"From defensive flooding to buffer zones, using the natural world in conflict is as old as war itself – now academics have given it a name".
"During the early days of the Russia-Ukraine war, the invading force was approaching the Irpin River and the gates of the Ukrainian capital. But the river waters suddenly rose, forcing the Russians to turn back and leaving a trail of abandoned tanks and military hardware. Kyiv breathed again and a wetland ecosystem was reflooded for the first time in more than 70 years.
Miraculous as it might have seemed, it wasn’t the hand of God that helped save Ukraine. “That’s warWilding,” says Jasper Humphreys, director of programmes for the Marjan Study Group in the department of war studies at King’s College London, which researches conflict and the environment.
Since Ukrainian forces breached the dam to reflood the Irpin River, irrigation channels near the town of Rakivka have been overflowing.
“I woke up in the middle of the night, a few days after reading the ‘hero river’ story in the Guardian about how the Ukrainian army reflooded the dying Irpin River and its former wetlands to save the Ukrainian capital,” says the academic, of how he came up with the word. “And I just sat up in bed and whispered to myself, ‘It’s warWilding’.”"
Vincent Mundy reports with text and photographs for the Guardian September 5, 2022.