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Social and Environmental Impacts of Militarism. Arthur H. Westing, 1971. Military Spending. The Nobel Peace Prize-winner and former President of Costa Rica, Dr Oscar Arias, has called military spending “the single most significant perversion of global priorities.”. World military spending:

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The Nobel Peace Prize-winner and former President of Costa Rica, Dr Oscar Arias, has called military spending “the single most significant perversion of global priorities.”
World military spending:

US $798 billion in 2000.

  • 5%- basic social services for whole world.
  • 10%- an income above the poverty line for everybody on the planet.
  • <1%- every child on Earth educated.
50% of governments spend more on military than on health care.
  • 70% of US arms sales are to developing countries.
  • Weapons spending in Afghanistan over 3 years could have built 400 rural hospitals, or educated 200,000 children.
Military vs. environmental spending:
  • Military budgets vs. total investment in the environment
    • US >11:1.
    • Canada >8:1.
  • Extremely conservative figures- some estimates result in ratios of 48:1 and 21:1, respectively.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed- those who are cold and not clothed.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

land requirements
Land requirements
  • Direct military “peacetime” land use- 750,000 - 1.5 million square km.
  • US and former Soviet Union- 2% of land territory.
  • Western Europe- 1-3%.
land requirements1
Land requirements

When Kazakhstan was a Soviet republic, more land was devoted to military purposes than to growing wheat.

airspace requirements
Airspace requirements
  • USA- 30%-50% of airspace used militarily.
  • Canada’s Goose Bay is the world’s most extensive airspace.
  • Much of military flying is low level- 20% in the US.
low level supersonic flights
Low level & supersonic flights
  • Dangerous and detrimental to health.
    • Acute hearing damage.
    • Disturbance of intestinal tract and other organs.
  • Disturbs the migration and feeding behaviour of caribou herds
  • Canada ignores protests of the Innu about the illegal use of their land.
military energy consumption
Military energy consumption
  • F-15 jet- 908 L fuel/minute at peak thrust.
  • F-16 jet- fuel/hour is 2X the annual consumption of an average motorist.
  • F-4 Phantom fighter/bomber- 6,359 L fuel/hour.
    • Supersonic speeds increase fuel consumption by 20X.
  • Battleship- 10,810 L fuel/hour.
military energy consumption1
Military energy consumption
  • 3/4 of energy is petroleum products.
  • Account for 1/4 of world’s jet fuel.
  • US Defence- 37 million tons of oil/year.
    • The Pentagon is the single largest domestic consumer.
  • Globally, more petroleum is used than Japan- the worlds second largest economy- requires for all of its purposes.
air pollution and global climate change
Air pollution and global climate change
  • Emissions from military operations- 6-10% of global air pollution.
  • 1988 Pentagon activities- 46 million tons of carbon, 3.5% of US total.
  • More work is needed to determine military contribution to climate change.
toxic contamination
Toxic contamination

Ex-Soviet Union bases extremely contaminated.

  • Central Bohemia- toxic concentrations in groundwater 30-50X allowable levels.
  • 6% of Czech and Slovak territory polluted or despoiled.
  • 10% of East German territory despoiled.
toxic contamination1
Toxic contamination
  • 96 US bases on the Superfund National Priorities list. Up to 1000 more sites may be added.
  • Germany spends $700 million/year on military related environmental cleanup.
  • Environmental destruction is certain to be the most lasting legacy of the cold war.
nuclear weapons facilities
Nuclear weapons facilities
  • Hanford: waste leaked from underground tanks= 50 nuclear bombs.
  • Rocky Flats: plutonium accumulated in ventilation ducts= 7 nuclear bombs.
  • Radioactive wastes dumped by a Soviet Union facility found in the Arctic Ocean, 1000 miles away.
radiation health effects
Radiation health effects
  • Radiation causes leukemia, multiple myeloma, brain tumours, thyroid disorders, sterility, miscarriages and birth defects.
  • Many scientists believe that there is no safe level of radiation exposure.
low frequency sonar
Low frequency sonar
  • System developed by US Navy to track submarines.
  • Produces very loud sounds- 235 dB.
    • Can injure, deafen and even kill cetaceans and other marine life.
  • Disturbs whale communication and navigation- interferes with acoustic signals.
general impacts
General impacts
  • Destruction of human habitat.
  • Destruction of agricultural land and vegetation.
  • Adverse effects on wildlife.
  • Possible elimination of species.
  • Cratering of land.
  • Disruption of entire ecosystems.
  • Can persist for decades.

Arthur H. Westing, 1970

Mangrove forest destroyed by bombs

explosives and herbicides
Explosives and herbicides
  • 14 million tons of high explosives used.
    • 20 million bomb craters covering 200,000 acres.
    • Craters create breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
  • 72 million litres of herbicides sprayed over 35% of South Vietnam.
    • Agent Orange- 61% of herbicide volume.
  • Widespread debilitation of land.
  • Decimation of terrestrial wildlife.
  • Losses of freshwater fish.
  • Elevated levels of dioxin in soil, food, wildlife and human breast milk and adipose tissue.


Agent Orange in Vietnam

Agent Orange Files


…and after

Agent Orange Files

Arthur H. Westing, 1971

persian gulf
Persian Gulf

McCurry, 1991

oil fires and spills
Oil fires and spills
  • February 1991- 752 oil well fires ignited in Kuwait.
  • 35-150 million barrels spilled over 60% of Kuwait’s surface.
  • 4 oil spills into the northern Gulf Sea.
    • 4 million barrels of oil spilled.
    • 500 km coastline and hundreds of km2 of water covered.
air pollution
Air pollution
  • Fumes from >1 million barrels.
  • 10X more air pollution than all US industrial/power plants.
  • SOx and NOx - created acid rain.
  • Toxic particulates- adverse effects on crops and livestock.
  • Affected weather in Hawaii and Bangladesh.
  • Pools of oil continue to contaminate air, soil and groundwater.
    • 40% of Kuwait’s fresh water reserves contaminated.
    • 50 million m3 of soil contaminated.
  • Depleted uranium will pollute Iraq for many years.
  • Environmental damage estimated at over 40 billion dollars.
  • Contamination of terrestrial ecosystems reached a scale unprecedented in the history of the planet.
water contamination

petroleum products


ethylene dichloride

hydrogen chloride

hydrogen fluoride,

nitrous acid

sulphuric acid

heavy metals


Water contamination
  • Surface water contamination from damaged industrial plants and poorly planned refugee camps.
air pollution1
depleted uranium

chlorine oxides

vinyl chloride monomers (10,600X permitted levels)




hydrofluoric acid

heavy metals

fine particulates

Air pollution
  • Air pollution and acid rains resulting from damage to industrial facilities.
other impacts
Other impacts
  • Degraded agricultural land.
  • Disturbance of wildlife in habitats and migration routes.
  • Many protected areas directly impacted by conflict and/or damaged by refugee camps.
  • Environment has low priority in reconstruction processes.

BBC, 2001

BBC, 2001

  • Bombing is destroying already severely depleted forests.
  • Refugee crisis causing irreversible damage.
  • Contamination from weapons.
    • Depleted uranium, cyclonite and rocket propellants containing perchlorates.
wildlife impacts
Wildlife impacts
  • Rugged mountain habitat being destroyed, threatening large mammals.
  • Increased poaching- pressure on rare species.
  • Migratory bird routes disturbed.
    • Siberian crane migration has dropped 85%.
refugee impact
Refugee impact
  • Global estimates: 17 million refugees and 25 million internally displaced persons.
  • Inadequate infrastructure and resources in receiving territories.
    • Exacerbate existing environmental problems.
    • Accelerate soil degradation and desertification.
    • Cause deforestation, waste accumulation and water contamination.
environmental protection
Environmental protection
  • Bern Protocols I and II of 1977
  • Haven’t received widespread formal acceptance.
  • Need a multilateral treaty committing nations to ensure that their activities do not damage the environment.
some good news
Some good news
  • Public pressure is beginning to change military attitude towards environment.
  • Military facilities and operations now face stricter legislation.
“A world that wants to make peace with the environment cannot continue to fight wars or to sacrifice human health and earth’s ecosystems preparing for them.”

Michael Renner