We’re not the best

Agent Orange

  • not only do we use herbicides to kill pesky farm weeds
  • we have also used them as agents of warfare
  • in the 1940s and 50s
  • the US and Britain worked together to develop an herbicide
  • that would defoliate
  • or take the leaves off of
  • all plants in a target area
  • this would be useful for degrading food resources
  • or shelter for the enemy
  • agent orange was first used in by the British during the Malayan emergency
  • a conflict between the British Commonwealth and the Malayan Communist Party
  • that started in 1948
  • it was not too long afterward
  • that the US was asked to employ Agent Orange in Vietnam
  • by the South Vietnamese president himself
  • the codename for this endeavor was Operation Ranch Hand
  • painfully ironic, isn’t it?
  • the US department of defense enlisted the help of Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical for manufacturing Agent Orange
  • in the next couple of years, 20,000,000 gallons of herbicides and defoliants were dumped on Vietnam
  • this deprived the guerrilla fighters of food and shelter
  • which was a positive effect from a military standpoint
  • but the ecological implications aren’t quite so great
  • 20% of South Vietnam’s forests were sprayed at least once over the course of the war
  • destroying five million acres of tree covered land
  • crops were also targeted
  • because we thought it would starve out the combatants
  • turns out
  • most of the crops that were destroyed were actually just there for feeding civilians
  • oops
  • about 42% of all spraying that was done targeted crops
  • and thusly targeted innocent people
  • the ecosystems were also innocent
  • but they were likewise contaminated
  • dragged into the affairs of warring peoples
  • reforestation was difficult and even impossible in some areas
  • aggressive species like bamboo and cogon grass invaded areas where trees died off
  • homogenizing the environment
  • limiting floral diversity

Humans got hurt. Other mammals got hurt. Plants got hurt. Entire ecosystems got hurt. We’re not the best at taking care of ourselves or the other organisms with whom we share this planet, but man are we good at making chemicals.


Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_Orange?oldformat=true>.