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Braving Iraq: Recovering the country’s lost marshlands

The once pristine marshlands in southern Iraq covered an enormous area, more than twice the size of America’s Everglades. But they were virtually obliterated by a vengeful Saddam Hussein, who was punishing the marshland’s rebellious residents. It became a wasteland — until one man, an Iraqi engineer living in the United States, took it upon himself to lead the effort to restore it.

Over a period of months, our colleagues at the series “Nature” followed the remarkable efforts of Azzam Alwash, documenting his triumphs and struggles. Need to Know presents brief portions of the program, called “Braving Iraq,” which premieres this Sunday on PBS.

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  • William Keyser

    Regarding the PBS program “Braving Iraq,” (Nov 7) about the restoration of the marshland in southern Iraq, the Iraqi water engineer made a typical philosophical mistake.

    When two hunters were photographed, while hunting birds, the water engineer said the marshland was being restored for the people and not for the sake of nature; “not for nature per se” he said.

    The engineer was stating the traditional anthropocentric and religious view that nature exists only to serve human purposes. With that attitude, he will turn his beloved marsh into Disneyland.

    Instead of continuing this anthropocentric mistake, the water engineer, and interested journalists, may wish to read the following:

    Lynn White Jr., “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” SCIENCE, 10 March 1967, Volume, 155, 3767, pg. 1203-1207.

    AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM, THE FORMATIVE PERIOD, 1860-1915, Donald Worster editor, John Wiley and Sons, 1973.

    Donald Worster, NATURE’S ECONOMY, A HISTORY OF ECOLOGICAL IDEAS, Cambridge University Press, 1977.

    Robin Collingwood, THE IDEA OF NATURE, 1945.

    Charles Krauthammer, “Saving Nature, But Only for Man,” TIME, June 17, 199