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For Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-11-06 07:57:05
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enviro01Usually as a lot of you have guessed and some know here in Ovi magazine we check the calendar for historic events or special occasions like special international days and the whole Ovi team has been really active with these international days participating with articles, cartoons and poems. So here I was checking as I usually do for similar occasions for the next week when I noticed that there is a special day, actually a UN International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict and I felt …numb and sorry to say, somehow stupid!

Can you imagine how far we have gone that we are accepting war, we are accepting the exploitation of human life and we are trying to prevent the exploitation of the environment ignoring the fact that human life is part of this environment. The thought tortured me for hours and I had to write something even a few words because I found it so hard to accept it.

So what human life is worth for? You know the tragic thing is that the very same minute I was feeling so shocked images started coming in my mind. I remembered images from Vietnam with all the napalm bombs, forests disappear under the flames and the green land becoming black, I saw images of the first golf war with the black cormorant from the oil in the shores of Kuwait – yes I know that there is a storenviro02_400y behind this photo but still the message was there and it was loud and clear. We are destroying our environment, actually we are murdering our environment. But then again how many people were murdered in the first Golf War, how many in between and how many in the second Golf War?

On 5 November 2001, the General Assembly declared 6 November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict with the resolution 56/4. In taking this action, it considered that damage to the environment in times of armed conflict impairs ecosystems and natural resources long after the period of conflict, often extending beyond the limits of national territories and the present generation. The Assembly also recalled the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which emphasized the necessity of working to protect our common environment.

I might senviro03_400ound a bit naïve now but am I the only one who can see how surreal this resolution sounds and how low we have fallen? And continuing researching the subject I found out that there is a group, a UN Post-Conflict Branch specialized with the environmental damage after wars and conflicts led by a UN Under Secretary and an executive director who have actually published shocking reports even with the latest events in Lebanon – only a year ago – accompanied with photos of bombed building. And since we are talking about bombed buildings again images started going in front my mind’s eyes. The bombed building in Gaza and the kids running around the ruins. There are actually families that live in these ruins!

So humans trying to kill each other kill the environment and then the environment kills them because these kids that run around those ruins, drink the water from those ruins and eat their food in those ruins accompanied from rats and who knows what else. Again images from Darfur have invaded my mind and perhaps it is a generation thing but more and more pictures from Vietnam are coming. And this time the images have not only burning forest but also burning human flesh, all the environment!

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Emanuel Paparella2009-11-06 15:03:20
Indeed, Thanos, the stupidity of man who thinks he can continue with its old habits about war and the economy and social justice ought to be exposed and discussed vigorously. That is indeed one of the noblest tasks of those of us who are not directly involved in politics: the reporting of the truth unembellished by one’s own particular personal interests and ideology.

That having been said, something ought to be pointed out about the habit of regular or dated commemorations of certain plights of mankind. It was actually pointed out by Tony Judt in a voluminous book titled Europe after 1945 in regard to the holocaust. He calls the phenomenon “misremembering,” by which he means that on the surface it looks as if people are sincerely remembering such a monstrous event with museums, monuments, books, conferences, setting aside certain dates for the remembrance and commemoration. However, what Judt finds disturbing in all this business and activism, is that the lessons to be gathered from the holocaust and how they apply to our present situation are never carefully pondered and discussed. The commemoration takes a life of its own; we commemorate galore and then go our merry way; we feel we have done our duty and now the issue can be put aside for a year or so, there is nothing else to do. This is not in any way to critique the commemoration itself, mind you, but simply to point out that by itself it remain awfully inadequate.

Jack2009-11-08 23:21:03

A most excellent point you summed up well in one comment Thanos, in saying "So humans trying to kill each other kill the environment and then the environment kills them..."

Indeed, that is precisely what is happening and has happened & I fear will happen yet in the future. As an eye witness to the horific events in 'Nam, the environment has fulfilled what you have just stated. In fact, some of this has returned with the soldiers, ie, in Agent Orange. It is true...we have met the enemy and it is us! Great, insightful article my friend. Thank you.

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