Civil war in Syria is the result of the desertification of the ecologically fragile Syrian steppe, writes Gianluca Serra - a process that began in 1958 when the former Bedouin commons were opened up to unrestricted grazing. That led to a wider ecological, hydrological and agricultural collapse, and then to a 'rural intifada' of farmers and nomads no longer able to support themselves.
Reports that Syria's iconic Northern Bald Ibis colony is endangered by IS's capture of Palmyra are mistaken, writes Gianluca Serra. The species is already extinct as a breeding population for reasons unconnected with IS. The war that is destroying Syria came only as the last straw for a long-dwindling species whose plight the world chose to ignore.