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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Gulf War 2003

The Land of Iraq
Saving Iraq’s Antiguities
No More Eden
Threats on Migrating Birds Associated with Iraqi War
Military Exemptions
Depleted Uranium
Post War Environmental Cleanup
All about Oil?
Environmental Counter-Terrorism
Kuwait After the Fires



 



The Land of Iraq

The roots to some of the world’s first ancient civilizations lie in modern-day Iraq, and pre-date the empires of Egypt, Greece and Rome. Human settlements rose up within the Fertile Crescent of ancient Mesopotamia – the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, just north of today’s Baghdad. The land was rich with resources, and became the birthplace for Western writing, mathematics and agriculture. McGuire Gibson is a professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology at the University of Chicago. He spoke to Living on Earth about Iraq’s ancient fertile lands, and how the landscape and land use have changed through the years.
Click here to listen to this story.
 



Saving Iraq’s Antiquities

American archaeologists recently made a collective plea to the Pentagon to preserve the ancient sites in Iraq. They drew up a list of four thousand cultural sites within the cities and sand dunes, that the military should avoid as it advances through the country. Iraq is part of ancient Mesopotamia, which is considered to be the cradle of civilization, and its museums and bear the artifacts of some of the world’s first cultures. McGuire Gibson is professor of Mesopotamian archaeology at the University of Chicago. He’s studied a variety of ancient sites in Iraq, and helped draft the list of antiquities given to the Pentagon, and he spoke to Living on Earth about his work.
Click here to listen to this story.

Related Links:
Stolen Stones: The Modern Sacks of Nineveh
Treasure Under Saddam's Feet



 


Marshes of Mesopotamia 1973-1976


Marshes of Mesopotamia 2000

No More Eden

The Mesopotamian Marshlands, which once covered more than 20,000 kilometers, are considered by some to be the Biblical location of the Garden of Eden. In addition to providing a home for a myriad of animal species, this region is the base for a unique 5000-year-old culture.

The marshlands have also played an important role in recent politics, providing safe haven for insurgence against Saddam Hussein. In the early 1990s, to combat this resistance, Hussein destroyed more than 90 percent of the Mesopotamian Marshlands. The United Nations called the Iraqi campaign “one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters.”

Now a group is planning a post-war campaign to save and restore the marshlands. Lead by husband and wife Azzam and Suzie Alwash, the project is being called “Eden Again,” and the hope is that these marshlands, once larger than the Everglades, can be restored to their original glory.
Click here to listen to this story.

Additional Audio

Listen to Ramadan Albadran, a former marsh dweller, talk about the beauty of the marshlands.

Listen to Ramadan Albadran talk about he peaceful culture of the marsh dwelling people.

Related Links:
Eden Again
UNEP information on the Mesopotamian Wetlands
Human Rights Watch



 

  


(Photo: Donna Bailey)

Threats on Migrating Birds Associated with Iraqi War

The war in Iraq has ornithologists worried about the millions of birds that are now flying on their annual migration to their northern breeding grounds. For the birds that will use Iraq as a resting and feeding stopover, the timing of this military action could be devastating. Oil spills, smoke from oil fires and the destruction of habitat are just some of the dangers that could befall the scores of species now taking to the air. I spoke to Phil Hockey, a migration specialist at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
Click here to listen to this story.


Military Exemptions

As US troops advance an attack in Iraq, the Pentagon is seeking exemptions at home from a variety of major environmental laws, in the name of military preparation. The House of Representatives Armed Services Committee recently heard testimony from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, who claim that environmental laws are hindering military training.
Click here to listen to this story.


Depleted Uranium

The U.S. Military has confirmed that it will be using depleted uranium ordnance in its attack against Iraq. In a press briefing earlier this week (listen to the entire briefing below) an army spokesperson said that the heavy metal is the best substance to use in tank armor as well as some types of ammunition. He added that there is no evidence that it causes deleterious health effects. Some worry that “DU” may cause cancer and other health problems.

Briefing on Depleted Uranium

COL James Naughton, U.S. Army Materiel Command, and Dr. Michael Kilpatrick.

Iraq Cancer Epidemic

In Iraq, economic sanctions have prevented the southern city of Basra from recovering from the effects of the Gulf War. Doctors in the region are seeing an alarming increase of health problems, including cancer. Quil Lawrence reports.

Depleted Uranium Shells

Living on Earth talks with a United Nations inspector about possible health risks of the depleted uranium shells used in the Balkans.

Related Links:
UNEP final report about their findings on depleted Uranium

UNEP report about depleted Uranium in Serbia and Montenegro


Post War Environmental Cleanup

War can have devastating human consequences. And along with the humanitarian problems it can cause, war can lead to terrible environmental degradation as well. In 2001, the United Nations Environment Programme launched its Post Conflict Assessment Unit to concentrate on war-torn regions. The Unit focuses on what environmental risks stem from the conflict, helps prioritize what cleanup needs to be done, and aids in raising financial resources to get things done on the ground. The Post Conflict Assessment Unit is already eyeing the situation in Iraq, laying the groundwork for when the war is over.
Click here to listen to this story.




  


All about Oil?

At any anti-war protest these days from Boise to Berlin, you’re likely to see signs declaring “No Blood For Oil,” or “We Don’t Want your Oil War.”

The sentiments are testament to the belief held by many that President Bush and the other former oilmen in his administration are waging war against Iraq largely motivated by their desire to control its oil. If not outright – then by putting in place an Iraqi regime that would dramatically increase production. That in turn would break OPEC’s monopoly and spark an international price war leading to reductions at the pumps that would ultimately benefit U.S. consumers.

But reporter John Maggs says it’s not that simple. He writes about this “Matter of Oil” in the current issue of the National Journal and he spoke to Living on Earth.
Click here to listen to this story.




  


Environmental Counter-Terrorism

Images from the 1991 Gulf War of gushing oil spills and ignited oil fields as Iraqi soldiers retreated from Kuwait have environmentalists worried about what the impact of a new war will be on the land and water around Iraq. But this time coalition forces are taking precautions against this kind of environmental terrorism. The United States Coast Guard cutter Walnut is stationed in the Persian Gulf as a specialized response team to quickly react to any new oil spills. Los Angeles Times Foreign Correspondent Carol Williams visited the Walnut earlier this month and spoke to Living on Earth from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf.
Click here to listen to this story.

Recent news:
As coalition forces gain control of the coastline in Iraq, it appears the likelihood of massive oil spills like those in the first Gulf War decreases. The Walnut is still on alert, though, and on the watch for damage to large ships or oil dumps into Iraq's rivers, which eventually feed into the Persian Gulf.

Kuwait After the Fires

Ten years after Iraqi troops set fire to oil wells in Kuwait during the Gulf War, the environment remains in distress. Millions of barrels of crude oil still sit in oil lakes in the desert, preventing regrowth of habitat, polluting underground aquifers and sickening animals. Heavy metals still pollute the soil and sea. As Anne Marie Ruff reports, scientists are experimenting with how to manage a large-scale cleanup.
Click here to listen to this story.
 

 


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