OECD by Peter Fend

BOMB 2 Winter 1982
002 Fall 1982
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Arab Gulf Basin: Includes Khuzestan (Arabistan) of present-day Iran. Incorporates Arab Turkey, Arab Iran and the bluk of Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan (but not Amman).

July, 1981

Mr. Sirri Altikriti Iraq Mission to the United Nations 14 East 79 Street New York, NY 10021

Dear Mr. Altikriti:

As an artist concerned with architectural questions, I have made regional planning maps for most of the world which organize terrain according to hydrological drainage––not into rivers only but into saltwater bodies, including the salt lakes, seas and bays of the world.

Within the art community, I have presented historical discussions that relate patterns of human settlement and migration to the physical framework of saltwater basins. It seems that a remarkable number of events in history become explainable when viewed within the basin maps. Recent events include: the internal fragmentation of Afghanistan and Iran; the Muslim revolt in northern Nigeria; the secessionist efforts of the Basques, Bretons, Catalonians, Welsh and other European peoples; the Kosovo uprisings in Yugoslavia; the resurgence of Great Russian nationalism, exclusive of other nationalities, within the Soviet Union; the separatism of British Columbia and the Pacific United States; the claim for repossession by the Palestinians at least of their Dead Sea Basin homeland. A most prominent examples, of course, is the effort of Arab peoples to form a confederate union around the Arabian Gulf, an effort rising to a head in 1917 and being manifested now plainly in the struggles of Arabistan.

But ecology is my primary concern, not history. I map the world to try defining the separate catchments in which sails, salts and pollutants collect and circulate. The Arabian Gulf and the land sloping into it are an ecological unit: it circulates nutrients and water much as a biological organism. It can be conceived, monitored and managed as a single ecological system.

As an ecological system, the Arabian Gulf is in jeopardy. Already overgrazing and desertification have through centuries desiccated most of the terrain, greatly reducing drainage and evaporation. Now, industrial pollutants and agricultural chemicals threaten biological existence in the Gulf itself. But if that biological existence were strong and manifold, the Gulf could sustain a substantial biogas, seaweed and fisheries industry. According to Jacques Cousteau, it could yield enough biogas to meet all future hydrocarbon needs after that fossil fuels are depleted. And if that lands sloping into the Gulf were comprehensively monitored and managed for diverse yields, they could be restored to ecological productivity. The Basin altogether could become a self-sufficient ecological and economic system. But present land-use practices and resource-extraction practices bode ill for the Basin. The Arabian Gulf is in danger, and so are the peoples on its slopes.

Fortunately, as is true in most basins of the world, the peoples of the Arabian Gulf Basin are generally of one nation. They are generally Arabian. They share a common culture and a common language.

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Arab Gulf Basin: Includes Khuzestan (Arabistan) of present-day Iran. Incorporates Arab Turkey, Arab Iran and the bluk of Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan (but not Amman).

Fortunately too, there is a project of the United Nations Regional Seas Program drawn up specifically for the Arabian (“Persian”) Gulf. The project, like similar projects for the Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Guinea and Red Sea, has legal authority to include within its plans all the lands which actually or, with de-desertification potentially drain into the regional sea. It is now being determined whether the maps I have prepared for parts of the world including the map for the Arabian Gulf Basin could serve as functional maps for the UN Regional Seas Program. If so, there there would be United Nations sanction of comprehensive observation and management of the terrain with each of the maps I have prepared, including the map of the Arabian Gulf Basin.

Because I would like to bring these maps into administrative reality, at least under the authority of the UN Regional Seas Program, I am interested in parts of the world where such a reality seems to be within reach. I believe that the Arabian Gulf is one such part of the world. The breakdown of Iran into its ethnic parts, whether or not under Iranian administration, was proposed to me when I began the mapping with earth artist Dennis Oppenheim in 1978. I saw a distinct ecological argument for a separate administration of the lands draining into the Arabian Gulf, including Arabistan. These lands of present-day Iran could be conjoined with other states within the Arabian Gulf Basin––including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Arab Turkey and Iraq––in a common ecology and resource program. And all of this conjoining could be sanctioned under the supranational jurisdiction of the UN Environment Program, parent organization of the UN Regional Seas Program.

Sincerely yours,

Peter Fend

Amitav Ghosh and Curt Stager
Antarctica has been losing mass from its ice sheet at an alarming pace. This 2011 image taken from the NASA Terra spacecraft shows a massive crack across Pine Island Glacier, on the continent's west side. Only two years later, a large iceberg completely separated from the glacier. In February of this year, a major crack in Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf grew within twenty miles of the sea and threatens to collapse the Antarctic Peninsula's northern end. Photo by NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.
BOMB Specific by Peter Fend
Bomb 118 Fend01

In 1982, BOMB Magazine published images of my ocean-basin mapping along with a letter sent on July 7, 1981 to the director of the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations. 

Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher’s The Conservation Revolution by Amelia Rina
Book cover of The Conservation Revolution by Bram Buscher

Capitalism is fundamentally unsustainable. In the spring of 2020, the world began experiencing this fact more acutely than ever, as humankind struggled to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mary Lucier by Alex Klein
Wilderness Landscape

Notions of ecological precarity and technological mediation enfold in the degraded landscape; the video artist surveys her decades of prescient and pressing work.

Originally published in

BOMB 2, Winter 1982

Tim Burns & Jim Jarmusch, ABC No Rio, Charles Ludlam & Christopher Scott, Jacki Ochs, Michael Smith, Mirielle Cervenka, Gary Indiana, Sonia Delauney, and Phillipe Demontaut.

Read the issue
002 Fall 1982