Kelman, Ilan | August 8, 2012 | Leave a Comment

By Ilan Kelman (Senior Research Fellow, CICERO, Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo)

Here we go again with a news report on environmentally friendly weapons. Yes, fair enough, reducing the environmental impacts of any activity is always appreciated, especially for training.

But let’s stop living in a dreamworld. Bombing oil refineries, sinking chemical ships, blowing dykes, burning fields, and causing general environmental mayhem have all been used to fight wars.

Unsurprisingly, these techniques can be effective. Winning a war is often achieved by destroying or severely damaging your enemy–all parts of your enemy. Do we really believe that two sides will always stop fighting because an endangered flower sits in the valley between them?

Just how far would we go regarding green warfare? Weapons manufacturers are discussing recyclable and biodegradable explosives.

Consider their quotation “We all have a duty of care to ensure that from cradle to grave products are being used appropriately and do not do lasting harm”. Will they also fund zero-waste funerals, recyclable artificial limbs, holistic rehabilitation, and sustainable mental health therapy?

Even better, “We just have to make sure that our customer is safe using these things”. But apparently not the recipient. I am forced to wonder if limiting the lifetime of landmines is driven by a desire to sell more.

To be fair, they miss many greenwash and health-conscious opportunities. Where is the organically-cultured anthrax and trans-fat-free sarin? Surely a market exists for nuclear bombs manufactured with renewable energy, receiving a little energy star sticker (that glows in the dark).

For me, terrorists hijacking only environmentally friendly airplanes and flying them into only environmentally friendly buildings is still terrorism. It is unacceptable. Period. Bombs in hemp rucksacks do not justify devastating lives. Human bodies being naturally biodegradable is not an argument for more war.

Those who are truly interested in stopping environmentally destructive warfare and introducing sustainable development into conflict need only follow a couple of proven solutions. First, stop selling weapons. Second, put the price of a few fighter jets into long-term peace, development, sustainability, and environmental management activities.

The real commitment to sustainability is not about solar-powered soldiers as the face of the future. It is about trying to understand and then implement what it takes to reach peace.

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