Chapter

The Eccentricity of the Middle East and North Africa’s Environmental History

J. R. McNeill

in Water on Sand

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199768677
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979608 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199768677.003.0001
The Eccentricity of the Middle East and North Africa’s Environmental History

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This chapter is a global and comparative analysis of the Middle East and North Africa's environmental history. It argues that three distinct features—termed “eccentricities"—help to explain the particular environmental history of the region. These eccentricities are in the realms of water, grass, and energy. The eccentricities of the Middle East and North Africa with respect to water include both the obvious shortage of fresh water in much of the region, and the less-noticed distinct and beneficial geography of saltwater seas, gulfs, and bays. The eccentricity of grass in the region derives mainly from the fact that grasslands exist in a complex quilt pattern rather than in huge expanses. Finally, the eccentricities of energy in the Middle East and North Africa reside in the region's long reliance on biomass and animals, its minimal resort to coal, and its near-total refashioning in the age of cheap oil.

Keywords: comparative history; global environmental history; water; grass; energy; maritime geography; climate change; pastoralism; coal

Chapter.  10762 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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