Dr. Gnimbin Ouattara’s Talk Offers Insight into Environmental Cost of War

Darfur image from google maps
This image from Google Earth shows one of many destroyed villages in Darfur (Sudan). The impacts of heavy shelling and destroyed topsoil are clearly visible.

Maybe you’re too young to remember images of vast stretches of forest consumed by napalm flames in Vietnam, but many will recall 600 burning oil wells in Kuwait, set ablaze by Saddam Hussein’s army in 1991. The cost of warfare isn’t limited to human lives and homes.  It carries an environmental price that’s paid for in contaminated water, destroyed forest, ruined crops, and erosion of topsoil that keep lands infertile for centuries. On Wednesday, March 13, Brenau University professor Gnimbin Ouattara is presenting a talk in the University’s lecture series “Sense & Sustainability” that illuminates some of the environmental aspects of armed conflict. The free and open to the public talk will be held from 5-6 p.m. in Thurmond McRae Auditorium on Brenau’s Gainesville campus with a question and answer session to follow.

“When you look at war, particularly the long, drawn-out conflicts that are common in Africa, the obvious first concern is about people getting killed,” Ouattara said. “But what about those who come after them?  War leaves its seeds of misery by rendering lands unusable and making it impossible to grow food. Drinking water is poisonous. Woodlands turn into deserts.” 

Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Her work for environmental protection and justice had her imprisoned and beaten in Kenya for a time.  But the legacy she left with the Green Belt Movement continues. Over the course of 30 years, 40 million trees were planted to restore the natural environment.  Until her passing in 2011, Maathai was a tireless activist for human rights, clean drinking water, and nutritious food.  “Maathai did much more than expose corruption among officials,” said Ouattara. “She showed the way toward a way of living that preserves peace not only among people, but also with the environment.  The effort toward a sustainable world must include accountability for natural resources, and responsibility for what comes after acts of war.”

For more information, contact Dr. Rudi Kiefer, director of sustainability, at rkiefer@brenau.edu.