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A Transdisciplinary History of the Disappearance of the Aral Sea

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In these last decades the Aral Sea in Central Asia, one of largest inland bodies of water on the planet, has undergone a drying process with very serious environmental consequences for the whole area. Its story is very complex and has its origin in the history, in particular in the rule of this area by the former Soviet Union. Therefore, in this essay we have tried to offer a transdisciplinary interpretation of such an environmental disaster, going back to the past. In fact, we are sure that only a long-term view can help us to better understand what really happened in Central Asia. So, after a brief description of the geography of this area, we have dealt with its history, from the Tsarist period till nowadays. The present socio-economic and environmental situation in the Aral Sea area is analysed in the last part of this essay, where we also underline that such a disaster can be well explained in the light of the Marxist (and of the Soviet) idea of exploiting nature without any respect for it, in order to attain goals. In this case the goals revolved around the idea of building a strong State within the international competition exacerbated during the years of the Cold War. In this sense, beyond every difference in ideology, communism and capitalism have demonstrated that they have many things in common and, between them, an anthropocentric vision of nature. Such a vision can lead to severe environmental damage, as the Aral Sea disaster well shows.
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Keywords: Aral Sea disaster; URSS; irrigation; planned economies; water-intensive crops

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2016

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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