In my previous post, I highlighted the notion of Technological Advancement as a key catalyst behind the evolution of warfare. Well, humanity has come an incredibly long way from Ancient Times, 1544 years to be exact, and developed in ways which the Ancients could never have fathomed. So, what has Warfare evolved to, and what is its impact on the Environment in the Modern Era? I will start my exploration by delving into the strategy touted as the most lethal in the world – Nuclear Warfare.
Before I share the environmental impact of Nuclear Warfare, here is some background on it!
Interactive Infographic: click on yellow phrases for references/more information
Let’s take a moment to ponder Nuclear Warfare, what are its environmental impacts you know of? If you like, share them with us here! The Word Cloud below is live, and will immediately be updated with your response:
Based on the data obtained thus far, the most perceived environmental impact of Nuclear Warfare is the effect of Radiation (precipitating “contamination”, “deformities”, “mutation” etc). One of the most significant ramifications of radiation is mutation, seen through the increase in cancer rates in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from 1958 to 1987 – 39% for males and 12% for females. Mutation has proven to not only manifest its effects on an individual basis, but on a generational scale too. Though the increase of birth defects in children of atomic bomb survivors was surprisingly concluded to be negligible for humans, the phenomenon of mutation persisting through generations is extremely prevalent in the animal and plant kingdom. Despite being unable to find any data on how the nuclear bombings in Japan affected biodiversity intergenerationally, I believe that data can be extrapolated from the Chernobyl Disaster, where reproductive ability in plants was halted for 3 years and genetic mutations in plants and animals proliferated by a multiple of 20, even after 30 years.
Side-tracking a little here, but I believe that the prevalence of “radiation” and “mutation” as a response could be due to its dramatic representation in the media. The movie Godzilla (1998) best embodies this – the creature mutated to develop its fearsome qualities due to atomic radiation from nuclear testing. In fact, I just found out that the film was written as a cautionary tale on the use of Nuclear Weapons, following WWII. Popular culture also seems to have a fascination with mutants – their thrill, danger, even heroism. Other examples showing how radiation and mutation are depicted to go hand-in-hand include Marvel icons Spiderman and Captain America.
Anyway, apart from mutation, radiation can also result in environmental contamination. Radioactive particles can pollute air, water, soil and any living being in close vicinity.
Besides radiation, another highly considered impact reflected in the Word Cloud is the mass death of biodiversity (“death of vegetation, animals”, “deforestation” etc). For example, all trees within a 1 mile parameter of Hiroshima were scorched by thermal radiation, and extrapolating again, the sheer impact of the explosion in Chernobyl killed an estimated 93,000 animals.
The perceived environmental impacts of Nuclear Warfare are indeed relevant and valid, as the repercussions of radiation and mass biodiversifical devastation are dire and temporally sustaining. However, they only represent the localised environmental impact of Nuclear Warfare… could there be global implications too?
To find out, stay tuned!
*Infographics created by me on Canva, image source: Pixabay