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Chris Pearson

9 ‘Greening’ militarized environments Introduction Within the militarized environment of Captieux firing range, plants, such as marsh clubmoss, thrive amongst the drainage lakes created by the US army during its construction of weapon storage facilities in the early 1950s.1 The military presence at Captieux unintentionally created suitable conditions for rare species to flourish. Now, some ninety years after its militarization during the First World War, Captieux is set to be integrated into the European Union’s Natura 2000 network of ecologically rare and

in Mobilizing nature
Chris Pearson

8 Opposing militarized environments Introduction In 1965 the poet and former resister, René Char, published a small booklet protesting the military’s proposal to establish a series of nuclear missile silos on Plateau d’Albion (see chapter 7). Dedicating La Provence point oméga to the region’s migratory birds, Char wrote how militarization would ‘wound’ the soil that produced truffles, vines, wild mushrooms, apples, and peaches. Nuclear missiles – with all the social and environmental risks they entailed – would replace this natural bounty. Warning that the

in Mobilizing nature
Chris Pearson

3 Remaking militarized environments in the wake of defeat (1871–1914) Following the terrible year of 1870–71, the French struggled to come to terms with the sense of humiliation following their defeat to Germany and the pain of what one writer described as the ‘open wound’ of the ‘lost’ provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.1 Historians have debated the extent to which France sought revanche against Germany, but it seems clear that France lacked the will to launch a war against Germany to reclaim Alsace and Lorraine.2 Rather than revenge, the French state and

in Mobilizing nature
Chris Pearson

2 Militarized environments during the ‘terrible year’ (1870–71) In 1871, G. T. Robinson, the Manchester Guardian’s special correspondent, published a book on his experiences of the Franco-Prussian War. He contrasted the beauty of nature with the destruction of war, describing how the wind had tickled the vineyards near St-Quentin and how ‘soon, too soon, this is all to be reduced to an arid, brown and barren waste’. For Robinson, war disrupted the peaceful and productive French countryside. Yet reminders of more serene times remained during the conflict

in Mobilizing nature
Abstract only
The environmental history of war and militarization in Modern France
Author: Chris Pearson

This book traces the creation, maintenance, and contestation of the militarized environments from the establishment of France's first large-scale and permanent army camp on the Champagne plains in 1857, to military environmentalism in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In doing so, it focuses on the evolving and profoundly historical relationship between war, militarization, and the environment. The book treats militarized environments as simultaneously material and cultural sites that have been partially or fully mobilized to achieve military aims. It focuses on the environmental history of sites in rural and metropolitan France that the French and other militaries have directly mobilized to prepare for, and to wage, war. They include such sites as army camps, weapons testing facilities, and air bases, as well as battlefields and other combat zones, but not maritime militarized environments, which arguably deserve their own book. First World War cemeteries and the memorial landscapes of the D-Day beaches remain places of international importance and serve as reminders of the transnational character of many French militarized environments. And although the book focuses on the environmental history of militaraization within metropolitan France, it speaks to issues that mark militarized environments across the globe, such as civilian displacement, anti-base protests, and military environmentalism. By focusing on the French case, the author aims to encourage reflection and discussion on the global issue of military control and use of the environment.

Abstract only
Chris Pearson

, dead bodies, and barbed wire, the militarized environment of the Western Front was amongst the most extreme that has ever existed, scarring soldiers’ minds and bodies, societies and cultures, and the land itself.2 But despite their extreme character, the trenches were part of a far longer and geographically dispersed environmental history of militarized environments in modern French history. In this book I trace the creation, maintenance, and contestation of these militarized environments from the establishment of France’s first large-scale and permanent army camp on

in Mobilizing nature
The militarization of postwar France
Chris Pearson

territory. Alongside the NATO militarized environments discussed in the last chapter, French militarized environments proliferated in the postwar period. The reasons behind this military geographical expansion were numerous. Most importantly, Cold War geopolitics and weaponry motivated the armed forces to seek ever larger training grounds and weapons testing sites. So although mainland France did not play host to anything as dramatic as the Agent Orange-induced defoliation of Vietnamese jungle or mushroom-shaped clouds caused by atomic weapons testing, the Cold War

in Mobilizing nature
Abstract only
Chris Pearson

, ruined fields, polluted sites, and lost homelands need to be added to war and militarization’s impact on France. The existence of some areas of biodiversity on some militarized environments should not cover up the loss of life – human and nonhuman – that these processes have entailed. Much more remains to be written about the socio-natural histories and geographies of militarized environments in France and elsewhere. If this book has succeeded in opening up secretive sites, such as army camps, as historical places worthy of critical study, then it will have achieved

in Mobilizing nature
Chris Pearson

encyclopaedia, a ‘real celebrity’.4 Châlons Camp marked a fresh stage in the militarization of the French environment; its surface area and permanence heralded a new form of military camp. Henceforth, the French army would mobilize nature more systematically to train its soldiers and test its weaponry, overseeing the militarization of ever increasing swathes of national territory. But in one important sense, Châlons Camp stands out from the secretive militarized environments of the early twenty-first century. From its inception, it was conceived as a public space and an

in Mobilizing nature
Chris Pearson

, adding new layers of militarized environments to eastern France. This remilitarization of the environment culminated in the conflicts of 1940. As this chapter explores, the history of militarized environments between 1918 and 1940 was characterized by the lingering physical and cultural legacies of one war and the ever-heightening fears, and then arrival, of another. We begin the story with the devastation wreaked by the First World War. Visualizing the battlefields The physical transformation ushered in by four years of trench warfare was profound. It seemed that war

in Mobilizing nature