Why Wars Are Hazardous to Green Life

AI Illustration of War

War is one of the leading catalysts for environmental degradation. This fact owes a lot to the widespread damage and destruction of lives and properties. Wars often necessitate military activities which are often characterised by high emissions of pollutants and release of hazardous materials.

Let’s take a closer look at this military activity. When war happens, people are displaced from their homes and lands. Heavy military vehicles damage the soil and infrastructure. Toxic releases can destroy aquatic life.

There is also noise pollution which hampers nature. During war, weapons such as explosions, fighters, tanks can cause disturbing sounds that affect sleep, migration, reproduction or even impair hearing. Noise emanating from ships and other human activities are known to be harmful to whales and dolphins that rely on echolocation to survive.

On land, explosions are capable of destroying plants and the entire ecosystem at large. From damage to crops, the soil and livestock to displacing farmers and other experts in the agricultural sector, war destruction can lead to acute food shortages and dreadful states of hunger.

Explosive weapons used in warfare can devastate a once beautiful landscape. Buildings can be reduced to toxic rubble and trees can be lost to destruction. Explosives can contaminate the soil for decades and cause poisons to leach into waterways.

Russia and Ukraine hold the centre for global agriculture markets. Therefore, it is sad that wars have resulted into major implications for food security around the world and indeed Africa. For starters, Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest producers and exporters of cereal crops such as wheat, barley and corn.

Statistics show that Russia and Ukraine are the third and fourth leading exporters of barley, and together they account for 20% of the world’s barley production. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Ukraine is the world economy’s third largest exporter of corn, supplying 16% of global corn exports.

It is no gainsaying that Africa is facing extreme food insecurity crises that have been worsened by war. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has sounded a note of warning that the on-going war between Israel and the State of Palestine would impact the food supply chain leading to a high degree of humanitarian crisis.

Reportedly, Palestinians were once self-sufficient in food production but the Israeli government’s seizure of land to allocate space for more settlers resulted in Palestinian dependence on Israeli food systems and severe food insecurity.

According to a report by the International Trade Administration, it is said that 82.5 percent of Palestinian imports and 55 percent of Palestinian exports come from Israel, forcing Palestinian markets to rely on them. No doubt, food is the critical element in the conflict between the two nations.

This is why many nations are working hard towards being self-sufficient in food production. In Nigeria, Operation Feed the Nation was introduced by the federal military government headed by General Olusegun Obasanjo from 1976 to 1980. It was a post Nigerian-Biafran war intervention conceived on the need to increase food production so that availability of cheap food would ensure a higher nutrition level and invariably lead to national growth and development.

This was followed by Green Revolution (GR) Green Revolution (GR), a programme inaugurated by Shehu Shagari in April 1980.

The major criticism against Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) was that the former President converted the same into Obasanjo Farms Nigeria (OFN) Limited, turning public assets to personal gain. But the question is: what would have become of the project if he had left it to the whims and caprices of successive administrations who may not share the same vision? Today, produce from Obasanjo Farms constitute one of the cheapest in the Nigerian food market. Let’s not forget that the two agricultural initiatives were also aimed at promoting subsistence farming- a non-commercial cultivation of crops to feed one’s family.

Back to the green life: no one has the time or safety to care for plants in the time of war. Survival and self-preserving often overshadow looking after vegetation. Indeed, war in itself is a climate crisis.

-Written by Yinka Olatunbosun, a culture and lifestyle journalist.

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