This article examines the discourses and practices of climate change adaptation in the Arabian Peninsula. It suggests that climate change adaptation projects in the region are often attempts at reframing water-related challenges that are already present, regardless of the effects of climate change. For instance, the groundwater sources in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be destroyed not necessarily due to the predicted impacts of climate change but because they will soon be completely consumed. In response, the governments in the Arabian Peninsula, especially the UAE, advance a view that I call the “infinity of water,” by relying on technological solutions, particularly desalination. The nonconventional synthetic quality of water, where more can be generated through desalination whenever necessary, allows the actors in the area to envision and embrace its infinity, regardless of existing and impending water scarcity. This article shows how water ceases to be a “natural” entity, but rather emerges as an assemblage of complex technical procedures, social relations, and historical trajectories.
The Infinity of Water: Climate Change Adaptation in the Arabian Peninsula
Gökçe Günel is a lecturer in anthropology at Columbia University. She earned her PhD in anthropology from Cornell University in 2012. Her forthcoming book Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Green Business in Abu Dhabi focuses on the construction of renewable energy and clean technology infrastructures in the United Arab Emirates, specifically concentrating on the Masdar City project.