BEIRUT: “Environmental Politics in the Middle East” examines the correlation between political forces and ecology, or environmental factors, in the region and how these are connected to the global economy.
Editor Harry Verhoeven categorically rejects any form of separation between the Middle East‘s ecological trajectory and its political and socioeconomic history. In fact, he reiterates the importance of studying environmental issues in order to understand “the myriad political and socio-economic hopes, illusions and problems of its inhabitants.”
In the opening chapter of the book, which is nine chapters long, author and professor Jeannie Sowers examines the effect of environmental constraints on public health across the Middle East and North Africa region.
With only one percent of the world’s freshwater resources, the Middle East is one of the driest places on earth. As such, water resources in the region are being exhausted faster than they can be replenished. The book examines the need for critical action to enhance greater water security.
Ali Keblawi, a professor of environmental science and plant ecology at the University of Sharjah, provides a comprehensive assessment of the problems and challenges linked to the process of greening arid Gulf landscapes.
In particular, his denunciation of the use of exotic species that are used for urban landscaping instead of planting native desert plants is long overdue. Many studies show that ornamental plants popular for their aesthetic value are not adapted to the local climate and consume large amounts of water and depend on synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides for growth.
Keblawi also highlights the fact that desalination plants consume vast amounts of energy, as most of the region’s generators still depend on non-renewable fossil fuels despite the fact that solar energy can be produced in unlimited quantities.
As Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two largest producers of desalinated water in the Middle East, he argues that using solar energy to produce a third of the country’s electricity would free up some 300,000 barrels of oil per day.
This book, which was just made available in paperback, is a must-read for students, scholars, environmental activists and ecologists.