Environmental Issues in the Mediterranean: Processes and Perspectives from the Past and Present

Environmental Issues in the Mediterranean: Processes and Perspectives from the Past and Present

Environmental Issues in the Mediterranean: Processes and Perspectives from the Past and Present

Environmental Issues in the Mediterranean: Processes and Perspectives from the Past and Present

Synopsis

The Mediterranean has been subject to changing human settlement and land use patterns for millennia, and has a history of human exploitation in an inherently unstable landscape. This volume reviews both physical and social aspects of this region.

Excerpt

The 21st century will be one of massive change at local, national and global levels. The key challenge for science and society will be coping with this change in the most effective manner possible … A greater demand on both the social and natural sciences for information to support and guide policy will emerge … The challenge of coping with change in the coming century is unprecedented in human history … The relationship between humans and environment must change - this is now the central challenge for humanity.

(Dovers and Handmer, 1992:262)

The above statements were made by Australians in 1992 and, between then and the publication of this book, a tidal wave of change has affected the Mediterranean environment. First came the onrush of international concern for sustainability as reflected by the Rio Conference Agreement on Agenda 21 (1992), then the International Convention on Combating Desertification (1996) and the Kyoto Declaration on global warming (1998). Coupled to these has been the progressive improvement of modelling capacity and data availability that seem to show that human-induced greenhouse warming is now a global reality. The European Union has been equally determined in promoting the change from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to the newly proposed, more environmentally friendly Agenda 2000, a post-productionist approach to sustainable agriculture and the extensification of agriculture. The new Framework for Water Directive has highlighted the coming crisis of surface and groundwater quantity and quality that will affect the whole world, and the Mediterranean in particular.

In this morass of change, we set out to try to capture in this book the main challenges and problems facing the environments and peoples of Mediterranean countries and the principles that might be used to address them. As befits our geographical training, we attempt to see the problems from both natural science and social science perspectives. Above all, we approach the issues from a historical point of view, in the firm belief that the past is the key to the present in understanding contemporary environmental issues and their management. What is more, the past usually provides the starting conditions without which it is impossible to attempt such an understanding. The spatial diversity of the Mediterranean land surface and the dynamical complexity of the problems lead us to conclude that the management approaches to the mitigation of these problems will need to be as diverse as the landscape, as varied as the history and as complicated as the cultures. There is no rule-book in this respect and we do not attempt to provide one.

In the long journey from the outline plan to the final delivery of the text to our publishers there have been several encumbrances, not least in sustaining major research projects and publications. For John Thornes there was the obstacle of a major illness and he would like to thank the staff at the Horton Hospital and Rivermead Rehabilitation Centre for their essential

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