Lavish parades for returning U.S. troops in Washington, DC and New York City have ended, giving Americans a sense of closure to the war in the Persian Gulf. But the forces our country helped unleash in the Persian Gulf rage on, as they will for years. The region's air, water, and soil -- and those who depend on them -- remain under assault.
U.S. forces laid waste to Iraq's electric power grid, which in turn disabled sewage and water systems. Raw waste flowed into streets and rivers, and diseases spread. Thousands of Iraqi children are dying from disease and starvation. Meanwhile, Kuwaiti oil wells set afire by Iraqi troops remain ablaze. Media stories have burned in our minds images of the fires, which darken the sky and pollute the region.
The Persian Gulf devastation is a testament to the dangers Art and Jocele Meyer write of in their recent release Earthkeepers: Environmental Perspectives on Hunger, Poverty, and Injustice. Though written before the Persian Gulf war, the book anticipates the risks of just such a conflict. The war in large measure was waged over cheap oil. "Cheap energy is what makes the affluent lifestyle of the industrialized world possible," the Meyers write. A threat to the finite oil supply -- and affluent lifestyle -- raises the risk of war, with the attendant destruction of people and the land where oil flows.
Earthkeepers considers the links between war and ecology, waste and want. As demonstrated in the Persian Gulf, war and the preparations for war scar the earth. The cycle also works in reverse, they point out, with a degraded environment leading to hunger, poverty, and conflict. The conflict may be over dwindling supplies of oil or clean drinking water. The result in all of this is "human suffering and the groaning of the earth."