Historically the peoples of Arabia have had a strong affinity with and respect to nature, recognizing that their life depended on a mutually supportive relationship. These intertwined connections between people and nature included a reverence for the camels that provided a dependable mode of transport across the harsh desert landscape; a deep affection for the majestic falcons that soared high above vast sand dunes in search of prey; and a great pride in the saluki dog breed as a loyal and skillful hunting companion. Through the generations, nomadic and static tribes in the Gulf have learned how to coexist with their hostile desert environment, following nature’s path to water and fertile plains. And, while this bond endures, with the advent of oil wealth, which has brought with it unprecedented rates of development, it is a connection which at best is under strain and at worst on a catastrophic path as much desired rapid development brings with it demands on the environment and incursions into the landscape as never before; dredging destroying sea grass plains and their associated weird and wonderful wildlife; agriculture requiring ever more water, irreparably depleting natural aquifers and necessitating higher levels of energy draining desalination; and skyscraper cities demanding more electricity to light, keep cool and give residents the comforts they need. Add to this an ever growing mound of waste generated by a swelling population and the picture does not look favorable for Arabia and her peoples.What will it take to restore the human-environment balance? What needs to be retrofitted? Is it simply a matter of technical fixes, add-ons or replacements? Or is there a need for a more fundamental change? Do we need to retrofit mindsets, both individual and organizational, with a new set of overarching socially and environmentally driven principles that allow Qatar to continue along its developmental path while enhancing its historical ties with the environment? In short, is it possible to design or retrofit our way towards a sustainable Qatar? It will be argued in this paper that no amount of technological retrofits or prestigious sustainable planned communities, such as those of Lusail, The Pearl and Msheihreb, will in and of themselves solve the problems faced by Qatar unless there is an associated fundamental change in mindsets at all levels and in all communities, underpinned by a deeply held responsibility for our own impacts on the environment around us and a desire to minimize them. Drawing on examples from individual, organizational and community driven initiatives in solid waste management in Qatar, this paper will illustrate the complexity of the task ahead, how retrofitting mindsets might be achieved and the obstacles faced.


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  • Received: 22 April 2015
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