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Environmental Impacts of War

  • By: Saleem H. Ali
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

War strategy has historically been configured by environmental factors in various ways. Armies have used forests for cover, mountains and valleys for strategic advantage, and rivers and waterways for transport of arms and materials. At times, deliberate destruction of natural resources has also been a military strategy through “scorched earth” campaigns that were practiced as early as the Scythian wars against the Persians around 500 BC to deprive the enemy of food crops. Most recently, Saddam Hussein deliberately set ablaze Kuwaiti oil wells in 1991 to diminish the economic potential of the adversary, leading to widespread air and water pollution in the Persian Gulf region in what was called an act of “ecocide.”

Often, strategic targets that are chosen for bombing have a particularly damaging impact ...

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