A hidden story lurks beneath warfare: the environmental price of military activities. It’s a tale that doesn’t frequently make headlines, but its impact is profound and long-lasting.

The environment pays a hefty toll, sometimes in ways we might never expect. You have vast training grounds that disrupt local ecosystems and discarded military equipment that tarnishes landscapes. Through it all, our natural world is often on the receiving end of practices meant to ensure our security.

By spotlighting this unseen cost, we pave the way for informed decisions and sustainable practices in the future. This piece explores the intertwined relationship between national defense and Mother Nature’s well-being.

Ravaged Training Grounds and Natural Habitats

Training our troops is undeniably essential. However, the environmental ramifications of these exercises can sometimes be profound. Consider, for example, the wear and tear that extensive military training can inflict on land. 

While specific figures from locations like Fort Benning in Georgia might vary, there’s no denying that repeated maneuvers, especially with heavy machinery like tanks, can lead to soil erosion and long-term habitat damage.

U.S. Army Soldiers, C Company, 1-102nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), Task Force Iron Gray, Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), conduct firing drills with Kenyan Defence Forces Rangers outside Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya, Oct. 29, 2021. (Wikimedia Commons)

On the marine front, there are concerns about the potential effects of naval sonar exercises on marine life. Some studies suggest that maritime sonar frequencies, including whales, can interfere with marine mammals’ navigation, communication, and feeding. 

These disturbances connect with strandings in specific instances. However, the full extent and causality are ongoing research topics.

Meanwhile, large-scale military exercises in Eastern Europe and elsewhere have occasionally overlapped with natural habitats, causing concerns for local wildlife.