Fragile Ecology, Fragile Peace
By Tim Hazell
For the inhabitants of deserts and regions with water shortages, quarrels over allocations in newly appropriated ecological zones readily mushroom into structural conflicts between ethnic lines of demarcation.
Equilibrium in vast tracts of the world’s arid and semi-desert areas is dependent upon environmental harmony and balanced equations of soil, climate, water, flora, and fauna. Modern conditions such as global warming exacerbate persistent drought. The result is widespread famine. In the process of readapting to variant habitats, environmental borders are created. Unfortunately for the millions of homeless and dispossessed, these often become ethnic and cultural identification criteria. Fragile ecology means fragile peace.
Desert plants are tolerant of drought and the salt content from small reservoirs of concentrated water that they store in leaves, roots, and stems. In Mexico’s semiarid central plateau regions, plant cover is typically lean but of great diversity, as is the animal life that benefits from aquifers and springs. Cacti, deciduous trees, and aquatic plants thrive, some reintroduced through conservation. Fauna includes species of birds, reptiles, and mammals adapted to meager habitats. Reservoirs often support verdant shoreline growth, fish, and a variety of birds.
Fossil sediments from ancient beds of sand up to 500 million years old are found throughout the world, including in rainforest environments. Dominant weather patterns and geographical locations determine the characteristics of deserts as trade wind, rain shadow, coastal—such as Peru’s Atacama—or polar. The Arctic tundra represents a vast area of desertification in Canada’s far north, while inland Antarctic dry valleys have been snow-free for thousands of years.
“Monsoon,” is Arabic for season. Wind systems are prone to reversals, the spawn of temperature variations between continents and oceans. Traders’ southeastern winds of the Indian Ocean produce summer deluges as they move onshore, crossing the Indian continent before losing moisture on the slopes of the Aravalli Range. Monsoon deserts such as the Rajasthan of India and Thar Desert of Pakistan spread where dry regions are born west of the range.
Contact with the Romans, Persians, and Ottoman Empire brought the Arabs into proximity with refined aesthetics and cuisines. This multi-cultural stew combines sweet and savory and comes from the Arabian Gulf.
Meat and Walnut Nadi with Dates
3 tbsp butter
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 chicken stock bouillon cubes
3/4 cup water
5 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp lemon zest, shredded
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
3 tbsp molasses or dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground cumin
Good pinch of ground black pepper
Garnish: Red onion, finely sliced
Heat butter in a saucepan. Add meat and coriander leaves. Sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add bouillon cubes, water, and molasses. Simmer for another 10 minutes until the meat is cooked and most of the liquid absorbed. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, walnuts, dates, and cumin. Simmer for a further 5 minutes. Place in the center of a large serving plate, garnish with red onion, and surround with rice.