The Green Posts


LISA DUPUY  continues the dialogue that drew on her essay about nuclear weapons and ecology

On some things that I am “wild” about.

AS I HAVE SLAVED away to the ungiving deadline of August 27 (yes, I could have started earlier or been more efficient – or that’s what we students keep telling ourselves), I can now state that my dissertation is DONE. A semi-glorious feeling – let the waiting for a grade begin.

I have over the past weeks published other bibs and bobs elsewhere, but I would like nonetheless collect them here, also because they all tied in with debates on nature, conservation, and warfare.

This series of publications in fact started with a class I took in the second term at King’s, on “Conflict in the Non-Human Sphere”. Newly organised by the war studies department Marjan Centre research group, its objective is to look at war and (armed) conflict in a context away from its “human activity” component, instead considering the role of nature, or war’s impact on the environment and ecosystems. Animals can be used in war, traded for the funding of (international) crime, armed or terrorist organisations, or they can affected by the toxic remnants of warfare. Conservation and poaching are increasingly becoming “militarised” as the stakes are becoming higher. On the other side of the spectrum, natural parks can be set up in conflict resolution efforts, to improve local communities’ lives and foster inter-state co-operation.

– In short, as the “discipline”  – let’s say, the effort to look at all things green affected by conflict – is really rather new, the number of subjects and possible links that are still open for research is HUGE.

I loved the course – its underlying philosophy asks of war studies kids to turn some of their paths of thinking upside down. And with obvious links to biology, ecology and geography, it adds a new layer of scientific methodology to the study of conflict. I realised that this intersection between people, their behaviours and surroundings and the impact of their activities on the planet – of which we have only ONE, just saying – excites me very much. It could even call on my love for maps! My paper for the course called for the examination of the impact of nuclear warfare and and its infrastructure on the environment and ecosystems. My aim was to construct a nuclear warfare ecology, thereby also adding a “green taboo” on the already existing humanitarian taboo on the use of these weapons – the objections to these weapons from the “environmental” approach even point to a ban of the very possession of atomic arms, because the creation of infrastructure and the R&D of the weapons, including the series of testing, have serious impacts on the environment.

Turns out the lecturers liked it and it might get published further. It in the meantime, it is being referenced in two of the Marjan Centre blogs – this is one, and this is the other. Because it was a paper for uni and I had not intended it for any kind of publication (yet), I’ve asked the writer to add this note for good measure/cop out:

The 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. The 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.

In a lucky coincidence, the Frontline Club, where I have interned over the summer, included two films on this intersect between conflict and conservation in its events programme. The first was “Virunga”, Africa’s oldest national park in the Republic of Congo – at the heart of a power struggle between militias and for oil profit. The other film was “Rabbits à La Berlin”, which portrayed the life of a group of rabbits that used to live in “death strip” along the Berlin Wall and had to find new ways to survive when that Wall came down and people from the West and East mended the remnants of Cold War countries. To promote the film, I wrote a blog on ecosystems affected by such human activities: “Animals Caught in a Stalemate”.

IN ALL LIKELIHOOD, more green things are to follow.

AND, TO MAKE THE point that people far more knowledgeable and experienced than myself concern themselves with the topic, you can read here a brilliant conversation with Anna Badkhen, an award-winning journalist who focuses on narratives of war and conflict, and who believes that “the single most important story right now is the environment”. It’s an article at Warscapes, which in itself is an amazing online publication which focuses on current conflicts around the world.

For more thoughts from Lisa see:

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