Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. I’m here to discuss something rather critical; our survival. Given the social problems we are facing; high rates of unemployment, high urbanization, and impending food and water insecurity, it could be that a green economy could be the only solution to our problems.

It is almost taken for granted that our government is corrupt, inefficient, and incompetent. We tend to shrug our shoulders, and say “this is Lebanon” without giving it a second thought. We know they mismanage our natural resources and refuse to penalize those who abuse them. But we do we really ever think about how this will affect our ability to survive? Not only as an individual country, but as a member of the Arab region. Let’s take a look at the facts, both at a regional and local level.

We are all aware of the high oil revenues reaped from hydrocarbon resources in the Gulf countries. Yet, this natural resource will not last forever. That being said, Arab economies remain undiversified, relying on oil and products such as cement, aluminum, fertilizers and phosphates. As for us Lebanese, we have just discovered some oil, but it won’t last forever–far  from it. Our economy is underdeveloped; we export some agricultural products, cement, wine, and focus on tourism and services, but do not have a sustainable solid base. We are in a good $40 billion of national debt. We lose $565 million dollars annually to pollution, 100 million of which is due to climate change. We lose this money from the agriculture, health, and tourism industries.

At a regional level, the existing economic structure cannot absorb the Arab youth bulge; 60% are under 25 years old. In addition, there is a lack of investment in the development of the agricultural sector. Indeed, across the Arab world,  urbanization has increased from 38 percent in 1970 to 65 percent in 2010.

In Lebanon, these figures are even more dramatic. 55% of the youth are under 25, and 87% of the population lives in cities. This figure was given in 2007, and it has since increased. Our population density is 300 people per kilometer squared.  If rural agricultural development does not become a priority, more agricultural laborers will come to cities in search of work, will add to the population density, crowding, and strain existing infrastucture.

This trend is not going to alleviate soon. Arab youth unemployment rates are among the highest in the world, often ranging to about a third of the population. In Lebanon, it is 21%!  Given the youth bulge, population growth, government corruption, and the inability of the economic structure to meet the needs of the population, food and water security pose a major threat. A 2010 report of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development found that the Arab region will face water shortages as early as 2015, and climate change amplifies this problem. To compound matters, some Arab countries (the UAE being one) have the lowest amount of renewable fresh water resources but continue to have per capita water consumption rates worldwide. While we in Lebanon have water, we do not manage it efficiently.

So what do we do? We improve irrigation efficiency, environmental farming, and the like. This creates jobs for people in the agricultural sectors as opposed to more migrant workers, helps meet the survival needs of our population, and helps the environment. In terms of being environmentally efficient in feeding our population, we can alter the types of crops we grow so more with less water, even if this eventually means changing our eating habits. We should also reduce carbon dioxide emissions, use greater energy efficiency, have cleaner management of oil and natural gas, and wider use of renewable energy. God only knows we have an awesome resource…the sun! In Lebanon, we could use methods such as rain harvesting to improve our water supply.

Lebanon, it is high time we stop shrugging our shoulders, say “this is Lebanon”, and then go about our daily routine. Our survival, both as an individual country and a part of the Arab world, is becoming contingent on having a greener economy. Let us invest in our agricultural sector, in energy efficiency, in rain-harvesting, in our food and water security, and most importantly, ourselves. We can do it if we want to!

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