Seeds of War

Possibly one of the most heinous things humanity has ever invented is war. We’re not the first, but we are the best at it. There are certain animals that have a shown a propensity for similar aggressive acts–a pantomime of our conflicts. The Gombe Chimpanzee War is evidence of this–a battle between two bands of chimps that lasted 4 years, observed by Jane Goodall.

But ours are purposeful–not just a byproduct of territorial living spaces rubbing up against each other, or inherited, unconscious actions (i.e. based on a gut instinct or feelings). Ours have motives far beyond that of the animals which have mimicked what we call war. We go to war for fictional things like honour, kings, money, politics, and–possibly the only legitimate one among them–love. I suppose you could love your country and then go to war for it, but that love is metaphorical. Alternatively, you could go to war to protect your family (out of love), but real reasons to participate in warfare are never that clear cut, and likely don’t exist outside of our excuses for being involved. Both sides of a conflict always have a choice. A battle’s emergence is the failure of that choosing.

War has many byproducts, death chief among them. World War I pioneered another effect, being the mass destruction of towns and landscapes. Artillery shells shredded trees and pocked the earth with deep craters. Trenches were dug, hills moved with explosives, and fields became littered with shrapnel and unexploded shells–not to mention the remains of thousands upon thousands of deceased men.

Part of the Treaty of Versailles (article 231) expressly answered this destruction with an admittance of guilt, and reparation payments that would rebuild things like French towns and farms. It was a slow process–resisted heavily in Germany–which likely contributed to the conditions that allowed Fascism to bloom, and ultimately World War II.

But we’re not here to focus on the past; we’re here to look to the future of the effects of conflict. War obliterates natural landscapes. It reshapes countries in actual physical ways, and an ongoing war doesn’t afford you the opportunity to fix those scars. Unless if you’d like to, for lack of a better term, sweep some of that destruction under the carpet.

I didn’t at first believe this story when hearing it on the radio, but after some digging it looks to be true. The US military is attempting to create ammo which will biodegrade in the environment, leaving no mess behind, while also planting seeds wherever rounds land. This isn’t ammunition for actual combat, just training and live-fire exercises–but still, as a practice goes, it bears eerie resemblance to the very thing that we look to when remembering the horrors of war. Flowers are planted on the peripheries of battle as an act of remembrance, not actively during combat.

As a Canadian, I’m referring to poppies. These iconic red flowers are our greatest reminder of WWI–though generally, all other hostilities that we’ve been involved in as well. One of our most treasured poems for the Remembrance Day occasion is: “In Flanders Fields.” I don’t need to recite it here for everyone to know the significance: where the dead were buried, poppies grew. Poppies remind us of the sacrifices made by our soldiers, and why we don’t want that history to repeat itself.

This story remains hypothetical until: (a) they manage to create the ammunition, and (b) said ammunition leaps from exercises to the field of operations. But to imagine that this entire venture is an attempt by the military machine to be eco-friendly hardly makes any sense. It’s too ironic to be killing people and growing plants in the same action. In this instance someone’s heart might be in the right place (protecting the environment, ensuring the land’s usefulness post-incident), but they’re using a Hello Kitty bandaid to cover a spurting artillery wound.

The real issue is war itself; its cataclysmic power on people and places–not making sure that someone can run a tractor over the brutalized land afterwards. The sheer, destructive magnitude of war renders this plan absurd.

It all causes the paranoid, imaginative part of my brain to conjure a time, generations from now, when anyone coming across a flowery meadow or field will, unbeknownst to them, be crossing hallowed land that people of various armies had expired upon. A copse of trees might have been the ruin of a tank; a small forest could hold a fallen helicopter–beauty blossoming from destruction like a thickening veil of fog. And as the Gombe Chimpanzee’s make war that looks something like ours but lacks the purposeful, sentient intent, we might make penance for our horrible deeds in the same way–pilfering a symbol of war’s retrospect and using it to wallpaper the real thing in real-time, while calling it an act of conservation.

Again, it’s all a very large leap, but such a silly venture sure makes you wonder.

Featured image credit: The Atlantic

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