What does political ecology tell us about the environmental crises in the Middle East

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Christian Henderson is assistant professor at Leiden Institute for Area Studies at Leiden University, Netherlands. His research focusses on the agrarian political economy and the political ecology of the Middle East and North Africa. His work has previously been published in the Journal of Peasant Studies, Environment and Planning A, Review of African Political Economy and the Journal of Arabian Studies.

Title and abstract:

What does political ecology tell us about environmental crisis in the Middle East?

Like many parts of the world, the environment in the Middle East is in crisis. Climate change, biodiversity loss and unsustainable material extraction will have the same detrimental consequences for life as elsewhere on the planet. In recent years, however, the state of the environment in the Middle East has been framed in a sensationalistic manner; with little evidence, it is blamed for conflict and migration and is predicted to lead to societal collapse. Using a lens of political ecology, this talk will illustrate how these assumptions are problematic; they are rooted in a Western perception of the environment in the Middle East that is determined by cultural and political imaginaries. Political ecology also tells us that the current policies enacted by regional states to address sustainability will probably fail, on the basis that they are technopolitical. But it also tells us that there is a potential for an alternative that offers a more optimistic future, albeit one that requires radical change and a departure from the current system.