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Understorey's new series "UnSustainable ANZUS?" looks at the ecological dimension of the Australia, New Zealand, United States security treaty signed in 1951, starting with the Vietnam experience. Operation Ranch Hand lasted a decade until 1971, spraying Agent Orange across vast areas of the country. The aim of this herbicidal warfare was to defoliate jungle, removing protective cover from communist insurgents, and also to lay waste to agricultural crops that may have been supporting the Viet Cong in the South. Around 31,000 square kilometres of jungle forests were defoliated, stripping bare the land, leading to massive erosion, and laying waste animal species. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that a million people are disabled or have health problems as a result of Agent Orange, although the United States does not accept these figures. But the problem also impacts American veterans, with documented cases of leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers affecting the lungs, larynx or prostate of veterans. Understorey speaks to Australian remediation specialist Dr Kate Hughes, and Lady Borton, an American Quaker who has lived in Vietnam for fifty years.
(Image: Emilio Labrador 2009, Creative Commons 2.0; public domain)
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In ecology, the understorey grows where light shines through the forest canopy.
Our award-winning Understorey journalists highlight local and globally-connected environmental issues that the other media commonly pass over.
RTRFM’s long-running dedicated environment program makers Adrian Glamorgan and Elizabeth PO’ bring together stories from near and sometimes afar, whether it be conservationists rehabilitating habitat, citizen scientists gathering data, campaigners at the frontline, or decision-makers at their desks, seeking solutions together to the challenges affecting our shared air, water, land and life processes.