Even the most pessimistic thinkers would have not imagined that humanity instead of appreciating peace as we are recovering from a global pandemic is now discussing whether we are on a path towards World War III.
We as human beings assume that this impressive Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) progress that we have made in the past century alone is irreversible. However, as we watch the news of on-going conflicts, especially Russia’s war on Ukraine our progress seems fragile and reversible.
While the saying goes that ‘the first casualty of war is truth,” it also seems that the second casualty of war is sustainability. For this reason, it would be wise to launch a global initiative that examines how we can mitigate the war’s short-term and long-term impact on the environment, society and governance.
War’s impact on the environment
Traditional war in the past few centuries involved using firepower to subdue adversaries through by air, land and sea. Unfortunately, the enormous use of thousands of tonnes of munition means death to countless flora and fauna and thousands of tonnes of harmful emissions to atmosphere that supports the life of every single being on our planet.
This negative impact on the environment is exacerbated by growing demand for energy from non-renewable sources and weapons, as opposed the healthier trend of prioritising renewable energy and investing in health education and mobility.
As war requires subduing adversaries using any means necessary, psychological war and disinformation become common in our lives and on the internet. Many vulnerable groups in the society fall victim to the divisive rhetoric that accompanies the conflicting stories promoted by the adversaries.
The clearest recent example of how dangerous divisive rhetoric could get is the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by groups fed on online hatred for years if not decades.
In Russia’s war on Ukraine the rhetoric placing national security interests of the “others” over the value of human lives has made war a preferred way for the nations that are perceived to be stronger to impose their will on nations that are perceived to be weaker.
What do words such as “international society” or international law” mean during war? I would argue that every conflict that escalates into a full-scale war punctures a whole in our collective faith in the “international society.” No victims of war or their loved nor the generations that are and will be scarred by war will trust international bodies to help manage their conflicts.
Just our ancestors were creative and innovative in finding solutions, I have full faith that God has bestowed in us that ability to reason even in the darkest times. I have no doubt that we are witnesses to a historic setback that shall serve as a reminder that we should not let our guard down when it comes to always prioritising reason and peace, environment, society and governance all depend on it.
Khalid Alsafi Al Huraibi
The writer is an entrepreneur and innovation advisor