Green Letters 21(1)
Modern warfare and the environment
A generation that had gone to school on a horse-drawn streetcar now stood under the open sky in a countryside in which nothing remained unchanged but the clouds, and beneath those clouds, in a field of force of destructive torrents and explosions, was the tiny, fragile human body.
Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism is the journal of ASLE-UKI (the UK-Ireland branch of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment). It is a peer-reviewed journal published by Routledge and supported by Bath Spa University and the University of Worcester. Green Letters explores interdisciplinary interfaces between humans and the natural and built environment. Submissions are now invited for our themed February 2017 issue ‘Modern Warfare and the Environment’ to be edited by Anna Stenning (University of Worcester) and Samantha Walton (Bath Spa University).
This timely issue of Green Letters – during the four-year anniversary of the First World War – will address the range of approaches that ecocriticism can bring to examining representations of modern warfare, and how the language of war has been appropriated for 'environmentalist' causes. Since the First World War, industrial warfare has harnessed the power of 'nature' to create ever-more efficient means of destroying human life, through its use of chemical, biological and nuclear technology. At the same time, it has developed the potential to cause what has been termed ecocide, for example, the long-term impact of herbicides in Vietnam, and the Kuwaiti oil fires. Conflict in resource-deprived nations can lead to the mass-movement of refugees into environments that may not be able to support them. And yet, it was investigation by the US military – in an attempt to control the environment – that led to the first research into climate change. Climate change itself has been regarded as an issue for 'national security', and a war that ‘we are fighting’.
As in other areas of modern life, in warfare nature has been understood as: 'either logistical problems to be overcome and defeated or opportunities to be exploited'. While there is both a lack of international and domestic safeguarding of the environment in wartime, there is a growing realisation that work to protect the environment both during and after wartime increases the prospects for peace (UNEP nd: 2). As climate change, biodiversity loss and resource depletion increase the potential for global conflict, this special edition asks, how does literature, film, music or art represent the relationship between humans and the environment during wartime? What language, forms, imagery and tropes do authors use to describe the impacts on the environment of war? And, conversely, how do the discourses of 'war' and 'national security' compare to other ways of framing climate change and environmental crisis?
As well as addressing the impacts of war on non-human nature, this issue will consider how ecocriticism may also offer the tools to consider the impact of war on human ecology. How does the virtualisation of war affect humans? How can feminist and ecocritical insights into the relationship between language, discourse, and real world oppression of women and nature be developed to inform understanding of man’s destruction of man in wartime? The experiences of warfare may reveal more about our psychological interdependencies with non-human nature than has hitherto been realised. We are also interested in exploring the materiality of the human body as a site of ecological disruption through the impact of depleted uranium or water scarcity caused by war. Finally, this issue should address how we can reconcile struggles for national security with the evidence of interconnectedness, both ecological and cultural, across the planet.
Authors are encouraged to consider, but not limited to, the following topics:
- Climate change as a 'national security' issue
- Environmental apocalypse and the language(s) of war
- Landscapes of war and remembrance
- Industrialism or technology and warfare
- Nationalism and nature
- Environmentalism across national borders
- The gender of the battlefield
- Postcolonial warscapes and decolonisation
- Matter as cultural residue
- ‘Fighting talk’: the language of war in environmentalism
- Nature as resource
- Futures of conflict
- War and land aesthetics
To have a submission considered please send an abstract (approximately 500 words) to both Anna Stenning ([email protected]) and Samantha Walton ([email protected]). The abstract itself should be attached as an anonymous document in Word with a covering email that should give your name, address and institutional affiliation. The deadline for abstracts is 30 September 2015. A decision as to which articles will be commissioned will be made by 30 November 2015. The deadline for first draft essays will be 11 April 2016.
For more information about Green Letters, see our website at http://tandfonline.com/loi/rgrl20.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Nd. ‘UNEP Post-conflict and Disaster Management Branch Fact Sheet’ (Geneva, Switzerland: UN).