The Environmental Impact of War: A Personal Retrospective

  • Arthur H. Westing
Part of the SpringerBriefs on Pioneers in Science and Practice book series (BRIEFSPIONEER, volume 1)


Although past wars have, of course, been destructive of the environment to some greater or lesser extent (indeed, the same can be said for all wars), it was the intentional widespread, long-term, and severe destruction of the rural reaches of Indochina that contributed so poignantly to its worldwide notoriety once that US strategy became known. It is abundantly clear that such wartime atrocities can arouse public opinion to the extent that they become the impetus for the adoption of new legal structures reflecting those expansions of public morality. Thus, by way of example, the extensive use of anti-personnel chemical warfare agents by the several major powers during World War I led to the widespread adoption of the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (LNTS 2138); and the attempted extermination of Jews and Gypsies by Germany during World War II led to the widespread adoption of the 1948 Convention on the Crime of Genocide (UNTS 1021). And it might be useful to note that such legal constraints are not only proscriptive, but normative as well.


United Nations Environment Programme Chemical Weapon Chemical Warfare Agent Bacteriological Method Unexploded Ordnance 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Security & EducationWesting Associates in EnvironmentPutneyUSA

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