Ecology’s ‘nuclear winter’

With accumulating bitterness and a sense of isolation on both sides in the Gaza conflict, combined with changing regional political tectonic plates as well as world opinion, the option of a nuclear strike will by osmosis have crept up the Israeli list of security options: otherwise why have a nuclear arsenal ?

As previously noted the environmental implications of a nuclear strike have been greatly under-researched, highlighted by Lisa Dupuy as part of her War Studies Masters programme.

Her full conclusion ran thus: ‘the aim of this paper has been to construct an ecology of nuclear warfare by looking at preparations, war-fighting and recovery stages of war. Its impacts can be considered across different stages and across space and time. Nuclear infrastructure, plants and testing- sites have direct, local and regional impacts, while the detonation of a weapon would gravely affect the entire globe.

‘Nuclear fall-out and nuclear winter would moreover impact the biosphere and climate on the long-term. Thankfully, a taboo already exists on the use and even production of nuclear arms. This prohibition has been institutionalized and politicized. The consequences of nuclear war, like most theorization of warfare, are geared towards such elements: politics and strategy, and the results for humans.

‘This is the case for most thinking about war. In constructing an ecology of nuclear warfare, the social or human-centric understanding of “war” as well as the ecological system are treated as coupled, to better examine the reciprocal impacts of these two aspects and the interactions between them.

‘The varied ecological impacts of nuclear warfare can in many ways be equated with or added to the human and public health consequences that receive most attention. It so becomes clear that the ecological impact must also account for a large portion of the taboo on these weapons of mass destruction – a true mind set of “extermination” must be adopted for the resolve to use or even pursue them.

‘Another aim of this paper was to look into the construction of a so-called nuclear ‘warfare ecology’, in the hopes of mapping the extensive impact that nuclear warfare – its preparations and the very existence of such a doctrine – can have on the environment and ecological systems.

‘This proved a very challenging aim. Nuclear weapons technology is associated with several specific military doctrines and regimes. It involves extensive activities into R&D and infrastructure. As a matter of technology, it also ties in with other “green” debates such as those on alternative energy sources, essentially colluding the military and civilian spheres. And even if we wish to remain within the former, issues of defence and offence, testing and accidents, storage and unforeseen use or even terrorist attacks or theft, all add to the range of activities to be examined.

‘Thankfully, there has never been a full-out nuclear war; data-set for this paper has thus been restricted to the odd case work done in test sites, and the computer simulated models for such an event. Further, more in-depth research would follow upon the conceptual work I have done, to contribute to a better understanding of the ecological “check-list” I have so far developed.”  Lisa Dupuy

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