Poisoning places

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon draws attention to the effects of chemical weapons on places.  He writes in The Guardian about the March 2018 nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter that affected many others:

What if the Salisbury attack had taken place in a mega city like Sydney? Let’s say for a start the Central Business District is cordoned and unusable for six months. Millions terrified to go into the city and a 35% reduction in business takings, with millions of tourists avoiding visiting.

The World Heritage site Stonehenge is a few miles from Salisbury, visited by millions each year, but most have been avoiding Salisbury. For Stonehenge, read the Opera House. Sydney very nearly saw a chemical attack last year when UK and Australian security services interdicted jihadists trying to use hydrogen sulphide as a weapon on crowds and jet aircraft.

Geographers and epidemiologists have considered “junctural zones” of contact with contagious diseases during the spread of epidemics.  However, the urban aspects of chemical weapons have not been well analyzed and their persistence (Novichok for example is highly persistent in the environment) has not been taken into account for the way that chemical weapons victimize and poison places as well as communities and individuals.  Introducing such toxins into a local environment weaponizes place against selected species.  Place or material objects are not just vectors but need to be understood as part of the lethal apparatus.

Rob Shields (University of Alberta)