Better Blog Utilization: State of the Art

We have begun posting blogs on the state of the art in the environmental history of warfare and militarization. These first examples are meant to encourage responses on any of these topics – and initiatives on others — to enrich our cooperative understanding of where we stand now, and define agendas for further work. In this way we hope to accelerate the pace and breadth of our work.

As a general structure, we hope to focus each topic post on one issue central to the current trends and progress of our collective works; a moderator will post a description of the topic (see examples in the following posts), along with their summary of recent work related to the topic, upcoming conferences and workshops where the topic can be beneficial to planned discussions, and areas where further work on this topic is needed. We then encourage our community to respond to and comment on these posts, for a richer conversation on our current state of the art. This is a method of discussion that we hope to experiment, and is by no means set in stone, so please feel free to make your own topic contributions and suggest your own initiatives.

– Richard Tucker

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No War 2017: War and the Environment

Presented by World Beyond War

Just following the International Day of Peace, and in the tradition of No War 2016: Real Security Without Terrorism, and the best speech any U.S. president ever gave, this year’s conference will focus on activism, including activist planning workshops, addressing how the antiwar and environmental movements can work together.

We encourage and can help you to hold similar events in other locations, and this event will be livestreamed so that other events can watch it.

WHO: Speakers will include: Gar Smith whose forthcoming book is The War and Environment Reader, and Max Blumenthal, Kevin Zeese, Kathy Kelly, Brian Terrell, Bruce Gagnon, Peter Kuznick, Ray McGovern, David Swanson, Dale Dewar, Nadine Bloch, Richard Tucker, Pat Elder, Mike Stagg, Natalia Cardona, Lindsay Koshgarian, Suzanne Cole, Eric Teller, Robin Taubenfeld, Alice Day, Lincoln Day, Brian Trautman, Rev Lukata Mjumbe, Anthony Rogers-Wright, Jill Stein, James Marc Leas, Jonathan King, Diane Wilson, Donnal Walter, Tony Jenkins, Medea Benjamin, Will Griffin, Alice Slater, Susi Snyder, Emily Wurth, Elizabeth Murray, Annie Machon, Tim DeChristopher. Read speakers’ bios.

Music by The Irthlingz Duo: Sharon Abreu and Michael Hurwicz, and by Emma’s Revolution, and by Bryan Cahall.

WHERE: American University Katzen Art Center
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
All events in the Recital Hall. Workshops on Sunday in the Recital Hall, and in Rooms 112, 115, 123, and 128.

Friday, Sept 22: 7-10 p.m.
Saturday, Sept 23: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Sunday, Sept 24: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.



Friday, Sept 22

7-8 p.m. Conference Opening Plenary: David Swanson, Jill Stein, Tim DeChristopher, plus music by Bryan Cahall.

8-10 p.m. our friends from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence will present their annual award. Past recipients have included Coleen Rowley, Katharine Gun, Sibel Edmonds, Craig Murray, Sam Provance, Frank Grevil, Larry Wilkerson, Julian Assange, Thomas Drake, Jesselyn Radack, Thomas Fingar, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, William Binney, and John Kiriakou. Presenting this year will be Elizabeth Murray and Annie Machon. Recipient(s) yet to be announced.


Saturday, Sept 23

9-10:15 a.m. Understanding the intersection of pro-environment and anti-war activism, with Richard Tucker, Gar Smith, and Dale Dewar.

10:30-11:45 a.m. Preventing domestic environmental damage of militarism, with Mike Stagg, Pat Elder, James Marc Leas.

11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. catered lunch by D.C. Vegan

12:45 p.m. – 1 p.m. welcome back music by The Irthlingz Duo: Sharon Abreu and Michael Hurwicz.

1-2:15 p.m. Combining movements globally, with Robin Taubenfeld, Rev Lukata Mjumbe, Emily Wurth.

2:30-3:45 p.m. Financial tradeoffs, budgets, and conversion, with Lindsay Koshgarian, Natalia Cardona, and Bruce Gagnon.

4-5:15 p.m. Divestment from fossil fuels and weapons with Jonathan King, Susi Snyder, and Suzanne Cole.

5:15-6:45 dinner on your own
Here is a map showing restaurants and coffee shops on campus (PDF). There are many more options just up Nebraska Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue and the area of the American University / Tenleytown Metro stop. A shuttlebus makes it easy to get there and back.

6:45-7:30 Music by Emma’s Revolution.

7:30-9:00 Screening of episode 7 of Untold History of the United States, followed by discussion with Peter Kuznick, Ray McGovern, and David Swanson.

Sunday, Sept 24

9-10:15 a.m. Creative activism for the earth and peace, with Nadine Bloch, Bill Moyer, Brian Trautman.

10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Breakout workshop strategic planning sessions in Recital Hall, and in Rooms 112, 115, 123, and 128, and possibly outdoors.

Workshop 1: How the Internet Changes Activism with Donnal Walter.
Creating a culture of environmental responsibility, social justice, and peace requires viewing our individual efforts in continuity with the past and in cooperation with each other, all of us. What has greater potential for bringing the planet together than the World Wide Web? How can we as activists use the Web and social media to foster such collaboration? How do we tell a new story? And how do we use the global vision to motivate local action? The Internet is also known to contribute to division and polarization. How do we as activists resist this tendency? Yes, bring your laptop.

Workshop 2: Creative activism with Nadine Bloch and Bill Moyer.

Workshop 3: Educational Approaches to Foster Political Engagement for Peace and Planet, with Tony Jenkins.
How do we move people from concern to engagement and action? This is a fundamental challenge of both the peace and environmental movements. This interactive workshop – intended for both educators and activists – will introduce practical, formal, and non-formal transformative educational theories, strategies and approaches intended to foster active social and political engagement.

Workshop 4: Don’t Bank on the Bomb: Divestment Campaign from Corporations Involved in the Manufacture and Maintenance of Nuclear Weapons, with Jonathan King, Alice Slater, Susi Snyder, Suzanne Cole, and Eric Teller.
These campaigns, which can be carried out by a small group, educate the public to the profits that are one of the driving forces for the continuation of nuclear weapons programs, and offers the possibility of bringing economic pressure in support of nuclear disarmament.  The “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” campaign was developed in the Netherlands and operates throughout Europe.There the focus is on requesting investment funds to exclude corporations making nuclear weapons from their portfolios. Since the launch of that Campaign, 122 nations with a mandate from the UN General Assembly voted for a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons which bans them and outlaws any prohibited activities related to nuclear weapons, including use, threat to use, development, testing, production, manufacturing, acquiring, possession, stockpiling, transferring, receiving, stationing, installation, and deployment. In the U.S. the nuclear weapons corporations are a much more significant component of the economy.The first successful campaign in the US was requesting the Cambridge City Council  to ask its Municipal Pension Fund to divest from such corporations, in particular Lockheed-Martin. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has adapted a supportive resolution. Such campaigns can be directed at Pension Funds, College and University endowments, Church holdings, and related investments. The Future of Life Institute is leading the effort to make it easy for individuals to move their retirement and other personal investments out of funds that includes nuclear weapons manufacture in their portfolio.

Workshop 5: Closing Military Bases with Medea Benjamin, Will Griffin.
The U.S. has 800 bases around the planet. These bases are provocations to the rest of the world. With so many bases the Department of Defense should be called the Department of Offense. U.S. military bases don’t just provoke other militaries, but they also displace entire communities, break democratic systems, violate human rights, destroy their environments, and so much more. But in response to these bases, struggles around the world have risen up and are fighting back against US imperialism. These are the struggles we can learn about and support to create an international citizens movement to close all foreign bases.

12-1 p.m. catered lunch by D.C. Vegan

1-2 p.m. Reporting back and discussion in Recital Hall

2:15-3:30 p.m. Halting the environmental damage of distant U.S. wars, with Kathy Kelly, Brian Terrell, Max Blumenthal.

3:45-5:00 p.m. Building a Joint Peacenvironmentalist / Envirantiwar Movement, with Kevin Zeese, Anthony Rogers-Wright, Diane Wilson.

5:00-6:30 p.m. dinner on your own
Here is a map showing restaurants and coffee shops on campus (PDF). There are many more options just up Nebraska Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue and the area of the American University / Tenleytown Metro stop. A shuttlebus makes it easy to get there and back.

6:30-7:15 Music by The Irthlingz Duo: Sharon Abreu and Michael Hurwicz.

7:15-9:00 p.m. Film screening and discussion: Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War, with Alice Day and Lincoln Day.


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ASEH Conference Sessions 2017

ASEH Conference – 2017 – Sessions on War and Environment

Conference info here

Thursday, March 30

8:30 to 10:00: The Cold War, the American West, and the Environment

A Comparative Analysis of the Environmental Effects of Cold War: Uranium Mining in Grants, New Mexico. Robynne Mellor, Georgetown University

Incident at Galisteo: The 1955 Teapot Series and the Mental Landscape of Contamination. Leisl Carr Childers, University of Northern Iowa

A Military-Industrial Cleanup: The End of the Cold War and the Remediation of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Curtis Foxley, University of Oklahoma

Chair: Richard Tucker, University of Michigan

10:30 to 12:00: The Struggle for Survival: War, Nationalism, and Natural Resources

Germany’s ‘Wooden Walls’: Timber as a Strategic Raw Material during the First World War. Jeffrey K. Wilson, California State University, Sacramento

Global Trading Giant or “Have-Not” Country? Natural and National Resource Anxieties in 1930s Japan. Eric Dinmore, Hampden-Sydney College

Serving His Nation: Carl Schenck, the Timber Trade, and German Remilitarization, 1918-1945. Scott Moranda, SUNY Cortland

A Member of the Food Chain: Primary Productivity from the Third Reich to the International Biological Program, 1930- 1974. Adam Lawrence, University of California, Los Angeles

Chair: Richard Tucker, University of Michigan

3:30 – 5:00: Strategic Nature: World War II and the Mobilization of the American Environment (Roundtable)

Kellen Backer, Syracuse University; Jean A. Mansavage, U.S. Air Force Historical Studies Office; Kent Curtis, Ohio State University; Ryan Edgington, Independent Scholar; Chris Rein, U.S. Army, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Moderator: Tom Robertson, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Friday, March 31

8:30 – 10:00: Drained, Dumped, and Despoiled: War and Peace in the Great Lakes of Europe

The “Peaceful Conquest” of Kopaïda. David Idol, University of California, San Diego

Dumped Munitions in Swiss Lakes – A Historical Perspective on Military Waste Management. Elodie Charrière, Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Geneva, and Rémi Baudouï, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Geneva School of Social Sciences, University of Geneva

The European Great Lakes: A Divided History. Simo Laakkonen, University of Turku

Chair: Sarah R. Hamilton, Auburn University

Saturday, April 1

8:30 – 10:00: Incidental Landscapes of War: Military Manipulation, Commodification, and Utilization of Nature

“To leave delightful fields for barren wilderness”: Ordering Wilderness Landscapes during the American Revolution. Daniel S. Soucier, University of Maine

Ecological Imperialism in a European Context: The Incidental Landscapes of War in Napoleonic Italy. Joseph Horan, Colorado School of Mines

Growing Patriots: Victory Gardens, Children, and Civic Identity in World War II. Anastasia Day, University of Delaware

Chair: Lisa Brady, Boise State University

10:30 – 12:00: Disease and the Transition from War to Peace in Europe, 1918-1923

Environment, Disease, and Red Army Triumph: from Civil War to NEP, 1918-1921. John P Davis, Kentucky Community and Technical College System/Hopkinsville Community College

Fighting War, Fighting Flu: The British Battle with Pandemic Influenza during and after the First World War. James Harris, Ohio State University

‘Postwar’ Relief to Wartime Poland: The ARAEFC and Poland’s Battle Against TB, 1919-1923. Paul Niebrzydowski, Ohio State University

Chair: Richard Tucker, University of Michigan

Commentator: Colin Duncan, Queens College

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ASEH conference 2017

2017 conference – Chicago

Winds of Change: Global Connections across Space, Time, and Nature
Dates: March 29 – April 2, 2017
Location: Drake Hotel, downtown Chicago (Magnificent Mile)
Host: University of Illinois-Chicago
More info here.

Panel Schedule here.

We are looking for contributors to a panel for ASEH 2017 on war (or geopoltical conflict more broadly), nationalism, and the international trade of natural resources. In particular, we are interested in conflicts between national interests, resource conservation, and liberal trade regimes. How do nationalists mobilize notions of the natural or the organic in their conceptualizations of national or international economies? How do they draw on ideas of Darwinian resource competition or national survival in discussions of mining, logging, or agriculture? Jeff Wilson plans on contributing a paper on World War One, Germany, and timber supplies. Scott Moranda aims to contribute a paper on forester Carl Schenck and Germany’s engagement with the international timber trade in the Weimar and Nazi periods.

UPDATE: The submission deadline has passed. Thank you for all of your submissions.


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World War II and the Environment Workshop 2016

“The Nature of War: American Environments and World War II”

Workshop at Ohio State University, February 25-27, 2016

“Smoke ‘Em if You’ve Got ‘Em: Environmental, Agricultural, and Industrial Implications of
Cigarette Consumption during World War II,”
Joel R. Bius, Air Command and Staff College, Alabama

“Fueling the ‘American Century’: Establishing the U.S. Petroleum Imperative during the WWII
Brian Black, Penn State University, Altoona

“On Nuclear Landscapes and Nuclear Science“
Kate Brown, University of Maryland, Baltimore

“Alloys and Allies: World War II, Mineral Scarcity and Post-war Foreign Policy”
Kent (Kip) Curtis, Ohio State University, Mansfield

“Growing Factories: Employee Victory Gardening Programs in World War II”
Anastasia Day, University of Delaware

“The Nature and Business of War: Drilling for Oil in Wartime Los Angeles”
Sarah Elkind, San Diego State University

“The Biologists’ War: Biological Warfare and the Limits of Environment Annihilation during
World War II”
Gerard J. Fitzgerald, George Mason University

“’Germicidal Gold Rush’: The Invention, Promotion and Legacy of Hexachlorophene in American
Hygiene Products”
Martha Gardner, MCPHS University, Boston MA

“For Land’s Sake: Acquiring and Using Property for National Defense during World War II”
Jean A. Mansavage, U.S. Air Force History Office, Washington D.C.

“Protecting the Shoreline: Marine Woodborers, Coastal Landscapes, and Shifting Baselines,
1920 – 1960”
Derek Lee Nelson, University of New Hampshire

“Total War and the Total Environment: World War II and American Conservationists”
Thomas Robertson, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester MA

“Soldiers of the Soil: Labor, Nature, and American during World War II”
Kendra Smith-Howard, SUNY-Albany

“Automobiles, Trucks, and Planes: World War II, American Transportation, and the
Christopher Wells and Thomas Robertson. Christopher Wells, Macalester College MN

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Society for Military History Conference 2016

World War I and the Environment: Global Resource Allocation, Militarization, and the Nature of Raw Materials
Ottawa, April 14 – 17, 2016

*** UPDATE ***

Friday, April 15, 10:30 – 12:00


Chair: James Grossman, Executive Director, American Historical Association

Beth Bailey, University of Kansas

Lisa M. Brady, Boise State University

Jennifer Mittelstadt, Rutgers University

Commentator: Jeffrey Grey, President, Society for Military History/University of New South Wales Canberra


Harvest for War:

Fruits, Nuts, Imperialism and Gas Mask Manufacture in the United States During World War I


Gerard J. Fitzgerald (George Mason University)


Wood Goes to War:

World War I and American Lumber and Lumber Policies


James Lewis (Forest History Society)


World War I and the Transformation of the Fossil Fuels Economy


Richard Tucker (University of Michigan)

For more information visit the conference site here.

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ASEH Conference 2016

At the annual conference of the American Society for Environmental History, in Seattle on March 30 – April 3, our annual War and Environment breakfast will be on Friday morning.  Everyone is welcome to participate, to meet colleagues and join a brief discussion of our network.

The conference program includes three sessions on war and environment:

War and Environmental History (Friday, 8:30 a.m.)

Chair: Gabriella Petrick (University of New Haven)

Presenters: Michael O’Hagan (Western University): “In the Midst of the Canadian Bush”: German Prisoners of War in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park

Sean Halverson (San Joaquin Delta College):  Conquering an Unforgiving Countryside: How America’s Environment Shaped Confining Prisoners of War in the American Revolution

Gerard J. Fitzgerald (George Mason University): Harvest for War: Fruits, Nuts, Imperialism, and Gas Mask Production in the United States During World War I


Saturday, April 2  10:30 am – 12:00 noon —  Two sessions:

State, Rebels, and Nature: War and the Environment from a Chinese Perspective

Chair: Tait Keller (Rhodes College)

Presenters: Brian Lander (Harvard University): Warfare, Resource Mobilization and State Formation in Qin, 481-208 BCE

Jack Hayes (Kwantlen Polytechnic University and University of British Columbia): Walls, Bootprints, Ashes, and Floods in the Landscape: Environmental Effects of Banditry, Small Scale Conflict(s), and Insurgencies in China’s Military Environmental History, 1720s-1931

Yan Gao (University of Memphis): Corridors of War: Waterway Transportation during the Taiping Era


Environmental Impacts of World War II in the Pacific Northwest

Moderator: Richard Tucker (University of Michigan)

Presenters: Katherine Macica (Loyola University Chicago)

Paul Hirt (Arizona State University)

William L. Lang (Portland State University)

Joseph E. Taylor (Simon Fraser University)

Tina Adcock (Simon Fraser University)

For more information and to register for the conference, visit the ASEH site here.

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ESEH Conference 2017

The next biennial ESEH meeting will be held June 28 – July 2, 2017 in Zagreb, Croatia.

UPDATE: Submission deadline passed. Thank you for your submissions.

Panel Schedule Here.

The theme will be “Contact/Conflict Environments – Environments in areas of contact among states, economic systems, cultures and religions”. Because of unusual shape of Croatia’s territory and because of its historical development as a contact or conflict area of different worlds – Christianity and Islam, maritime and continental tradition to name a few – Croatia is a great place to study contact environments. Different cultures and different economies have different ways of using the environment and its resources. Such heterogeneity can be seen in present and past landscapes. Croatia is also a prime example of a conflict environment due to its characteristic of a “border-country”: due to historical circumstances and conflicts of major European powers during the last 500 years, it is shaped as a crescent and there is no place within Croatia that is located more than 70 km from an international border. Borders between different cultural groups and historical political entities have created visible marks in the landscape, including in urban and peri-urban areas. Excursions planned for the conference will highlight zones and places of contact and/or conflict.

For more information on the conference or to submit proposals, go to the Conference Website.

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Five Stages of Environmental Impacts of Warfare: An Exploration

Stewart Gordon and Richard Tucker

June 2015


As yet no analytic framework or paradigm shapes the study of the environmental consequences of war and military operations. Writers’ subjects have varied widely in theme and location, as we work toward global coverage and links to an expanding range of disciplines. Case studies have been the norm, generally based on solid archival work or occasionally field work.  Without a shared analytic framework, however, comparison between case studies has proved problematic.  Ideally, a new research framework in the field would foster comparisons across time and space, permitting useful analysis of war’s environmental consequences across disparate periods, cultures, religions, regions, languages and ethnicities. Thus, it might be possible to compare the environmental consequences of fleet buildup before the Peloponnesian Wars to fleet buildup preceding the Napoleonic Wars or even to Kublai Khan’s fleet construction for the invasion of Japan. Implicitly such a framework would promote studies and comparisons outside the twentieth century and beyond Europe. Our thinking in this venture has been much influenced by the important essay by Gary E. Machlis and Thor Hanson, “Warfare Ecology,” Bioscience 58:8 (September 2008).

What we propose here is not a fully developed comparative research framework for the environmental consequences of war. Rather, we explore time and chronology as one aspect of such a research paradigm.  From reading a variety of war and environment case studies as well as recent writing in military history, we have noticed characteristic periods in the interaction of environment and war, as follows:

  1. The Run Up to War
  2. The War Itself
  3. The Immediate Aftermath
  4. Five to Ten Years after the War
  5. The Long Term, a Century or more after the War

We do not seek a single pattern of the consequences of war on the environment. Rather, we expect a variety of patterns. Some wars have affected the environment mainly in the run- up rather than the war itself. The environmental consequences of other wars have become clear only decades after the fighting. We anticipate comparisons between wars of similar pattern, though the wars may be far apart in location and belong to different historical periods.

To illustrate this schema we have chosen examples from the published literature that focus on one or another of the periods we are proposing. Rather than a full discussion of these important books and articles, we provide only a thumbnail summary of the main argument and its relevance to the proposed research structure.  For each time frame we add research questions that arise from comparative perspective.


Environmental Costs of Preparations for Warfare

“Oak, Forests and English Preparations for the Napoleonic War”

This thumbnail discussion relies on what is still the most thorough study of English oak and English shipbuilding, Robert G. Albion, Forests and Sea Power: The Timber Problem of the Royal Navy 1652-1862 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926).

In the 1790’s Great Britain’s Naval Board rightly worried that there would not be enough English oak to build the needed ships for the coming war with France.  The limitations were environmental and historical.  Oak of a size and strength for shipbuilding grew only in a very small portion of England consisting of the southeast counties (Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent), smaller pockets on a north-south line through the center of the island (such as Winwood, Whittelwood, and Sherwood) and the Forest of Dean on the western coast.  None of these stands were in any sense “natural” forests.  The vast majority of the once-dominant oak forests had been cleared for agriculture.  What remained had been managed for centuries and consisted of century-old giants that formed an overstory with younger oaks growing below.  The ground level was kept cleared by pigs; these forests were meant for royal and noble hunting.  The Naval Board and English shipbuilders considered English oak superior to any continentally grown alternative.

When naval demand was limited, nobles could profitably harvest some of the big oaks without damage to the basic system.  The rapid increase in demand for oak in the run-up to the Napoleonic wars could, however, not be met by these managed forests.  Some large oaks were cut, but neither the king nor his nobles were willing to see their estates denuded and the end of an ecological system that had provided profit, building material and game for the table for generations.

The Naval Board pursued probably the only viable strategy: export the problem and import the solution.  They turned to the vast oak forests in the Baltic countries for structural timber and planking.  Whole forests were felled for the dozens and dozens of ships built.  Masts of strong, supple white pine came from the uncut forests of the North American coasts and rivers draining to the coasts.

The run-up to the Napoleonic Wars thus had a variety of environmental effects, such as the wholesale logging of portions of the Baltic region and the eastern littoral of North America.  There were also environmental effects within England.  Many nobles began to grow larch, which was the equal of oak for shipbuilding but maturing in half the time of oak.

This shift, for example, bears comparison to the spread of pine plantations in the American south. Further afield broad questions might include the following: How was the environment stressed by military preparations?  Was there wholesale cutting down forests for ships, masts or gun carriages? Was there Increased iron or gold mining? Did the Run Up include stockpiling of cloth, minerals or food?  Was there enforced shifting of crops or opening of new land for crops?  What about the taking of birds for fletching arrows? What about the taking of ceremonially powerful animals for their skins or feathers?


Environmental Stress during Wartime

This second thumbnail summary is based on Lisa M. Brady, “The Wilderness of War: Nature and Strategy in the American Civil War,” Environmental History 10:3 (July 2005), pp. 421-47 and the fuller treatment in her recent book War upon the Land: Military Strategy and the Transformation of Southern Landscapes during the American Civil War (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012).

The most direct and unambiguous environmental consequences of battle are the immediate impacts of conflict, military movements and operations behind the lines.  Military historians and geographers have described these impacts many times, though their focus has been on military operations themselves and the geographical information necessary for planning strategy and tactics.  Historians of military and society have indicated many close links between the complex, shifting place of civilians in warfare and the environments where they operate. The work of environmental historians converges with those traditions, but with a different narrative focus: on the natural and built environments in play.  The centennial of World War I has given great impetus to studies of the two world wars of the twentieth century, but until now the best work on the immediate environmental stresses of warfare has been in studies of the American Civil War of 1861-65.

Lisa Brady’s work is highly regarded among both environmental and military historians.  In her 2005 article she focuses on fields and forests and their devastation in war. In General Sherman’s 1864 traverse of Georgia, cotton fields that had been turned into cornfields were systematically disrupted in a wide swath, as if “some giant plowshare had passed through the land, marring … the rolling plains, laying waste the fields and gardens … and razing even towns and cities.” (p. 421).  In the same penultimate year of the war General Sheridan and his forces in the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia systematically destroyed crops, livestock, buildings, even wood supplies.  These and other campaigns also damaged forest cover and swamplands in battle areas.

Reflecting the rich trove of literature on the psychological and intellectual experience of that war, Brady and other environmental historians have also been sensitive to the perceptual dimensions of the natural environment.  But despite their vividness and detail, these eye-witness accounts of destruction present difficulties for establishing the actual ecological legacies, as distinct from disruption of the produce of the land.  Typical rhetoric of the time describes “total destruction,” “desolation,” “a return to wilderness,” and so on; but what did those epithets mean for the longer run?  As she points out in her conclusions, a study of the longer-term environmental legacy of the war’s campaigns would have to take into account rural societies’ determination to rebuild their farm buildings and return to growing crops.  But that is research for another day.  The scope of Brady’s book is limited to the war years.  Like most studies of immediate environmental impacts of conflict, it invites studies of the aftermath.

For comparative studies we might consider some wider questions related to  the actual duration of the war. Was there increased resource extraction to replace direct war losses, for example, wood, cloth, iron and steel?  What were the environmental impacts of increased resource extraction if the war stretched into years? What were the environmental effects of billeting of troops in homes and on farms? How about the increasing needs for fodder and food? Was there increased hunting? Was either side forced into increased food production? Did it consist of plowing commons or pushing agriculture into upland slopes or other marginal soils? Did wartime needs trigger increased building of infrastructure, such as roads, railroads, cart tracks, or coastal defenses? Did new military roads significantly change drainage patterns? Were forests stripped for road building or coastal defenses? Did armies on the march directly stress the environment by cutting trees, foraging food, hunting and killing grazing animals? How large was the impact area? How long did an army stay in one area? What happened to the surrounding environment during an extended siege?



Destruction and Recovery: The Immediate Aftermath

The immediate aftermath – two to five years – is often a period of continuing local conflicts or uneasy peace.  Both world wars of the twentieth century left many regional and national conflicts unresolved into the following decade, but environmental historians have only begun to study those reverberations of the major Powers’ collisions.  This holds true for both rural and urban settings, the reconstruction of both agro-ecosystems and urban environments, though many publications on the elements of that story are available for consideration.  Intensive postwar demand for construction materials includes pressure on timber products, metals, and fossil fuels.  Studies of the sites of extraction processes and scales of production can be integrated with transport systems and materials consumption at sites of reconstruction.

For our thumbnail we have chosen Carola Hein, Jeffry M. Diefendorf and Ishida Yorigusa, eds., Rebuilding Urban Japan after 1945 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).  The authors describe how urban planners took the opportunity provided by wartime devastation to redesign cities on what they considered to be more rational and efficient designs. This is a central dimension of warfare’s immediate environmental consequences.  Behind it lie dimensions of urban environmental damage during the war, including intensive industrial toxics and pollution, disruption of power and water supplies, and their impacts on human and social health.  All these aspects have received detailed analysis, but we are at an early stage of integrating them into the environmental history of war’s immediate aftermath, with analogies throughout the history of urban centers.

Post-war reconstruction was often hindered by either severe monetary inflation in the last period of wars, or after the First World War the immediate postwar depression.  Hence, governmental agencies, private sector construction firms, and fiscal managers all must be considered in reconstructing this first stage of war’s aftermath.

Comparative questions in this timeframe might include the following: Were the environmental effects significantly different between the winner and the loser? What about resources surrendered as reparations? Can we see the “peace” having different short-term environmental effects in varying environmental regions, such as the ocean littoral, the main river valleys, the upland slopes, and the mountains? What happened to refugees? Did they actually end up occupying environmentally sensitive locales, such as wetlands, riverbanks, or steep hillsides? How much of the surrounding area was stripped?  What about the camp’s water supply and effects of the camp on nearby rivers? Were significant portions of the losing side’s population enslaved and removed from the land, thereby decreasing the environmental impact of human habitation?  Did the “peace”, however defined, leave active, armed militias, which did not recognize the peace arrangements? Did they strip resources to sustain their resistance?

Medium-Range Legacy of Warfare: A Decade and Beyond

This thumbnail relies on Greg Bankoff, “Of Beasts and Men: Animals and the Cold War in Eastern Asia,” in J. R. McNeill and Corinna R. Unger, Environmental Histories of the Cold War (Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 203-26.

Environmental historians of warfare’s aftermath have done more work on the years immediately following 1945 than any other war, as a reflection of considerable interest in the early Cold War years.  In this essay Bankoff, who has published extensively on Southeast Asia, presents a global overview of warfare’s impact on animals, primarily wildlife over the forty years of the Cold War.  The aftermath of World War II played out in complex and locally varying ways, including locations of continuing or revived conflict.  This essay has a focus on the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan.  His approach is to integrate political and military narratives with material on wildlife, in an orbit that includes Jeffrey McNeely and other tropical zoologists.

Data are inevitably fragmentary for this dimension of environmental change.  Bankoff draws upon surveys done by wildlife biologists in some locations; following them, he highlights the fates of rare and endangered species.  But field work in settings of violence is always risky, and numbers of indicative species are problematical.

Wildlife has been decimated in war zones, its numbers recovering slowly after the end of mass violence.  Both soldiers and civilians (though there may have been only a vague distinction between the two) shot tigers and other trophy animals in the chaotic conditions of conflict zones of Vietnam and Afghanistan.  Bankoff adds a perceptive reminder of the role of refugees: hunting and trapping in uprooted desperation, they often place heavy pressure on wildlife, shooting or capturing meat to supplement meager protein in their diets or animals to sell as a source of cash.

In contrast, he also explores the fact that where human pressure on natural systems is reduced, many species of flora and fauna thrive.  Truce lines (the most important is the Demilitarized Zone  in central Korea) and transition zones where opposing warriors keep each other out, become demilitarized areas, official or de facto, where wild species thrive. And in the medium run, even where military operations have scarred the land, some animal species increase, as with fish and mosquitos in the bomb craters of Vietnam, and vermin species such as rats in many degraded settings.

In the interface between wildlands and human societies, consideration of this timeframe might include the following comparative questions: Did the refugee camps slowly become permanent, thereby significantly changing the environment around them? Were depopulated areas repopulated? What were the effects on the plants, animals and general ecology that had occupied the abandoned lands?  What about hunting and killing large animals perceived as a threat to agriculture or the human population? Was agriculture so altered by the war that it did not return to its pre-war patterns, thereby altering ecological niches and opportunities for plants and animals? Was there a shift between stall-fed and rough pasture-fed husbandry, which had environmental effects?  Did the post-war government commit to “development” as a means of garnering support from its people? What were the environmental effects of this process, such as the expansion of agriculture into fragile areas, more mining and resource extraction, more commercial fishing? Did remaining militias militarily oppose these “development” efforts and what were the environmental effects of these drawn-out conflicts?


The Long Environmental Legacy, a Century after Conflict

This thumbnail relies on Joseph P. Hupy and Randall J. Schaetzl, “Soil Development on the WWI Battlefield of Verdun, France,” Geoderma 145: 1-2 (May 2008), 37-49, and Hupy’s influential companion article, “The Environmental Footprint of War,” Environment and History (2008), pp. 405-21.

Fundamental to the assessment of long-term legacies of war is the study of soils that have been impacted by conflict.  Chroniclers of the wars of empires and kingdoms have often asserted that the resource base for human societies was permanently degraded.  This is plausible, wherever soil character and harsh climates make recovery from conflict difficult, slow or ultimately only partial.  Nutrient-poor soils, even on relatively flat terrain, or thin soils on steep slopes, have been badly damaged, making the return of vegetation (whether by natural processes or human efforts at reconstruction) difficult and slow at best.  But lacking ecological field studies until recent times, our conclusions must remain general or tentative.

But even on highly fertile soils and in favorable climates, the land has been vulnerable to severe compaction or churning by the machines and high explosives of the industrial age, followed by long-term processes in the life of the soil.  One rigorous approach is illustrated by Joseph Hupy’s studies of military geography, a model of what can be accomplished by soil specialists.  Hupy has conducted intensive field surveys of the trenches of World War I in the battlefields around Verdun, and the battlefields of Khe Sanh, one of the most heavily damaged battle areas during the Vietnam War.  In his “Environmental Footprint …” essay he defines the broad orientation of his work:

“The destruction associated with modern warfare is particularly catastrophic due to the extent, magnitude and duration of contemporary wars.  These large magnitude disturbances radically alter the shape of the landscape, limiting the ability of the landscape to revert back to its original state.  This article addresses the direct impacts of war on the physical landscape and why the magnitude of disturbance has increased significantly over the past century.” (p. 405).

In the same year’s study of Verdun he and Schaetzl dissect the soil structure a century after the construction of deep trenches and the repeated bombardment of fields and forests.  They report:

“The WWI battle of Verdun in 1916, remains one of the most intense battles fought between two nations (Germany and France) in all of human history. … Historically the Verdun battlefield is one of the best documented and, in the decades since the war, unaltered battlefields in the world. (p. 38) The millions of artillery craters … have changed the area’s surface hydrology, water table characteristics, and soil development processes and rates. (p. 47).  … Many craters penetrated the shallow limestone bedrock, and blasted out fragments of limestone on nearby undisturbed [locations] had already been incorporated into the profile.  Despite the short period of time since the battle (88 years), measurable amounts of weathering and pedogenesis has occurred in the soils within the craters.  A major pedogenic process operative here is the accumulation and decomposition of organic matter, which is intimately associated with (and aided by) earthworm bioturbation.”

Painstaking field work of this sort can provide a foundation for understanding what has been possible (and what has limited the possibilities) for either natural regeneration or socially organized reconstruction in the long aftermath.  The political, economic and social dimensions of environmental change can thus be clarified.  With this analysis in mind, we can raise additional questions that might be useful in the long timeframe.  They might include the following: Was the ecology permanently altered in the winning or losing country? Did agricultural land return to arable, grassland or forest? Did human interventions on rivers – dams, weirs, locks, channel maintenance – so change that new wetlands and channels emerged? Did the war alter political ideology among the winners or losers so dramatically that the shift altered the perception of regions, as, for example, “frontiers” rather than “heartland”?  Or did a new religion spread among the winners or losers, shifting food patterns and thereby affecting the environment? If the government was weak and unable to establish authority, did civil war become relatively permanent? What were the environmental effects?



Other excellent examples that fit each of these time periods could equally well be chosen.  We welcome responses from both their authors and other colleagues who can discuss comparative cases.  And as we continue to build bridges across disciplinary chasms, we welcome discussion of cases that illustrate other methodologies and fields of research.

We hope that this research framework proves both useful and provocative in the field of war and the environment, and that it:

  • promotes the movement from case studies to comparative analysis;
  • encourages collaboration between scholars studying wars widely separated in both space and time;
  • stimulates environmental studies of many smaller wars by scholars whose core interest lies outside the field of war and environment;
  • initiates a discussion leading to a fuller research framework that includes not only temporal, but, for example, spatial, institutional, economic, and political vectors.

The proof of the utility of this research framework will, of course, be its adoption by scholars inside and outside the field of war and the environment. This forum is an invitation to begin the discussion.

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Defending Nation, Defending Nature? Militarized Landscapes and Military Environmentalism in Britain, France, and the United States – Peter Coates, Tim Cole, Marianna Dudley, and Christ Pearson

Published in  Environmental History 16 (July 2011), pp. 456-91

This is a well polished overview of an important aspect of environmental impacts of military establishments in peacetime.  It points readers to their longer, more varied study: Chris Pearson, Peter Coates and Tim Cole, eds.,Militarized Landscapes: From Gettysburg to Salisbury Plain (London: Continuum, 2010).  My students have found this article to be a fascinating introduction to military environmental management on two continents.  —-Richard Tucker

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Mountain Warfare and Environmental History

Fragile mountainous landscapes around the world are environmental settings where warfare has been endemic through the centuries.  Mountain zones became major battle regions during World War I, as we see in Tait Keller’s work on the Italian / Austro-Hungarian battle zone of the southeastern Alps, and Marc Landry’s work in progress on the French Alps in the same war.  In the Second World War several mountain regions were disrupted, as we learn, for example, from Chris Pearson’s study of the Vercors region in southeastern France.  Micah Muscolino’s study of refugee movements in the Huanglonghshan mountains of western China in World War II adds a tragic dimension, as does my forthcoming essay on the eastern Himalayas during that war.

But far back through history there have been many armed struggles in contested mountain regions.  Mountain terrain has been a refuge for dissidents, insurgents, and pastoralists.  Intermittent but often protracted resistance movements in the hills, and counter-insurgency campaigns based in lowlands, have repeatedly put mountain ecosystems at risk.  John McNeill’s Mountains of the Mediterranean orients us to several instances of that sort of warfare.  In this asymmetrical warfare insurgents typically have avoided concentrated battles with militarized regimes; so the more powerful military machine has resorted to attacking the insurgents’ bases of operations.  This is environmental warfare – deliberate damage to ecological settings.  To some extent, this type of environmental warfare has been addressed by international Law of Warfare treaties since 1975.  Further studies of the environmental damage suffered by mountain ecosystems will be valuable additions to the ongoing work of international lawyers.

Any number of other examples come to mind, that invite closer examination: the southern flanks of the Pyrenees in Napoleon’s Peninsular War; the Pindus Mountains in northern Greece during the civil war of the late 1940s; the mountain valleys of the Himalayas through South Asia’s long history of conquest and resistance; the montagnards’territory in twentieth-century Vietnam; the Atlas Mountains; the Caucasus repeatedly; and more, all await more serious attention by environmental historians.

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The State of the Art on the Environmental History of World War I

As we move deeper into the centennial years of World War I, environmental historians have begun to make important contributions to our understanding of the costs and legacies of the Great War.  Conference panels and workshops in 2014 (see our Conferences page for a listing) have featured dimensions of the war’s environmental dynamics that had hardly been articulated until now.  Working together, we have expanded the geographical reach of the First? World(wide) War to regions far beyond Europe and the Middle East.  For just a few examples, Jack Hayes is demonstrating how Japan used the war years to spread its claims on East Asia’s natural resources, with fateful consequences thereafter.  Roy MacLeod, Corey Ross and others are analyzing the rapid rise of Great Powers competition for strategic mineral resources, petroleum and timber.  Tait Keller is surveying global energy and food flows during the war, and Thaddeus Sunseri has shown the environmental and social significance of the fighting between German and British colonial forces in East Africa.  Through analyses of food and agriculture during and immediately after the war, we are enriching our understanding of the war’s tragic significance around the Middle East and beyond, as well as in Europe.  Even wildlife and wildlands are within our collective frame of reference now, as revealed in Anna-Katharina Wöbse’s study of the international conservation movement’s troubles during the war years.

But as our military history colleagues are reminding us, we have been placing less attention on the main regions of the war (beyond the horrors of the trenches).  We need to turn additional attention to the urban and rural environmental damage that France, the Low Countries and Germany suffered, as well as the poorly understood Eastern Front beyond Germany.   Eco-region by eco-region, we can use the many military/political/economic narratives now in print to add an additional, fundamental dimension to our collective awareness as environmental historians.  I welcome comments and proposals on what is missing from the coverage of our evolving discussion, what existing work we should recognize, and how we can shape further research agendas.

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Warfare and Ecological Destruction in Early Fourteenth-Century British Isles – Philip Slavin

Published in Environmental History 19: 3 (July 2014)

Abstract: The environmental, economic, and demographic consequences of Anglo-Scottish warfare in the early fourteenth century were far reaching. This article looks at the extent of environmental damage brought about by the ongoing warfare, primarily between England and Scotland from 1296 to 1328. The conflict coincided with a series of ecological and biological crises, most notably the Great European Famine of 1315–17 and the Great Bovine Pestilence of 1319–20. As I argue, the armed conflict aggravated the crisis further and caused immense damage within the war zones of the British Isles.

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Range Wars: The Environmental Contest for White Sands Missile Range – Ryan H. Edgington

From the Introduction: “In March 2009 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service named the massive White Sands Missile Range in south-central New Mexico the recipient of the 2007 Military Conservation Partner Award. … The now more than sixty-year-old missile range does deserve recognition. … By 1980 White Sands had conducted more than sixty thousands missile tests. Wildlife conservationists have found a most unexpected value in a place the average environmentalist might deem a military wasteland. Some even consider the military reservation a de facto wildlife preserve.”

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Never Such Weather Known in These Seas: Climatic Fluctuations and the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century, 1652-1674 – Dagomar Degroot

Abstract: In the North Sea region, the so-called Little Ice Age reached a cold, stormy nadir between 1560 and 1720, with a three-decade interruption of warmer, more tranquil weather between 1629 and 1662. Newly considered ship logbooks, diaries and other documentary evidence suggest that a rise in the frequency of easterly winds accompanied the coldest phases of the Little Ice Age, and these decadal climatic trends had consequences for regional warfare. Fought between 1652 and 1674, the Anglo-Dutch wars at sea were contested in a period of transition between decade-scale climatic regimes and consequently provide useful case studies into the relationship between meteorological trends and early modern military operations. In the first war, persistent westerly winds born of a warmer climate frequently helped crews aboard larger English warships set the terms of most naval engagements. However, during the second and third wars more frequent easterlies stimulated by a cooler climate granted critical advantages to Dutch fleets that had adopted elements of English tactics and technology. Ultimately, the changing climate of the Little Ice Age must be considered alongside human agency and the political, economic or cultural influences typically examined by military historians to explain the course of early modern warfare.

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Natural Defense: U.S. Air Force Origins of the Department of Defense Natural Resources Conservation Program – Jean A. Mansavage

The Preface states, “This work relates the story of why the U.S. Air Force took the lead among the military services in developing a comprehensive conservation program and how efforts by the Air Force laid the groundwork for the Department of Defense natural resources program that followed. The book also situates USAF/DOD conservation efforts within the context of U.S. military environmental engagement across the decades, and within the broader scope of the emerging conservation/environmental movement in the post-World War II United States.”

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Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters – Kate Brown

As the ASEH Newsletter reports, “Brown draws on declassified documents and oral histories of government officials as well as workers and their families in the US and the former Soviet Union, capturing the shared experiences of the Soviet and American experience with the production of a nuclear arsenal. Beyond the major accidents, Brown reveals how everyday operations exposed workers and their families to toxic radioisotopes. The cloak of secrecy that permeated the Cold War facilitated reckless attitudes towards nuclear weapons and wastes produced in both the US and the USSR. The very nature of radioactive materials limited tracing back to sources thus producing insidious exposures in workers and their families. Both wastes and exposures can be invisible in nature and invisible in terms of social action. Yet Brown rediscovers their traces in the bodies of the exposed.”

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Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism – Jacob Darwin Hamblin

“With this book Jacob Hamblin makes a major contribution to our understanding of the decisive role of military priorities and military funding in the shaping of a wide range of environmental sciences. As a contribution to the histiography of science as conditioned by its political, ideological, social, and financial contexts, this book shows how the ideologies and international institutions of the Cold Ear shaped the rise of fundamental environmental sciences.” From review by Richard Tucker in Environmental History (January 2015).

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Warfare and the Environment in the Ancient World – J. Donald Hughes

Published in the Oxford Handbook of Warfare in the Classical World (Brian Campbell and Lawrence A. Tritle, eds., 2013)

A broad introductory survey of the environmental dynamics and degradation of warfare in the Fertile Crescent and the classical Mediterranean world from the early Mesopotamian city states through the Roman Empire.

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Paths of Infection: The First World War and the Origins of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic – Mark Osborne Humphries

Published in War in History 21: 1 (2013)

Abstract: The origin site for the 1918 influenza pandemic which killed more than 50 million people worldwide has been hotly debated. While the mid-western United States, France, and China have all been identified as potential candidates by medical researchers, the military context for the pandemic has been all but ignored. Conversely, military historians have paid little attention to a deadly disease which underlines the reciprocal relationship between battlefield and home front. This paper re-examines the debate about the origins and diffusion of the 1918 flu within the context of global war, bridging gaps between social, medical, and military history in the process. A multidisciplinary perspective combined with new research in British and Canadian archives reveals that the 1918 flu most likely emerged first in China in the winter of 1917–18, diffusing across the world as previously isolated populations came into contact with one another on the battlefields of Europe. Ethnocentric fears – both official and popular – facilitated its spread along military pathways that had been carved out across the globe to sustain the war effort on the Western Front.

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A War for Oil in the Chaco, 1932-35 – Stephen Cote

Published in Environmental History 18: 4 (2013)

Abstract: Beginning in the late 1920s, Bolivia’s growing need for petroleum to fuel its mining sector and urban centers led the country on a policy of expansion into the Chaco Boreal, a torrid expanse claimed by both Bolivia and Paraguay. The two countries fought a three-year war over the territory in the 1930s. Postwar nationalist narratives and popular views of the conflict remain clouded in conspiracy theories involving foreign actors that ignore Bolivia’s motives and confuse oil’s role. Emphasizing environmental aspects of the conflict helps us to better understand the underlying causes, the conduct, and the outcomes of the war. The conflict highlights the importance of oil in shaping Latin American social and natural landscapes, and it reveals new relationships between the natural world and collective violence.

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Transforming the Forests of a Counterfeit Nation: Japan’s ‘Manchu Nation’ in Northeast China – Patrick J. Caffrey

Published in Environmental History 18: 2 (April 2013)

Abstract: In the 1930s, the Japanese army used forest management in its effort to transform the puppet Manchu Nation (Manchukuo) it had created in Northeast China into the cornerstone of a pan-Asian bloc. The bloc was intended to preserve the Japanese Empire’s security in a world sundered by global depression and rising tensions. The army turned forest management away from destructive practices toward sustained yield management, but within a few years they reversed course when Japan’s widening aggressions in pursuit of regional autarky pushed it into a desperate war with the United States and its allies. Even as the Japanese plundered Manchuria’s forests, they continued to promote tree planting in populated areas to support the fictions that Manchukuo was a nation serving its people and that Manchukuo’s so-called ally—the Japanese Empire—would prevail in its crusade to save Asia from Western imperialist domination. The arc of that crusade shared the trajectory of Manchukuo’s forest management. Japan’s wars ended in 1945 with the amputation of the territorial gains it had made over the previous fifty years and the devastation of the peoples and the forests under its control.

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Trees Versus Lives: Reckoning Military Success and the Ecological Effects of Chemical Defoliation During the Vietnam War – Neil S. Oatsvall

Published in Environment and History 19: 4 (November 2013)

Abstract: During the Vietnam War, the United States military declared war not just on Vietnamese peoples, but also on nature itself. Operation Ranch Hand served as the U.S. military’s answer to the Vietnamese Communist appropriation of the natural world into their war plans, as U.S. planes dumped nearly twenty million gallons of chemical herbicides on Vietnamese fields and forests. Examining and comparing the military and ecological effects of Ranch Hand, this essay assesses the military success of chemical defoliation by looking at military appraisals and early U.S. scientific studies of defoliated areas. Planners expected defoliation to provide a distinct military advantage and frequently made claims that they were trading trees for lives – environmental destruction ostensibly saved the lives of U.S. servicemen. Instead, defoliation’s military effects proved very ambiguous and the use of defoliants should be considered a failure in some ways. In trying to characterise defoliation as either a military success or failure, the essay also questions what it means for a piece of technology to succeed or fail and ultimately concludes that the answer to that question depends on the goals for its use, not the technology itself.

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Mobilizing Nature: The Environmental History of War and Militarization in Modern France – Chris Pearson

From the Introduction: “The trenches [of World War I] were part of a far longer and geographically dispersed environmental history of militarized environments in modern French history. In this book I trace the creation, maintenance, and contestation of these militarized environments from the establishment of France’s first large-scale and permanent army camp on the Champagne plains in 1857, to military environmentalism in the first decade of the twenty-first century.”

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Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War – Megan Kate Nelson

Kathryn Morse’s review in Environment and History, August 2014:

“Americans don’t like ruins; they rebuild, memorialize, and forget. Megan Kate Nelson’s cultural and environmental history of the ruins left by the Civil War argues persuasively that physical ruins – of cities, homes, forests and soldiers’ bodies – mattered deeply during and just after the Civil War, but that the disappearance of those ruins and bodies over time reveals much of the penchant within American culture to erase the most jarring physical evidence of violence from the nation’s public and visual landscape, and in some cases, from history itself. This creative, thoughtful, detailed work combines the history of a powerful idea – ruination – with stories of real physical places and compelling individual lives transformed by war.”

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World War II, the Cold War, and Natural Resources, four papers in Global Environment #10

“Introduction: War and Natural Resources in History,” Simo Laakkonen and Richard Tucker

“Big Science and the Enchantment of Growth in Latin America,” Nicolás Cuvi

“The Vulnerability of Nations: Food Security in the Aftermath of World War II,” Jacob Darwin Hamblin

“World War II and the ‘Great Acceleration’ of North Atlantic Fisheries,” Paul Holm

“The Environmental Impacts of Japan’s Occupation of West Malaysia (1942-45) and Its Socio- Economic Implications,” Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells.

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Conference on Landscapes of the Great War

Dates: 10-12 September 2015

Location: Trento and Padova, Italy

Sponsor: International Society for First World War Studies

See: H-net, 4 September 2014

Program: Not yet announced, as of January 2015

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Workshop on Nature Protection, Environmental Policy and Social Movements in Communist and Capitalist Countries during the Cold War

Dates: 29-30 May, 2015

Location: German Historical Institute, Washington, D. C.

Convenors: Astrid Mignon Kirchhof (Georgetown U. and German Historical Institute) and John McNeill (Georgetown U.)


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Conference on Warfare, Environment, Social Inequality and Peace Studies (WESIPS)

Dates: 29-30 May, 2015

Location: Center for Cross-Cultural Study, Seville, Spain

Information: Prof. Richard J. Chacon, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Winthrop  University, Rock Hill, SC 29733.

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Workshop on War and Geography

Date: 1 May, 2015

CUNY Graduate Center, New York City

The program includes: Roy MacLeod, “Geography, Geology and Strategy: Scientific Goals and Military Operations, 1914-1918”; Martin G. Clemis, “The Geography of the Second Indochina War: Irregular War, the Environment, and the Struggle for South Vietnam”; Swen Steinberg, “Mountains and Woods in Two Wars: Forestry and Mining Science in Germany and the US between National Military Utilization and the Development of a Global Knowledge on Resources (1914-1918/ 1939- 1945)”; and Richard Tucker, “Mass Conflict, Refugee Movements, and Environmental Dislocation.”

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ESEH Conference 2015

The biennial conference of the European Society for Environmental History will be in Versailles on 30 June – 3 July. It will include panels on the environmental history of the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, as well as other sessions on war and environment that will be announced shortly. The call for papers and sessions is already closed, but posters can be submitted until February 20th. Early registration ends on March 31st. Watch for further news of the program and field trips here

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ASEH Conference 2015

The annual conference of the American Society for Environmental History will be in Washington, D.C. on 18-21 March. Early registration will end on February 28th, so be sure to sign up soon.

We will hold our annual War and Environment breakfast on Thursday morning the 19th at 7:15, to discuss our network’s activities and pursue networking. Following the breakfast, at 8:30 that morning, there is a panel on “Empire, Revolution and Local Governance: Military-Environmental Convergence.” On Sunday there will be a field trip to Antietam National Battlefield and Harpers Ferry led by Lisa Brady, Tim Silver and Gerry Fitzgerald. To register for the breakfast and/or the field trip, Find more information at the conference website here.

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World War 1 Anniversary Relevant Conferences and Papers

The Global Environmental Dimensions of World War I

Roundtable for American Society for Environmental History Conference, March 12-16, 2014

Joseph Hupy, “The Battle of Verdun: The Legacy a Century Later”

Tait Keller, “Nature and War on the Frontiers of Empires, 1914-1918”

Thaddeus Sunseri, “Environmental Dimensions of World War I in Africa”

Jack Hayes, “Ecosystems and World War I in East Asia”

Environmental Dimensions of World War I

Panel at Society for Military History, April 5, 2014

Tait Keller, “The Global Reach of the Great War: An Environmental Approach”

Byron Pearson, “An Organization of Splendid Efficiency: The Incredible Accomplishments of the

Engineers during World War I”

Gerard J. Fitzgerald, “The Chemists’ War: Medical and Environmental Consequences of Chemical

Warfare during World War I”

World War I and the Environment: Extracting Global Natural Resources

Panel for World Conference on Environmental History, July 7-11, 2014

Tait Keller, “A Baneful Harvest: Agriculture and the Arming of Nations in the First World

Richard Tucker “Caffeine, the Indispensable Stimulant: Tea and Coffee Production for

Dan Tamïr, “Enter Petroleum: The War and the Debut of Oil on the Global Stage”

Discussant: Roger Chickering

Environmental History and World War I

Rachel Carson Center Workshop, Washington, D.C., August 4-5, 2014

   First panel: Extracting Global Natural Resources

      Roy MacLeod: “The ‘Minerals Sanction’: The Great War and the Conservation and Use of

      Dan Tamir: “Something New under the Fog of War: World War I and the Debut of Oil on the

      Jack Hayes: “World War I Environments, Military Actions, and Resource Management in East

      Tait Keller: “Extracting the Energy of Empires”

   Second panel: Agro-ecosystems, Food Supplies and Animals

      Alice Weinreb: “Beans are Bullets, Potatoes are Powder: Food as a Weapon of War during the

      Ernst Langthaler: “Dissolution before Dissolution: Agro-Food Chains in Austro-Hungary in the

      Ingo Heidbrink: “World War I: The Unexpected Stimulus for the Beginning of Global Over-

      Gene Tempest: “Horses Have No Country: American Equines and the Global Military

      Marketplace, 1899-1917”

   Third panel: The Middle East – Ecosystems, Resources, Refugees, and Famine

      Maria Six-Hohenbalken: “Upper Mesopotamia during World War I: Humanitarian Catastrophes

      and Commercial Intentions – Sources from Austrian Archives”

      Steven Serels: “Starving for Someone Else’s Fight: The First World War and Famine in the Red

      Zachary Foster: “Why are Famines so Deadly in the Modern Period? Syria during World War I”

      Graham Pitts: “The Famine of World War I and the Creation of Lebanon”

   Fourth panel: Additional Dimensions

      James Lewis: “Foresters at War: World War I and the Transformation of American Timber

      Anna-Katharina Wőbse: “Disruption and Recommencement: International Conservation

      Networks and World War I”

      Gerard Fitzgerald: “The Chemist’s War: Edgewood Arsenal, World War I, and the Birth of a

      Militarized Landscape”

      Frank Uekoetter: “Memories in Mud: Reflections on the Environmental Legacy of the Great

  Roger Chickering: Concluding Observations

Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

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World War I and the Environment

The centennial of World War I begins a year from now; there will be a vast international discussion of the Great War over the following four years and more.  So we want to bring the environmental dimension of the war’s legacies to people’s awareness – both academics and the broader public.  We have proposed panels for the ASEH conference in San Francisco next March and the World Conference on Environmental History (WCEH) in Guimaraes, Portugal on July 7-14 next year.  The deadline for proposals for WCEH is this August 31, so there is still time to organize proposals.  See the website: <>.

In addition, there will be many other possible venues for presenting our work, including the annual conference of SMH, the Society for Military History, which will be in Kansas City on April 3-6 (see <>), hosted in part by the National World War I Museum there.  We are building bridges between ASEH and SMH, so anyone with ideas for that conference should check the website; the deadline for proposals is October 1.  We note also WHA, the World History Association (<>), which will hold its annual conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, on July 15-18, 2014, as well as other regional symposia.

Our opportunities will extend for the four years of the centennial, and we should consider many ways of presenting our work.  We have created a bibliographic section on that war on our Bibliography page; we invite additional contributions to that or any section of the growing bibliography.

In addition, we are building an email list of anyone interested in research on that war, to keep in touch with each other’s work and proposals, including ideas about innovative venues: public places, veterans’ organizations, etc.  If you would like to be added to that list, send a message to Richard.

Keep watching for our further development of the project page on the Centennial.

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An Environmental History of the UK Defence Estate, 1945 to the Present – Marianna Dudley

Dr. Marianna Dudley’s book explores the environmental history of the British military through a comparative framework of five key sites in England and Wales. The military presence at these places, it is claimed, has protected them from more damaging land uses such as intensive agriculture, urban sprawl and industrial development. The book examines such claims and explores how and why the military has embraced nature conservation policies. The ‘greening’ of the MOD and ‘khaki conservation’ are critically examined in an historical context. The emergence of the training landscapes as protected spaces is contrasted with calls for greater access, and at times, public pressure for their release. The volume draws to attention the environmental impact of preparations for war, and brings sites of training to the fore alongside better known military landscapes like battlefields and conflict zones. Each chapter is based in a single site, giving prominence to local meanings and landscape character but allowing the overarching themes to connect throughout, tracing an environmental history of the UK Defence Estates that is firmly grounded in the British countryside.

Find more info on this book here.

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Resisting war in the 20th century

Lisbon, 27, 28 February and 1 March 2014

Keynote speakers: Paul Preston, Benjamin Stora, Joanna Bourke, Catherine Lutz, Chen Alon, José Manuel Pureza, Fernando Rosas, João Freire, Aniceto Afonso

The twentieth century witnessed the substantial intensification of the phenomenon of total war. The distance between the front and the home vanished as the difference between combatants and civilians became tenuous; the society as a whole became engaged in war, with each individual considered responsible to contribute to the war effort. This was true not only of the two world wars but also of such conflicts as civil wars, colonial wars, or wars of independence. In response to the nature of total war, the universe of resistance to war also became broad and diverse, employing a variety of means not limited to armed resistance. We are interested in the concrete acts of resistance as well as in the broader sweep of the impact and meanings of resistance: of its mobilization, its confrontation with participants in the conflict, and the ways in which it has been remembered.

This congress intends to promote debate about the multiple kinds of resistance to war as well as explore the different academic approaches taken to studying it, especially but not exclusively in history, anthropology, sociology and political science as well as literary, cultural, artistic, subaltern and gender studies.

We call for empirical, theoretical or methodological papers that discuss the issue of resistance to war in the twentieth century in its multiple performances and visions, in different observation scales. We hope to see studies highlighting different actors, institutions, practices and speeches and also hegemonic or counter-hegemonic collective representations.

We invite colleagues from all disciplines and professions to send presentation proposals that address, however we will consider other topics, these general questions or the following themes:

Great World Wars
Civil Wars
Independence Wars
Empires in question/Empire’(s) war (s)
Total war: technology and control
Nationalism, colonialism and independence movements
War against war: subversion and guerrilla
Deserters, dislocates and refugees
Peacebuilding and conflict resolution
International organizations and movements
Social movements and collective action
Ideology and engagement (intellectual)
Gender experiences
War representations and War culture (Visual and cinematic representations, material culture, literature, propaganda, etc.)
War memory


Contact information:

Instituto de História Contemporânea – Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas

Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Av. de Berna, 26 C 1069-061 Lisboa, Portugal



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Welcome to the blog

This new blog is an invitation to anyone who wishes to post discussions of any subjects relating to research, teaching and publicizing our work as historians of the environmental consequences of warfare and militarization.  This is in addition to news of individuals’ work (for now, feel free to send your news to both Sam Shingledecker and me), and news of conference sessions on the Conferences page.

Look for new blog posts here in the coming days.

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