Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives is a compelling documentary exploring the under-reported environmental impacts of war and preparations for war. The film confronts the immensely broad ecological and human ramifications of everything from technological development and natural resource exhaustion to weapons testing and modern warfare itself.
Ecosystems around the world are in distress from forces of humanity’s own making: increasing population, unsustainable demands on natural resources, habitat and species loss, and climate change. One of the most destructive of human behaviors – war – is not commonly included as a contributor to the growing global environmental crisis.
Yet, in all its stages, from the production of weapons through combat, military operations pollute land, air, and water, destroy entire ecosystems, and drain limited natural resources.
Using archival material from the Civil War through more recent wars, along with expert testimony and eyewitness accounts, the film clearly presents the environmental and human cost of combat, and argues for public scrutiny of the ecological and human impact of war as essential to a more sustainable – and secure – world.
What prompted this film is recognition of our deep dependence on the natural world and the significant, but little-known threat to that world posed by war and preparations for war.
The scale of environmental damage over the last half century is unprecedented. Falling water tables, shrinking forest cover, declining species diversity – all presage ecosystems in distress.
These trends are now widely acknowledged as emanating from forces of humanity’s own making: massive population increases, unsustainable demands on natural resources, species loss, ruinous environmental practices. Ironically however, war, that most destructive of human behaviors, is commonly bypassed.
From the production of weapons through combat to cleanup and restoration, war entails actions that pollute land, air, and water, destroy biodiversity, and exhausts natural resources. Yet the environmental damage occasioned by war and preparation for war is routinely underestimated, underreported, even ignored. The environment remains war’s “silent casualty.”
Activities that do such damage cry out for far-reaching public scrutiny. The very sustainability of our planet is at stake. We can no longer maintain silence about the environmental impact of war on the grounds that such scrutiny is “inconvenient” or “callous” at a time when human life is so endangered.
If we cannot eliminate war, we can at least require a fuller accounting of war’s costs and consequences, and demand that destructive forces used in our name leave a lighter footprint on this highly vulnerable planet. It is to this change in values and actions that this documentary film is directed.
“Highly recommended. A powerful documentary on the ecological consequences of warfare…which traces how military forces have intentionally destroyed ecosystems as a means to win battles.”
– Video Librarian
“Recommended. The explanations of the experts and witnesses convincingly demonstrate that the cost of war extends far beyond the actual fighting. Preparation for war and the aftermath of war add to the destruction of ‘natural security’.“
– Educational Media Reviews Online
“The extensive research and skillful presentation by sociologists Alice and Lincoln Day make the film a surprisingly moving experience. Interviews of scientists, war veterans and others are carefully interspersed with footage that makes vivid the long-term damage to the planet that has resulted from military conflicts and activities.”
– Science Magazine
“A powerful and haunting account of war’s silent casualty — the environment. Catalogs the array of damage from bombs, chemicals, guns and unexploded ordnance.”
– The Chronicle of Higher Education Review
“The documentary weaves together eyewitness accounts, interviews, archival footage, and news video from wars past and present. The images portray a story rarely considered in the heat of battle: how war pollutes the air, water and land, destroys biodiversity and drains natural resources.”
– Voice of America