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All wars are war against the environment

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
September 26, 2001


As war and government prove, insanity is the most contagious of diseases. — Edward Abbey

As a writer, my beat is all things environmental. Part of my job description is to foster an ongoing discussion about humans and their environment. Everything we do affects planetary systems in one way or another. America's addiction to fossil fuels is just one example of the war against the planet that supports us. From small impacts to catastrophic ones, war is a time when the assault on the natural world is at it's most fierce. The burning oilfields of Kuwait come immediately to mind So it should come as no surprise that there are environmental considerations associated with achieving the Bush agenda of "infinite justice."

The day of the Twin Towers massacre, a medical student from Jacksonville, Florida suggested to me, in no uncertain terms, America's only option was to turn the entire Middle East into a parking lot. His sincerity was such that there was no doubt he would have pushed the button had it been within his reach. Jason wanted blood and didn't care where it came from.

In shock myself, and failing to allow him the opportunity to vent his anger at the situation, I suggested that carpet bombing was hardly the answer, as it would inflict the same sort of suffering on innocent victims, America was currently experiencing, and that American style warfare in the region would mean certain extinction for numerous species. Boy, was that a mistake.

If this man could have thrown me through the window he would have. I know this because he informed as such. He was outraged that I could even consider the plight of animals over the need of American justice. More than once he said people like me should leave the country, if we valued animals life over humans. Somehow he interpreted my environmental concern as treason against the American way of life. It was time to put distance between the Floridian and myself.

The med student's reaction, prompted the uncomfortable question; " What would I do for retribution?" To be honest I haven't a clue. I do, however, know what I wouldn't do. Top on my list of ways not to react to the slaughter of thousands of Americans, is the slaughter of tens of thousands of Afghans. Just as the people who died at their desks on the morning of September 11th are not responsible for American policy in Middle East and western Asia, Afghani citizens are not responsible for the policy perpetrated by Taliban hierarchy . And they certainly should not be punished for fanaticism of Osama bin Laden.

The people of Afghanistan have suffered the trauma of war for the decades. Under the onslaught of the Soviet Army, Afghanistan was bombed into environmental collapse. The fight to end Soviet control of Afghanistan, and the civil war that followed, reduced this once beautiful nation to barren landscape. Forests of oak, evergreens, and poplar, are a distant memory, as are the hazelnuts and pistachios that grew wild. Because of a complete lack of environmental consideration, little is left to fight over.

History proves it's second nature for humans to meet violence with violence. History has also shown that human suffering is made worse by the long term environmental destruction resulting from the nations waging war. Not just human life is erased by weapons of mass destruction. From the biocentric perspective, plants, and animals are clearly the collateral damage most people don't want to be bothered with. If a war is to be waged, understanding what's at stake is vital to tallying the cost of actions taken.

Extinction is a possibility for species such as the goitered gazelle of the Northern Mountains. Endangered by the Soviet war of occupation, this unique mammal is already a victim of human aggression. The markor goat, and Bactrian deer also face oblivion due to warfare in the region. The central population of Siberian Cranes is already extinct due to the fact that the Afghani war zone was a gauntlet the birds had to pass through while migrating.

Afghanistan as we know it today is a place of harsh reality. Deforested by a human population struggling to feed themselves and keep warm during bitterly cold winters, domestic livestock further impact an already barren country. Wild animals have little habitat in which forage and procreate, and because of this the food chain continues to collapse in on itself. If another war erupts in the mountains of Afghanistan there is little hope that anything will survive. How's that for infinite justice.

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