Climate Change: More than a Weather Issue
This post is part of the global effort of blog action day that encourages bloggers around the world to blog on the same topic on the same day : www.blogactionday.org
Anyone strutting down the overcrowded and over polluted streets of Beirut, Damascus or Cairo would never think that Middle Eastern societies care much for the Environment. It’s true that the abundance of 4x4s, the garbage littering the streets and the absence of green spaces, sidewalks and public transports to enable the population to cycle or walk instead of systematically taking their cars do not really help the observer to think the contrary either.
Yet it seems that, like a quiet army, a green movement is slowly building momentum for the issue of Climate Change, and is already advocating for a more eco-friendly mentality within the Arab States, like for example the Lebanese organisation Green Line who advocates, among other things, for the promotion of renewable energies in Lebanon.
Such initiatives are more than welcome in such a conflict-ridden area, where weapons used to wage wars have contributed a great deal to the overwhelming pollution of the air and the sea. The sad images of the oil slick in the Mediterranean Sea in July 2006 following the Israeli shelling over the South of Lebanon are still very vivid in everyone’s mind, and this constitutes only an example of the effects of war on the environment. Many more weapons, like the white phosphorus regularly used by Tsahal, continue to have negative impact on the environment long after the conflict has subsided.
Besides, the geographic location of the Middle East renders it particularly vulnerable to climate change: scarcity of water and dryness of climate make the region the usual victim of droughts. Moreover, it has also been proven that climate change will result in a rise in sea level, which will eventually eat away the territories of ME countries.
It is important to keep in mind that climate change would not only have environmental consequences in the Middle East, but that it would also lead to armed conflicts over the control of waters. Indeed, droughts will have impact on the agriculture and thus on the economy as a whole, but also of course on the population and its very survival, paving way for riots over resources. The issues of water is already a point of tension in the region with Israel pumping water from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, and the situation is not likely to improve, hence the dire need of taking up actions to preserve the environment.
Even though the picture depicted above can seem very grim, the silver lining (yes, there is one) is that Arab populations have been finding ways to adapt to a very harsh climate for centuries, and have therefore come up with rather reliable coping traditional strategies. Based on this evidence, the World Bank is currently supporting projects, notably in Yemen and Morocco, that combine both global strategies and traditional local knowledge to counter the negative impact on climate change on rural populations that rely mostly on agriculture for their living.
Civil Society organisations are also putting their heads together to try and come up with solutions, such as the Friends of the Earth- Middle East, an organisation that brings together Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis environmentalists. In its report Climate Change, a New Threat to Middle East Security, the organisation stresses the importance of sustainable water agreements between the collaborating parties and urges the Unites States to take action and leadership in the struggle for greenhouse gas reduction. As they put it: “It is time for the US to join the rest of the world in addressing this problem rather than remaining the lone outsider.”
While such reports are very useful, they are still very much oriented towards advocacy at the decision-making level. Other initiatives have been taken up in the Middle East to teach populations about the benefits of recycling and of protecting the environment, such as the Spirit of Youth Association for Environmental Services in Egypt. The association set up a school is the Garbage Area of Cairo to teach children who were sorting out the trash the importance of recycling and of adopting alternative energy. The idea of the school is on the one hand to give children a regular education with maths, economics and reading on top of the environmental studies, and on the other hand to let them help with the collecting of garbage so they do not miss out on this much-needed income. The children then become knowledgeable about environmental issues and start telling their community about it, spreading the message far and wide.
Despite these civil societies efforts, Arab governments do not seem to be taking leadership in promoting environmental reforms such as teaching eco-friendly ways of living in schools, of trying to test alternative energies for their industries. Education is cruelly needed in societies where throwing whatever trash you have in your hands on the streets is widely practised, along with driving polluting cars and avoiding recycling. Governments are never keen on civil society movements for fear of seeing them become political; they also do not consider climate change to be a priority.
Let’s prove them wrong and raise our voices high in Copenhagen so not only the Middle East, but the Whole World goes GREEN!!!