Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Should the Military Force Protect the Environment?

Thought-provoking article in the Boston Globe.

...some green thinkers are now coming to a surprising conclusion: In exceptional circumstances, they say, the only effective way to protect the environment may be at the barrel of a gun. In some cases, notably in Africa, biodiversity is threatened by military conflict, or by well-armed gangs of poachers. These situations, some say, call for a response in kind - deploying the military to guard natural reserves, or providing rangers with military-style arms and training.

A few analysts go further, arguing that in certain cases of severe ecological harm, the international community may be justified in mustering troops to intervene, with or without the permission of the host country. For example, a government might refuse to protect - or even willfully destroy - its own natural treasure, as when, in the 1990s, Saddam Hussein's regime drained the wetlands that were home to the persecuted Marsh Arabs. Or, as resources grow scarcer, one nation's overexploitation of a forest or river could lead to dire consequences for other countries. In response to both kinds of scenarios, some have begun to raise the possibility of an "eco-intervention," analogous to humanitarian interventions.

Already, some conservation campaigns have taken on martial aspects. Over the past couple of decades, at least two paramilitary groups in the Central African Republic have operated with government approval, as reported recently in an article on "armed environmentalism" in The Ecologist, a British magazine. In some parts of Africa, rangers receive military training and equipment to defend animals (and themselves) from poachers in pursuit of elephants, rhinos, gorillas, and other endangered species. In Nicaragua, the army patrols beaches to protect sea turtle eggs.

But now there is increasing talk of more far-reaching action....

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