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Science Environmental Science

Wetlands of Mass Destruction

Ancient Presage for Contemporary Ecocide in Southern Iraq

edited by Robert Lawrence France

foreword by Edward L. Ochsenschlager

Green Frigate Books
Initial publish date
Apr 2007
Environmental Science, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2007
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    Apr 2007
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This important account investigates the ruin of the Mesopotamian marshes?historically one of the world's most important wetland environments?along with the decimation of an area inhabited, since the time of the Sumerians, by thousands of people living on artificial islands of mud and reeds and depending on sustainable fishing and farming. Located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Iraq, the history of this important ecological and unique cultural jewel, which was destroyed under Saddam Hussein’s reign through a series of constructed dams and water diversions designed to eradicate the remaining marsh dwellers, is analyzed at length. Interspersed with ancient Mesopotamian inscriptions and Old Testament quotations, this is a sobering account of the deliberate destruction of an environment for the purpose of ethnic cleansing. Features

” Presents over 30 rare, never before published photographs from the 1934 anthropology expedition to the marshlands

” Includes essays by photographer Nik Wheeler, human rights advocate Baroness Emma Nicholson, author Rasheed Al-Khayoun and ecologist Robert France about the present state of the marshlands

” Contains more than 20 photographs of Mesopotamian artifacts from the Harvard collection

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Robert Lawrence France is a leading environmental scholar who has taught at Ca’Foscari University, Harvard University, and McGill University. He is the author of numerous journal articles and the author or editor of several books, including Deep Immersion: The Experience of Water, Handbook of Water Sensitive Planning and Design, and Facilitating Watershed Management. Edward L. Ochsenschlager is a professor emeritus at Brooklyn College and the author of Iraq’s Marsh Arabs in the Garden of Eden.

Editorial Reviews

"These haunting quotes from four thousand years ago leave us to ponder whether today's civilizations have the wisdom and the vision to avoid a world in which we are left searching for a 'single reed marsh' in a 'desolate wilderness.'"  “Henry Lee, Director of the Environment and Natural Resource Program, Harvard University

"If we fail to recognize the signals, aided by the lessons from the historical precedents outlined in Wetlands of Mass Destruction, we will see the slow steady erosion of that which is most precious."  “Niall Kirkwood, Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture, Harvard University

"Wetland of Mass Destruction is a small but great volume on the Southern Iraqi marshes that goes back to ancient Mesopotamia. . . . The volume includes wonderful photos of marsh life taken by Western archaeologists and journalists . . . that give a rich view of marshland life." —S. Hanish, Digest of Middle East Studies

"I enjoyed the great black and white photographs. The quotes were keenly interesting and the essays were just great" “B. Howdy, Spokane Exchange

"A fascinating result . . . [that] stimulates us to rethink how we should understand our historical sources. The present may indeed provide us with interesting questions in our study of the past." —Maurits W. Ertsen, Water History Journal

"A very good and important book that should be read not only by restoration ecologists and practitioners, but it is suitable for anyone wanting to learn more about how closely connected are human and ecological systems." “Keith R. Edwards, Restoration Ecology

"In bringing together these ancient writings with an account of the ecological calamity besetting the marshlands of modern Iraq, Dr. France evokes the voices of the past to illustrate and explain the present."  “Joseph A. Green, Assistant Director of the Semitic Museum, Harvard University