War Ecologies: Weaponizing Nature

By way of Geographical Imaginations I’ve come across and really enjoyed Clive Barnett’s posting on the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya and aerial warfare during the Malayan Emergency. I focused on Malaya in my Aerial Life book and the history of the helicopter’s military/security/journalism convergence elsewhere – so there has been some work on the vertical geopolitics of the helicopter (!), but this also weirdly all chimes with a radio programme I heard last night on bombing ecologies and a smart looking call for papers for a session at the Political Ecology conference at Kentucky next year on Weaponizing Nature organised by Patrick Bigger.

The programme, ‘Apocalypse Then and Now’ explored the impact of US bombing during the Vietnam War particularly on Laos. One of the programme contributors estimated that per person it was one of the most bombed places on the planet. While the programme focused on the unexploded ordnance (UXO) still left there and navigated by the population and international mining companies, it also looked at the impact of the bombing on the plant and animal ecologies, flattening landscapes, poisoning rivers. Elephants were even strafed as they were seen as a potential source of transport.  In Malaya and Vietnam of course, potential signs of agricultural farming and disturbances in the tree canopy were surveyed as a sign of so-called Communist Terrorist or Viet Cong activity and would lead to subsequent bombing and defoliation. I’m not sure if these practices – and there’s a litany of other ways that the jungle was cleared using tractors dragging chains developed in Australia, bulldozers and Rome ploughs etc. (see above) – are ways in which nature is ‘weaponized’ or indeed destroyed, but they certainly give a sense of friction to these kinds of aerial warfare that have to always reach through environments.

PA

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