WW II through green lens | HT Tech

WW II through green lens

It's a big, big celebration we?re seeing in Moscow ? the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and the victory of the rest of Europe over the Nazis. But it?s also time to recall how much those years of strife have impacted the environment and our lives today.

By: EARTH WATCH | BHARATI CHATURVEDI
| Updated on: May 09 2005, 02:59 IST

It's a big, big celebration we're seeing in Moscow — the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and the victory of the rest of Europe over the Nazis. But it's also time to recall how much those years of strife have impacted the environment and our lives today.

Good old Penicillin, for example, was discovered much earlier, but became popular and was made available for mass use only during the war, when illness and injury urgently created the demand.

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Similarly, if applications in genetics are popular today to help the birth of healthy children, trace the origin of species and even try to create a new family of man, don't forget that it also achieved a certain kind of mass popularity in the darkness of the Nazi Era.

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If anything, eugenics was of prime concern in Nazi Germany, almost a raison d'etre. These are hard linkages to accept, but they have sharp connections with our lives.

On the other hand, the sheer war-based hardships, erratic supply of raw materials, new demands from the war front and from an economy of frugality also propelled innovation. That is why, as supplies of rubber from South East Asia became erratic and difficult, the rise of PVC began.

Now, all these decades later, a global battle is on to defeat the PVC explosion and seek alternatives for this most poisonous of plastics, once a wonder material.

Many such inventions turned out to be so cheap, they were able to be mass-manufactured profitably. The post war period, as a result, saw increased industrialisation, much of which caused acute pollution. One only has to look at the most simplistic example of all: the industries of East Germany, as they existed till the later '80s.

In all this, it is also important not to forget the act of war itself and its long-term impact. No, not just Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Guardian, earlier this year, reported that ships that sank during this period aren't any great news either. The newspaper reported the findings of a study in the Pacific region, where it was shown that 3,852 ships sank during the war.

The warning, however, was delivered a good three years ago when a typhoon resulted in giant oil slicks. It turned out that the oil came from a sunken ship. What will happen now, once the ships corrode and leaks become more frequent?

History tells us that wars are great catalysts for inventions.

But our present also reminds us that they ruin the environment and our futures in the most unforeseen ways.

(If you feel for Planet Earth, write to earthwatch1@rediffmail.com)

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First Published Date: 09 May, 02:59 IST
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