War is awful for many reasons. When thinking about and discussing war, we generally think about tragedies such as death and economic havoc. However, we often overlook the extensive environmental impact of war. Wars can have different short-term and long-term effects on the environment and can severely impact humans, livestock, native animals, aquatic species, and habitats.
Different wars have had different effects on our environment. For example, during the Vietnam War chemicals were used to defoliate forests and vegetation. During World War I, trench warfare and chemicals were used which led to the destruction of people, livestock and different plants and animals. During a war or any type of armed conflict, many environmental impacts are heavily overlooked since both sides are focused on winning the war and not what happens after the war is over. During war times consumption of fossil fuels robs resources from productive activities that benefit people and diverts them to destructive activities. The destruction of fossil fuel production facilities creates environmental disasters both on land and water.
As many know, Russia is currently invading Ukraine. Due to the economic backlash of this war, the United States and other countries are seeing more supply shortages on top of the ones we were already seeing due to COVID-19. One of the major shortages we could see long term due to this war is wheat. According to Duggal and Haddad, “In 2019, Russia and Ukraine together exported more than a quarter (25.4 percent) of the world’s wheat” (Duggal, 1). If this war continues, economic restrictions could limit how much wheat Russia is able to export which could lead to a surplus of wheat in Russia in the short term and a shortage in the long term. This short-term surplus would be due to economic restrictions and Russian farmers having no one to sell their crop to. This would lead to a spoiled crop which would be devastating financially to these farmers and would lead to a future shortage of wheat. Every part of this would affect Russia and Ukraine’s environment and economy. The surplus of wheat would eventually spoil. This raises the question of where to dump this spoiled crop as this could draw mice and other rodents carrying disease into wherever the crop is being kept. Not only will these sanctions impact Russia’s environment, but also others around the globe. Sainsbury states, “It’s estimated that the reduced food exports from Russia and Ukraine could increase the number of malnourished people worldwide by 8-13 million” (Sainsbury, 2). This is another major problem considering there are so many people who are malnourished and starving already, and this war is likely only going to contribute to the continuation and growth of this issue.
War is devastating in many ways and almost always has an overlooked and long-lasting effect on our planet. The horrible situation currently going on in Ukraine is bound to have major unintended environmental consequences.
VRai, Meenakshi, and FAUSA & ACIW Mumbai. “Fawco.” FAWCO Website, 27 June 2022, https://www.fawco.org/.
Sainsbury, Peter. “Environment: Enormous Environmental Consequences of the War in Ukraine.” Pearls and Irritations, 2 July 2022, https://johnmenadue.com/environment-enormous-environmental-consequences-of-the-war-in-ukraine/.
Duggal, Hanna, and Mohammed Haddad. “Infographic: Russia, Ukraine and the Global Wheat Supply.” Infographic News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 17 Feb. 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/17/infographic-russia-ukraine-and-the-global-wheat-supply-interactive.
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