What can ancient wisdom teach us about sustainability?

Sustainability is often viewed through a futuristic prism, yet what we often miss is that ancient wisdom can hold important lessons. The struggle to be more sustainable is a relatively new phenomenon, but inspiration can be drawn from ancient farming and water management techniques. Innovation and technology can help us adapt these techniques to meet our present-day needs. Situated in the northwest corner of Saudi Arabia, the Al-Ula valley has seen at least 200,000 years of human history. One of the reasons people gathered here for millennia was because of the relative abundance of water in an otherwise arid environment. When long-term climate patterns meant less rainfall from the 5th millennium B.C., however, our ancestors in Al-Ula had to find ways to use this resource with minimal waste. First, they dug wells. Then they developed an ingenious technique called qanat. Fortunately, Abdullah Nasif, an Al-Ula native and professor of archaeology at King Saud University, collected information on the qanat in the 1970s before their abandonment.

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