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The Impact Of War and Weapons On Humans And The Environment

Causes Of Environmental Damage

Parrots and war and weapons. Image by Information for Action, a website for conservation and environmental issues offering solutions

War and the proliferation of weapons are driven by primal human instincts - insecurity and fear, on one side, and domination and aggression, on the other. Military-oriented leaders drive up their governments' military spending and governments of neighbouring and/or competing countries are obliged to follow. During the ‘Cold War’ – the fifty years from the end of WWII to the end of the Soviet Union – the USA and the USSR competed for influence over the rest of the world. Part of the reason the Cold War ended was because the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its massive military spending - it just couldn’t keep up with the US.

Competition for control of resources such as oil and water also fuels war. Military dictators such as Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein invade neighbouring countries and attempt to take over their lands and resources.

Vast sums of money are spent on weapons by the governments of the world. The level of spending on weapons and other military equipment is in the hundreds of billions of US dollars each year - money that could be spent on pressing social and environmental problems. According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute the figure for official military expenditure reached US$956 billion in 2003 and it is increasing every year. The Institute estimates that world military spending is greater than all other spending. The international illegal drugs trade comes second.

Approximately half of the total global military expenditure is from the US government. The USA has invested almost US$3 trillion in armaments and its defence forces over the past decade. The weapons manufacturers stand to make a lot of money from the sale of weapons to the US government and their lobby organisation maintains pressure on the politicians to maintain or even increase the nation’s massive military spending. In the election year of 2000, the arms lobby spent $60 million lobbying the US government. This pressure is a major force which drives arms sales.

The amount of spending involved in the illegal arms trade is not known: the illegal trade often involves the channelling of legal sales to an illicit buyer.

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