The Sunny Side of Armed Conflict

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War -- what is it good for? Well, preserving the world's beaches, for one thing. According to a New York Times travel section's feature:

An unintended consequence of the war is the coastline's lack of development. Sri Lanka's famed beaches remain crescent-shaped coves of white sand.

When I first visited Canaveral National Seashore; I learned of its early history as a Cold War rocket testing zone acquired under President Truman over 60 years ago and later shifted to NASA, which acquired additional land. According to an official report, it is

home to more Federally protected species of plants and animals than any national park except Everglades, and it has the longest undeveloped stretch of oceanfront left along the east coast of Florida.

On the other hand, European peace, prosperity, and tourism made Spain's Mediterranean coast synonymous with sprawl, and now with real estate bubbles and unemployment.

No, this isn't a positive message to the authoritarians and terrorists of the kind who caused such misery in Spain, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. War can be an environmental catastrophe, too. Washington D.C. is still coping with the legacy of World War I munitions and chemicals beneath its landscapes, as an obituary from today's Post reminds us. And as another recent Times feature suggests, a clean, green war machine is still a work in progress.

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Edward Tenner is a historian of technology and culture, and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center.

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