The overriding need is for a new view of the world, one that reflects environmental realities, and that redefines security by recognising that the overwhelming threat to our future is not military aggression but the environmental degradation of the planet.

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These words of Lester Brown, President of the Worldwatch Institute, introduce the first chapter of Louise Say’s 1997 thesis which argues that military resources should control their levels of pollution, be deployed on specific missions to improve environmental conditions and contribute to environmental research. Louise notes that, at the time of writing:

“Some nation-states allow their military forces to cause environmental pollution without the threat of legal proceedings, while others have revoked ‘sovereign immunity’ in order to force the military to improve their environmental records. In short, each nation-state has different priorities and concerns regarding environmental problems”.

Proper Soldiering3This research would have been of immense interest to the environmentalist author of ‘Proper Soldiering’, Brigadier-General Michael Harbottle and his inspiration, India’s Major-General Eustace D’Souza , who was involved with the work of the Indian Army’s Ecological Task Forces.

At his One World lecture in the House of Commons in 2001, Eustace D’Souza spoke about the creation of a structure for environmental protection within the three Indian armed services, so that today every unit has a specific environmental role to play. He regarded this as central to global security and part of the whole ‘web of life’.

The writer met Louise when she was doing this research at the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, following life as an officer in the Royal Navy, and heard something of her early frustrations. She had intended to focus on the British military, but was not permitted access to enough information for the thesis. The United States, however, readily furnished information:

At first the thesis could not be traced – keywords led nowhere. Following a letter to the department, it was discovered that – contrary to practice – the usual copies had not been lodged with the library and archives. A copy was eventually found, thanks to the persistence of John Horton, the librarian at the university’s JB Priestley Library.

Quaker Peace Studies gave financial support for Louise’s research which was guided by her tutor, Dr Shaun Gregory, the late Professor James O’Connell gave ‘wise counsel and encouragement’.

References (copy and paste link)
L.R. Brown et al, State of the World 1993 (Earthscan), p.20.
Col PK Gautam:

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