The region represented by present-day Turkey is known for its role throughout history as an important crossroads; a contact point between the cultures and economies of Europe and Asia. Today, this intersection between East and West remains a key part of Turkey’s geographic and geopolitical significance. For CLiGS, the country is also of great interest because it sits at another kind of crossroads—where the drive for an advanced, modern economy is intersecting and colliding with the challenges of sustainability and resource conservation in an era of climate change.
In recent years, Turkey has achieved tremendous economic development, with foreign and trade and tourism key components of growth. Turkey’s aggressive program of development, including an abundance of major infrastructure projects, has also ignited controversy over its impact on the country’s natural resources and environmental future. The country’s geographic location, not merely significant for human history alone, has also contributed to the region’s rich biodiversity; the country’s borders contain parts of three different biodiversity hotspots (Caucasus, Irano-Anatolian, and Mediterranean Basin) as identified by Conservation International. Agriculture also remains a key part of the Turkish economy as one of the world’s top producers of maize and wheat. However, with the risks of severe drought in the region expected to increase sharply in the decades ahead, climate change and its consequences are raising concerns not only for Turkey’s own sustainable livelihood but also for the potential implications for issues such as global food security.
Turkey provides a fascinating opportunity to examine and understand the tensions between growth and environmental sustainability being played out different contexts throughout the world. On the one hand, its historical background and present day circumstances make Turkey an intriguing place to explore for its own unique political and cultural dynamics, but at the same time, the country can offer a window onto sustainability issues of global significance.