COP21 Paris: Powered by 200 Megatonnes of Coal-fired CO2

As negotiators around the world gather for what many expect to be a groundbreaking UN climate negotiating session at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) which will seek a legally binding agreement on climate action, few may know that their meeting is being funded by the Coal industry. The corporate sponsorship of COP21 creates a dangerous conflict of interest in three key respects. Many of the sponsors are highly invested in oil, gas, coal, and other carbon-polluting sectors, and have a vested interest in obstructing or weakening any real action on climate change. However, with major industrial polluters using their deep pockets to influence climate policy at every level, how will a meaningful agreement be secured?

Corporate Interest at COP21

A new report released by Corporate Accountability International highlights that 4 of the leading sponsors of this year’s UN climate negotiations are collectively responsible for more than 200 megatonnes of CO2 emissions worldwide. The report titled, ‘Fueling the Fire – The corporate sponsors bankrolling COP21’ reveals how European energy giants Engie, Électricité de France (EDF), Suez Environment and BNP Paribas collectively own more than 46 coal-fired power plants around the world, including investments in oil sands exploration in Canada and fracking for shale gas in the UK. This has raised serious concerns ahead of the UN conference as to the role that corporate lobby groups should have, as many feel that this direct financial interest goes against the moral focus of the negotiations.

Patti Lynn, Executive director of Corporate Accountability International noted that the decision to allow these large polluters to sponsor the conference is “akin to hiring a fox to guard a hen house". She also argued that the UN climate negotiation was at risk of becoming a “corporate tradeshows for false market-based solutions.”

The report not only highlights the public behaviour of many of these companies, but also what they do behind the scenes. Earlier this year, ExxonMobil was famously outed for having suppressed knowledge of their role on contributing to Climate Change for the past 30 years.  However, it appears that many of the new conference sponsors have similarly questionable records on direct policy interference. While EDF claims to be “committed to a decarbonized world,” it is an active member alongside ExxonMobil and Shell of Business Europe.  This group has been linked to; openly oppose the “market deployment of energy produced from renewable sources” across Europe.

But it is perhaps their public actions that speak the loudest. In 2014, the sponsoring energy giant Engie directly profited from more than 131 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. That is equivalent to the pollution emitted from driving a car around the globe 12 million times. "Despite recent announcements to stop new coal projects, Engie still owns 30 dirty coal power plants worldwide." Célia Gautier, policy advisor at Climate Action Network France. The report finally calls for future climate policy-making to be free of corporate interests through directly disallowing large contributors to climate change from the policy-making process, in a similar way that big tobacco was kicked out of health talks a decade ago.

UNFCCC – Twenty Years of Inaction

After two decades of negotiations, the UNFCCC has been unable to achieve meaningful action on climate change. The failure of 20 climate summits to date has corresponded with a dramatic speed up of greenhouse gas emission rates. In fact, since 1988, more than half of all industrial carbon emissions have been released, raising the prospect of irreversible climate change.

Global inaction on climate change is also the consequence of political and economic interference by the fossil fuel industry. For decades, corporations, like ExxonMobil and Shell, have run sophisticated and effective campaigns of denial and deception about climate change. To undermine progress on climate policy and to secure their own profits, they have utilized a range of interference tactics, including financial contributions, corruption and lobbying, PR campaigns, litigation and legal threats, funding junk science, issuing contradictory statements, and sponsoring front groups, think tanks, and trade associations to do their dirty work.

The association of such corporations with the UNFCCC has not simply blocked or impeded meaningful climate action. It also has shifted the focus of negotiations onto market-based solutions, such as carbon prices and trading, as well as onto techno-fixes, such as carbon sequestration, fracking, and nuclear energy none of which have reduced overall emissions globally or spurred wide-spread low-carbon investments in national economies that meet the the deadlines for averting climate chaos. These same corporations have also interfered with the proceedings and operations of the UNFCCC. From the earliest COP meetings to today, transnational corporations and their associated business lobbies have positioned themselves to undermine or influence any potential climate treaty.

Time for Action

The time for action is now. With the world watching, governments must agree to remove the influence of fossil fuel corporations and other polluting industries from climate change negotiations. With precedent established in international law specifically, in the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control it is possible to exclude the big carbon polluters from U.N. summits on climate change. Indeed, it is the only way to secure bold, effective policy at COP21 that will curb the effects of climate change and move us to a more just, equitable future for all.

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The Menace of Plastic Water Bottles

During the holy month of Ramadan, the use of drinking water increases many folds as water bottles are supplied and provided especially at ‘Fatoor’ and dinner at religious places, hotels, Ramadan tents and private homes. The main consumption is however, at the religious places due to longer stay of people in offering special night prayers (taraweeh and Qiyam ul Lail). These water bottles are provided in bulk by philanthropists, sponsors and people at religious places to quench the thirst of people who gather for the long prayers.

In the Middle East, it is common to see people greatly misuse this resource considering it free, taking a bottle, sipping it half and leaving it at the venue. These used and partially consumed water bottles are then collected and thrown away in municipal garbage bins from where  it is collected and transported to Askar municipal landfill site located some 25 km away from the city center. These water bottles thus have a high carbon footprint and represent enormous wastage of precious water source and misuse of our other fragile resources. In many cases, these water bottles are being littered around the commercial and religious places.

Plastic water bottles are a common feature in our urban daily life. Bottled water is widely used by people from all walks of life and is considered to be convenient and safer than tap water. A person on an average drinks around 2.0 liters of water a day and may consume 4-6 plastic bottles per day. UAE is considered as the highest per capita consumer of bottled water worlwide. 

We need to understand that plastic is made from petroleum.  24 million gallons of oil is needed to produce a billion plastic bottles. Plastic takes around 700 years to be degraded. 90% of the cost of bottled water is due to the bottle itself. 80% of plastic bottles produced are not recycled.

Globally, plastic recycling rate is very low and major quantities of plastics are being disposed in the landfills, where they stay for hundreds of years not being naturally degraded. Recycling one ton of plastic saves 5.74 cubic meters of landfill space and save cost of collection and transportation.

Water bottles manufacturing, transportation, distribution and again collection and disposal after its use create enormous pollution in terms of trash generation, global warming and air pollution. The transportation of bottled water from its source to stores alone releases thousands of tons of carbon dioxide. In addition to the millions of gallons of water used in the plastic-making process, two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every gallon that goes into the plastic bottles.

The first step is that once you open a water bottle, you need to complete consume it to fully utilize the resource. Do not throw the plastic bottles as litter. The solution to the plastic bottles usage lies in its minimum use and safe disposal. Alternatively, a flask, thermos or reusable water bottle can be used which can be refilled as required. It is suggested that religious places, hotels and malls should have efficient water treatment plants to reduce the use of plastic water bottles.

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فوائد لا تحصى للأراضي الرطبة

لطالما أغفلنا روعة وأهمية الأراضي الرطبة بسبب جهلنا للميزات العديدة لهذا النظام البيئي. و لطالما استخدم مصطلح الأراضي الرطبة   للتعبير عن المستنقعات العكرة  المليئة بالبعوض أو الأراضي غير المستغلة التي تحتاج إلى بعض التحسينات لتكون أكثر إفادة للإنسان. و قد أدى هذا التقليل من شأن وأهمية الأراضي الرطبة إلى فقدان الكثير منها، الأمر الذي استلزم التوقيع على معاهدة الأراضي الرطبة في رامسار، في إيران عام 1971. ولا تزال تلك المعاهدة تعد بمثابة الحركة الدولية للمحافظة على الأراضي الرطبة، حيث تضم أكثر من 160 دولة موقعة.

لقد وضح الراحل نيلسون مانديلا روعة التنوع البيولوجي الموجود في الأراضي الرطبة عندما ذكر منطقة القديس لوسيا في خطاب له قائلاً: "نستطيع القول أن الأراضي الرطبة هي المكان الوحيد على الكرة الأرضية الذي يتعايش فيه أقدم الثدييات البرية في العالم (وحيد القرن) وأكبر الثدييات البرية (الفيل) مع أقدم الأسماك في العالم ( سمك سيلكانث) وأكبر الثدييات البحرية في العالم الحوت)".

و يمكن أن تكون الأراضي الرطبة طبيعية أو اصطناعية، كما يمكن أن تكون مشبعة بمياه عذبة أو مالحة أوآسنة (و هي المياه التي تكون نسبة ملوحتها عالية ولكن ليس بقدر ملوحة مياه البحر)، هذا وتدعم هذه الأراضي الغطاء النباتي الذي يتم تكييفه خصيصا للنمو في التربة المشبعة. و بصرف النظر عن خصائصها الفريدة، فإن الأسرار الحقيقية لهذه الأراضي تكمن في منافعها المتعددة للإنسان وللبيئة.

و تعد واحدة من أهم خصائص هذا النظام البيئي المدهشة هو أنه يعد بمثابة اسفنجة أو نظام طبيعي للسيطرة على الفيضانات. حيث أن طبيعية الأراضي الرطبة تمكنها من استيعاب مياه الأمطار وبالتالي تقليل كمية الماء التي تصل إلى الأنهار والجداول مما يقلل بشكل طبيعي من خطر الفيضانات. ويساعد اتساع السهول الفيضية  أيضا على التحكم في حركة و تخزين مياه الأمطار. و بالإضافة إلى ذلك، فإن الميزة المدهشة الأخرى للأراضي الرطبة هي قدرتها على تنقية المياه من خلال احتجازها للملوثات داخل التربة والغطاء النباتي. وعليه فإن الأراضي الرطبة تعتبر فعالة جدا في تنقية المياه ولذا يتم استخدامها لتنقية المياه العادمة الناتجة عن الصناعة والتعدين و مياه الصرف الصحي.

و علاوة على ذلك، تساهم الأراضي الرطبة في تجديد إمدادات المياه الجوفية والتي تعتبر مصدرا هاما لتزويد المياه. كما تدعم حياة مجموعة كبيرة ومتنوعة من الأنواع الحيوانية والنباتية. و على الرغم من المزايا الإيجابية  المتعددة لهذه لأراضي إلا أنه وللأسف، هناك العديد من العوامل التي تهدد هذا النوع من المناظر الطبيعية. فعلى سبيل المثال،  تعاني الأراضي الرطبة في جنوب أفريقيا من عدة مشاكل تهدد ديمومتها منها: الرعي الجائر، والتلوث بالمبيدات الحشرية، والنمو التجاري والنباتات الدخيلة وسوء إدارة مياه الأمطار في المناطق الحضرية..

و في المناطق الجافة في الشرق الأوسط، و نظرا لزيادة الطلب على المياه العذب فإن الأراضي الرطبة الداخلية، مثل الأنهار والبحيرات، بدأت في طريقها إلى الاضمحلال، و تعتبر واحة الأزرق (وهي موقع رامسار الوحيد في الأردن) ونهر الموجب من الأمثلة الجيدة على  الوضع الحرج للمياه في الشرق الأوسط. وتواجه الأراضي الرطبة في العراق أيضا خطر الاندثار كنتيجة لعقود ممتدة من الصراعات وسوء الإدارة بالإضافة إلى قربها من الحقول النفطية. ويعد فقدان الأراضي الرطبة مؤشراً واضحاً على مشاكل تتعدى كونها مشاكل انخفاض وفرة المياه؛ فهي مشكلة تهدد البيئة والناس الذين كانوا يعتمدون على هذه المناطق.

وبوصفنا حماة لهذه لأرض، فإن من مسؤوليتنا أن نخصص بعض الوقت ليس فقط للزيارة ومعرفة المزيد عن هذه البيئات ولكن ينبغي أن نشارك في مشاريع للمساعدة في حفظ وحماية وإعادة تأهيل النظم البيئية للأراضي الرطبة المتبقية في جميع أنحاء العالم. وفقنا الله وبارك لنا بوفرة في جهودنا لتحافظ على واستعادة بيئتنا(آمين).

 

ترجمة 

سمرطه

أخصائية في مجال البيئة  قامت بدراسات أثر بيئية لعدة مشاريع مختلفة في الأردن، حاصلة على درجتي الماجيستير في التقييم والمراقبة البيئية والعلوم البيئة وإدارتھا وبكالوريوس في إدارة المياه والبيئة.

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Need of Sustainability Communication in the Middle East

sustainability-communicationEnvironmental and sustainability awareness has been around in the society for quite some time now; and buzzwords like ‘ecofriendly’, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ seem to be omnipresent. In spite of the proliferation of these eco-buzzwords, the state of sustainability communications remains poor and lacking in authenticity. This poor state of sustainable communication, aided by insufficient focus on authenticity, further allows unscrupulous organizations to ‘green wash’ their business or products. The ‘greenwashing’, coupled with a lack of environmental knowledge on the consumer side engenders confused consumers who either despise any of the green eco-buzzwords or blindly accept green-washing as true sustainability.

Currently, sustainability initiatives, be it local government or international, do not reach the common man. People are still under impression that a few cursory steps towards ecofriendly lifestyle are enough. All in all sustainability is not yet properly understood in society. Most people wish to be more environmentally friendly but don’t know how. This is where sustainable communication can help.

Sustainability Communication for Businesses

There are two key elements to business sustainability communications:

  • Real Sustainability Efforts
  • Plentiful Sustainability Communication (external as well as internal).

Both of these elements are necessary. Without the former it’s a misleading greenwash, while without the latter, it’s a pocket of concentrated sustainability effort which will wither and die if the department handling this effort is disassembled.  

For sustainability communications to work for businesses in the Middle East, there has to be real sustainability commitment and efforts from the business to make their product and services more sustainable. In this day and age of the internet, transparency and traceability about products and services are indispensable features which can prove the authenticity of the commitment of a business to sustainability goals.

There has to be external as well as internal sustainability communication for any organization which is taking efforts towards sustainability. The employees should get to know better about practicing sustainability policies or actions planned and implemented by that business. The employees can also act as sustainability advocates of that organizations. In addition to having budget for CSR, organizations need to keep some time or fund aside for internal sustainability communication. In the long run these efforts can help organizations to stand out in the market.

Sustainable Communication in Media

If you open any newspaper or publication you are able to find some articles or information on the topic but most show a lack of clarity, and many appear to be written just as a formality. As an industry insider I can even reveal that most of the related news are mostly copy paste of original press releases sent by respective organizations. But if you look at other topics like lifestyle, fashion, those are well talked about, researched by in almost every publication.

Unfortunately we still don’t have enough qualified and expert sustainability journalists and writers in the region who actually understand what they are writing about. If you take example of Europe or Americas, they have many expert sustainability writers who write for main stream media and make sure the right information is reaching the society.

In general media in Middle East, though it’s newspaper or radio/TV channels need to give more attention to invest in qualified sustainability writers to acquire integrity and quality of sustainable communication.

Another issue of sustainable communication is it can take the form of an apocalyptic discussion, if you talk about environmental impact. People lose interest in such discussions quickly. Actually the statistic shows people in Middle East spend more time on internet than people from most other parts of world. But we need to accept that they prefer to have some light reading. We also need to create sustainability dialogue relevant to life of our readers and provide useful information for daily routine.

Instead of just talking about what is good and what is not, we need to show examples of doing good for environment, choosing sustainable options. So this takes me to my last point of sustainable communication, do what you preach. If we want our readers not just read but make changes in their lives; first we need to show how sustainable we practitioners are living. This will not only make sustainability relatable but also doable.

Demographics of Sustainability Communications

One important observation I have made, and many people in the field will agree, is that sustainability topic is well received by younger generation or millennials. These young people are pushing their parents and families to opt for more sustainable choices.

I would like to share one such personal experience. One of my readers contacted me and told her child insists on taking reusable bags with them all the time. Apart from how proud I felt about my reader and of course, her child, I was glad to know that the push of sustainable action is coming from young people.

When you communicate your sustainability efforts, be open for any feedback and criticism

When you communicate your sustainability efforts, be open for any feedback and criticism

During my eco-talks in schools, I always get positively surprised by how much these young kids know about environment and sustainability as compared to their adult counterparts. So we need to focus and include these young people in sustainable communication.

Consumer-Initiated Sustainable Communication

In this big market of consumers, we have almost no sustainable communication at consumer end. No surprise the region is facing larger issues like waste, waste recycling, and one of the highest rates of plastic consumption. We still lack sustainable communication initiated by consumers. What is needed in this region is a responsible consumer feedback.

Take the example of mending and renting services. The general shortage of mending and renting services a big indication of how the region has morphed itself a consumer’s paradise. This makes it critically difficult to create green consumerism as, market price, and availability in the market currently affects consumers much more than what the consumers really want.

However several consumers (more than we can perceive) would like to go back to the good old days when one really owned something, they used it for several years, got it mended over and over, and kept using it. It’s even better if the same brands are providing these mending and repair services of their own products in the region.

So if we could involve consumers in sustainability communication and dialogue, businesses can get feedback on what is truly missing, which will surely help them to make their business more sustainable.

Conclusion

Preaching what good you practice is not necessarily pompous if it is going to help the society be more sustainable. However at the core of any sustainable communication is a real effort in being sustainable, be it sustainability in energy, water, waste, or social. The golden rule is, there is no knowledge without feedback of your actions, so when you communicate your sustainability efforts, be open for any feedback and criticism. This way we can create a positive loop of real sustainability actions, active and transparent communications, feedback and improvement, and better, more effective sustainability actions.

 

About the Author

Amruta Kshemkalyani, is an experienced sustainability professional and top sustainability influencer/advocate in UAE. While working in sustainable development field, she is also spreading environmental and sustainable living awareness in UAE through her blog www.sustainabilitytribe.com since 2009. 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amrutant      

Linkedin: https://ae.linkedin.com/in/amrutakshemkalyanitavkar

 

Understanding Qatar’s Ecological Footprint

Qatar’s environmental impact remains worryingly high. The country’s per capita ecological footprint is now the second highest in the world, as another Gulf state, Kuwait, has overtaken it to become the worst offender of the 152 countries that were measured, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report 2014. The third country in the list is the UAE, with Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, in 33rd position. By comparing the total footprint with the planet’s biocapacity – its capacity to generate an ongoing supply of renewable resources and to absorb waste -the report, based on 2010 data, concludes that the average human’s per capita footprint exceeds the planet’s capacity by 1.5. Most MENA countries’ ecological footprints also exceed their biocapacity in terms of their global rankings.

Qatar’s footprint, measured in global hectares (gha), is 8.5 – the second highest in the world, but down from 11.6 in the 2012 report. Only Kuwait fared worse, with a footprint of over 10gha. According to the WWF report, if all people on the planet had the footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8 planets. If we lived the lifestyle of a typical resident of the USA, we would need 3.9 planets. The figure for a typical resident of South Africa or Argentina would be 1.4 or 1.5 planets respectively. The world’s average footprint per person was 2.6gha, but the global average biocapacity per person was 1.7gha in 2010. This is based on the Earth’s total biocapacity of approximately 12 billion gha, which has to support all humans and the 10 million or more wild species.

Salman Zafar, founder of EcoMENA, a voluntary organisation that promotes sustainable development in the Arab world, attributes the Qatari situation on lack of environmental awareness among the local population, lavish lifestyles and a strong dependence on fossil fuels. “The huge influx of workers from across the world has put tremendous strain on already stressed natural resources. Migrant workers, who make up a huge chunk of the population, remain in the country for a limited period of time and are not motivated enough to conserve natural resources and protect the environment,” he adds. As for Kuwait, he says the growing ecological footprint may be attributed to its flourishing oil and gas industry, an increase in desalination plants, the presence of hundreds of landfills, excessive use of water, energy and goods, a huge expatriate population and the absence of concrete environmental conservation initiatives.

Of the 25 countries with the largest per capita ecological footprint, most were high-income nations. For virtually all of these, carbon was the biggest component, in Qatar’s case 70%. Carbon, specifically the burning of fossil fuels, has been the dominant component of humanity’s footprint for more than half a century, says the WWF report – in 1961, carbon had been 36% of the total footprint, but by 2010 it had increased to 53%. In 2013, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere above Mauna Loa, Hawaii – the site of the oldest continuous carbon dioxide measurement station in the world – reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958. This is higher than they have been for more than a million years, and climate science shows major risks of unacceptable change at such concentrations. Furthermore, 2014 has globally been the hottest year since measurements started, and the World Meteorological Organisation predicts that this upward trend will continue.

The world’s total population today is already in excess of 7.2 billion, and growing at a faster rate than previously estimated. The dual effect of a growing human population and high per capita footprint will multiply the pressure humans place on ecological resources, the report states. As agriculture accounts for 92% of the global water footprint, humanity’s growing water needs, combined with climate change, are aggravating water scarcity. The authors also make it clear that in the long term water cannot be sustainably taken from lakes and groundwater reservoirs faster than they are recharged. Desalination of seawater also leads to brine (with a very high concentration of salt and leftover chemicals and metals), which is discharged into the sea where it poses a danger to marine life.  In terms of biodiversity, the report shows an overall decline of 52 percent between 1970 and 2010. Falling by 76 percent, population of freshwater species declined more rapidly than marine and terrestrial (both 39 percent) population.

With regards to Qatar’s biocapacity, its fishing grounds make up 92% of the total, while the country ranks 66th globally in terms of its biocapacity per capita. Like other Gulf states, it can operate with an ecological deficit by importing products, and thus using the biocapacity of other nations; and/or by using the global commons, for instance, by releasing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning into the atmosphere, says the report.

Although Qatar has initiated plans to reduce its footprint and live less unsustainably, the latest electricity demand figures from Qatar General Electricity and Water Company (Kahramaa) show a 12% rise in demand for power over the previous year. This is in line with the country’s population growth, meaning that there has been no reduction in the per capita consumption, which is still under the top 15 countries in the world. Its water consumption per capita is also one of the highest in the world.

Qatar’s heavy reliance on gas and oil, its subsidised water and electricity, and the huge amount of energy needed for water desalination and air-conditioning make it unlikely that the country’s per capita standing in terms of the ecological footprint will improve anytime soon, but given the country’s small size its total impact is still relatively small.

Salman Shaban from the metal recycling company Lucky Star Alloys, regards the report as only highlighting Qatar’s current rapid development. “It is not fair to come to any conclusions at this stage when the construction, transport system and population boom is taking place. Any place that will go through such a fast development will initially have its impact on the ecological systems.” He foresees a gradual carbon footprint reduction once the construction and development phase is completed.“ Having said that, it is still every resident and citizen moral responsibility to conserve energy and protect the environment,” he adds. “Recycling should be a standard part of every household culture.”

According to Salman Zafar, grass-root level environmental education, removal of subsidies on water and energy, sustainable waste management practices, effective laws, awareness programs and mandatory stakeholder participation are some of the measures that may improve the environmental scenario in Qatar.

Although it makes for some disturbing reading, the report makes it clear that many individuals, communities, businesses, cities and governments are making better choices to protect natural capital and reduce their footprint, with environmental, social and economic benefits. But given that these exhaustive reports are based on data that is four years old, any current changes for better and worse will only become clear in the near future.

Note:

  • WWF is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organizations; its mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. The full report is available at this link.
  • An edited version of this article first appeared in The Edge, Qatar’s Business Magazine. 

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أهم المشاكل البيئية في الأردن

يعتبر الأردن مهداً لعدد من الحضارات فلقد تم إنشاء المستوطنات البشرية فيه منذ أوائل التاريخ القديم , وكنتيجة طبيعية لما يشهده العالم من تغيرات كبيرة وكثيرة في كافة المجالات خاصة في مجال الإتصال والمواصلات في أواسط القرن الماضي, ومع تزايد أعداد السكان وتغير نمط حياتهم تتفاقم المشاكل البيئية التي تهدد الفوائد البيئية والإقتصادية والروحية والجمالية والثقافية التي يتم إستنباطها حالياً من الموارد الأرضية الحية .ومما زاد المشكلة سوءاً هو تأثر المملكة بالوضع السياسي في المنطقة وموجات النازحين التي أدت إلى زيادة عدد السكان بشكل غير عادي ومفاجئ وبالتالي فإن الضغط على الموارد الطبيعية كإستعمالات المياه والطاقة شهدت تزايداً ملحوظاً خلال العقود الماضية.

تكمن مشاكل الدول النامية عامة والأردن خاصة بالمشاكل المادية ونقص الخبرات المؤهلة, ومن المهم التطرق إلى ذكر أكبر وألد أعداء البيئة وهي الحروب حتى بالنسبة لدولة مثل الأردن التي لم تتورط بأي حرب حتى الآن, فمن المعروف أن البيئة لا تعترف بالحدود السياسية ,فالتلوث الناجم عن الحروب مثل تلوث الهواء لا يؤثر فقط على الدول المتورطة بل وعلى الدول المجاورة أيضاّ. سيتم التطرق في هذه المقالة الى المشاكل  البيئية التي  تعاني منها المملكة على وجه العموم.

 النفايات الصلبة العامة

تعتبر النفايات واحدةً من أكبر المشاكل البيئية في الأردن حيث تصل نسبة إنتاج النفايات الصلبة حالياً إلى 1,670,000  طن سنوياً بمعدل (3850) طن يومياً, ما يقارب 52% منها عبارة عن مواد عضوية وهذه النسبة تزيد في المناطق خارج عمان , ويتم نقل هذه النفايات إلى المكبات حيث يوجد حاليّاً 21 موقع مكب في الأردن. ويبين الجدول (1) تطور إنتاج الفرد من النفايات والإنتاج  التراكمي  في الأردن من عام 2001 حتى 2006.

 

السكان

المعدل اليومي للفرد (كغم)

السنة

2724346

0.915

2001

2814249

0.928

2002

2907120

0.941

2003

3000147

0.954

2004

3096152

0.967

2005

3192133

0.980

2006

 

التصحر

تعتبر ظاهرة التصحر من أهم وأخطرالمشاكل البيئية التي تهدد الأراضي الزراعية ومعظم المناطق القاحلة وشبه القاحلة في الأردن, فالتصحر يؤثرعلى التنوع البيولوجي مما يؤدي إلى الإخلال بالتوازن البيئي الذي بدوره يؤدي إلى مشاكل بيئية وصحية ,كما أن للتصحرآثاراً أمنية وإجتماعية وثقافية وسياسية .عالمياً ووفقاً لتقديرات برنامج الأمم المتحدة للبيئة فإن القيمة الإنتاجية المفقودة سنوياً في الدول النامية بسبب التصحر تقدر بـ 16 مليار دولار.إن من أحد أهم الأسباب التي تؤدي إلى تفاقم ظاهرة التصحر في الأردن هو الزحف العمراني المستمرعلى الأراضي الزراعية, حيث خسرنا في العقود الثلاثة الماضية حوالي 25% من الأراضي الصالحة للزراعة لغايات البناء والإسكان. ويجدر بالذكر أن الأردن وقع في على الإتفاقية الدولية لمكافحة التصحر في عام 1996.

مشكلة المياه

يعتبر الأردن إحدى الدول الأربع الأفقر بمصادر المياه في العالم , كما أكدت إحصائيات وزارة المياه أن حصة المواطن من المياه تقلصت إلى 160 متراً مكعباً سنوياً ،فيما تشير المقاييس الدولية إلى أن خط الشح المائي 500 متر مكعباً سنوياً, إن عشرة أحواض مائية في الأردن من أصل 12 مستنزفة إستنزافاً شديداً وبحسب رأي الخبراء فإن إحتياطي الأردن من المياه سينفد بحلول عام 2025 .وبالرغم أن الأردن لا يتعبر بلداً مسبباً للتغير المناخي، إلا أنه سيتأثر بهذا التغير من حيث حدوث تراجع كبير في مصادر المياه السطحية بنسبة 30% وتراجع في هطول الأمطار وفي الإنتاجية الزراعية وهي تمثل عصب الحياة والتنمية في العالم العربي والأردن .

مشاكل تلوث  الهواء

ساهمت الصناعة بشكل عام بالتأثير سلباً على البيئة الأردنية من خلال تلويث الهواء والضجيج وإنتاج النفايات الصلبة ومياه الصرف الصحي والروائح العادمة والتأثيرات السلبية على حياة الإنسان. خاصة الصناعات الثقيلة والمتوسطة منها,مثل مصفاة البترول والفوسفات والإسمنت وغيرها التي تعتبر المصادر الرئيسية الثابتة لتلوث الهواء في الأردن.أما أكبر وأخطرالمصادر المتحركة لتلوث الهواء تتمثل بقطاع النقل حيث أن زيادة عدد السيارات ووسائل النقل المختلفة أدت إلى زيادة متوقعة في تلوث الهواء خصوصًا في الأماكن المزدحمة بالحافلات والمواقع الصناعية المضغوطة, ويتطلب ذلك إستخدام التقنيات البيئية الحديثة في تقليل نسب إنبعاثات التلوث من المصانع.

الطاقة

 يواجه الأردن تحديات بيئية كبيرة في الطاقة؛ إذ يستورد 96 % من الطاقة التي يستهلكها.إن تسارع النمو الاقتصادي والسكاني أدى إلى إزدياد معدلات إستهلاك الطاقة بجميع أشكالها من النفط الخام ومشتقاته والغاز الطبيعي والكهرباء والطاقة الشمسية وخاصة للأغراض الصناعية والمنزلية ليرتفع إستهلاكها بنسبة 5,40 % .حالياً مما يخلق ضرورة ملحة لتوجه الأردن نحو فتح كل مجالات الإبداع الوطني في إيجاد وإستخدام مصادر طاقة بديلة ومستدامة مثل الطاقة الشمسية والغاز مع إمكانية تطوير تكنولوجيا لإستخلاص الطاقة من الصخر الزيتي بطريقة مجدية اقتصادياً ونظيفة بيئياً .

مشكلة تأثر التنوع الحيوي و الإنقراض 

 يوافق الإقتصاديون والبيئيون أن للتنوع الحيوي قيمة للإنسانية فهو بإختصار أداة لمحاربة الفقر وتحسين نوعية الحياة من ناحية إقتصادية وصحية وبيئية. لقد بات التراجع العالمي في التنوع الحيوي واحداً من أهم القضايا البيئية الخطيرة التي تواجه الإنسانية ,فبالرغم من الدعم الهام الذي يقدمه التنوع الحيوي للمجتمعات الإنسانية بيئياً وإقتصادياً وصحياً وثقافياً وروحياً, إلا أن النظم البيئية تتعرض لتدهور في الأنواع وفي التنوع الجيني والذي يتناقص بمعدلات خطيرة خاصة في البلدان النامية, أدى التأثير الناجم عن التراجع الملحوظ على التنوع الحيوي إلى الخروج بالإتفاقية العالمية للتنوع الحيوي والتي صادق عليها الأردن عام    1993.

تتميز المملكة بوجود تنوع حيوي وبيئي كبير حيث أن موقع الأردن بين ثلاث قارات منحه أربع مناطق بيئية جغرافية مميزة هي: منطقة حوض البحر المتوسط,والمنطقة الإيرانية-الطورانية ,والمنطقة الإفريقية- تحت الإستوائية ,والمنطقة الصحراوية العربية مما يجعل يعتبر التنوع الحيوي فيها مثيرًا للإهتمام .خلال المئة وعشرين عاماً الماضية فقد الأردن العديد من الأنواع النباتية والحيوانية المحلية أوأصبحت هذه الأنواع  تواجه الإنقراض, تقدر خسارة الأردن ما يقارب 330مليون دينار سنويا نتيجة لتدهور التنوع الحيوي .إن حالة التناقص الرئيسي الحاصل في أعداد الحيوانات المعروفة غالباً مثل الطيور والثدييات غير معروفة لأغلب الأنواع على المستوى الوطني ,وذلك لوجود نقص بالبحث العلمي المنظم وعدم وجود أسلوب علمي موحد للدراسة .ونادراً ما نجد دراسات أردنية حول إستخدام التقنيات الحيوية بشكل مباشر أو غير مباشر فيما يتعلق بالتنوع الحيوي.

مشكلة الفقر

إن البيئة السليمة تقود إلى إقتصاد قوي ومجتمع صحي قادر على التعامل مع الطبيعة الهشة للنظم البيئية والتي تحوي الظروف الإجتماعية والإقتصادية والجغرافية والمناخية للبلاد, حيث أن الحفاظ على والإستعمال الحكيم للمصادر البيئية والتنوع البيئي  يعتبر أساساً لرفاهية أي مجتمع ومحاربة الفقر و تحسن الظروف الصحية خاصة في المناطق الريفية .إن للفقرعلاقة متبادلة مع البعد البيئي في التنمية حيث يعتبر الفقراء أكثر فئات المجتمع تأثراً بالتدهور البيئي,كما أن الفقر قد يكون أحد مسببات التدهور البيئي حيث أن إحتياجات الفقراء وسبل معيشتهم الملحة تعني غالباً القيام بممارسات مدمرة للبيئة مثل الرعي الجائر وقطع الأشجار.

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The Menace of Marine Litter

Marine litter, long a neglected topic, has started to garner some attention. Marine litter is composed of a diverse mix of items from various sources and so a one-size fits all solution is unlikely to be effective. Abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), plastic packaging (bottles, caps, bags, etc.) and plastic manufacturing pellets are amongst the most common and persistent items found. Comparing the feasibility and the financial case for recovery versus prevention for each of these groups reveals a worrying gap in our attempts to deal with the problem.

Scale of the Problem

Abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is arguably the most damaging type of marine debris as it continues to fish the oceans, trapping and killing animals for years after it goes overboard. Nets are often located in high numbers around known fishing grounds making targeted recovery possible. Even in such hotspots, recovery is costly and tends to fall to the third sector. An effectively priced deposit scheme with port and shore facilities to support the collection and recycling of damaged gear should reduce the amount of fishing gear discarded and fund the recovery of the remaining items.

While it is thought that 80% of marine litter originates on land, it seems clear that there is an on-going flux between terrestrial and marine environments. Floods can increase the flow of litter down rivers to the sea, while storms stir up the ocean, leading to litter that has already entered the marine environment being deposited in greater than usual amounts on beaches.

In 2013 the European Commission published three studies looking into the composition and sources of marine litter in European seas. In a chapter integrating the results it noted that:

“Plastics are the most abundant debris found in the marine environment and comprise more than half of marine litter in European Regional Seas. More than half of the plastic fraction is composed of plastic packaging waste with plastic bottles and bags being predominant types of plastic packaging…

Therefore, measures within a strategy to close the largest loopholes in the plastic packaging cycle should target plastic bottles and plastic bags.”

Capping the Problem

Plastic packaging is one of the most common items of marine debris with grave impacts upon marine wildlife. Foraging birds are known to ingest large quantities of plastic, especially caps and lids, turtles eat plastic bags mistaking them for jellyfish, and many species are recorded as trapped and disfigured by beverage can yokes.

However the impacts are even further reaching. As plastics break down they are ingested by smaller and smaller organisms. Recent studies have found that plankton ingest tiny fragments of plastic which are then passed up the food chain through predation. In fact, there may already be plastic in the tissue of the fish that we consume.

Despite hype about profitable schemes that will clean the ocean gyres in five years, the breakdown of material makes recovery almost impossible. Plastic debris may outweigh plankton by a ratio of 6:1 in the areas of highest concentration but widespread skimming of the ocean surface will also harvest vast amounts of the phytoplankton, zooplankton and other organisms living there. The majority of marine life lives at the surface and so, considering the risk of disruption to the entire marine food chain, the plankton baby is one that you really don’t want to throw out with the plastic-polluted bathwater.

Whilst debris recovery efforts may be able to remove small quantities of plastic packaging, in particular the larger items, it cannot deal with the full spectrum and so is largely ineffective as a response to the litter problem. The real challenge is not to clear litter once it is in the ocean doing damage, but to prevent it from getting there in the first place. Container deposit schemes and plastic bag levies have been shown to be highly effectual means of reducing litter on land; and by extension, will help to prevent marine litter.

Ex-Pellets from the Oceans

Plastic manufacturing pellets, or nurdles as they are known in the industry, are often underreported debris items as they are so small that they often escape observation. They are typically less than 5mm in diameter and unusually for marine debris are from known sources as they are only used in the manufacturing of plastic products.

Locating and separating such small objects from the world’s oceans is clearly a mammoth task of considerable expense. Instead the manufacturing industry has initiated a programme of environmental responsibility to limit the loss of the pellets. Praised as an effective and affordable program, the initiative would have even greater impact if adopted as an industry standard world-wide, especially if combined with further efforts to reduce pellet loss during transport.

There are no effective natural processes that remove marine debris. The flow of material into the oceans vastly exceeds any practicable man-made method of extracting this growing soup of litter. The only way to tackle the issue is to prevent litter entering the oceans in the first place. Effective measures to prevent this pollution at source already exist. Some, such as levies on single use carrier bags, are becoming more widespread, but others such as deposit refund schemes are still very limited, both in terms of geography and the types of packaging targeted. 

 

Note: The article is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original article can be viewed at this link.

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لحفاظ على التنوع البيولوجي في الأردن

على الرغم من صغر رقعة الأردن الجغرافية ,إلا أنه يتمتع بغنى وتنوع فريد بالموائل الحيوية والذي يمثل التنوع البيولوجي للأراضي الجافة ,وذلك لتميز الطبيعة الأردنية بتعدد المناخات والتراكيب الجيولوجية, حيث تنقسم البلاد إلى أربع مناطق حيوية جغرافية: منطقه إقليم البحر الأبيض المتوسط، الإقليم الإيراني- الطوراني ،الإقليم الصحراوي (المنطقه الصحراوية العربية) والإقليم السوداني .تعتبر هذه الأقاليم عناصر أساسية في دعم التنوع البيولوجي، وتحتوي على ثلاثة نظم بيئية رئيسية – الأرضية والبحرية والأراضي الرطبة.

دور التنوع الحيوي في البيئة الأردنية

ساهم التنوع الطبوغرافي في الأردن في وجود تنوع حيوي ومناخي ساعد على ظهور بيئات متنوعة لعبت دوراً هام في التنوع الحيوي والإستقرار البشري وضمان بيئة صحية للسكان. إن من المعروف أن النظم البيئية الطبيعية تدعم الأنشطة البشرية في مجالات مختلفة منها :الزراعة والثروة الحرجية والثروه الحيوانية والسياحة والمنتجات الدوائية وأدوية الطب البديل وغيرها, هذه الأنظمه البيئية  مهمه لقيمتها الجوهرية، ولحمايتها لنوعية البيئة بشكل عام. كما أن بعض الموائل تعتبر كنوز جينية  مازالت تنتظر من يكتشفها.

الوضع الحالي والمخاطر الرئيسية على التنوع الحيوي في الاردن

 لقد مرت دول المشرق العربي بشكل عام  والأردن بشكل خاص بتغيرات كبيرة خلال القرنين الماضيين وعلى كافة أصعدة الأنشطة البشرية المختلفة, والتي تعتبر تهديداً حقيقاً للنظم البيئية الطبيعية والتي تدهورت نتيجة التطور التكنولوجي والزراعي والصناعي. حيث عانى التنوع الحيوي من تهديدات خطيرة في السنوات الأخيرة نتيجة لتأثر المناطق الطبيعية والحياة البرية سلبياً وبشدة  بالنشاط الحضري المتسارع الناتج عن النمو السكاني والهجرة، كما أدى سوء الإستغلال والتوسع الصناعي  والرعي وأعمال البناء وغيرها من الأنشطة البشرية إلى إستنزاف النظم البيئية الطبيعية وإختلال توازنها وتآكل التربة والتصحر وتجزئة الأراضي وتدمير واسع للغابات والغطاء النباتي والشعب المرجانية.

بالإضافة إلى ذلك ,باتت بعض الأنواع الحيوية النادره مهدده بالانقراض. كما أدى الضغط المتزايد والمستمر على مصادر المياه المحدودة إلى الإفراط في إستغلال الموارد المائية وتدهور جودتها وتلوثها.وعلاوة على ذلك, أدى التوسع الزراعي إلى سوء إستغلال الموارد المائية وإنخفاض تعداد بعض الأنواع نظراً لتغيير بيئتها الطبيعية ,حيث أجبر شح المياه بعض الحيوانات على ترك موطنها والإنتقال إلى بيئة جديدة , مما سبب في تغير التوازن البيئي للوسط الجديد والذي بدروه قد يؤدي إلى هلاك هذه الكائنات أو هلاك الكائنات المستوطنة أصلاً, وعلى النقيض من ذلك كانت هذه التغيرات البيئية سبباً في زيادة أنواع اخرى.

لقد أدى تفشي إستخدام المبيدات والأسمدة الكيماوية إلى تلوث التربة والموارد المائية في حين أن الإستخدام الجائر للآلات الزراعية قد ساعد على  تآكل التربة ,أضف إلى ذلك أن إستخدام المركبات المتزايد والسريع أدى إلى تآكل التربة وموت الحيوانات. ومن المعروف أيضاً أن الرعي الجائر من أهم الأسباب المؤدية إلى التصحر،والذي يؤدي إلى زيادة نسبة الغبار في الغلاف الجوي؛ والذي من شأنه أن يخلق مشاكل صحية للبشر والحياة البرية. وعلاوة على ذلك ،يعتبر الرعي الجائر ضاراً بالكائنات الحية الموجودة في التربة والتي تعتمد صحة النظام البيئي بأكمله عليها. وبالرغم من إلتزام الأردن بإتفاقية التجارة العالمية للأصناف المهددة بالإنقراض(CITES) إلا أن الصيد غيرالقانوني مايزال شائعاً والذي يشكل تهديدا لأنواع الحياة البرية المختلفة.

التوصيات

أدرك الأردن خطورة التدهور الذي طرأ على التنوع الحيوي بكافة أشكاله ,ولذلك فإن الأردن يعمل جدياً على تطبيق سياسات وخطة إستراتيجية كإستجابة لمتطلبات إتفاقية الأمم المتحدة للتنوع الحيوي ,وذلك بهدف رفع مستوى الوعي العام حول حفظ التنوع البيولوجي، وتوجيه الإهتمام الوطني وعلى كافة الأصعدة نحو حفظ وإدارة مستدامة للموائل الطبيعية. ينبغي أن تشرك هذه الخطة أصحاب القرار والإهتمام، بما في ذلك الحكومة والمنظمات غيرالحكومية المختصة والمجتمعات المحلية وممثلي مبادرات الأبحاث. وكإستجابة للحاجة الملحة لحفظ التنوع البيولوجي في الأردن، تاليا أهم  المفترحات والحلول :

إعادة تأهيل المناطق المتدهورة والساخنة بيئياً, كما يجب العمل على إيجاد وتطبيق حلول لمشكلتي الفقر والبطالة, حيث يعتبر التدهور البيئي سبباً مهما للفقر ,كما يعتبر الفقر تهديداً حقيقياً للتنوع الحيوي حيث يضطر الفقراء إلى ممارسات من شأنها أن تؤدي إلى تدهور البيئة مثل قطع الأشجار.

تعديلات أساسية في السياسة المائية الوطنية بهدف إيجاد حلول طويلة الأمد لمشكلة الشح المائي وتخفيف الضغط المتزايد على الموارد المياه خاصة في ظل الأوضاع السياسية الراهنة وتزايد أعداد اللاجئين إلى الأردن بشكل كبير.

إشراك المجتمعات المحلية والمؤسسات غير الحكومية المتخصصة والقطاع الخاص في تبني وتطبيق سياسات فيما يتعلق بالصيد وإستخدام المياه ومنع الممارسات الضارة مثل الرعي الجائر.

معالجة المشاكل التي يواجهها أصحاب الماشية مثل تأسيس بنية تحتية لتسويق الحليب ومنتجات الماشية الاخرى.

التخطيط المستدام لإستخدام الأراضي حيث أن هنالك حاجة ملحة لتشجيع تحويل الضغط العمراني على الأراضي الزراعية إلى الأراضي البور، كما ينبغي إعتماد توجهات جديدة للحد من إنخفاض الرقعة الحرجية والعمل على إعادة التشجير.

إنشاء المزيد من المحميات الطبيعية والحمى (مثل :حمى بني هاشم) ذات القيمة الجمالية بهدف الحفاظ عليها للأجيال القادمة  والحفاظ على الموارد الجينية ورصد التنوع البيولوجي في تلك المناطق.

الدعم والتشجيع اللازمين للمزارعين لتبني سياسات وممارسات مستدامة والتي تشمل :مكافحة الأمراض وإختيار المحاصيل مثل أشجار النخيل أو التوجه نحو إنتاج العسل.

تفعيل تطبيق الأنظمة والقوانين الخاصة بحماية البيئة وعلى كافة الأصعدة ,حيث يعتبر الحفاظ على التنوع الحيوي واجباً وطنياً تقع مسؤوليته على عاتق الجميع.

 

الأولويات الوطنية

إن إلتزام الأردن بدراسة تنوعه البيولوجي ينبع من هدف الحفاظ على الموارد الطبيعية وضمان الإستخدام المستدام .كما تعتبر مسألة الحفاظ على أصناف الحياة على الأرض مسألة ذات بعد علمي وعملي وجمالي وأخلاقي. بالإضافة إلى ذلك, تعتبر دراسة التنوع البيولوجي أساساً للتعاون وتبادل المعلومات والخبرات بين دول المنطقة مما يؤدى إلى التكامل العلمي بين الأردن وبقية دول العالم .كما ستفتح جهود الحفاظ على البيئة والطبيعة المجال لفرص عمل جديدة مما يساهم في حل مشكلة الفقر.

تستمر التغيرات البيئية مع إستمرار الأنشطة البشرية  ,لذلك يواجه الأردن مجموعة متزايدة التحديات البيئية المعقدة, والتي يجب أن تكون الإستجابة لها علمية ومبنية على نتائج بحوث متعددة التخصصات وطويلة الأمد. تبرز العلاقة القوية والهامة بين جهود صون التنوع الحيوي وإكتشاف أنواع جديدة من الموارد الحيوية الوطنية,حيث أن الأبحاث البيئية والمسح البيولوجي ضروريين لرصد التغيرات في النظم البيئية وإكتشاف أنواع حيوية جديدة .لذلك فإن التوجه الوطني نحو هذا المجال مطلوب فضلاً عن الحاجة إلى تمويل وطني ودولي لهذه الأبحاث. ينبغي على المنظمات الإنمائية تشجيع البحوث في علم الأحياء التصنيفية لتحديد الأنواع الحيوية بهدف الحفاظ عليها ومنع إنقراضها.

لقد شهد الأردن مؤخراً حراكاً على جميع الأصعدة لحماية تراثه الطبيعي بكافة مكوناته, فعلى سبيل المثال ,يتطلب إﻗﺎﻣﺔ أي ﻣﺸﺮوع إﺳﺘﺜﻤﺎري دراﺳﺔ ﻣﺪى الأﺛﺮ البيئي لهذا المشروع ﻛﺸﺮط أﺳﺎﺳﻲ لتنفيذه. ونتيحة لإتخاذ تدابير الإستدامة والتي بلغ تطبيقها على نطاق واسع, فأنه قد لوحظ إنتعاش وتحسن النظام البيئي في الأردن .

 

ترجمة

سلام عبدالكريم عبابنه

مهندسه مدنية في شركة المسار المتحده للمقاولات – مهتمه في مجال البيئه و الطاقة المتجدده

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Towards Effective Environmental Education

green-hope-uaeChildren are the "Future Generation" and their engagement in environmental conservation is an absolute must. Education is the key to fostering this engagement and hence , all efforts must be made in this regard. One of the main reasons for the current state of environmental degradation is the general apathy of civil society and the only way to address this issue is through intrinsic involvement of all stakeholders, in particular, children,  since it is their future that is at stake.

Involvement of children in environmental conservation initiatives will also ensure that the movement becomes "bottom-up" rather than something that is mandated by legislation — this "bottom-up" approach has always been seen to be more effective in terms of implementation.

Towards Effective Environmental Education

In order to be effective, environmental education needs to be both formally and informally imparted. Otherwise it ceases to be attractive and loses its effect. It becomes just another textbook one has to read and answer questions on. Children are inherently creative and the environmental education curriculum must try to build on this creativity. Rather than prescribing solutions, it must seek to obtain the answers from the children. After all, it is their future that is being decided upon.

Once this fundamental truth is understood, children will come forward with their views and actions to mitigate the environmental challenges. To be effective, environmental education needs to be imparted outside the four walls of the classroom. However, the weather in the Middle East, for most part of the year, is hardly conducive to outdoor activities and this should to be taken into account.

A beach cleanup campaign by Green Hope

A beach cleanup campaign by Green Hope

Green Hope – A Shining Example

My youth organisation, Green Hope, engages and educates young people through our "Environment Academies" which are tailor-made workshops on environmental issues. Till date, we have interacted with several hundred school and university students following all curriculum — our attendees are from all nationalities including native students. I have found them to be immensely concerned and motivated on environmental issues. Being from the region, they also have a lot of traditional knowledge about adapting to the natural environment which is a learning for those who have recently moved here. 

Asbestos Waste Management in MENA

Each year countries from the Middle East and North Africa import large amount of asbestos for use in the construction industry. As per the last known statistics, the Middle East and Africa accounted for 20% of world demand for the material. Iran and the United Arab Emirates are among the biggest consumers of the material. Infact, the entire Middle East has been steadily increasing their asbestos imports, except for Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are the only two countries that have placed bans on asbestos but with questionable effectiveness. Iran alone has been reported to order 30,000 tons of asbestos each year. More than 17,000 tonnes of asbestos was imported and consumed in the United Arab Emirates in 2007. 

Fallouts from Wars and Revolutions

Asbestos is at its most dangerous when exposed to people who are not protected with masks and other clothing. In times past, such considerations were not thought about. At the moment, most people think of asbestos exposure as part of the construction industry. This means demolition, refurbishment and construction are the prime times that people can be exposed to the fibres.

In the Middle East and North Africa, however, turbulent times have increased the danger of exposure for people across the region. Since 2003, there has been the Iraq War, revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, plus the uprising in Syria. Not to mention a raft of conflicts in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel. The upshot of this is that a building hit by an explosive, which contains asbestos, is likely to put the material in the local atmosphere, further endangering the lives of nearby.

Asbestos Waste Management

In many countries around the world companies, institutions and organizations have a legal responsibility to manage their waste. They are banned from using substances that are deemed hazardous to the general public. This includes a blanket ban on the use of asbestos. Where discovered it must be removed and dealt with by trained individuals wearing protective clothing. In the Middle East and North Africa, it is vitally important for there to be the development of anti-asbestos policies at government and business levels to further protect the citizens of those countries.

Not a single Middle East country has ratified International Labour Organization Law Number 162, which was instituted at the 1986 Asbestos Convention. The ILO No. 162 outlines health and safety procedures related to asbestos, including regulations for employers put forth in an effort to protect the safety of all workers. Asbestos waste management in the MENA region needs to take in several distinct action phases. Education and legislation are the first two important steps followed by actual waste management of asbestos. 

Largely speaking, the MENA region has little or no framework systems in place to deal with this kind of problem. Each year more than 100,000 people die worldwide due to asbestos-related diseases and keeping in view the continuous use of asbestos use in the region, it is necessary to devise a strong strategy for phasing out of asbestos from the construction industry.

Future Strategy

Many may argue that there is still a philosophical hurdle to overcome. This is why education must go in tandem with legislation. As of 2006, only Egypt and Saudi Arabia had signed up to a ban on asbestos. Even then, there is evidence of its continued use. Whether as part of official pronouncements or in the papers, on the TVs or in schools, it is vitally important that bans are backed up with information so the general public understand why asbestos should not only be banned, but removed. It is important that other countries consider banning the material and promoting awareness of it too.

Governments have the resources to open up pathways for local or international companies to begin an asbestos removal programme. In many places education will be required to help companies become prepared for these acts. Industrial asbestos removal begins with a management survey to identify what asbestos materials are in a building and where. This is followed up by a refurbishment and pre-demolition survey to best see how to remove the asbestos and replace it with better materials. These come in tandem with risk assessments and fully detailed plans.

Asbestos management cannot be completed without such a survey. This may prove to be the most difficult part of implementing widespread asbestos waste management in the Middle East and North Africa. Doing so will be expensive and time consuming, but the alternative is unthinkable – to rip out the asbestos without taking human safety into account. First, therefore, the infrastructure and training needs to be put into place to begin the long work of removing asbestos from the MENA region.

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Education for Sustainable Development: Key Challenges

education-for-sustainable-developmentThe basic aim of 'Education for Sustainable Development' is to nurture an individual who is capable to solve environmental challenges facing the world and to promote the formation of a sustainable society. The first challenge is to have an ethos in schools that openly and enthusiastically supports the development of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). This is partly down to the curriculum the school follows, but is mainly as a result of the interest and effort shown by senior management in promoting integration and whole school engagement; a critical element being teacher training. It is also down to the expectations that are put upon schools by education authorities when it comes to ESD.

With trained and motivated teachers, it is far easier to inspire and motivate students. Teachers can often use the environment as a vehicle for teaching certain concepts in their own specific subject. Once teachers have decided that this is something they feel is worthwhile, they will increasingly find ways to do so.

Using environmental issues in student learning shows students the bigger picture, which can significantly improve motivation. By letting pupils know why the work they are completing is important, and showing them where it fits in on a local and global scale, you’re enabling them to see its value.

Another challenge is being able to bridge the gap between what happens at home and what is taught in schools. For example, if a child is learning about recycling at school, but parents are not open to supporting their learning by adopting recycling practices at home, then the child, especially at a young age, receives very conflicting messages.

Schools are busy places and there are increasing pressures on teachers within the workplace. These can create additional challenges such as gaps between awareness and understanding; motivation to and knowledge of how to become more sustainable; individual to collective empowerment; finding time; budget restraints; linking infrastructure change to mind set change and whole community engagement.

However, with a more directed focus and commitment towards ESD in schools, children generally need very little motivation to care for their environment. You just have to give them a voice and they are away! The problem often comes from adults not understanding the bigger picture about caring for the long term future of the planet.

Strategy for GCC Countries

When it comes to educating locals and expats in the GCC, it can be categorized into three parts:

The physical change: looking at how schools, households and businesses can reduce their waste, water and energy and focus on more sustainable resources in general.

The mind set change: this is all about raising environmental understanding, awareness and action programmes throughout the school and business communities through workshops, cross-curricular activities and presentations, so that everybody is on the 'same page', as well as giving students and employees a voice. This leads to a fundamental change in attitudes and the choices people make.

Learning to respect others and appreciate the environment, as well as giving back to society: this is focused around the opportunities to learn beyond the workplace and home, and connect back to nature, as well as help communities in need. In a nutshell, it about being more caring.

Partnerships and action orientated behaviour within all 3 parts are crucially important to their success. Environmental awareness in itself is not enough, simply because awareness without leading to meaningful action and behaviour change goes nowhere.

Using environmental issues in student learning shows children the bigger picture

Using environmental issues in student learning shows children the bigger picture

This approach can be illustrated in the Beyond COP21 Symposium series that I am currently running globally with the support of Eco-Schools. The event consists of themed high impact presentations from, and discussions with, guest speakers on the SDGs Agenda 2030 and climate negotiations in and beyond Paris; individual & community action; pledge- making and practical activities/workshops.

Local sustainable companies and organisations are invited to showcase their initiatives and engage with students from a variety of schools, both local and expat, in each city or region. Successfully run in Dubai twice and with an upcoming event in Jordan, the Middle East region has certainly embraced the partnership approach when it comes to supporting environmental education initiatives that benefit all those involved.

Role of Technology and Social Media

The greatest role it can play is through the spread of information and ideas, as well as the sharing of good practice within the GCC. Sometimes the hardest thing is to know where to start and how to become motivated, and certainly both can help. Also technology can help to source important resources for teachers. Bee’ah’s School of Environment, which I have been recently developing new online resources for, is a very good example of how well this can work.

Please visit my website http://www.target4green.com for more information about my organization and its activities.

The Concept of Environmental Education

Unlike traditional forms of education, Environmental Education is a holistic, lifelong learning process directed at creating responsible individuals who explore and identify environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action effectively to improve the environment. As a result, individuals develop a deeper awareness and understanding of environmental issues and have effective skills to make informed and responsible decisions that lead to resolute the environmental challenges.

Environmental Education is neither environmental advocacy nor environmental information; rather, Environmental Education is a varied and diverse field that focuses on the educational process that has to remain neutral by teaching individuals critical thinking and enhancing their own problem-solving and decision-making skills in a participatory approach. The guiding principles of Environmental Education include awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills and participation.

Environmental Education can be taught formally in schools classrooms, colleges and universities, or it can take place in informal learning contexts through NGOs, businesses, and the media, natural centers, botanic gardens, bird-watching canoeing, and scuba diving. Besides, Environmental Education takes place in various non-formal education programs such as experiential outdoor education, workshops, outreach programs and community education.

Environmental educator should deliver Environmental Education in a unique way as it is not only based on science, but also concerned with historical, political, and cultural aspects with the human dimension of socio-economic factors. It is also based on developing knowledge on socio-ecological systems.

Environmental Education provides opportunities to kids to build skills, including problem-solving and investigation skills. Qualified environmental educators should work in the field, conducting programs, involving and collaborating with local communities, and using strategies to link the environmental awareness, building skills, and responsible action. It is through Environmental Education that citizens, especially children, can test various aspects of an issue to make informed, science-based, non-biased, and responsible decisions.

Environmental Education in Islam

Islam considers seeking knowledge as an obligation. Islam teaches its followers to keep streets clean, to help animals and any living being, prohibits the pollution of water, prohibits cutting down a fruitful tree and preserves the components of the environment. Islam also sets legislation for cultivating land and benefiting from it. Additionally, Islam has strict teachings to prevent environmental deterioration caused by industrial development, urbanization, poverty etc. Islam organizes the relationship between humans and nature where it calls for its protection and enrichment through a comprehensive educational process. Islamic teachings in preserving environmental components hold the sense of responsibility and sensitivity. Such teachings were extraordinary at a time when the environment was not suffering the pressures it is suffering nowadays.

Environmental Education in Jordan

As far as Jordan is concerned, National Environmental Education efforts remain largely focused on programs organized by NGOs. For example, JREDS is a Jordanian NGO which became the national organization for the Foundation for Environmental Education. JREDS is implementing three international eco-labeling programs – Green Key, Blue Flag and Eco-SchoolsRSCN is another Jordanian NGO that designed Environmental Education programs to improve peoples’ general understanding and awareness of environmental issues. Activities of nature protection organizations have been instrumental in fostering significant cultural change.

Environmentally-literate citizens take active part in solving and reducing the impact of environmental problems by buying "green" products and using natural alternatives to pesticides to name two. However, the success of environmental programs adopted by NGOs will be difficult to sustain for future generations without continuing Environmental Education.

Eco-literacy Outlook for Jordan

Jordan has typically centralized education system where teachers aren't consulted about curricula. School curricula are mono-disciplinary, making interdisciplinary learning hard to apply. Despite environmental topics incorporation into curricula recently, still it is fragmentary. Jordan has a long way to go before a national strategy of environmental education can be totally implemented in its educational system.

Jordan should employ a holistic Environmental Education program adopting sustainable development principles, and presenting green ideas that perceive handling the environmental issues as important target and offers various solutions to different environmental problems which has become a national scourge. Ministry of Education should merge the eco-traditional knowledge effectively with leadership due to the link between the two, and empower the youth to participate in solving their own environmental problems as well as affecting the actions of public towards the desired goal, which is participating in solving the grim reality of environmental problems in the country. The scientific community should also get involved in public relations efforts that enable communication of its research, in effective and understandable ways, to the organizations responsible for education.

Additionally, Jordan should adopt a holistic approach of zero-emission eco-schools throughout the country, eco-schools that relies entirely on renewables for their energy supply and be completely self-sustaining. The design shall adopt Earth building and be constructed out of locally sourced materials, while the geothermal energy will cool and heat it.  Furthermore, school garden and cleaning routines will use the harvested rainwater. Such an eco-school model, hold a bright future where students will eventually have access to a bright green education thereby facilitating a sustainable future.

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