Ukraine Food Crisis: Understanding the Impacts of War on the Global Supply Chain and Applying to Future Events; The Environmental Condition of the Black Sea: Cold War to Present

Marrero-Garcia, Genesis, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, University of Virginia
Lakshmi, Venkataraman, EN-CEE, University of Virginia

The ongoing war in Ukraine has had far-reaching consequences for the country and the world, including a food crisis that has left many struggling to access sufficient and nutritious food. The conflict has disrupted global food supply chains, destroyed farmland, and made it difficult for farmers to access the resources they need to grow crops and raise livestock. However, Ukraine and Russia are some of the largest exporters of grain for the world and as a result of this conflict, many people around the world are facing food shortages, malnutrition, and hunger. Even if the war ended today, in order to mitigate the global food crisis, agricultural production would have to be significantly bolstered and millions of hectares of land would need to be converted to farmland. The problem with this is that the land, air, and water are contaminated with pollutants from military debris. If a new harvest was able to be successfully planted, there would still be a need to make sure that the crops are safe for human consumption. Additionally, all these pollutants would eventually make their way into the Black Sea, which is a body of water that has historically struggled environmentally.

The environmental condition of the Black Sea has been in a tumultuous state over the past century as a result of conflicts in the region, and the impact of the current war between Russia and Ukraine bodes to be no different. The Cold War and its aftereffects have led to severe damage to the Black Sea ecosystem, which are still felt today. After the Cold War ended, former Iron Curtain countries began their own individual agricultural revolutions. This caused a lot of fertilizer and pesticide runoff into the Black Sea, which in turn caused a dense growth of plant life on the top layer of the sea and depleted oxygen levels to the point where scientists wondered if the Black Sea would become the first major waterway devoid of life.

The war in Ukraine has had a direct impact on the environmental condition of the Black Sea, exacerbating the already significant environmental degradation of the region. The conflict has led to increased pollution from military activities, which has further degraded the marine ecosystem. The conflict has also led to habitat destruction, as military operations have destroyed wetlands, estuaries, and other critical habitats. The conflict has also made it difficult to enforce existing environmental regulations and to conduct research and monitoring activities, which are crucial for understanding the state of the Black Sea's ecosystem. Additionally, if agricultural production were to be increased after the war in order to meet world food demands, this would parallel the agricultural revolution and production experienced at the end of the Cold War, which, as discussed, only led to the largest environmental crisis seen in the Black Sea.

Moreover, the increase in food prices has led to a rise in illegal fishing in the Black Sea, as fishermen seek to supplement their income. This illegal fishing is contributing to overfishing, which is already a significant problem in the Black Sea. Overfishing not only threatens the sustainability of fish stocks but also disrupts the food chain, affecting the entire ecosystem. In addition to the overfishing, there is also a possibility that these fish are also contaminated with pollutants from the war. Furthermore, the pollution could also start to kill off the fish population again and create another parallel with the end of the Cold War.

Given the significant environmental and social consequences of the food crisis and how it may contribute to the environmental degradation in the Black Sea region, it is imperative that measures are taken to restore and protect the Black Sea's marine ecosystem. These measures could include reducing pollution, protecting critical habitats, and promoting sustainable development. The restoration and protection of the Black Sea's marine ecosystem will require a coordinated effort from governments, society, and the private sector. International cooperation will also be crucial, given the transboundary nature of the Black Sea. However, it is important that efforts to address the food crisis in Ukraine do not negatively impact the efforts to better the Black Sea. If one crisis is worsened in the attempt to fix another one, it can just create a vicious cycle that negatively impacts human life for years to come.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Ukraine, Black Sea, Environmental Condition, Food Crisis

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Technical Advisor: Venkat Lakshmi
STS Advisor: Joshua Earle
Technical Team Members: Elizabeth Breslin, Alyssa Freedman, Cutter Huston, Thomas Mossburg

Issued Date: