How to Make an Environmentally-Conscious Person

The public discourse on industrial pollution, climate change, global warming and sustainable development has made environmental protection a top priority for one and all.  Concerted efforts are underway from governments, businesses and individuals to make Earth a clean and green planet.  When it comes to sustainability, everyone has a role to play. We can contribute to the global environmental movement by adopting changes that are within easy reach.

Here are some tips to prove that you are an environmentally-conscious person:

Use Solar Power

Solar power is the most popular form of alternative energy. Worldwide, millions of businesses and households are powered by solar energy systems. A potential way to harness solar power is to install solar panels on your roof which will not only provide energy independence but also generate attractive revenues through sale of surplus power. Another interesting way to tap sun’s energy is use solar-powered lights for illuminating streets, boundary walls, gardens and other public spaces. Solar-powered lights by Deelat Industrial provide a reliable and cheap source of energy in rural and isolated areas.

Recycle Stuff

Recycling keeps waste out of landfills, thus conserving natural resources. The first step in recycling is to buy a multi-compartment recycling bin for separate collection of paper, plastics, food waste and metal. Paper, plastics and metals can be recycled and reused while food waste can be composted or anaerobically digested to produce biogas and nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Switch to Efficient Bulbs

The traditional incandescent light bulb consumes lot of electricity, and a better alternative is an LED light. LEDs are important because due to their efficiency and low energy, they are beginning to replace most conventional light sources. A LED reduces pollution by a ton per light per year, with almost 80 percent reduction in energy consumption. Although the price of such a bulb is higher, it will surely cover expenses through energy savings.

Unplug Gadgets

A simple method to protect the environment is to remove the power source when you turn off the gadgets. Putting gadgets (or appliances) on stand-by mode consume a lot of power and substantial cost savings can be made by stopping this practice. Prevent energy wastage by unplugging any gadgets not in use or that are fully charged. You may also use smart power strips that cut the power supply to devices that no longer need it. 

Pull that plug!

Use Filtered Water

Buying packaged water is good for your health but this does create a problem. Plastic waste is something that everyone should worry about. At the same time the water you buy will be transported for a long distance until it reaches the supermarket. This means that precious fossil fuel is used in its transportation. An alternative that reduces its environmental impact is to filter your own water and use a refillable water container. Tap water is good for consumption and you can always use filtration systems to increase water quality.

#InspireMENA Story 1: Humanizing Architecture – Through the Eyes of Abeer Seikaly

Through the jasmine-scented roads of L’weibdeh (Jordan) I navigated my way to Abeer Seikaly’s studio, an old house that resembles Jordan's genuine and inspiring identity. Abeer Seikaly is a young Jordanian architect who has been featured on several global and local media platforms because of her innovation "Weaving a Home" that was shortlisted for the 2012 Lexus Design Award.

Influence of Education and Local Knowledge

Top architecture schools in the Arab world are heavily influenced by international trends in built environment and sustainability, and unfortunately Arabic reference material is largely ignored in teaching. The emerging thinking around built environment and its relationship with people and nature rely largely on digital and virtual practice leaving students with minimal interaction with communities and building materials. Moreover, the growing disconnect between research and market requirements in most developing countries magnifies the gap between engineering and sustainable development.  Acknowledging the uniqueness of traditional Arab architecture and its historical importance in shaping sustainable building concepts raises concern on the diminishing role of local knowledge in responding to contemporary sustainability challenges.

For Abeer, having the chance to study abroad provided her with new insights not only about architecture but more importantly about her own potential and abilities within a larger context. What her culture-rich home environment gave her, on the other hand, was respect and appreciation for art, creativity and surroundings. With time, exposure and experimentation, Abeer defined her own architecture. Emphasizing that the pure definition of technology is craft, weaving, and making, her definition of innovative architecture combines old and new, traditional and contemporary. It is also thinking about architecture as a social technology.

Re-defining Success

When people are focused on the product, they usually tend to neglect the joy and benefit of the process itself. Focusing on the process boosts self-confidence and self-awareness and yet requires diligence and mindfulness while enjoying experimentation. It enables us to engage more deeply with the present, and thus, allow us to learn faster and experience life to the fullest.

According to Abeer Seikaly, architecture is not about the building itself but more about getting into it and experiencing its metaphysical nature with time. “Ordinary architects nowadays are inclined to use computer software to design buildings while sitting in closed offices. This is only dragging them away from people and from nature. As a real architect, you need to be out there to feel, interact and test your designs”, says Seikaly. “Creating is about the process and not about the outcome.”

Thinking through Making: The Tent

As a firm believer in the process, Abeer Seikaly has been working on her creative structural fabric for years. When the time was right, she used this creative work to bridge a gap in human needs. Participating in the Lexus Design Award was part of engaging her fabric with people and nature.  Disaster shelters have been made from a wide range of materials, but Abeer turned to solar-absorbing fabric as her material of choice in creating woven shelters that are powered by the sun and inspired by nomadic culture. The use of structural fabric references ancient traditions of joining linear fibers to make complex 3-D shapes.

Tackling an important issue like shelter for a humanitarian purpose can't be more relevant to both innovative architecture and sustainable development. With Jordan being host to more than 1.4 million Syrian refugees, this is about humanizing architecture and meeting basic human needs.  Abeer has explained everything about her fabric and its use in disaster relief on her blog.

Study model showing movement of the system and its collapsibility

She passionately mentions her ultimate inspiration: thinking through making. “Experimenting, looking at material's behavior, testing, and slowly you are there”, says Seikaly. “It is about thriving and not about surviving. Revelation results from years of hard work and continuous perseverance throughout the process”, she adds.

Recipe to Innovate

There is no recipe for innovation, Abeer Seikaly explains, but Jordanian engineers and architects need to ask themselves the following: What are you about? What is local/sustainable? What is Jordan about?

When asked about role of engineering firms, Seikaly stressed the fact that most corporations nowadays do not provide an enabling environment for youth to learn and grow. Emphasizing the importance of innovation, she says “With no personal attention and coaching, engineers are disconnecting from themselves and from community. Despite all the difficulties we face in our country, innovation goes back to personal drive and motivation: if you need it, you will make it”.

“Define your role as an Architect in a developing country, I have discovered mine and became an aware human being. To serve society and improve well-being is who I am”, concludes Abeer.

Architecture and Sustainable Development

The straightforward link between architecture and sustainable development goals is Global Goal No. 11 i.e. Sustainable Cities and Communities; nevertheless, a deeper look at how architecture influences and gets influenced by other elements brings about a link with almost each of the other Global Goals. The unique relationship between built environment, people and nature makes it an opportunity to demonstrate real sustainable development, as highlighted by Abeer Seikaly’s innovation. Around 60% of the world's population will be living in cities in 2030 which dictates a new and integrated way of thinking about urban design and architecture.

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Towards a Waste-Free Ramadan Iftar

In the holy month of Ramadan, Iftar or breaking of fast becomes our main attention. The Iftars are either taken at home alone or with the family and relatives or at Iftar buffets at hotels and restaurants. The other option usually for the bachelors and less privileged people are to open the fast at mosques and at community centers whereby the iftar and dinner is provided for free organized by the rich, philanthropists, charitable organizations and mosque committees.

Disrespect to Food

It is a common sight that at Iftar, people do not respect the food and drinks that are provided to them and leave it partly eaten/ consumed. At home, food which is cooked and provided is often been consumed and left overs are kept and re-utilized. At mosques, Iftar plates or boxes are commonly being made which include dates, fruit pieces, samosa, pakoras, biryani and sweets. If open food is served in dishes and plates, it is often being shared between 4-6 people who partly eat the portions they like. Thus, huge quantity of expensive freshly cooked food provided free by sponsors becomes waste which is conveniently disposed of in the nearest communal bin. The waste also includes water bottles, containers, packaging, cardboards, Styrofoam and plastic plates, sheets, disposable cutlery and tissue papers.

Iftar Buffets – Beyond Imagination

Iftar buffets at restaurants and hotels are no different than at mosques, where Iftar and dinner packages are being offered. In such cases also, there is huge wastage of food, as eating capability of the individuals are limited. The great variety of iftar and dinner items tend to make people take more than required in their plates which later is thrown in waste bins. Restaurants and hotels provide buffets beyond our imagination, with an ‘all-you-can-eat’ spirit. If people knew what ‘all they could eat’, maybe less food would have been wasted. It is difficult to see that the food quantity run out.

At joint Iftar/ dinner gatherings at mosques, clubs and halls, more food is being provided irrespective of the number of people expected. At hotels and restaurants, food is amply being cooked for the fear that it may be fully consumed and where food availability contributes to the hotels’ reputation as running out of a specific dish would be every F&B manager’s worst nightmare. Thus, higher quantities of food/ dishes are being made. Irony of the fact is that the leftover food is not allowed to be consumed by the hotel staff or given to charity and has to make its way to the garbage bins. The view of waste containers full of fresh and valuable food is very depressing especially for a country where most of the food items are imported and is expensive.

Iftar gatherings at mosques are also responsible for wastage of huge amount of food

Violation of the spirit of Ramadan

Wastage of food is a sin and a violation of the very concept of Ramadan. The act of throwing away food is a complete contradiction to the philosophy behind fasting. Quran says food waste must be prevented and mention, “Eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.” So let us not waste the food. If surplus food is remaining, it should be packed and send/given to deserving people. We also need to make sure the quality and safety of the donated food. Another viable option to reduce food wastage is by recycling.

Let us be more vigilant and not waste any food waste or drinks. We need to think twice before putting any food waste to the garbage bin. Each individual’s contribution counts. Let us save our environment.

World Environment Day 2017: Connecting People with Nature

"Connecting People to Nature", the theme for World Environment Day 2017, implores us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance, and to take forward the call to protect the Earth that we share. This year’s theme invites you to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it. It challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship. 

People and Nature

‘Connecting People to Nature’ urge us to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it. It challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship.

Billions of rural people around the world spend every working day ‘connected to nature’ and appreciate full well their dependence on natural water supplies and how nature provides their livelihoods in the form of fertile soil. They are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened, whether by pollution, climate change or over-exploitation.

Nature’s gifts are often hard to value in monetary terms. Like clean air, they are often taken for granted, at least until they become scarce. However, economists are developing ways to measure the multi-trillion-dollar worth of many so-called ‘ecosystem services’, from insects pollinating fruit trees to the leisure, health and spiritual benefits of a hike up a valley.

Over the last few decades we have gained, thanks to scientific advances and increased awareness of environmental matters, a much better understanding of the countless ways in which natural systems support our own prosperity and well-being. Whilst nature’s gifts are often hard to value in monetary terms, what they have to offer mankind is invaluable. 

World Environment Day organisers are challenging us to find fun and exciting way to experience and cherish this valuable relationship. Whether you pay a visit to one of your country’s national parks or take a stroll through one of your city’s green spaces, WED is an ideal occasion to go out and explore what nature has to offer. 

In the age of concrete and smartphones (and the many other distractions of modern life), connections with nature can be fleeting. But with your help, World Environment Day can make it clearer than ever that we need harmony between humanity and nature so that both are able to thrive.

Canada, the host country

Every World Environment Day has a different global host country, where the official celebrations take place. This year it is Canada.

Its rich and spectacular natural heritage is a source of pride and identity for Canadians. Abundant natural resources also support the country’s economic prosperity – through tourism as well as sustainable use – and the health and well-being of its 36 million inhabitants.

World Environment Day is a day for everyone, everywhere….

Recycling and Artwork

Art and recycling goes hand-in-hand. Eco-artists are, nowadays, transforming old, recycled and resued object into amazing pieces of contemporary art. The trend started gaining prominence in 1980s when museums and galleries in the Western world opened their doors for such innovation and creativity. In recent years, many artists in the Middle East has started expressing their support for recycling and sustainability through artworks where they merge traditional tone with contemporary themes creating attractive installation art that express local cultural heritage in the larger public interests. Artists are expressing their emotions and ideas through a wide range of recyclables glass, cans, plastics, CDs, PET bottles etc. 

Installation Art and Recycling

This type of art is termed as Installation Art which is 3-dimensional work using common raw and natural materials to create an object with different messages directed to the viewers and the public audiences. Installation art can be expressed at any type of form like objects, videos, sound or even through the Internet. Interestingly, installation art is also considered a part of Renaissance where people can discover classical cultural movements like Surrealism and Futurism. 

Many artists search for inspirations that surround them while others express their feelings in the artwork. Artists use recycled or reused objects to make attractive pieces of contemporary art and literally turn everyday trash into creative treasures. Some create compositions from recycled plastic bags or themed works for art galleries, while others create entire theme parks with trash, and even furniture from recycled materials. For example, if an artist has a penchant for collecting beverage cans, he/she might be interested in creating a replica of a famous building or monument. 

Artists can collect recyclable materials through public donations, collaboration with businesses or direct collection from solid waste stream. This innovative approach not only creates environmental awareness but also help in finding a good use for unwanted materials. For example, giant bottles made of recycled plastic bottles are tipped over on the grass at an art installation in North Evanston, Illinois. Approximately 6,000 small, clear plastic bottles were used to construct the five 16-foot bottles on display. 

Mrs. Salwa Nabhan, a graphic design faculty at Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology, stresses the importance of using art and recycling in our daily life. She says, “Installation Art is good for the environment because it takes everyday objects and transforms it into a valuable artwork. This is because using raw or new materials can be expensive and people are limited with what they can buy”. The Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology Media students have already worked on such background creating 2-D artworks by using recycled items like fabric leftovers, wood and paper to create collage of things.

Conclusion

Around the world, eco-artists are turning recyclables into creative pieces of art and thereby contributing to the Green Movement taking place in different spheres of life. Artists are finding innovative ways to show their concern for the environment and thus encouraging the masses to reuse, reduce and recycle for a better future. With waste disposal posing a serious environmental challenge in the Middle East, it is expected such initiatives will also spur governments to take concrete actions to ease the situation.

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Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air pollution is considered as one of the top environmental risks to public health worldwide due to increasing number of building-related illnesses. Studies have found that concentration of indoor pollutants is significantly higher indoors than they are in outdoor environment, which is two to five times and sometimes hundred times higher than outdoor levels. As most of the people spend 80% to 90% of their lives indoor, indoor air quality has significant implication on sustainability.

Decreased indoor air quality can affect quality of life of the building occupant, increase health risks and increase the liability for building owner, decrease the productivity of occupants and reduce the resale value of the building. Poor indoor air quality can cause “sick building syndrome”, which is a medical condition linked to poor health and absenteeism.

Poor indoor air quality is due to many factors including but not limited to improper building design, inadequate ventilation, off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from furniture, carpets, paints and coatings, cleaning products, and from human respiration. Airborne particles such as lints, dust, dust mites, mold, bacteria, pollen and animal dander also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Indicators that are used to measure the indoor air quality include total particulate matter, total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), formaldehyde, carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), air temperature, relative humidity (RH). Concentration of CO2 in the indoor environment indicates whether ventilation is sufficient or not.

In the Middle East region, most of the people live in enclosed air-conditioned indoor environments. With rapidly growing population, increase in number of vehicles on the road, high temperature level, ever increasing construction activities, regular sandstorm, concentration of air contaminants in the region is among the highest worldwide. Indoor environment also reflects outdoor air quality and pollution. Transport of outdoor contaminants to the indoor environment can result in occupant exposure to outdoor pollutants that have serious health impacts. In addition, there are many sources of indoor pollutants present in building materials, cleaning products, indoor mold and legionella growth, and emission from interior furnishings, finishing and equipments.

Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is influenced by concentration of outdoor air pollutants as well as indoor source of pollution, characteristic of building and habits of occupants. Appropriate building design and mechanical system and control strategies as well as changing occupant behaviour can improve indoor air quality and health and comfort, performance and productivity of building occupants. There are a host of strategies to improve the indoor air quality.

Appropriate design: Building envelop, orientation, and location of air intake, location of mechanical ventilation systems can contribute to indoor air quality. Hence, these factors should be considered during the design stage of projects to control the main source of pollutants for the whole building.

Whole house mechanical ventilation: Properly designed and sized ventilation system can supply adequate outdoor air to indoor. In most of the green building rating systems, industry standards such as ASHRAE Standard 62 or Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality are commonly followed.

Mixed mode ventilation: Use of combination of mechanical and natural ventilation systems in buildings, such as automated window controlling systems and operable windows, can help in maintaining healthy indoor air quality.

Air quality management during construction: During the construction phase, molds can develop due to exposure of building materials with moisture. Dust and particulates can easily accumulate on building materials if they are not protected. The air quality during the construction period can be protected by protecting the building materials from dust and particles and moistures.

High efficiency air filters: Filters prevent transports of outdoor VOCs, dusts, particulates and ozone indoors. Use of good particle filter such as high MERV rated filters in ventilation equipment are found to be the most effective filters in filtering outdoor dust and particulates out.

Maintenance schedule for HVAC filters: Dirty filter can cause sensory irritation. Hence, appropriate maintenance schedule can prevent this to happen.

Use of low emitting materials: Use of materials that have low VOC content for products such as indoor carpets, rubber flooring, sub-floor materials, ceramics and ties, plasterboards, or other sealants and adhesives.  Also internal construction materials with low formaldehyde content can be helpful.

Conduct building flush out: Flushing out of indoor contaminants thoroughly in buildings before occupancy will help replacing dirty indoor air with fresh outdoor air.

Green cleaning program: Select cleaning materials that are made of low emitting materials and employ a green cleaning program to reduce contaminant exposure.

Carbon dioxide monitors: Install CO2 monitors in ventilation system and integrate them to regulate the supply of fresh air according to the building occupants demand. By doing so, if the CO2 concentration increases beyond a set point, then the airflow automatically increases. 

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رمضان والبيئة… تجربة الشارقة نموذجاً

البيئة من القضايا المهمة في المناشط الرمضانية وتشكل محوراً رئيساً في الأنشطة المجتمعية والمؤسسية، وتكون في مقدمة أولويات الحوار الاجتماعي في المجالس الرمضانية والندوات الفكرية التي يجري تنظيمها ضمن الأنشطة في شهر رمضان، ويجسد ذلك التوجه الفهم المؤسس في تشخيص البعد الاستراتيجي للقضايا البيئية في واقع الحياة المعيشية وفي منظومة الخطط الاقتصادية والتنموية، وتؤكد موقعها المحوري في الاهتمام المجتمعي.

ويدلل الحوار الرمضاني البيئي أيضاً على مستوى الوعي المتصاعد بضرورة تفعيل جهود العمل الموجه لعملية التحديث المتواتر للاستراتيجيات البيئية التي تواكب المتطلبات العصرية في العلاقة مع النظم البيئية ومنهجيات العمل المؤسس لصون توازنها الطبيعي، والعمل أيضاً في تبني الخطط التنموية الرشيدة وغير الضارة بمكونات النظام البيئي، كما يشير ذلك التوجه إلى الوعي المجتمعي إلى ما يمكن أن تسببه الأنشطة والسلوك غير الرشيد في العلاقة مع النظام البيئي في إحداث المخاطر المخلة بالأمن البيئي لكوكب الأرض.

والمجالس الرمضانية تقليد حضاري وثقافة مجتمعية يحرص الناشطون والمهتمون بالشأن البيئي، على الاستفادة من فاعليتها في التأثير على صناعة القرار البيئي السديد والعمل في إطار أنشطتها على تنظيم حلقات الحوار الرمضانية النوعية في معالجة القضايا البيئية بمشاركة المختصين والمسئولين وصناع القرار أيضاً، إلى جانب نشطاء العمل التطوعي البيئي. ويجري في سياق منهجية الحوارات تبصر الحلول والمخارج المنهجية وتقديم المقترحات ذات الأهمية الاستراتيجية في بناء الخطط التنفيذية في الشأن البيئي، والتي تسهم في صناعة البرامج المؤسسة لتعديل السلوك البيئي وإحداث التحول النوعي في منظومة القانون والإدارة البيئية.

النشاط الرمضاني البيئي جهد مجتمعي ورسالة بيئية مهمة في مقوم تكوينها الاستراتيجي، يمكن أن تسهم في وضع أسس موجهة لصياغة ميثاق للعمل البيئي يرتكز على مقومات رصينة في العلاقة مع البيئة، من الطبيعي أن يشكل مرجعاً لمنهجية العمل البيئي، وإحداث التحول النوعي في القرار البيئي، وفي منظومة الخطط البيئية والتنموية، والارتقاء بآلية العمل الإداري والقانوني في الشأن البيئي.

ويمكن من خلال هذه الأنشطة أيضاً، إيصال المرئيات والمقترحات بشأن الطرق المنهجية في معالجة القضايا البيئية بطريقة ميسرة، إلى متخذي القرار البيئي الذين ندرك حرصهم ومتابعتهم لهكذا أنشطة لتبني القرار البيئي الذي يدعم النهج الايجابي للحد من التجاوزات والأنشطة غير الرشيدة، والحفاظ على معالم النظام البيئي وصون مقومات توازنها الطبيعي.

تجربة النشاط البيئي الرمضاني في الشارقة في الفترة من العام 2000 إلى العام 2011 من التجارب النوعية التي تزخر بها الدول الخليجية، ويحسن التوقف عندها وقراءة أسسها المنهجية في طرح ومعالجة القضايا البيئية وتبصر فوائدها في تحريك سواكن الفهم الاجتماعي البيئي، حيث أكّدت حضورها في الحراك البيئي منذ بدء نشاطها ضمن فعاليات القرية التراثية التي جرى تشييدها على بحيرة خالد العام 2000.

التجربة شهدت تطوراً ملموساً بإنشاء هيئة البيئة والمحميات الطبيعية في الشارقة قرية بيئية متداخلة الأنشطة والفعاليات الاجتماعية والثقافية والبيئية ضمن فعاليات مهرجان رمضان الشارقة، وكان للنهج الإداري المرن والممنهج الذي انتهجه رئيس الهيئة سابقاً (عبد العزيز عبدالله المدفع) أثره الفعلي في التفاعل المسئول لفريق عمل التوعية والتثقيف البيئي في بناء خطة نوعية متعددة المناشط الاجتماعية والبيئية. والقرية البيئية من الأنشطة الرمضانية المهمة التي حظيت باهتمام المجتمع وشمل برنامجها المعرض البيئي المتنوع في معارفه ورسائله البيئية والبرنامج الاجتماعي البيئي.

والبرنامج البيئي للمنتدى الفكري من المحاور المهمة والفعلية ضمن خطة مناشط القرية البيئية حيث جرى تنظيم حلقات حوار ناقشت قضايا المخدرات وأثرها على الأمن الاجتماعي، وترشيد الاستهلاك وحماية المستهلك مسئولية مشتركة، والإعلام وحماية المستهلك، والموارد الطبيعية وحقوق الأجيال، والتطوّع والبيئة، والتوعية والتثقيف الصحي، وتسجيل حلقة نموذجية حول الإعلام وقضايا حماية البيئة.

الندوات الفكرية في الشأن البيئي التي جرى تنظيمها تشكل هي الأخرى أحد معالم تجربة الشارقة للنشاط البيئي الرمضاني، وتركت تلك المناشط أثرها الإيجابي في منظومة العمل البيئي والاهتمام باعتماد أبجديات الإدارة البيئية ومواصفات الجودة البيئية التي دخلت ضمن عدد من المؤسسات الصناعية والإنتاجية. كما ترك ذلك الجهد أثره في الارتقاء بالنشاط المدرسي والمؤسسي البيئي.

الشراكة محور رئيس في إنجاز حلقات النقاش الفكري حيث شاركت في فعالياتها مؤسسات القطاع الحكومي والخاص والمجتمع المدني، كما شاركت في حوارات المنتدى الفكري مجموعة متميزة من المختصين في المجال البيئي، وأكاديميون وممثلو القطاع التعليمي والتربوي وكتاب ومثقفون وإعلاميون، إلى جانب نشطاء العمل التطوعي البيئي. وكان لذلك التنوع أثره في إثراء مخرجات الحوار البيئي وتبنّي الرؤى والمقترحات المنهجية الموجهة لبناء الخطط وآليات النشاط الإداري والقانوني والبحثي، وبرامج التوعية وبناء القدرات البيئية، وذلك محصل مهم ينبغي الاستفادة منه وتعميم فوائده في المناشط الرمضانية.

إن ذلك المنجز يتجسد في الرسائل الموجّهة لإحداث التحوّل النوعي في المراجعة البيئية ووضع أسس ممنهجة لبناء استراتيجية بيئية ترتكز على ثوابت الأسس الحديثة للمشروع الدولي البيئي.

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الديمقراطية في المشروع الدولي البيئي

الديمقراطية القيمة والثقافة الإنسانية التي على الرغم من تنازع الرؤى والمفاهيم حول جوهر مضامينها وتوصيفاتها وضرورة وجودها ومدى شمول توافق أنماطها مع تقاليد وقيم المجتمعات الإنسانية على اختلاف ثقافاتها وانتماءاتها العرقية والدينية، وخصوصية أنظمتها الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والسياسية، تبقى المطلب الإنساني الذي صار يؤكد ضرورة وجوده في مواجهة الأزمات والكوارث الإنسانية وزحمة التراجعات في المفاهيم القيمية للعلاقات، وما يسببه ذلك من شرعنة ثقافة الجريمة وإحاطتها بحزام من التقاليد لثقافة التخلف، والتوجه بشكل متسارع لجعل ثقافة الغاب الوسيلة التي تحكم المجتمع البشري.

تلك الحقيقة نتبينها في الانزلاق المتسارع نحو ثقافة الجريمة المبنية على قشور تاريخ ومبادئ ثقافات وهمية تشبه فقاعة الصابون، لكنها أحدثت جروحاً بائنة المعالم ومؤلمة في مسير التطور الحضاري للشعوب والأمم، وتسببت في تصدع بنية وحدة التنوع الثقافي للمجتمعات. ويشكل ذلك الواقع مقدمات ساهمت في تأسيس قناعات المجتمع الدولي بضرورة تفعيل العمل الدولي المؤسس والموجّه للحرب على ظاهرة جريمة العصر المتواترة مخاطرها على الأمن الإنساني، للتمكّن من بناء المبادئ والقيم التي تعضد مقومات الحق الإنساني بمختلف تجلياته، والتي تؤسّس لبناء منظومة القيم العالمية للديمقراطية كمطلب حضاري للتنمية وتحقيق أهداف الألفية التي تبناها المجتمع الدولي.

القرارات الدولية على اختلاف توجهاتها ومحاورها ومعالجاتها للقضايا الإنسانية، أسّست لنشوء حركة تنويرية ممنهجة الرسائل والوسائل والاتجاهات والأهداف، وساهمت في تحفيز حراك المجتمع الدولي لبناء منظومة المبادئ التي يمكن أن تؤسس لفلسفة الحكمة في إدارة المجتمعات، وتشكل المقوّم الرئيس في مبادرة الجماعة الدولية في إصدار القرار رقم (A/62/7-2007) القاضي باعتماد الخامس عشر من سبتمبر يوماً عالمياً للديمقراطية.

الكاتب البحريني حسن مدن ضمن مداخلته في الندوة التي جرى تنظيمها احتفالاً باليوم العالمي للديمقراطية في «جمعية المنبر الديمقراطي التقدمي»، أشار إلى أن «الديمقراطية قيمة إنسانية مطلقة لا يمكن تجزئتها»، ويمكن القول أن ثوابت الديمقراطية تتجلى في قيمة مبادئ الحق الإنساني بمختلف تجلياتها، ويتجسد جوهرها في مبادئ إعلان الأمم المتحدة بشأن الألفية، وكذلك في المواثيق الدولية في الشأن البيئي، وذلك ما يمكن تبينه في إعلان مؤتمر الأمم المتحدة للبيئة البشرية العام 1972، الذي أكّد في المبدأ (1) على أن «للإنسان حق أساسي في الحرية والمساواة وفي ظروف عيش مناسبة في بيئة تسمح نوعيتها بالحياة في ظل الكرامة وبتحقيق الرفاه، وهو يتحمل مسئولية رسمية تتمثل في حماية البيئة والنهوض بها من أجل الجيل الحاضر والأجيال المقبلة».

الحق في توفر المعلومة والتعويض عن الأضرار البيئية مقوّم مهم في منظومة الحقوق البيئية والثقافة الديمقراطية، لذلك حرص المشرّع الدولي على النص عليها في المبدأ (10) من مبادئ وثيقة إعلان «ريو بشأن البيئة والتنمية» (1992) الذي أكّد على أنه «تعالج قضايا البيئة على أفضل وجه بمشاركة جميع المواطنين المعنيين، على المستوى المناسب، وتوفر لكل فرد فرصة مناسبة على الصعيد الوطني للوصول إلى ما في حوزة السلطات العامة من معلومات متعلقة بالبيئة، بما في ذلك المعلومات المتعلقة بالمواد والأنشطة الخطرة في المجتمع، كما تتاح لكل فرد فرصة المشاركة في عمليات صنع القرار. وتقوم الدول بتسيير وتشجيع توعية الجمهور ومشاركته عن طريق إتاحة المعلومات على نطاق واسع. وتكفل فرصة الوصول بفعالية إلى الإجراءات القضائية والإدارية، بما في ذلك التعويض وسبل الإنصاف». ويتوافق مع ذلك ما يجري النص عليه في المبدأ (43) في وثيقة مؤتمر الأمم المتحدة للتنمية المستدامة (ريو+20)، حيث يشير إلى أن المجتمع الدولي يؤكد على أن «المشاركة العامة الواسعة وتوفير فرص الوصول إلى المعلومات والإجراءات القضائية والإدارية أمران أساسيان في تعزيز التنمية المستدامة».

المجتمع الدولي أخذاً في الاعتبار الديمقراطية كمبدأ إنساني، آثر النص عليها بشكل صريح في إعلانات المواثيق الدولية حول الشأن البيئي، للتأكيد على أهمية هذا المبدأ في استراتيجية المشروع الدولي البيئي، وذلك ما يمكن تثبت واقعه في وثيقة مؤتمر القمة العالمي للتنمية المستدامة (جوهانسبرغ 2002)، حيث يجري التأكيد في المبدأ (61) على أن المجتمع الدولي «يسلم بأن الديمقراطية، وسيادة القانون، واحترام حقوق الإنسان وحرياته، وتحقيق السلم والأمن، هي جميعها أمور أساسية لتحقيق التنمية المستدامة بصورة كاملة. وهذه الأهداف، مجتمعةً، هي أهداف مترابطة على نحو لا ينفصم كما أنها تعزّز بعضها بعضاً».

كما يجري التأكيد على ضرورتها في وثيقة «ريو+20» لتجسيد الحق الإنساني للمجتمعات في توفر مقومات الحياة الكريمة وبناء مجتمع العدالة الرشيدة، حيث يجري التأكيد في المبدأ (10) على أن المجتمع الدولي يدرك بأن «الديمقراطية والحكم الرشيد وسيادة القانون، على الصعيدين الوطني والدولي، فضلاً عن إيجاد البيئة المواتية، هي أمور أساسية للتنمية المستدامة، بما في ذلك النمو الاقتصادي المطرد والشامل، والتنمية الاجتماعية وحماية البيئة والقضاء على الفقر والجوع». وتشير في المبدأ ذاته إلى أن الدول تجدّد تأكيد التزامها ببلوغ أهدافها الإنمائية المستدامة، وتؤكّد الحاجة إلى إقامة مؤسسات فعالة وشفافة ومسئولة وديمقراطية على جميع الأصعدة.

شبر إبراهيم الوداعي

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Green Your Ramadan

Ramadan is a month which is very different than other months in terms of activities, praying and eating habits. The month call for not eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset to boost physical and mental endurance and to understand the hardships faced by the unprivileged human beings who do not have enough resources to satisfy their basic necessities. The true meaning of Ramadan is purifying ourselves, taking care of our body, soul, people, surrounding and ecosystems which is supporting us.

The month of Ramadan is a golden opportunity to consider making a shift towards a ‘green lifestyle’ that is environmental friendly, non-polluting, non-wasteful and aim toward saving of natural resources. The green lifestyle means improving the quality of life and achieving sustainable development.

Let us create awareness on our resources usage during Ramadan, think and act positively towards our environment and change our unfriendly habits which are impacting our ecosystem. Let us seize this opportunity provided by Ramadan and adopt a model for a green and responsible behavior that addresses the urgent environmental issues.

The month sees over consumption of meat, vegetables and fruits together with drinks, juices and syrups. We become more extravagant in terms of using food and resources. So, let us be patient on these consumptions, eat healthy and organic food in manageable quantities. Let us grow vegetables and fruits at our available land/ space. Use food items judiciously and avoid any wastage. Let us be away from our routine habits that pollute our air, soil and water resources. Let us be aware of our wasteful habits which are affecting the environment and our future generations. We need to understand that any mismanagement of our precious available resources will be having an irreversible impacts on our ecology and for our future generations. Let us make concerted effort to encourage and embrace "green" practices, especially during Ramadan.

Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries for the year. It is a time to seek forgiveness for our misgivings and to reflect upon the signs of creation from Allah. As human beings, we have a duty as stewards over this planet, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the resources and environment are used in a sustainable manner.

Use food items judiciously and avoid any wastage during Ramadan

Let this month not only harness our mental and physical ability but also be a turning point for respecting our resources and environment. Here are some basic thoughts:

  • Support and utilize local produce.
  • Plan food usage with no wastage.
  • Reducing the water usage, especially during making ‘wadoo’/ ablution. Be vigilant that the tap is closed. Any dripping should be eliminated to conserve precious water.
  • Reducing our energy and carbon footprint.
  • Generating less quantity of waste especially food waste. Support & practice recycling and reuse.
  • No littering especially in common areas, commercial and religious places and shopping areas.
  • Minimum or no use of plastic bags. Using less paper and stationery.
  • Switching off appliances after use like lights, ACs, fans, heaters, iron etc.
  • Using electrical appliances like washing machines, iron, vacuum cleaner and dishwashers in off peak hours.
  • Replacing lights bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent and turning off lights when they are not in use.
  • Eliminate use of disposables plates, cutlery, cups, containers etc. Avoid using Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery.

Restocking the Seas around Bahrain through Fish Farming

The marine waters around Bahrain have been showing a decline in fish stock for several decades. But in the first decade of this millenium, restocking has become a routine practice endorsed by the former Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife (now the Supreme Council for the Environment). In recent years, the fishing industry in the Kingdom of Bahrain is starting to really look up with the restocking of the waters from farmed fish.

Requirements of a Fish Farm

Fish farming means growing fish in fixed enclosures (tanks, ponds or cages) exposed to the natural climatic conditions of the environs. As part of aquacultural activities (another term for fish farming), one needs to replenish fish stock preferably before the fish species dwindle to almost extinction. 

The basic requirements for a healthy fish farm address a number of chemistry-related characteristics. There must be good water circulation which is achieved through tidal action resulting in water velocity in the range of 10-60 cm/sec.  The oxygen level needs to be maintained at the optimum level of  >5ppm while salinity level should approach 49,000ppm. Water temperatures vary with the season and with tidal levels. The range, therefore is between 12 oC  at lowest tide in winter up to 37oC in the peak of summer. Fish prefer alkaline water levels. This can vary with fish species. For example, Shim (Bream) prefer the pH level to range within 8.2 -8.5. Wind and wave action should be minimal. This is best achieved by locating fish farms downwind of the dominant wind direction which means off the east coast of the island. GPIC is located on the right side of the island with a relatively sheltered site for the fish farm. (Source: http://www.gpic.com/responcibility/EnvironmentalProjects/40.aspx )

Fishes, such as bream, are released into the fish farm on reaching the juvenile stage (i.e when the body weight is around 70gm). The ideal fish weight, 210gm is achieved over the next 220+ days. Population density is very critical in fish farming with an ideal number of 7 fishes/m3. The fishes are fed a supplemental diet of dry food pellets. The feeding rate is in the range of 3-7% of the fish’s body weight.  So careful monitoring of the fish is really important. This amount of food supplements is spread out over four feedings in one 24-hour period. Feeding amounts can also be influenced by climatic conditions, thermal properties of the water and the current flow rate.

The fishes are monitored and their growth rate and general performance are all recorded. The average fish body weight is assessed every 15 days. It has been observed that the maximum growth rate is achieved when the water temperatures are at 23oC.  

As well as monitoring the fish themselves, the environs must also be kept in check. Submerged physical features need to be kept free of any buildup of rough, sharp materials that could harm or injure the young fish. Too many barnacles growing on a structure could cause the subsurface structures to break off.  The enclosure could be damaged resulting in an opening through which the farmed fish might escape prematurely out into the open ocean.

Farmed fish can easily catch diseases. This typically happens when or if the density of the stock gets too high.  Fish can get a variety of diseases so much care is taken to protect the whole project.

Fishes are harvested using such as a dragnet, sieving or a Gill net.  A dragnet is a seine method of fishing where the net hangs vertically in the water with weights holding the bottom down and floats keeping the top floating.  Gill nets are also vertical nets that trap fish via their gills being caught in the net.

Promising Initiative by GPIC

The Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (GPIC) fish farming activities began in 1996 with a capacity of 10,000 fish. An area of 625 sq. meter forms part of the natural marine environment surrounding the industrial location, has been turned into a fish farming area. The three main species raised in the farm are Black Sea Bream (Shim), Mullet (Meid) and Rabbit Fish (Saffee).  By 2001, the capacity had increased to 30,000 fish. By 2012, capacity had reached 80,000 fish, and the projection for 2015 is 100,000 fish. (U.N. Global Compact Communication on Progress (UN Global Compact COP) including the food and agricultural principles, GPIC, June, 2015,p51)

The restocking of the surrounding waters has long been carried out by GPIC as part of their CSR initiatives. Each year, the company releases batches of sea bream into the local waters to replenish the fish stocks of the surrounding marine areas.  In August, 2008, 80,000 hamour and 20,000 subaiti bream, weighing between 80-100gm, were released into the sea. Today the capacity of fishes released to restock the surround marine waters stands at 100,000 fishes. (GPIC Sustainability Report, 2014, Building a Greener Future, 156pp). 

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Dealing with Polystyrene Wastes

Polystyrene (also known as EPS Foam or Styrofoam) is a highly popular plastic packaging material which finds wide application in packaging of food items, electronic goods, electrical appliances, furniture etc due to its excellent insulating and protective properties. Polystyrene is also used to make useful products such as disposable cups, trays, cutlery, cartons, cases etc.

Despite the attractiveness of polystyrene, municipalities and organisations are facing a growing problem in disposal of polystyrene packaging and products. Being large and bulky, polystyrene take up significant space in rubbish bins which means that bins becomes full more quickly and therefore needs to be emptied more often. Polystyrene is lightweight compared to its volume so it occupies lots of precious landfill space and can be blown around and cause a nuisance in the surrounding areas. 

Although some companies have a recycling policy, most of the polystyrene still find its way into landfill sites around the world. As per conservative estimates, hundreds of thousands of tons of waste polystyrene is produced in the Middle East and sent to landfills each year.  

Environmental Impacts

While it is estimated that EPS foam (or polystyrene)  products accounts for less than 1% of the total weight of landfill materials, the fraction of landfill space it takes up is much higher considering that it is very lightweight.  Furthermore, it is essentially non-biodegradable, taking hundreds perhaps thousands of years to decompose.  Even when already disposed of in landfills, EPS can easily be carried by the wind and litter the streets or end up polluting water bodies.  When EPS foam breaks apart, the small polystyrene components can be eaten by animals which can cause choking or intestinal blockage. 

Polystyrene can also be consumed by fishes once it breaks down in the ocean.  Marine animals higher up the food chain could eat the fishes that have consumed EPS, thus concentrating the contaminant.  It could be a potential health hazard for us humans who are on top of the food chain considering that styrene, the plastic monomer used in manufacturing EPS has been classified by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a possible human carcinogen.  Styrene is derived from either petroleum or natural gas, both of which are non renewable and are rapidly being depleted, creating environmental sustainability problems for EPS.

Recycling Trends

There seems to be a common misconception that polystyrene is non-recyclable.  Being a thermoplastic, it can actually be melted and molded into many different plastic items.  At present, the recycling of polystyrene (or EPS foam) basically follows the following process:

Segregation – EPS foam products are separated from other wastes and then sorted.

Compaction – The segregated EPS foam products are fed to a compactor in order to reduce its volume.  Some compactor systems have a compaction ratio of up to 50:1, which means that it can reduce the volume by up to 98%.

Shredding – Larger pieces are shredded into flakes.  Packaging “peanuts” – small EPS foam pieces used to cushion fragile items – normally skip this step and are fed directly to the pelletizing machine.

Melting/Extrusion – The flakes are forced through pelletizing extruders where they are heated and melted, then allowed to cool in order to solidify. The resulting material can then be used, through reheating and melting, to produce clothes hangers, picture frames, DVD cases and numerous other plastic products.

Major Bottlenecks

Although the Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers have reported that the recycling rate for post-consumer and post-commercial EPS in the United States have risen to 28% in 2010 from around 20% in 2008, this value is still lower than most solid wastes.  According to USEPA, auto batteries, steel cans and glass containers have recycle rates of 96.2%, 70.6% and 34.2% respectively. Because it is bulky, EPS foam takes up storage space and costs more to transport and yet yields only a small amount of polystyrene for re-use or remolding (infact, polystyrene accounts for only 2% of the volume of uncompacted EPS foams). This provides little incentive for recyclers to consider EPS recycling. 

Products that have been used to hold or store food should be thoroughly cleaned for hygienic reasons, thus compounding the costs.  For the same reasons, these products cannot be recycled to produce the same food containers but rather are used for non-food plastic products.  The manufacture of food containers, therefore, always requires new polystyrene.  At present, it is more economical to produce new EPS foam products than to recycle it, and manufacturers would rather have the higher quality of fresh polystyrene over the recycled one.

Silver Lining

The cost of transporting bulky polystyrene waste discourages recyclers from recycling it.  Organizations that receive a large amount of EPS foam (especially in packaging) can invest in a compactor that will reduce the volume of the products. Recyclers will pay more for the compacted product so the investment can be recovered relatively easier.

There are also breakthroughs in studies concerning EPS recycling although most of these are still in the research or pilot stage.  Several studies have found that the bacteria Pseudomonas putida is able to convert polystyrene to a more biodegradable plastic.  The process of polystyrene depolymerization – converting polystyrene back to its styrene monomer – is also gaining ground. 

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, we can start reducing our polystyrene consumption by opting to use products that can be reused, such as bringing our own coffee mugs and food containers to stores that serve their food and drinks in EPS foam.  A small change in our lifestyles can make a big difference for the environment.

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Green SMEs in Middle East: Obstacles and Challenges

green-smes-middle-eastWith ‘green’ being the buzzword across all industries, greening of the business sector and development of green skills has assumed greater importance all over the world, and Middle East is no exception. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in eco-design, green architecture, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability are spearheading the transition to green economy across a wide range of industries. Green SME sector in the Middle East has been growing steadily, albeit at a slower pace than anticipated. 

Regulations

One of the major obstacles in the progress of green SMEs in the Middle East the has been poorly-designed regulation. According to Ruba A. Al-Zu’bi, a renowned sustainable development consultant in MENA, “SMEs should be the drivers of transformation towards green economy in the Middle East. Lack of clear policy direction and enablers are hindering growth and competitiveness of green SMEs”. Product market regulations which stifle competition pose a big hurdle to SMEs operating in renewables, energy, environment and sustainability sectors.  For example, state-owned companies in GCC have almost complete monopoly in network industries which have large environmental impacts (electricity/energy sector) or control strategic environmental services (water and waste management sector).

Restructuring

Restructuring of the SME sector in the Middle East is essential to allow small businesses to grow and prosper, thus catalyzing region’s transition to a green economy. SMEs account for vast majority of production units and employment across the Middle East, for example SMEs are responsible for around 60% of UAE’s GDP. Needless to say, participation of SMEs is essential in the transition to a low-carbon economy, thus paving the way for greening the business sector and development of green skills across all industrial segments.

Green SMEs require strong government support for growth, which is unfortunately lacking in several GCC countries. As Ruba Al-Zu’bi puts it, “Despite the humongous opportunity for green growth in the Middle East, magnified by climate change, water scarcity, oil dependency and environmental footprint, green SMEs are plagued by severe challenges and competition.”

Pressing Challenges

The Middle East region is facing multiple challenges in the growth of green SME sector. As Ruba Al-Zu’bi puts it, “The most pressing challenges are (1) increasing disconnect between education and market needs and (2) the disorientation of research and development from industry priorities and trends. Government agencies, business associations and NGOs need to play a bigger role in advocating more streamlined priorities for green growth across all industrial sectors.” Green SMEs in the region are facing significant barriers to entry despite their key role in developing locally appropriate technologies and eco-friendly business models.

Promising Initiatives

Abu Dhabi has taken a great step towards consolidation of green SME sector by creating the Masdar Free Zone. As a business cluster, Masdar Free Zone endeavors to provide SMEs and startups with an environment that inspires innovation, offers business development opportunities and provides a living lab and test bed for new technologies. However office rents has been a hurdle to overcome for green SMEs with limited financial capabilities.  “High office rents in Masdar Free Zone have been a major deterrent for small businesses desirous of setting shop in the business cluster”, says Dubai-based sustainability consultant Sunanda Swain.

In 2007, Qatar also launched a promising initiative to promote green growth in the form of Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) with core areas of focus being energy, environment, health sciences and information and communication technologies. During the initial phase, QSTP has been heavily focused on establishing infrastructure and attracting large companies. During the second phase, QSTP intends to target SMEs and provide them support on legal matters, finance, mentoring and business planning.

Future Perspectives

Policy interventions for supporting green SMEs in the Middle East are urgently required to overcome major barriers, including knowledge-sharing, raising environmental awareness, enhancing financial support, supporting skill development and skill formation, improving market access and implementing green taxation. In recent decades, entrepreneurship in the Middle East has been increasing at a rapid pace which should be channeled towards addressing water, energy, environment and waste management challenges, thereby converting environmental constraints into business opportunities.

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