While much of the developed world continues to debate the most effective ways of tackling global carbon emissions in closed-door summits and international forums, some countries hardest hit from changing climate patterns are beginning to take a more direct approach. In light of what it considers a national security risk posed by climate change, the government of Nicaragua has formed the Ecological Battalion, a first-of-its-kind team of soldiers dedicated to combating against environmental threats.
Over the last three decades, forest cover in the once-lush Central American nation has fallen by nearly 25 percent, mostly due to illegal lumber operations which had stripped the regions nature reserves of trees virtually without resistance. But now, thanks to the newly designated eco-battalion made up of 580 soldiers, the forests' most pressing threats may find their days are numbered.
For Nicaraguan leaders, the ongoing disappearance of their forests has already lead to a rise in temperatures and reduced the amount of rainfall. The latter issue is of heightened concern from the nation's leadership, particularly as government officials look to hydroelectric to meet their energy demands.
"The Nicaraguan government is trying to change the matrix of its energy supply, and to do so we need to preserve and conserve our nature reserves and forests so we can have the water we need to run what will be Central America's largest hydroelectric plant, Tumarin," says Col Juan Ramon Morales, commander of the Ecological Battalion. "But if we don't have forests, we won't produce the rain we need to make this project sustainable. We can't have a hydroelectric plant in the desert."
According to the BBC, Nicaragua's Environmental Battalion is the first of its kind to battle climate change in Central America -- and they seem to be taking the job very seriously. While the soldiers, clad in camouflage, do carry firearms as they patrol the imperiled forests, they also carry shovels to plant trees in areas already cleared.
"Our color is green by nature," says army chief Col Nestor Lopez. "Now we have to make it that by conscience, too."