Environmental destruction could become a war crime

Firefighters control a blaze. Major environmental destruction during conflict–from fire or otherwise–could become a war crime | Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | July 30th, 2019

Many UN members are pushing for a new addition to the Geneva Convention: make environmental destruction a war crime.

Specifically the types of environmental destruction often wrought during war–poisoning water sources, damaging biodiversity, hurting local flora and fauna. With our now intimate understanding that environmental issues and our quality of life are inexplicably tied, and with many pushing for racial and social justice in tandem with environmental improvements, defending the environment, especially during periods of conflict, is incredibly important.

Some climate damage resulting from damaging wartime acts seem obvious: The atom bomb in Japan; Agent Orange in Vietnam, both acts leading to excessive decreases in natural flora and constant, ever-present radiation.

The chain of effects are sometimes just as direct, if less obvious, with other acts: Saddam Hussein drained Iraq marshland with dikes and dams, effectively increasing the temperature in that area by 9 degrees Fahrenheit and turning much of the marsh into desert.

The open letter, signed by two dozen scientists and directed at international lawmakers, pushes for environmental destruction to be added to the list of unacceptable actions under conflict, an amendment to the Geneva Convention. If taken into effect, it will be unlawful–at a massive scale–to use the environment of country in conflict against itself.

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