The invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army on 24 February 2022 has caused immense destruction of human life, infrastructure and ecosystems. The return of war to this region, which has a large and aging industrial apparatus inherited from the Soviet period, raises great concern. Bombing of chemical and steel factories, fighting around nuclear installations, destruction and contamination of ecosystems by the armies: the environmental and sanitary damage is increasing with the continuation of the fighting, and the toxic legacy of this violence is worrying for the post-war period. This forum proposes an overview of the destruction underway and of some environmental risks that are accumulating in the region.
The interrelations between war and the environment has constituted one of the most prolific subfields of environmental history in the last two decades. French historians Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz have even coined a neologism, the “thanathocene”, to characterize the predominant role played by modern wars and the military apparatus in the advent of the Anthropocene. The environmental damages of modern wars have been well documented since the ecocide of the Vietnam war, but the current Russian aggression in Ukraine raises an unprecedented level of attention on the environmental impacts of the war on the part of wide range of NGOs, activists, journalists, or scholars.
Coordinated by Marin Coudreau and Laurent Coumel
Online: the video of the roundtable “Russia’s war in Ukraine: environmental issues” held on June 16, 2022