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Old 01-21-2021, 07:56 AM
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Exclamation Chemical Warfare’s Home Front

Chemical Warfare’s Home Front
By: Elizabeth Kolbert - The New York Review - 01-11-21

Note: Since World War I we’ve been solving problems with dangerous chemicals that introduce new problems.

Photo link:
Barnegat Light, New Jersey, 2015; photograph by Brandon Seidler, who treated the image with chemicals similar to the fertilizer runoff polluting the area.

What is often called “the first use of weapons of mass destruction” took place on April 22, 1915, near the town of Ypres, in western Belgium. Six months earlier, Germany’s hopes for a quick victory in World War I had been dashed on the banks of the Marne, and the country had enlisted some of its top scientists to break the stalemate. One of them, Fritz Haber, the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry, had suggested releasing chlorine gas. Since the gas is heavier than air, Haber reasoned, it would sink when released; this would allow it to infiltrate the trenches of the French and English forces.

The Germans had signed the Hague Convention of 1899, which forbade the “use of projectiles the sole object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases.” Nevertheless, by interpreting this clause literally—the chlorine would be released not from projectiles but from canisters—the country’s military commanders managed to convince themselves that the move was permissible. In any event the French, they complained—accurately—had already been releasing “deleterious gas” in the form of grenades filled with ethyl bromoacetate, a skin irritant that can be fatal. Just a few months after Haber proposed his idea, he personally supervised the placement of nearly six thousand canisters of chlorine along the front. Ten canisters were attached to a single spout, to minimize the number of men needed to release their contents.

Haber, a Jew who had converted to Christianity, was self-critical, ambitious, and restlessly brilliant. His work ranged from the electrolysis of solid salts to the thermodynamics of gas reactions. A few years before the start of World War I, he devised a method for converting ordinary nitrogen into ammonia. The Haber-Bosch process, as it became known, allowed for the production of synthetic fertilizers and fundamentally changed the world: without chemical fertilizers, it is estimated, some 3.5 billion people—almost half the globe’s population—wouldn’t be alive today.

During the war the Germans, cut off from supplies of saltpeter, which is both a fertilizer and an ingredient in gunpowder, used the Haber-Bosch process to generate a substitute. This enabled them to continue to produce explosives and, according to Haber himself, prolonged the war for three years.

Note: Two books recently published are a recommended read - so as to see - the whole outlook on what's killing us by the day - besides the Corona Virus.

(1) The Chemical Age: How Chemists Fought Famine and Disease, Killed Millions, and Changed Our Relationship with the Earth
by: Frank A. von Hippel
University of Chicago Press, 389 pp., $29.00
(2) The Contamination of the Earth: A History of Pollutions in the Industrial Age
By: François Jarrige and Thomas Le Roux, translated from the French by Janice Egan and Michael Egan MIT Press, 459 pp., $39.95

Personal note: Folks we've know this for decades if not longer. We are too complacent with our trash today - and have been for many decades prior to this. We are polluting our environment - which, in-turn kills all the life forms currently occupying this planet. Both on land and the sea.
Let's face it - We the Humans Are Our Own Worst Enemy!

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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