The Devastating Effects of War

On the one hand, we glorify war and on the other hand we worry about the destruction to our environment threatening human life. Why is it we don’t focus on the connection between the two?

We have patriotic songs that glorify war (our national anthem is a case in point). We write novels, make motion pictures about war with the theme being about the glory of victory rather than about the devastation. The vast majority of video games are war games. A large percentage of toys we give our children are toy weapons. Images and discussion of war are ubiquitous and not a day goes by without stories of war appearing in the media. Our foreign policy depends on our superior military forces to enforce our policies on other nations and war proposals, in one form or another (even nuclear), are never “off the table”.

At the same time, we have a plethora of environmental groups who want to save this species or that species, save the planet, stop global warming or campaign for other environmental issues. They blame the fossil fuel industry, the pesticide industry, and other industries, but they rarely if ever blame the war industry. Why is that?

Anyone on the losing end of a war is well aware of its devastating effects. Those who are on the winning side only see the glory. But the devastation of war isn’t limited to the losers as it has long term and far reaching effects that will impact all of humanity.

The devastation caused by war is not limited to the destruction of lives and property. It also has devastating effects on our environment by contributing immensely to global warming and pollution. War planes, ships, tanks and other military vehicles consume vast amounts of fossil fuels that add CO2 to our atmosphere. (Fuel efficiency is the last concern of those who develop and deploy these vehicles.) Some warships use nuclear fuels that generate toxic nuclear waste for which we still have no satisfactory means of disposal. The production of weapons, vehicles and munitions consumes vast amounts of energy, most of which is still generated with fossil fuels. It also creates vast amounts of waste and toxic substances that must be disposed of and which frequently pollute the ground and water supplies of neighboring communities. The use of munitions pollutes the environment with toxic chemicals and results in fire that not only warms the local environment but adds more CO2 to the atmosphere contributing to more global warming. The destruction of property results is vast quantities of waste that must go into land fills, dump sites or the oceans. The same destruction necessitates rebuilding that requires more energy and again, most of it will come from fossil fuels.

The simple fact is that war is a major contributor to the destruction of our environment and global warming. We need to focus on the threat war poses to human survivability instead of the glory of victory. If we are going to survive as a species, we need to cut back on our dependence on military power and find alternatives to war to achieve our political ends. And most of all, we must recognize that the only winners in war are those who profit from it, and they only win financially.1 Everyone else loses.2

1 In all other respects, they also lose in the long term.

2 If you lose a friend or a loved one or if your property is destroyed, you pay big time. Even if you don’t, you and your heirs will pay taxes for war – but very few of us will get anything in return.