Ecology + Design

An Open Letter on the Invasion of Ukraine | Repost from the Society of Ecological Restoration

Reposting the thoughtful words from our friends at the Society of Ecological Restoration on the recent Russian attack on Ukraine and its far-reaching impacts.

Feature photo caption: “Polesia, Europe’s greatest intact floodplain, straddles the borders of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. This region, which already faces degradation from climate change, hunting, logging, and mining, is now threatened by war.

“Conflict and violence are easy. Peace and the respect of people and nature are hard to achieve. During times of conflict, people and nature are profoundly harmed. But many people fail to recognize the integral link between ecosystem degradation and human conflict. First, as ecosystems are degraded, human security (e.g., food, water, social, and economic security) is also degraded, creating the potential for a vicious cycle of conflict. Second, once a conflict starts, ecological destruction is regularly used as a weapon of war, harming both nature and people.

The loss of human lives and social order as a result of the invasion of Ukraine is already shockingly and unacceptably high. The war in Ukraine will irreversibly exacerbate environmental degradation: from freshwater pollution to the threat of radioactive contamination from armed attacks carried out around the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plants. The Ukrainian invasion is even more alarming given the fragile state of our global environment due to climate change – as graphically articulated in the 6th IPCC report released this week. At a time when all countries, all leaders, and all people must work together to repair the environment and promote peace, we are instead addressing a senseless conflict that is killing people and destroying nature. 

Putin’s invasion also seriously threatens the work of conservation organizations in Ukraine and Belarus, including those working to protect and restore Polesia, Europe’s largest intact wetland. Ukraine has recently increased protections for several parts of Polesia. Birdlife Belarus has led the restoration of more than 17,000 hectares of mires, an amazing benefit for people and nature, including increasing carbon capture. Conservation status, however, is meaningless during a conflict, let alone a war. The desire to preserve their ecosystems even in such conditions makes civilians vulnerable – champions of nature, like champions of justice, are among the earliest victims of intolerance. Just last week the Belarus government threatened to formally dissolve Birdlife Belarus. 

War and violence take human society backwards; destroy lives, communities, and ecosystems; and they rarely lead to resolution of what precipitated the violence in the first place. It is difficult to understand the ecological consequences of the invasion of Ukraine thus far, let alone those to come if this conflict is not stopped. The people of Ukraine and around the world deserve to be able to chart their own path in peace and to live in harmony with a clean and healthy environment. 

As a global community of restoration practitioners and scientists, SER condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and urges all nations to take all possible diplomatic actions to immediately seek a peaceful solution to this invasion, one that protects human life, Ukrainian sovereignty, and nature from the permanent wounds of war.  

Kingsley Dixon, Chair, SER Board of Directors

Jordi Cortina, Chair, SER-Europe Board of Directors

Mykhailo Paslavskyi, SER Member

Olga Kildisheva, SER Member

James Hallett, SER Vice Chair

Kris Decleer, SER and SER-Europe Board

George Gann, SER International Policy Lead

Bethanie Walder, SER Executive Director

No matter where you live in the world, please share this letter and your concerns with your national elected officials, post this letter on your social channels, and consider supporting a reputable charity to support the victims of the invasion. For example, SER-Europe has just learned that the Danube-Carpathian Program has expanded its scope from nature conservation in the Lviv region to providing humanitarian aid.

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