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Brenau lecture to focus on war’s environmental costs

POSTED: March 7, 2013 1:30 a.m.

The human cost of war is often easy to measure, but there is another impact of warfare that is far less obvious, but just as deadly.

The environmental effects of war will be the subject of a free lecture by Brenau University professor Gnimbin Ouattara set for 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, in Thurmond McRae Auditorium, part of the lecture series, "Sense & Sustainability." A question-and-answer session will follow.

Among the recent impacts of war felt globally are vast stretches of forest consumed by napalm flames in Vietnam and 600 burning oil wells in Kuwait set ablaze by Saddam Hussein’s army in 1991. The cost of warfare includes contaminated water, destroyed forest, ruined crops and erosion of topsoil that keep lands infertile for centuries.

"When you look at war, particularly the long, drawn-out conflicts that are common in Africa, the obvious first concern is about people getting killed," Ouattara said. "But what about those who come after them? War leaves its seeds of misery by rendering lands unusable and making it impossible to grow food. Drinking water is poisonous. Woodlands turn into deserts."

One who shed light on this issue worldwide was Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Her work for environmental protection and justice had her imprisoned and beaten in Kenya for a time, but her legacy with the Green Belt Movement continues. Over 30 years, 40 million trees were planted to restore the natural environment.

Until her passing in 2011, Maathai was a tireless activist for human rights, clean drinking water and healthy food.

"Maathai did much more than expose corruption among officials," Ouattara said. "She showed the way toward a way of living that preserves peace not only among people, but also with the environment. The effort toward a sustainable world must include accountability for natural resources, and responsibility for what comes after acts of war."

For more information, contact Rudi Kiefer, director of sustainability, at rkiefer@brenau.edu.


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