The Origins of Ecocide: Revisiting the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Vietnam War



The Vietnam War introduced a new language for the environmental impacts of modern warfare. These included the first widespread use of herbicides and weather modification techniques during war. Such actions were taken by the US to fight against North Vietnam, who saw nature as an ally that could be harnessed for their aims, while the Americans viewed it as a barrier to be controlled and subdued. Nearly 50 years later, profound long-term consequences for people and nature remain.

Author Biography

Rutgers University, USA

Pamela McElwee is an associate professor of human ecology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. She is trained as an interdisciplinary environmental scientist, with a PhD in anthropology and forestry, and her work focuses on vulnerability of households and communities to global environmental change, including biodiversity loss, deforestation, and climate change. Her first book, Forests are Gold: Trees, People, and Environmental Rule in Vietnam won the EUROSEAS prize for best social science book on Southeast Asia. She is currently working on her second book about the environmental legacies of the Vietnam War.

Photo of UC-123 airplanes spraying herbicides in central South Vietnam.