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date: 10 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

While humans have been interacting with and reshaping environments for millennia, the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries have witnessed a shift in the scale of our transformative capacity with the development of technologies associated with fossil-fuelled energy regimes and monumental dam-building. These have affected the Middle East and North Africa at a time when colonial and nation-state borders carved up the region, dividing environments that were once contained within single empires. Environmental history offers new lines of inquiry to assess the consequences of these transformations. Contrary to pervasive, often colonially derived, narratives of a self-induced environmental decline in the region, critical analyses from an environmental perspective facilitate critiques of such “declensionist paradigms.” Evaluating indicators of longue durée change alongside more short-term shifts in approaches to environmental management exposes the interests served by these narratives while demonstrating the suitability of local environmental practices to the particular ecological zones that characterize the region.

Keywords: environment, declensionist narrative, energy regimes, pastoralism, colonialism, oil, irrigation, dam-building, arid lands, climate

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