Environment: Is it really too much to ask for countries to stop investing in war?

We live in very dangerous times. The war in Ukraine continues. The war on Gaza threatens to escalate involving other countries. Less well known are the wars in roughly 30 other countries, from Afghanistan to Yemen, from Algeria to Uganda all currently experiencing armed conflict.
All pennants togetherAll pennants together
All pennants together

War does not just have awful consequences for those immediately affected by the bloodshed and killing. It is also extremely harmful to the environment and to the atmosphere.

5.5% of worldwide carbon emissions are produced by the military. So if the world’s military resources were a country, they would produce more emissions than powerful nations like Russia or Japan. Climate scientists are increasingly frustrated that we are failing to reduce emissions. Surely military emissions should be prioritised.

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The ultimate threat is nuclear weapons. Back in the 1980’s I used to attend protests with CND at places like Molesworth and Lakenheath that hosted American missiles. Now the US is once again planning to install nuclear weapons at Lakenheath, a US air base in Suffolk. There was outrage when Russia placed nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus, so there should be equal outrage at America using the UK as a launchpad for its nuclear weapons.

US nuclear bombs were stored at Lakenheath for more than five decades but were removed in 2008.

During that period we came very close to nuclear disaster on two occasions, simply through accidents, with an official document saying that 'part of Eastern England could have become a desert.'

An all-out nuclear war would not just mean the destruction of the world’s major cities and radiation poisoning for those not killed outright by the bombing. It would also cause a nuclear winter, due to the dust sucked up in the atmosphere, blocking the sunlight. So nuclear war leads to mass extinction.

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Two countries with nuclear weapons, Russia and Israel are currently at war, so the old argument that nuclear weapons are a deterrent to war no longer works.

Sheffield Creative Action for Peace (SCRAP) campaign against nuclear weapons and in support of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons(TPNW). 68 countries have signed, but not the UK.

Rachel Rowlands from SCRAP said “We want to get Sheffield Council (like Leeds and Manchester) to support the Treaty.

Our creative approach to the TPNW has been to make a pennant for each country that has ratified it. We regularly look on the ICAN website to check for new ratifications. It is shameful that the UK wouldn't even participate in the negotiations around the Treaty.

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Three of our MPs, Paul Blomfield, Olivia Blake and Louise Haigh, have signed the Parliamentary Pledge in support of the Treaty. In March we attended a council meeting, having sent out a letter, pledge form and bookmark to every Councillor. We have made a first approach to the council to support the TPNW, and plan to follow this up soon.”

Jane Meadows from SCRAP commented 'I began my campaigning against nuclear weapons in 1979/80 when a UK Government leaflet 'Protect and Survive' dropped through my letterbox. The advice it contained was nonsensical and ridiculous. True security is a world without war and weapons. Stationing US nukes on UK soil makes us more of a target. The stockpiling of more and more nuclear weapons is such a vast waste of resources and money and has created colossal environmental problems. This is why I campaign against US nuclear weapons being stationed at Lakenheath, as I campaigned at Greenham Common. Our success in getting cruise missiles removed from Greenham Common shows that sustained campaigning works!

SCRAP also protest at the Elbit Factory at Shenstone, Staffordshire. Palestinian people are killed by the weapons manufactured there.

The UK has consistently sold arms to Israel, in spite of its illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since 1967. Since Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007 there have been five major military assaults on Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, 2014, and 2021 which killed almost 4,000 Palestinians. Since the latest onslaught started it is thought more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed. UK industry provides 15 per cent of the components in the F35 stealth combat aircraft that are currently being used in the bombardment of Gaza.

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As well as worsening climate change War causes many other environmental problems. The destruction of crops and trees, pollution of water supplies, the destruction of wildlife, and the waste of resources caused by bombing buildings and infrastructure.

Russia has been using depleted uranium-tipped missiles. This radioactivity will lead to cancers and birth defects in the future.

Israel has been using phosphorus bombs in Gaza. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in the US warns that these contaminate soil, bodies of water, and even animals, including fish, posing a long-term threat to humans. Many Gazans’ depend on fishing for their livelihoods and diets, so the impact of white phosphorus could become severe.

Like John Lennon, I may be a dreamer. But is it really too much to ask for countries to stop investing in war and destruction and transfer these resources to efforts to end poverty and combat the climate catastrophe?