homes and lands are ravaged and destroyed by those who seek to claim it as their own. And finally, the resentment and suffering that manifests from these actions beget even more of the same in the future.
But I digress. We can discuss ad nauseam about the countless lives that were lost from these acts of genocide, and we can dread how history is bound to repeat itself in the strife that sees today. However, we should also consider the underlying effects that war causes on the planet. Human resilience tends to bounce back from the horrors of war and emerge stronger than ever, but the damage goes far beyond an imminent fall of civilizations and worldwide harmony. The planet is taking the damage as well; and one day, a brutal push of an uncalled siege won’t lead to claiming a territory; it will instead destroy it and everything around it, rendering it useless for any form of hospitality or accommodation.
Manmade wars have a litany of factors that damage the environment. Militaries have a reputation for conducting operations that cause pollution, with the US military, in particular, being one of the largest emitters in the world. In fact, when the Montreal Protocol in 1987 banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which had damaged the ozone layer, two-thirds of that greenhouse gas was emitted from military operations around the world.
An exorbitant amount of fossil fuels is used up for military weapons and vehicles for their expeditions. As war is often instigated over resources, it’s quite ironic that warmongers would consume fossil fuels for the sake of claiming a potential gold mine of even more fossil fuels. This ouroboric concept isn’t made to last and, unfortunately, these people don’t see it. Fossil fuels will eventually run out from the world – they aren’t renewable; and by the time this fact is realized, the planet would have already taken some severe damages under these greedy impulses.
Of course, fossil fuels aren’t the only end goal (though possessing a source does put one side on the advantage); war is also a battle for food and settlement – something that will undoubtedly be fought tooth and nail for.
These sieges can be brutal. As mentioned before, war is a destructive force that encompasses everything it touches – structurally, physically, mentally… anything is fair game. Ecosystems are either trampled over or set ablaze by the tanks and the marching soldiers that barge through their self-proclaimed “battlefields”. The clash between the invaders and invaded would be akin to a hellscape surrounded by death and ruins. This destabilizes the ecological harmony that the environment had thrived upon. Animals that were lucky enough to escape their natural habitat may end up encroaching upon nearby areas, ultimately upsetting the life there as well. And those who are unlucky – such as the people who end up slain – are either left to rot or burn in a pit along with the rest of the waste that the siege had amassed. Undoubtedly, these burnings will produce a copious amount of greenhouse gases, affect the health of those in the vicinity, and would only add up to the worldwide emissions that would exacerbate global warming and climate change. The siege may be limited to a certain territory, but by extension, it is a brazen assault on the planet itself.
Some wish that this is all exaggeration, but it isn’t. The remnants of decades-old biological and chemical warfare still linger today. From the lives of those affected by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to the corrosion of living standards in the vicinity of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the implications caused by weapons of mass destruction (potential or not) shows how much of a double-edged sword war can be. Even areas subjected to extreme precautionary measures before detonating a bomb over it – such is the case in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 – left decades of contamination and the ensuing inhospitality in its wake.
The land can end up uninhabitable to sustain life due to the fallout, rendering the place desolate – one might as well put up a sign there that says, “If I can’t have it, no one will.” And it shows. By 2020, nine nations still possess nuclear weapons – and any of them can be prone to unleash it if they see fit. That dread remains to this day.
Even in this age of innovation and progress, the penchant for war still remains like an ugly scar. It’s just the same archaic, barbaric lust for dominance – only modernized. As someone I know once told me, “They [warmongers] will be content with neither what they have nor what they would claim as their own.”
So, in a nutshell, war is bad, as are tanks and bombs. We may be intellectual creatures that had combined science and engineering to help us overcome our existing obstacles and ascend to newer successes, yet we remain in this folly that the earth we walk on is capable of enduring all of this for the years to come.
Has the situation worsened over the years? Well, when looking at the environmental state of the planet, another full-blown war can completely unhinge any prospects we have for our net-zero emissions goal, and the rate of global warming will reach a potentially-irreversible level. When countries are beginning to course-correct their emissions, a war throws a wrench into those efforts.
But with the evolving state of war and its associated environmental hazards, so did the global outcry of condemning them. While nations are forging a united front in making life difficult for the instigators of war and supporting those afflicted by it, many members of the militaries themselves are joining hands with the community in rebuilding the ecosystems that were once ravaged. We can’t blame one branch of the society for its core role in wars and sieges, as such incidents are rooted in a network of all sorts of greed and malice – political, corporate, territorial… you name it. It may be difficult to appeal to regimes that stand atop their high horses, surrounded by tanks and missiles, but it’s the trials and tribulations of peace that stopped wars once before – and it can be achieved again.