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Religion and Society

The Hot Century Through Middle-Eastern Eyes

Dead Sea: Salt Evaporation Ponds in 1972, 1989, 2011 [© NASA]

Global warming is just one aspect of a much larger ecological crisis that is already raging in the Middle East. Critically adopting ecology as a response to this crisis is an opportunity for a larger project of Islamo-Christian cooperation.

Last update: 2020-02-11 11:24:39

Will theological reform come first in the Middle East, or political reform? What counts more, authoritarian modernization or bottom-up social change? Can Islamist movements be fully integrated into the democratic fold? I heard these questions for the first time 20 years ago when I started to study Arabic, and I still hear the same questions today. However, there is a phenomenon that could make them obsolete—in their current formulation at least. This phenomenon is precisely that ecological crisis already playing itself out in the Middle East.

 

Part I: The Destruction of the Middle Eastern Environment

 

The Ecological Crisis

 

The ecological crisis is a broader concept than the global warming that hits the headlines. It refers to the destruction of the natural environment owing to overexploitation, poor management, irresponsible behaviors, wars, and conflicts. The irresponsible consumption of water resources, desertification, uncontrolled building, and waste mismanagement are some of its most common manifestations.

 

Global warming, as a fact observed by scientists, is an aspect of this ecological crisis. It is composed of a natural component linked to variations in the climate and a component resulting from human activity, which is now widely believed to have become predominant in the equation.[1] What still proves difficult is to offer reliable forecasts on its long-term effects: how much will global temperature increase and with what consequences? How much will the sea levels rise? Paradoxically, isolating global warming from the wider ecological crisis could have distortive effects. For example, if all the (necessarily finite) resources are concentrated on modernizing the industrial apparatus of advanced economies while forgetting other problems affecting less developed countries.

 

The first point I would like to make is indeed very simple: even if, belying all forecasting models, global warming were to suddenly come to a halt,

 

  1. the Middle East is already at an ecological tipping point, and
  2. this cannot but have enormous effects on Western, especially European, societies.

 

Personally, I started to become aware of the seriousness of the phenomenon in 2008...

 

The article is published in the Church Life Journal. Click here to continue reading.

 

 

 

[1] Alister Doyle,“Evidence for man-made global warming hits ‘gold standard’: scientists”, Reuters, February 25, 2019.

 

Text translated from Italian

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