While at Princeton University, On Barak was a member of the 2009-2012 Society of Fellows cohort and a lecturer in the Department of History.
Global decarbonization is humanity’s most pressing challenge. Although our carbon footprint may not be entirely retraceable, a historical roadmap charting how the world was carbonized is nevertheless indispensable for achieving what we can of this task. This talk, based on a recently completed book, focuses on the flow of British coal to the Middle East, the connections between coal and oil, and between the British and Ottoman empires. Steamer-friendly Ottoman corridors linking Europe and Asia were early arenas for testing and adopting coal worldwide. Recounting the carbon-intensive entanglements of Western and non-Western powers reveals unfamiliar resources – Islamic risk-aversion, Ottoman attitudes towards the underground, and Gandhian vegetarianism – for a more global and inclusive use of energy.