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Discovering the roots of human and environmental sustainability in the Golden Age of Muslim civilisation

Brennan, Anne-Maria (2016) Discovering the roots of human and environmental sustainability in the Golden Age of Muslim civilisation. In: Congress works: IV International Congress of Fez on the History of Medicine in Muslim Heritage / VII Congress of the International Society of the Islamic Medicine. . pp. 122-126. Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University (KAR id:77586)


Environmental sustainability has represented a challenge to humanity since the beginnings of settled existence. As a consequence. lessons from the past are still relevant today, if not more so in the light of concentrations of populations and technology with global impacts. Principle threats to sustainability centre on the management of key biogeochemical cycles and the land itself.

Water us a prime example of this, where depletion of groundwater resources and pollution as a result of salinization are an ever-ever present and ever-increasing problem. Collapses of ancient agricultural systems led to early civilisations developing increasingly elaborate practices of water management. This was particularly so in the Islamic Golden Age, where it reached its technological zenith with water raising machines such as those developed by the 12thC CE polymath al-Jazari.

Maintaining soil structure and fertility represented another environmental challenge. Renewable nutrients in the form of animal faeces were used as fertiliser, such as the pigeon towers of Isfahan, Iran, and it was not until the 18thC CE that inorganic fertiliser was routinely used. Today, the finite nature of inorganic fertiliser represents a threat to agricultural sustainability and food security.

Managing land and landscapes has a long tradition, an access, land-use and the concept of human-land interaction in semi-natural ecosystems goes back to pre-Islamic times and was codified in the concept of Al-Hima. These traditions spread throughout the Islamic world during the Middle Ages and their adoption in the Middle East and Mediterranean Basin gave rise to the British/European model of national parks.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Natural Sciences > Kent and Medway Medical School
Divisions > Directorate of Education > School of Education
Depositing User: Anne-Maria Brennan
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2020 09:29 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 20:55 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Brennan, Anne-Maria.

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