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 City of Nouakchott – Perspectives and Challenges

Nouakchott, capital city of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is the biggest city in the Sahara region. Like other major cities worldwide, the city is plagued by environmental, social and economical challenges. Sewage disposal network, dating back to 1960’s is no longer sufficient for Nouakchott. The country is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and woody biomass for meeting energy requirements, though there is good potential of solar, wind and biomass energy. Solid waste management is becoming a major headache for city planners. Population is increasing at a tremendous pace which is putting tremendous strain on meagre civic resources.

Making of a City

Mauritania is a Western African country bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Morocco, Algeria, Mali and Senegal. Most of its 1,030,700 km2 are covered by deserts. A country as wide as Egypt, it is only scarcely inhabited by some 3.500.000 people. A crossing of cultures, most of the country is inhabited by Arab nomads, the Moors, while the South is inhabited by the African Toucouleur and Soninke people.

Before the country became independent in 1960, the French founded the new capital city Nouakchott. Originally, Nouakchott was a city intended for 3.000 inhabitants. Most of the inhabitants were nomads and the city was established at a meeting place and cattle fair for the nomads. The etymology of the name may mean salt marsh or shore. The area is flat, protected from the sea by low dunes and originally bordered by savannah type vegetation.

After independence, the city grew very quickly, well beyond the expectation of its French founders. In the 1970’s Mauritania sided with Morocco in the Western Sahara war, and was badly defeated by the Polisario rebels. The war caused a massive arrival of refugees from the combat zones in Northern Mauritania. At the same time, drought and famine devastated the whole Sahel region which causes a large-scale refugee influx in the Nouakchott region.

Problems Galore

The arrival of refugees swelled the population of the city, making it the fastest growing city in the region, apart from causing a massive disruption in the environment. For decades, the majority inhabitants of Nouakchott lived in slums. The refugees came with their cattle and contributed to the destruction of existing savanna vegetation by overgrazing. The sand dunes quickly became loose and began to threaten the city from the East and North. Chaotic urbanization caused further environmental destruction, destroying the littoral zone.

The city also suffered social problems, as traditional ways of life disappeared. Former shepherds, agricultural workers and freed slaves became urban poors with little education and abilities to fit in a new economical model. The modern way of life lead to proliferation in plastics items and the landscape of Nouakchott got littered with all sorts of wastes, including plastic bags and bottles.

Nouakchott continues to grow with population reaching one million. However there is stark absence of basic amenities in the city.  Apart from several wells, there are no potable water supplies. The city had no bituminous road beside the two main avenues until recently. The city lacks urban planning, wastewater management and waste management. The construction of harbour and urbanization has led to the destruction of the littoral dunes. The city is in real danger of being flooded in case of sea storm or high tide. The most threatened place is Tevragh Zeina, the most affluent part of the city.

Sand dunes are another cause of worry for Nouakchott. In the 1990’s a Belgian project for the construction of a green belt helped in stopping the progression of dunes. However with expansion of the city, people have now started to build their dwellings in the green belt. The city is also at risk of being flooded in case of rain. In September 2013, during late rainy season, several parts of the city were flooded by rain. Parts of the city are still marked by semi-permanent sewage pools which are a major threat to public health.

Silver Lining

Environment and sustainable development has become a priority during rule of President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz. The government has built roads in Nouakchott and constructed a water abduction system for bringing water from the Senegal River. Slums have been replaced by social dwellings for the poorest.  New schools, hospitals and universities are sprouting at a rapid pace.

Plans are underway to develop the interior of the country to stop internal immigration to Nouakchott. The country is also making made ambitious climate change strategies and has banned the use of plastic bags which has led to its replacement by biodegradable or reusable bags. Mauritania has rich biodiversity, especially in its sea. Infact, the country has many biodiversity hotspots which may attract people for ecotourism. 

There are huge challenges to be tackled to transform Nouakchott into a modern city. Due to nomadic links, Mauritania’s Arabs have a special link to desert and are counted among the environmentally-conscious people of Western and North Africa. However considerable efforts are required to educate the people living in and around Nouakchott and motivate them to become an active participant in sustainable development of the city.

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A Message on World Water Day

Water is the major driving force of sustainable development. World Water Day aims to increase people’s awareness of the water’s importance in all aspects of life and focus on its judicious use and sustainable management. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March as the first World Water Day (WWD). Since then the WWD is celebrated to draw wider public attention to the importance of water for mankind. Globally the day is celebrated to focus attention on water conservation, carrying out appropriate concrete measures and implementing the UN recommendations at individual, local and national level. WWD is a global day creating awareness on the subject and urging people to take appropriate actions for its conservation and avoiding its misuse.

The World Water Day 2016 theme is ‘Better water, better jobs’ which aims to highlight how water can create paid and decent work whiile contributing to a greener economy and sustainable development. Water is essential to our survival, it is essential to human health. The human body can last weeks without food, but only days without water. Water is at the core of sustainable development. From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water contributes to improvements in social well-being and growth, affecting the livelihoods of billions.

Globally, 768 million people lack access to improved water sources and 2.5 billion people have no improved sanitation. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 7.5 liters per capita per day to meet domestic demands. Around 20 liters per capita per day will take care of basic hygiene needs and basic food hygiene. Poor water quality and absence of appropriate sanitation facilities are detrimental to public health and more than 5 million people die each year due to polluted drinking water. The WHO estimates that providing safe water could prevent 1.4 million child deaths from diarrhea each year.

This year, the UN is collectively bringing its focus to the water-sustainability development nexus, particularly addressing non access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, sufficient food and energy services. It is ironical that a large number of people in the Middle East are still consuming excess water and are ignorant or careless about the looming water shortages. With the threat of dwindling water and energy resources becoming increasingly real and with each passing day, it is important for every person in the Arab world to contribute to the conservation of water.

Celebrating World Water Day means that we need to conserve and reduce our water use as excessive water use will generate more waste water which is also to be collected, transported, treated and disposed. We need to understand that 60% of total household water supply is used inside the home in three main areas: the kitchen, the bathroom and the laundry room.

Saving water is easy for everyone to do. Let us try to implement the following basic water conservation tips at home:

  • Turn off the water tap while tooth brushing, shaving and face washing.
  • Clean vegetables, fruits, dishes and utensils with minimum water. Don’t let the water run while rinsing.
  • Run washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full.
  • Using water-efficient showerheads and taking shorter showers.
  • Learning to turn off faucets tightly after each use.
  • Repair and fix any water leaks.

The World Water Day implores us to respect our water resources. Act Now and Do Your Part.

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EcoMENA – Vision and Mission

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to masses in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world.

Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, talks to the Florentine Association of International Relations (FAIR) about the vision, aims, objectives and rationale behind the creation of EcoMENA. The original version of the interview can be viewed at http://goo.gl/dnfa4K

 

FAIR: What is EcoMENA and what is its primary mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA came into existence in early 2012 with the primary aim to raise environmental awareness in the MENA region and provide a one-stop destination for high-quality information on environment, energy, waste, water, sustainability and related areas.

EcoMENA has made remarkable progress within a short period of time and has huge knowledge base in English as well as Arabic catering to all aspects of sustainability sector, including renewable energy, resource conservation, waste management, environment protection and water management.

FAIR: How did the idea of such an activity come from?

Salman Zafar: While doing research sometimes back, I noticed lack of easily-accessible information on Middle East environmental sector. EcoMENA was launched to empower masses with updated information on Middle East sustainability sector and latest developments taking place worldwide.

EcoMENA is an online information powerhouse freely accessible to anyone having an interest in sustainable development. Our articles, reports and analyses are well-researched, well-written and of the highest professional standards.

FAIR: What is the “state of the art” in the field of sustainability and environment protection in the MENA countries?

Salman Zafar: Unfortunately environment protection is not given due importance by regional countries, though there has been some high-profile initiatives like Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Sustainability is, no doubt, making its way in the Middle East but the progress has been slow and unsatisfactory.

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. A regional initiative with a multi-pronged strategy is urgently required to protect the environment and conserve scarce natural resources.

FAIR: What are EcoMENA aims and initiatives for the future?

Salman Zafar: One of the major objectives of EcoMENA is to provide a strong platform for Middle East youngsters to showcase their talents. We are mentoring young students and providing them opportunities to display their innovativeness, creativity and dedication towards environment protection.

Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to people in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world. With soaring popularity of social media, networking plays a vital role in assimilation of ideas, knowledge-sharing, scientific thinking and creativeness.

We have a strong pool of expert writers from different parts of the world, and remarkably supported by a handful of volunteers from across the MENA region. Apart from being an information portal, EcoMENA also provide expert guidance and mentorship to entrepreneurs, researchers, students and general public.

FAIR: Do you think there is enough attention and sensitiveness in the sustainable development?

Salman Zafar: Things are slowly, but steadily, changing in most of the MENA countries and a more concerted and organized effort is required to bring about a real change in the prevalent environmental scenario.

A green MENA requires proactive approach from all stakeholders including governments, corporates and general public. Strong environmental laws, promotion of clean energy and eco-friendly projects, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, institutional support and funding, implementing resource conservation, raising environmental awareness and fostering entrepreneurial initiatives are some of the measures that may herald a ‘green revolution’ in the region.

FAIR: In your opinion, what is the “added value” of your mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA endeavor to create mass awareness about the need for clean and green environment in the Middle East through articles, projects, events and campaigns. EcoMENA is counted among the best and most popular Middle East sustainability initiatives with wide following across the world.

Our goal is to transform EcoMENA into a regional cleantech and environmental hub by providing quality information, professional solutions and high level of motivation to people from all walks of life.

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Green Girl’s Message to the World

These are strange times indeed. Children today are bombarded with phrases such as global warming, carbon footprint and deforestation. These scary terms were totally alien a hundred years ago, but we only have ourselves to blame for their importance now. I ask you a simple question “What kind of future are you leaving for children and youth like me?”

Every day, every minute we are writing an epitaph for a lake, or a wetland or a forest. The mighty river Ganges which once flowed, pristine and pure, from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, is now a cesspool of filth. The roaring Yangste River has forgotten its original trail thanks to the numerous dams and barrages which it encounters.

The Himalayas, shorn of their glacial cover, look like dull pieces of chalk. The historic Dodo is now rejoicing at the thought that it may soon have tigers, lions and pandas for company. The Caspian Sea is now more of a lake than a sea. Caviar may soon be just a word in the dictionary, given the rate at which sturgeons are being fished out.

Every day, while millions go hungry, we let tons of food rot in warehouses. Thousands of children walk miles in the scorching heat to collect a bucket of brackish water because the world does not take note while the rivers dry up.

The questions that arise are: by the time my child goes to school, how many more such species, lakes, forests, rivers will disappear? What kind of environment will the future generations inherit? Isn’t now time ripe to institute ombudspersons for our future generations so that we can prevent reoccurence of environmental disasters? The question that we ask is when, instead of why.

In the words of Robert Swan, “The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It”. I implore you to take action and turn back the clock before it is too late. We urge you not to ignore us. Listen to us, involve us, allow us to help you in framing the policies that will deliver the future we want.

In the the words of Mother Teresa – “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Thank you.

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#InspireMENA Story 2: Ruba Al-Zu’bi – Inspiring Green Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

ruba-alzubiRuba Al-Zu’bi is a very well-known sustainable development policy and planning expert, and a true inspiration for youngsters in Jordan and beyond. Currently she is the CEO of EDAMA, a Jordanian business association that seeks innovative solutions to advance the energy, water and environment sectors. Ruba Al-Zu’bi is Global Resolutions' Jordan Ambassador and a Plus Social Good Connector promoting SDGs and success stories around sustainability in the MENA region.

She is also a founding member of the Jordan Green Building Council, and has facilitated its organizational establishment and strategic planning process. Ruba led the Clean Technology Sector Development at USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program with focus on enhancing private sector’s competitiveness, creating jobs and increasing exports in the clean energy, solid waste management and water resources management clusters. She is associated with EcoMENA as a mentor, and has provided tremendous support to the organization in raising environmental awareness, mobilizing youth and disseminating knowledge. She was selected as Jordan’s Eisenhower Fellow for 2012 fellowship through which she investigated green economy, green buildings and sustainability policy in the US; and was named as 2012 Ward Wheelock Fellow for her outstanding contributions to her community. 

Here she talks to our collaborative partner Impact Squared about her educational background, professional achievements, strategic thinking and visionary approach.

Impact Squared: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and what you do? 
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: I was originally trained as an environmental engineer. When I was studying to become an engineer, I found that the training was disconnected from, rather than supportive of Jordanian society and development. I wanted to make that connection. When Jordan established the Ministry of the Environment in 2004, I was involved in the development of the ministry, updating policies and building its capacity. I was really supported by a minister who believed in empowering women. I continued my education and earned a degree in Institutional Change Management to be able to contribute to public sector reform in Jordan. Right now, I am the CEO of EDAMA, a nonprofit organization that activates the private sector to improve green technology and a green economy in Jordan.

Impact Squared: What specific challenges or issue areas are you driven to work on?
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: A big issue facing the world today is sustainability mainstreaming, which is the idea of bringing ideas and practices of sustainability to different sectors and development decisions. There are tradeoffs that we always need to make. In developing countries, it’s not always possible to put sustainability at the top of the priority list, it’s important to keep the costs of compromise and the tradeoffs in mind throughout the decision-making processes. 

I also think that equal opportunity, job development and bridging education with job opportunities is another important issue. Currently, there is not a lot of green innovation because there’s a lack of understanding of market needs and not a lot of resources to support that. It’s important to support green entrepreneurs to innovate on sustainability. The vision I try to keep in front of me includes these things. Whenever I have the chance to speak, I always integrate these issues and concepts to mobilize efforts for global support and to create action on a larger scene.

Impact Squared: What motivated you to pursue your career and what drives you to continue?
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: I’ve worked in public, private, government, and international donor-based organizations. I really want to be where I can add value and make an impact. Right now, working at a nonprofit organization is challenging because there’s a lack of resources and a need for financial sustainability, but it’s also really important to be closer to the general public because that’s where there is a greater need. At EDAMA, there’s an added advantage of working with the private sector. I’m able to link businesses with the community, which is a promising area in Jordan. The more we think about sustainable energy that can be provided to everyone, especially in light of the influx of Syrian refugees, the more we can alleviate pressure on both the economy and natural resources. 

Impact Squared: How do you approach leadership? What skills or values or are important in leadership?

Ruba Al-Zu’bi: I recently took my team out for brunch. They told me that they wake up happy and feel empowered and appreciated. They feel like they have the space to create, innovate and make decisions, rather than just implementing other people’s ideas, which matters a lot in a leading a nonprofit organization.  As a leader, creating a small community for your team is important for them to create a community in their work around a cause. If you don’t succeed at creating the internal community, you can’t have an impact on the larger community. 

As a young leader, Ruba Al-Zu'bi inspires lots of youngsters in Jordan

As a young leader, Ruba Al-Zu'bi inspires lots of youngsters in Jordan

I always say I wish I had a mentor in an earlier stage of my life – it wasn’t common in Jordan when I was younger. I have a couple of mentors now for myself and I serve as one for younger people. I think relationships like this are very important. It’s important for a mentor to understand how to give mentees support without influencing decisions. I like to help people find their way; I wish I had someone help me do that. Also, family support and friend support contributes to leadership. The more we’re comfortable in our personal lives, the more we can give professionally to our communities. I’m lucky to have that in my life.

I was a young leader, leading before age 30, which had advantages and disadvantages. If you’re not ready or mature enough, it can backfire on your career and how people see young leaders in general. So, it’s important to self-reflect, self-evaluate and to have the ability to see your own growth and skills. Keep learning about those things to be an effective leader. I try to explain that to the younger generation, as they rush, sometimes trying to climb the ladder too quickly. Maturity takes time.

Impact Squared: What values drive the ways you make decisions as a leader and in general?
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: In general, I try to implement my social and environmental values. I value social justice, equal opportunities, and gender equity, which is really what’s behind everything happening in the Arab world and Arab Spring. If we, as leaders, don’t care, integrate, and mainstream these values in our day-to-day life and then professionally, they can’t be implemented on the ground, cascading.  

 

Note: The interview is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Impact Squared. The unedited interview can be read here 

Islamic Principles on Sustainable Development

A huge number of verses in Qura’n and several sayings of the Prophet Muhammad indicate the great importance that has been given to environmental concerns and the responsibility of man to the environment. The concept of sustainable development in Islam can be defined as “The balanced and simultaneous realization of consumer welfare, economic efficiency, attainment of social justice, and ecological balance in the framework of a evolutionary knowledge-based, socially interactive model defining the Shuratic process”The Shuratic process is the consultation or participatory ruling principle of Islam.

The over arching principle in the use of nature is derived from the prophetic declaration that states: "There shall be no damage and no infliction of damage". The right to benefit from the essential environmental elements and resources such as water, minerals, land, forests, fish and wildlife, arable soil, air and sunlight is in Islam, a right held in common by all members of society.  Each individual is entitled to benefit from a common resource subject to establishing the degree of need, (needs have to be distinguished from wants) and the impact on the environment.

Earth is mentioned 61 times in the Qura’n. According to Islam, the universe has been created by Allah (God) with a specific purpose and for a limited time. The utilization of natural resources (ni‘matullah – the gifts of Allah) is a sacred trust invested in mankind; he is a mere manager and not an owner, a beneficiary and not a disposer. Side by side, the Islamic nation has been termed as) ummatan wasatan) the moderate nation in the Qur’an, a nation that avoids excesses in all things. Thus, Muslims in particular have to utilize the earth responsibly for their benefit, honestly maintain and preserve it, use it considerately and moderately, and pass it on to future generations in an excellent condition. This includes the appreciation of its beauty and handing it over in a way that realizes the worship of Allah.

The utilization of all natural resources – land, water, air, fire (energy), forests, oceans – are considered the right and the joint property of the entire humankind. Since Man is Khalifatullah (the vicegerent of Allah) on earth, he should take every precaution to ensure the interests and rights of others, and regard his mastery over his allotted piece of land as a joint ownership with the next generation. 

Land Reclamation

Prophet Muhammad said, "Whosoever brings dead land to life, for him is a reward in it, and whatever any creature seeking food eats of it shall be reckoned as charity from him". The Prophet in another occasion said, "There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him"; and, "If anyone plants a tree, no human nor any of the creatures of Allah will eat from it without it being reckoned as charity from him". This testifies the importance the Prophet in the early days of Islam has given to reclamation of land and the equal rights of all God’s creatures to benefit from the resources of earth. 

Wildlife Protection

Wildlife and natural resources are protected under Shariah (Rules of Islam) by zoning around areas called “hima”. In such places, industrial development, habitation, extensive grazing, are not allowed. The Prophet himself, followed by the Caliphs of Islam, established such “hima” zones as public property or common lands managed and protected by public authority for conservation of natural resources.

Water Rights

In the Shariah, there is a responsibility placed on upstream farms to be considerate of downstream users. A farm beside a stream is forbidden to monopolize its water. After withholding a reasonable amount of water for his crops, the farmer must release the rest to those downstream. Furthermore, if the water is insufficient for all of the farms along the stream, the needs of the older farms are to be satisfied before the newer farm is permitted to irrigate. This reflects the sustainable utilization of water based on its safe yield.

Environment Protection

The rights to benefit from nature are linked to accountability and maintenance or conservation of the resource. The fundamental legal principle established by the Prophet Muhammad is that "The benefit of a thing is in return for the liability attached to it.” Much environmental degradation is due to people's ignorance of what their Creator requires of them. People should be made to realize that the conservation of the environment is a religious duty demanded by God. God has said.  “And do good as Allâh has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allâh does not love the corrupters”, (Al Qasas 28:77.(

Waste Generation

Islam calls for the efficient use of natural resources and waste minimization. God says in Qura’n: “Eat and drink, but waste not by excess; “He” loves not the excessive”, (Al-A'raf 7:31). "And do not follow the bidding of the excessive, who cause corruption in the earth and do not work good”, (Ash-Shu'ara 26: 151-152). “And do not cause corruption in the earth, when it has been set in order”, (Al-A'râf 7:56).

Water Pollution

Water also plays another socio-religious function: cleaning of the body and clothes from all dirt, impurities, and purification so that mankind can be presentable at all times. Only after cleaning with pure (colorless, odorless and tasteless) water, Muslims are allowed to pray. One can only pray at a place that has been cleaned. In light of these facts, Islam stresses on preventing pollution of water resources. Urinating in water (discharging wastewater into water stream) and washing or having a bath in stagnant water are forbidden acts in Islam. The Prophet said: "No one should bathe in still water, when he is unclean”. 

Water Conservation

The teachings of Prophet Muhammad emphasize the proper use of water without wasting it. The Prophet said: “Don’t waste water even if you are on a running river”. He also said: “Whoever increases (more than three), he does injustice and wrong”.  

Sustainable Forestry

Islamic legislation on the preservation of trees and plants finds its roots in Qura’nic teachings of Prophet. They include the following:Whoever plants a tree and looks after it with care, until it matures and becomes productive, will be rewarded in the Hereafter” and “If anyone plants a tree or sows a field and men, beasts or birds eat from it, he should consider it as a charity on his part". He is also reported to have encouraged tree planting as a constructive practice, saying that even if one hour remained before the final hour and one has a palm-shoot in his hand, he should plant it. Even at times of war, Muslim leaders, such as Abu Baker, advised their troops not to chop down trees and destroy agriculture or kill an animal.

Public Participation

The protection, conservation, and development of the environment and natural resources is a mandatory religious duty to which every Muslim should be committed. This commitment emanates from the individual's responsibility before God to protect himself and his community.  God has said, "Do good, even as God has done you good, and do not pursue corruption in the earth. God does not love corrupters”.

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A Glance at Waste-Free Economy

Growth from trashing the planet was never a clever idea and linear economics has now reached the end of the line. The ‘more is better’ economy does not need to be stimulated to grow nor constrained from growing. It needs to be entirely replaced by ‘positive development’ in which markets work to automatically, systematically make things better both locally and globally. The folly of endless resources extraction, endlessly unmet human needs and endless waste dumping can end. Linear economics can be replaced by ‘circular economics’

Waste-Free Growth Model

A switch towards waste-free growth would preserve and regenerate material value and natural capital instead of losing it, so growth would work to build the physical basis for more growth. So long as this happens soon enough, there is no end-point; growth that preserves the resources on which it depends may expand with no theoretical limit to the monetary value of final services that can be produced from a given physical resource input. The future for growth is circular economics where greater economic activity would mean a faster pace of change away from waste-making and towards looking after the world and all its inhabitants. 

What is Circular Economy

In a circular economy profits, jobs and growth come not from extracting, moving, shaping, selling and dumping ever more resources, but from the work done and value created by handling resources with sufficient care that ecosystems and total natural resources actually expand, making it possible to meet human needs everywhere. There would still be unwanted materials to ‘get rid of’ but they would not end up accumulating in ecosystems, they would instead be regenerated as new resources for the Earth and for the economy.

There are no material or non-material human needs that inherently require resources to be lost as wastes in ecosystems. The daunting gulf between the current waste-making economy and tomorrow’s waste-free economy may be reimagined as a vast exciting source of work, jobs and growth.

Making the Switch

The activities needed to switch from linear to circular economics include work on resources, such as doing more with less, cradle to cradle design, doing without accumulative toxics, local recycling and composting everywhere, and reversing the global loss of ecological productivity. Envisage taking the loose ends of the linear economy (extraction and dumping) and joining them together so the new circular economy gains a reliable feedstock of resources.

Abundant energy, arriving free-of-charge from outside the biosphere would provide the thermodynamic input to run circular economics and the potential for regenerating existing accumulations of waste (such as GHG) into new biological and geological resources. Most of the perceived ‘limits of nature’ are limited only by linear economics.

Major Ingredients

The activities needed to switch to circular economics also include non-technical work to create suitable societal conditions such as inclusiveness, sharing and co-operation. A linear economy, with diminishing resources and prospects, inevitably invites alienation, hoarding and conflict – as if the game is for everyone to grab what they can while it lasts.

A circular economy would not need to sell people things they don’t need so radical shifts of culture are invited, such as social status defined by sharing rather than hoarding. Genuine hope for the future could cut urges to indulge in crime, corruption and cheating. Our innate human values of compassion could expand to include all people and all life, with massive economic benefits that are barely imaginable today.

 

Note: This article was originally published by Edie.net newsroom

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Solid Waste Management Challenges in GCC

garbage-dump-kuwaitThe challenges posed by solid waste to governments and communities are many and varied. In the Gulf Cooperation Council region, where most countries have considerably high per capita waste generation values, the scale of the challenge faced by civic authorities is even bigger. Fast-paced industrial growth, recent construction boom, increasing population, rapid urbanisation, and vastly improved lifestyle coupled with unsustainable consumption patterns have all contributed to the growing waste crisis in the GCC.

Among the GCC nations, United Arab Emirates has the highest municipal solid waste generation per capita of 2.2 kg (which is among the highest worldwide) followed closely by Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. The total urban waste generation in the GCC has been estimated to be around 150 million tons per annum, with MSW being the second largest stream after construction wastes.

Key Challenges

A look at the composition of municipal solid waste in GCC nations suggests that it is largely decomposable and recyclable. However, at present waste disposal into landfills/dumpsites remains the widely practiced method. In countries such as Kuwait and Bahrain where limited land is available, this doesn’t seem to be most prudent option. At present, GCC waste management sector is facing multiple challenges in the form of:

  1. Lack of clear reliable framework by which the solid waste sector is administered from the collection, transformation to disposing or treatment phases
  2. Absence  of effective and comprehensive legislative frameworks governing the solid waste sector and the inadequate enforcement mechanisms, which are no less important than the legislations themselves
  3. Management activities of MSW are considered public services
    which are directly controlled by governmental institutions. Such management arrangement is considered weak as it lacks market mechanisms, and in this case economical incentives cannot be used to improve and develop the MSW management services
  4. Inadequate human and organizational capacities and capabilities
  5. Scarcity of accurate and reliable background data and information on the status of solid waste such as rate of generation of different solid waste constituencies, assessment of natural resources and land-use,   and transportation needs, scenarios of treatment, growth scenarios of solid waste which are linked to several driving forces. Needless to say, data and information are the crucial elements for developing MSW management system including the adequate monitoring of the sector.
  6. Inadequate waste strategies/management infrastructure:  In most GCC countries existing waste handling capacities are insufficient. Presently recyclable recovery rate is low. Further, in the absence of local recycling facilities, there is no alternative except to dump the otherwise recyclable material at Landfills.
  7. Waste recycling is expensive: Though recent years have seen an increase in the number of waste recycling facilities the economics of recycling is still not very favourable. In many cases recycling waste is expensive compared to buying the product which can be attributed to lack of recycling facilities.
  8. Under developed market for recycled products: Insufficient demand for recycled products in the local market is another reason, which has hampered the growth of the waste recycling industry.
  9. Public attitude: Economies in the GCC countries are oil dependant due to high reserves of fossil fuels. For several decades alternatives such as solar and wind were not considered and oil was the easier option.  Recently and due to drop in oil prices more consideration is given to renewable sources. Similarly waste was mainly landfilled as it was the easier choice, yet due to known complication with such treatment, more suitable measures were considered. Therefore there is the need for an effective comprehensive “education and awareness” program in regards of these two issues

The Way Forward

GCC urgently requires an ambitious sustainable development agenda with waste management (minimisation, reuse and recycling) among its main priorities. Waste has a range of environmental impacts, on air, water, and land and also is a major economic drain, especially on city budgets. It is estimated that 50% of a city’s budget is spent on waste management. The inefficient use of scarce resources reflected in materials discarded and abandoned as waste represents a huge economic and environmental cost borne by society as a whole.

GCC urgently requires more recycling facilities, like this MRF in Sharjah

GCC urgently requires more recycling facilities, like this MRF in Sharjah

Management of solid waste is a serious challenge faced by most modern societies. But waste is not only a challenge: it is also a largely untapped opportunity. Proper waste management presents an opportunity not only to avoid the detrimental impacts associated with waste, but also to recover resources, realise environmental, economic and social benefits and take a step on the road to a sustainable future. The benefits arise when waste is treated as a resource, a resource that can be
recovered and put to productive and profitable use. Products can be reused and the materials that make them up can be recovered and converted to other uses or recycled.

Qatar’s Fight Against Climate Change

Qatar's environmental records have always been in news, of course for the negative ones, but it has always strived to work towards reduction of GHGs emissions. Qatar is already doing plenty to help poor countries with financing and it seems unfair to focus on per capita emissions for a country with estimated population of 2.27 million making it the 143th most populous country on earth. (For climate talks, that is heresy). This may sound harsh, especially since Qatar's contribution to global warming is tiny compared with the United States, China or India.

In recent years, Qatar is making itself a benchmark for all future sustainable and renewable initiatives in the Middle East. Qatar is committed to creating a cleaner and more energy efficient environment which is expected to make significant contributions in addressing climate change challenges and moving towards a more sustainable future. However, these positive moves will not be enough to cover up the fact that Qatar, much as the other oil-producing countries in the Gulf, has still not made any commitment as part of the UN climate talks.

Qatar’s Revamping Climate Plans

In line with Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar aims to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Sustainable development has been identified as one of the top priorities in Qatar’s National Development Strategy. Environmental Development is one of the four main pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to manage rapid domestic expansion to ensure harmony between economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.

According to recent reports, Qatar is getting close to opening its long-delayed 200-megawatt solar tender. Qatar currently has a stated goal of installing 10 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity by 2030; the 200 MW solar tender represents just a portion of the installations expected over the coming years, but is still a noteworthy quantity. Qatar, as part of its environmental commitment and sustainable development, is turning to renewable sources of energy such as solar power, with initiatives already underway.

Qatar Foundation (QF) plays an instrumental role in Qatar’s sustainability efforts as it helps transform the country into a knowledge-based economy. It also endeavors to realize this vision by making sustainability an integral part of the day-to-day lives of local residents. By doing so, QF is working towards achieving its own strategic mission of unlocking human potential and promoting creativity and innovation.

Qatar Foundation (QF), in partnership with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), is setting up a pioneering Climate Change Research Institute and a Global Climate Change Forum as part of MoU signed on sidelines of COP 18 UNFCC Doha conference in 2012. The Institute, the first of its kind in the region, will seek to fill critical gaps in research on mitigation, adaptation and climate resiliency for key regions such as tropics, sub-tropics and dry lands. However, it is making a very slow pace due to various issues.

Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is producing up to 85 percent of Qatar's total solar energy as it announced the launch of one of the Gulf region's first Energy Monitoring Centre (EMC) to manage its smart grid and monitor solar power generation across all sites within Education City. The EMC is part of the recently completed Solar Smart-Grid Project that added a total of 1.68MW of new solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at various facilities. The PV systems at QF now generate 5,180 MWh of clean energy annually, resulting in savings of around 2,590 tons of CO2 emissions every year.

The Qatar Green Building Council, a QF member was established in 2009 to promote sustainable growth and development in Qatar through cost efficient and environment-friendly building practices. There has been rapid progress in green building sector in Qatar with the emergence of many world-class sustainable constructions in recent years. With the fifth-highest number of LEED-registered and certified buildings outside the U.S., Qatar has valuable experience and inputs to offer on the system’s local relevancy and application.

Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) which hosted Doha UNFCCC climate conference COP 18/CMP8 was the first LEED certified project in Qatar and remains its largest rooftop solar system installed to date. Subsequently, Qatar Foundation continues to have the largest pipeline of all PV installations in the country, in addition to its pipeline of LEED-certified green buildings. With more than five megawatts of solar energy installations planned, Qatar Foundation's clean efforts are one of the largest in the Gulf region.

QF is equally dedicated to sustainable infrastructural development. For instance, the student-housing complex at Education City is currently one of the only platinum LEED-certified student housing complexes in the world. Having earned 12 Platinum LEED certifications in the category of ‘New Construction’ from the US Green Building Council, it is also the largest collection of platinum LEED- certified buildings in one area in the world.

Qatar Solar Energy (QSE) has officially opened one of the largest vertically integrated PV module production facilities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The 300 MW facility, located in the Doha industrial zone of Qatar, is the first significant development of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels in favor of more renewable energy sources. Qatar's fledgling forays into the solar PV sector have gathered pace last year, when state-backed Qatar Solar Technologies (QSTec) acquired a 29% stake in SolarWorld in a move that raised eyebrows throughout the industry.

The Head of Qatar’s state-run electricity and water company (Kahramaa) has already announced ambitious plans to install solar panels atop the roofs of many of the country’s 85 reservoirs. With these latest plans are for creative solution to Qatar’s lack of viable land space (the country measures just 11,571km²), it is a must in a country with very little available land for large-scale solar plants. Qatar will adopt a scattered model, installing several small- to medium-sized PV installations.

Qatar's National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) has been a driving force behind the nation’s thirst for renewable energy, creating an action plan designed to better utilize Qatar’s abundant solar radiation. Meanwhile, Qatar Solar Tech 70% owned by the Qatar Foundation (QF) has announced that it is scaling up its local manufacturing capabilities, and will build a 297 acre solar farm in the country’s Ras Laffan Industrial City.

As the host country for 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar has pledged solar-powered stadiums and the country is also working on a range of other solar projects gearing up to this Football Extravaganza.

Conclusions

Climate change and increase in temperatures is making Qatar even more vulnerable to the lack of water and food insecurity. Every single drop of water that is used in Qatar needs to be desalinated. Every single gram of food that is eaten needs to be either imported or grown with desalinated water. The plunging price of oil, coupled with advances in clean energy and resource conservation, offers Qatar a real chance to rationalize energy policy. Qatar can get rid of billions of dollars of distorting energy subsidies whilst shifting taxes towards carbon use. It is heartening to see that Qatar has recognized the importance of renewable energy and sustainability and its fight for reducing its ecological footprint. A cheaper, greener, sustainable and more reliable energy future for Qatar could be within reach.

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Islam and Environment Protection

Environment protection is an important aspect of Islam. Being stewards of the Earth, it is the responsibility of Muslims to care for the environment in a proactive manner. There is a definite purpose behind the creation of different species, be it plants or animals. Muslims are encouraged to reflect on the relationship between living organisms and their environment and to maintain the ecological balance created by Allah. Protection of the environment is essential to Islamic beliefs and mankind has the responsibility to ensure safe custody of the environment.

Environment Protection and Resource Conservation 

The Islamic perspective on environment protection reflects a positive image about Islam and how it embraces every single matter the humans face on earth. The Islamic attitude towards environment and natural resource conservation is not only based on prohibition of over-exploitation but also on sustainable development. The Holy Quran says:

"It is He who has appointed you viceroys in the earth … that He may try you in what He has given you." (Surah 6:165)

"O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters." (Surah 7:31)

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) encouraged the planting of trees and the cultivation of agriculture which are considered as good acts. This is illustrated in the following traditions: Narrated by Anas bin Malik (RA) that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said: "There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him."‏ (Bukhari).

Islam is against the cutting or destruction of plants and trees unnecessarily as is evident in the following Hadith: Abdullah ibn Habashi reported that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "He who cuts a lote-tree [without justification], Allah will send him to Hellfire." (Abu Dawud). The lote-tree grows in the desert and is very much needed in an area which has scarce vegetation. The devastation caused by deforestation in many countries causes soil erosion and kills many of the biodiversity of the earth.

The approach of Islam towards the use of natural resources was brilliantly put forward by the Fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali ibn Abi-Talib (RA) who said “Partake of it gladly so long as you are the benefactor, not a despoiler; a cultivator, not a destroyer. All human beings as well as animals and wildlife enjoy the right to share Earth’s resources. Man’s abuse of any resource is prohibited as the juristic principle says ‘What leads to the prohibited is itself prohibited”.

When Abu Musa (RA) was sent to Al-Basrah as the new governor, he addressed the people saying: "I was sent to you by 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA) in order to teach you the Book of your Lord [i.e. the Qur’an], the Sunnah [of your Prophet], and to clean your streets." Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him) forbade that a person relieve himself in a water source or on a path or in a place of shade or in the burrow of a leaving creature.  These values highlight Islam’s stress on avoiding pollution of critical resources and importance of cleanliness.

Spreading Environmental Awareness

There are various ways which you can raise environmental awareness in your personal and professional circles. The popularization of social networking among young generation makes it easier and attractive to spread environmental awareness using Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc. A simple and effective method which I use is the distribution of QR Codes (Quick Response Codes) in my college campus.

Another great idea would be to start your own school, college or workplace campaign for planting trees. Students, faculty members and co-workers can be motivated to donate a nominal amount of money towards plantation campaign. Keeping plants around your home, school or workplace is not only aesthetic and decorative but also keep you healthy and improve indoor air quality. According to Hazrat Jabir (RA) reported that Prophet Muhammad [S.A.W] said: “No Muslim, who plants a shoot, except that whatever is eaten or stolen from it, or anyone obtains the least thing from it, is considered [like paying] almsgiving on his behalf until the Day of Judgement." (Muslim)

Conclusions

Environmental awareness and protection of natural resource is an integral part of Islamic beliefs. As viceroys of Allah on this earth, we have to utilize natural resources in a sustainable manner in order to ensure that Allah’s Bounties to continue. The principle of conservation is beautifully illustrated by the rule which says that while making ablutions (wudu) we should be abstemious in the use of water even if we have a river at our disposal. As humans, we are keepers of all creation, including soil, air, water, animals and trees. A major objective of Islamic teachings and Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) traditions is to build and maintain a healthy and clean environment which is devoid of any source of pollution and misuse. 

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Environmental Conservation and International Solidarity

international-solidarityEnvironment is a global public good and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of human rights. Environment has no respect for international boundaries and borders, and belongs to all countries and peoples. However the capacity of environment is limited and a common issue for the entire mankind is to conserve this limited global environment so that all people on earth (and coming generations) can enjoy a healthy life.

Right to Healthy Environment

The right to a healthy and sustainable environment is getting increasing importance in the light of climate change concerns. With fast-changing geo-political situations and ever-increasing conflicts, conservation of the environment has become a critical factor for building and maintaining peace, reducing poverty, maintaining and improving health, and fostering sustainable development.

Environmental problems, in developed as well as developing countries, have become more complicated and serious in recent years. Industrial pollution, rise in temperature, changing weather patterns, acid rain, depletion of ozone layer, rise in sea level, outbreak of diseases, species extinction are good examples to prove that environmental health is a global issue that concerns all nations of the world.

Significance of International Solidarity

International solidarity in environmental conservation has assumed greater importance in recent years as relationships between various countries, economies and societies have become more interdependent and symbiotic. International solidarity is essential for solving environmental issues afflicting the developed countries as well as developing world. The international environmental agreements and treaties negotiated in the last few decades reflect international solidarity in protecting and maintaining global environmental, however there is still a long way to go. 

Contemporary environmental challenges demand a visionary approach to achieve sustainable development, strengthen international solidarity and preserve peace and stability. Infact, international initiatives to conserve natural resources will foster peace-building efforts between warring parties and may also encourage positive interaction and strong bonding among nations.

A good example of international solidarity in environmental conflict resolution is sharing of water resources which engage disputing parties in a meaningful dialogue, as in the Nile river case. Another important area is conservation of biodiversity in disputed areas which may assist in peace-building, thereby fostering closer cooperation between local communities.

International solidarity in environment protection has the potential to unite community-based groups in different countries, fighting similar environmental problems, in order to streamline their efforts. Civil society groups, due to their effectiveness and efficiency, play a key role in environmental conservation in any nation. For example, NGOs can enhance the chances of sustainable peace by increasing environmental awareness and motivating local communities to participate in environmental cooperation programs.

Conclusion

To sum up, if environmental degradation can trigger conflict and violence, then international environmental cooperation can be a handy tool for sustainable development and peace-building. However, it would require active participation of all sectors of society and all types of people including workers, corporates, law-makers, farmers, students, teachers, researchers, social activists and indigenous communities.