Tag Archives: war

On Remembrance Day

As we look back and remember the lives lost, I highly recommend you take a little bit of time to read the following article by Tom Gregory, on emotions and the embodied experience of war. It’s a thoughtful reflection on the use of body counts and their political effects: ‘When dealing only with numbers, we tend to lose sight of the bodies that are left broken by the machinery of war, along with the individuals who are busy living and dying on the battlefield’.

In the piece, he cites the account of an American nurse who served in France:

‘Much ugliness is churned up in the wake of mighty, moving forces, and this is the backwash of war. Many little lives foam up in this backwash, loosened by the sweeping current, and detached from their environment. One catches a glimpse of them – often weak, hideous or repellent. There can be no war without this backwash’.

Poppies at the Tower
Poppies at the Tower commemmorates the centenary of WWI, with proceeds to charities including Combat Stress

 

You may also wish to read the following (old) piece, on the need to remember those – often shell-shocked and under-aged – who were shot for desertion.

For more information on  Combat Stress, click here.

 

China ‘declares war’ on pollution: what does it mean?

On 5th March, China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang opened the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress. These speeches tend to be full of the usual, ‘expected’ and generally repetitive bureaucratic language. However, this time Li’s speech was a little out of the ordinary: it explicitly declared a ‘war on pollution’ – an unexpected choice of words which suggests the issue is increasingly considered one of security. This blog has already talked about China’s ‘Airpocalypse’, and whether or not deteriorating air quality should be considered a security issue. The government has been considering and implementing a range of measures to deal with urban pollution, and with up to 500,000 people dying early each year from air pollution related illnesses action is desperately needed. Li’s speech, in declaring war on pollution, took the debate to another level. Xinhua reported Li as stating that ‘Smog is affecting larger parts of China and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development’. Miao Xuegang, a deputy to the National People’s Congress, called Li’s declaration “a letter of commitment from the government”.

Premier Li Keqiang on March 5, from TIME

The statement is ‘the highest-level acknowledgement yet of the enormous challenges China faces’, directly recognising the seriousness of the issue. The language is reminiscent of securitization theory’s suggestion that when issues are declared issues of security and supreme priority, they can be dealt with differently – allocating extra funds and enabling emergency measures. It suggests the government is taking pollution seriously, and it will be interesting to see how far the it will take this – the Airpocalypse will likely remain a popular topic in Chinese media, and with rising numbers of environmental protests it will be difficult for the government to shirk responsibilities. The biggest obstacle, however, remains economic development. It is widely seen as the cause of China’s pollution problems, but Li’s speech also reiterated a commitment to keeping economic growth at 7.5% and it is difficult to see how this will enable a serious improvement in pollution levels. Ai Nanshan, from Sichuan University noted that “you can not get a beautiful GDP figure at the cost of environment”. This is clearly a puzzle the government has yet to solve.

Syria: Whole Neighbourhoods Destroyed

The horrific figures of death and human suffering in Syria are bewildering. Over 2 million people have been forced to flee the country as refugees, over 6.5 million people are internally displaced and over 100,000 people have been killed as the civil war rages on.

It’s hard to really imagine such destruction, and several satellite images by Human Rights Watch highlight how whole neighbourhoods have been obliterated.

This is the Mezzeh area, Damascus. You can see extensive demolition of dozens of high-rise residential and commercial buildings along the main road between Mezzeh Air Base and the neighborhood of Daraya.

This is the Masha’ al-Arb’een neighbourhood, Hama.

See more images like this over at Human Rights Watch.