World War One battlefield after heavy
bombardment or Vietnamese forest
after spraying with Agent Orange?

IMAGES OF DEVASTATED battlefields are all too familiar. The landscape of black stumps of shattered trees which stick up where there used to be villages are iconic images of the First World War. Since then twentieth century technology, energetically applied to the practice of war, has ensured a more lethal harvest.

For example, landmines: planted in millions in war-torn countries across the world, kill and maim long after wars are over. In many places, by denying agricultural use of the land in which they lurk, they delay reconstruction for years after the fighting stopped. A Khmer Rouge general called them ‘the perfect soldier’: cheap, efficient, expendable, never hungry, never needing sleep. But eighty percent of landmine victims are civilians, not soldiers; and nearly a quarter of those are children.

But it’s the testing and manufacture of the nuclear weapons which has been responsible for some of the most profound and persistent environmental damage to life on earth. ‘The complex mixture of contaminants found on many military sites is dynamically moving through the environment,’ says a medical expert. Radiation problems affect people near nuclear plants in every country that has them. Repair and maintenance of many installations and equipment are dangerously inadequate. Nuclear waste is a global problem that won’t go away, threatening environmental disaster on a vast scale: its poison, and toxic chemicals which accompany all weapons production, have travelled round the globe in the atmosphere and ocean currents; as well as water and air, they harm earth, plants that grow in it, and subsistent livestock and wildlife. Human exposure to nuclear and chemical tests and factories, or via the food chain, results in miscarriages, malformed foetuses, increased infant mortality and congenital disorders, leukaemia and other cancers, tumours, thyroid disorders, and complex debilitating and life-shortening syndromes. The number of reports of such harmful effects on health, habitat and culture – always at risk in war – grow each year.

Peace Pledge Union, 1 Peace Passage, London N7 0BT. Tel +44 (0)20 7424 9444   contact     |   where to find us