Warfare, wildlife, and biodegradable bullets

The winner for strangest environmental concept this week goes to the biodegradable bullet. I have seen this news story all over and I’m not sure how I feel about this idea. I am not really pro-gun in any sense. I concede that for people in rural areas, who may hunt or need to scare off predators, a firearm (like a shotgun) is a practical tool. Otherwise I don’t see why anyone needs or wants one.

8073823931_de7c8f2c8f_m(photo credit: John Spade, Flickr)

However, I am aware that shooting ranges exist and some people do that for fun. As an environmentalist, an initiative to reduce the amount of toxic metal mined, and then left to pollute the earth, is an intriguing idea. Add in potential for regrowth through seeds held in biodegradable capsules and suddenly this sounds more like a science fiction than real life.

But the US Department of Defense has been looking into these bullets to replace the live rounds currently used in their training, so it’s not fiction. This might be the first time I have ever heard of an army intentionally attempting to mitigate environmental costs; although, I have heard of accidental environmental benefits of warfare.

The area between the North and South Korean borders is called the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ). It’s often considered the most dangerous border in the world. In 2012 the Guardian ran an article about this border and its surprising status as a wildlife haven. The political situation that makes it so dangerous for people has created a place that shelters several endangered and rare species. I would not call it a silver lining, because war is a terrible and heartbreaking condition of humanity. But it is a reminder that while we go about doing wonderful and terrible things to each other, the world lives on regardless.

It seems spectacular, and ridiculous to think that someone decided to turn something deadly into a source of life and rejuvenation. It makes you think that the way through to a better future just requires looking at what seems to be inevitable and then changing the rules.

Sources: IFLScienceSBIR/STTREarth NutshellThe Guardian