Tag Archive: environment


Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. The time where the state of our environment has come to represent much of what is wrong with our political system has arrived. The Naameh landfill has closed down, and the clowns we have for politicians cannot agree as to what happens next.

As awful as this is, and as terrible as this smells, this is actually the ghost of a new beginning. Our government is faced with the reality that it is dysfunctional, and can no longer hide. Our environmental problems must be addressed at this point. Moreover, this is one of our first mass secular movements, campaigning for effective environmental and political policy change.

My fellow Lebanese, we are at the crux of a new political era. It is up to us to use this period wisely, and to our advantage. Let us work to make a better Lebanon.

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. 2014 is coming to a close. We’ve had better years. Our presidential vacancy, the second suspension of the parliamentary elections, and the incursions by ISIS into Lebanon make it difficult to look back on 2014 with fondness. It also makes it difficult to think of ourselves in empowering political terms, as so much of this has happened against our will.

Such an ethos leaves us feeling powerless, and unable to affect positive change. This is perhaps the biggest danger of all.

I have no predictions about 2015. I leave such tasks to Michel Hayek and his associates. More to the point, I believe that shaping 2015 is up to us. It is up to us as to whether or not we choose to create change. It is up to us to step up and make the choice to care about our environment. it is up to us to start implementing environmentally friendly practices in our daily lives, such as changing patterns of consumption and lifestyle habits that produce unnecessary waste and pollution. It is up to us to advocate for the socio-political space to have our environmental needs addressed by policy-makers. It is up to us to problematize these issues so that they matter and cannot be ignored.

My fellow Lebanese, too often we discuss wanting change, but do not choose to be the change. This is our greatest failing. We aren’t alone in this. However, we do have the power. It is with us. Let us not continue to perpetuate the mood that created the cartoon below:

Lebanon: #notamartyr campaign

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. If you have been following the news and digital media lately, then you are aware of the online #notamartyr campaign. Originally, the #notamartyr campaign started off as one where some Lebanese citizens objected to describing the civilian victims of our political assassinations as martyrs. The reason for this is because martyrs are aware of a political cause that they intend to die for, but this description does not apply to those who were killed. Those who were killed were innocent bystanders who had no intention of dying for any cause, and should be described as such.

This movement developed into an act of media online protest. Lines such as “I want to raise my kids in Lebanon” #notamartyr started to appear. While there are a number of other images, here are some of the most popular ones.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-25623299

My fellow Lebanese, I agree. We are not martyrs. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness that dominates our socio-political realm is hard to dispel. However, we should not simply shrug our shoulders and feel doomed to victimization or martyrdom.

In the environmental context, we are neither martyrs or innocent victims. We interact with our environment every day, and participate in either its deterioration or its improvement. Indeed, our environment is one of the few facets of our lives where we have some personal agency and can make a difference. If only because it will give us some version of control over our lives, let’s try being environmentally-friendly and improving our country. Let’s not throw our trash out of car windows, conserve water, grow plants on our balconies, and use energy wisely.  These are simple things at the individual level that we can do that will make a difference. We want to live a country that is healthy and sustainable. #notamartyr

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. If you’ve been following the news, then you know that laws that protect women and children from domestic violence have been passed recently. This is an enormous step for women in our country–well done! Organizations such as KAFA, Nasawiya, and others rallied and pushed parliamentarians for years in order for this legislation to pass. It finally happened. We are the second Arab country to do this, the first being Tunisia. This is a rare gem of good news!

Women are typically among the most vulnerable members of our population, and yet enough were able to rally, organize politically, and get legislation passed that protects them. Notice anything that we could learn from this? 

My fellow Lebanese, this example proves to us that we can be effective. How often have women been discouraged from participating politically, or have been told that religious institutions will discourage such legislation to pass? They came through, they organized, and they did it anyway. Those of us who are environmentalists should follow their example.

My fellow Lebanese, if we want to improve our country, if we want to breathe better air, if we want our once-pristine coastline to be clean again, if we want “Lebanon the Green” to flourish, if we want our agricultural sector to grow, if we want our waste properly disposed, if we want proper urban planning to take place, then we need to organize. We need to be effective. We need to be loud, we need to be clear, and indicate that we will not go away until effective laws are passed and enforced. We shrug our shoulders saying “this is Lebanon.” You know what? This is Lebanon. It is our home, it is where we live, and we treat it like the dumpster that it is not. 

The strong Lebanese women who helped make these laws happen command my respect, and should serve as an example for us environmentalists. They have proven that we can make a cause that is usually dismissed central, and make it happen. We can do it if we want to, Lebanon!!!

 

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. If you’ve been watching TV, then you’ve seen BankMed’s public service announcements. Minister of Environment Nazim el-Khoury appears in some of these, encouraging people to stop littering and reduce car usage in an effort to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Other public personalities also appear on these, encouraging us to replenish our once-green environment by planting flowers or other plants that are easy to maintain on our balconies, and using solar power as opposed to generators.  

Firstly, I tip my hat to BankMed for its environmental awareness campaign. Well done! However, what I would also like to emphasize are the benefits that these small changes in our behavior can do. 

Carbon Dioxide and Soot are the top two contributors to global warming.  A reduction in these through limiting our car usage, carpooling, and more would limit the the acceleration of global warming that our country has witnesses over the past few years.

A cessation of littering has obvious benefits. If we throw our waste where we are supposed to and handle it properly, this leads to less soil pollution and water contamination. This gives us a cleaner and healthier habitat in which we can live. Moreover, it is also positive for us psychologically to live in a clean space. After all, how happy would you be if your home were to be covered in garbage? 

Planting on our balconies and/or rooftops is of enormous help. Plants produce oxygen and take in carbon dioxide, a process which improves air quality. Given that our air quality is very poor, this is of immediate significance.

Lastly, the use of solar power is important  in that it reduces the reliance of non-renewable sources of energy and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide and soot that are the product of generator power. This means that we can conserve resources and improve our air quality. In addition, solar panels pay for themselves over the course of five years and after that, you will start to save money. 

These are good tips which I highly recommend. We can do it, Lebanon!

Lebanon: Anger (mis)Management

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. I’d like to share something with you that really ticked me off. Early in the day I saw a random gentleman throw a bag of what appeared to be toilet-trash out on the street. I didn’t say anything, but couldn’t help but shoot him a dirty look. Apparently, this was enough to provoke the rather long outburst: “what are you glaring at me for? Is it any of your business what I do with my trash? You think what I do is bad…look at the refugees!”

My fellow Lebanese, it is no secret that we do have a large number of refugees in our country; over 66,000 Syrian refugees over the past 18 months alone. We also have a larger population of Palestinian, Kurdish, and Iraqi refugees; the estimated number of these are 450,000 or so. I ask you this, though…what do the refugees have to do with our inability to throw away trash properly?

It is easy to get demoralized in our current political environment, and take it out on others and our environment. It shows in the degradation of our state-provided services, our everyday social processes, and the increasing political instability that we are experiencing. Our country is so divided that we cannot even agree as to whether or not Michel Aoun’s convoy was actually shot at yesterday. Our political situation is precarious. But once again, I ask you…how is any of this responsible for our individual inability to properly take care of our environment?  

My fellow Lebanese, now is the time for us to step up and make a conscious decision to take better care of our country. Admittedly, it is not an easy time for us…but I ask you, did we ever have an easy time? Are we going to sit and wait for a good time for us to become environmentally-conscious? If we keep waiting it will be too late. The rate of cancer in our country already increases at 5% annually. We already have enough problems as it is. This is one of the few things we can do that will positively affect us and those around us. Enough blaming political issues for our own irresponsibility. This one is on us, Lebanon.

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. I’m sure we can all testify to the pain of the civil war, be it through personal experience, those of our parents, extended relatives, our loved ones, and others. We’ve all been touched by it. At least 150,000 people were killed in our war (yes, it was our war, let’s not blame it all on foreign forces who were also here at the time), roughly 250,000-300,000 displaced,  and an unknown number kidnapped whose whereabouts are still unaccounted for. Our politicians called for national unity and for steps in the “right direction”…whatever that means. In our atmosphere of political bullying, chronic socio-political sectarianism, and crumbling social services, the substantive meaning of these words is questionable.  Face the facts, we’ve dealt with political near-paralysis for roughly 37 years. What are we supposed to unite around?

Our country. Our environment. At first it sounds outlandish, but it makes sense when you think about it. As a Lebanese I live the political malaise, anger, frustration, and sectarianism that plagues our country. But regardless of your political affiliations or your religious sect…don’t you need clean air? Don’t you need clean water? Don’t you need a clean country? Think about it. This is one thing that we can all agree on…we need a better environment.

I’m not asking for anyone to be best friends with people they do not like. What I’m asking for is to consider our environmental crisis as the basis of national reconciliation. The need for a clean and liveable habitat surpasses our identities as Christians, Muslims, Druze, or whatever you’d like to call yourself. We all need a place where we can live healthily in a sustainable environment. Let’s think about what it means to literally work together to rebuild our country…”Lebanon the Green”, as it was once called. Rehabilitating our country could even mean rehabilitating ourselves. Just think about it. That’s all I ask.

Hello, Lebanon.  It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. In discussing environmental matters, I heard one girl say “This is  Lebanon, I wish we could make a difference.” Because, naturally, shrugging it off and blaming her unwillingness and reluctance to participate in rehabilitating the country helps matters. At the risk of sounding harsh, I think that’s pathetic.

I won’t deny that our government is corrupt, inefficient, and has little accountability to us.  That said, it’s not like policy changes like magic in states with a stronger and more efficient government apparatus, either.  Wherever you live, the change starts with the population.

Lebanon, the state of our environment is horrendous. We have a 5% increase in cancer cases every year, and my best guess is that this is due to our environment. Think about it. Our waste water goes untreated. Mind you, we water our crops with it. We toss our garbage into our rivers and our sea, too. We have 800 illegal landfills which we do absolutely nothing about. We throw our garbage into the sea and into the street with no scruples. We over-pollute when we drive, as we refuse to carpool or use public transportation, or even turn off the engine when we get stuck in traffic for extended periods of time, and inhale all the fumes. As a general rule, we don’t save up on our water or invest in water-saving infrastructure when we are due for a water shortage in 2015. We participate in desertification and cut down our trees with little thought as to the effect on the environment and then wonder why it gets hotter and more polluted every year. We don’t invest much in renewable energy, and then pollute the environment with our generator fumes and waste money paying for it when we could use a more reliable and clean source of energy…the sun. We have no urban planning, and then wonder why we have over-crowding, unsanitary conditions, and more urban problems all over the country.

We complain about every day life in Lebanon all the time. Do we ever stop and wonder where so many of our problems come from? These problems…those related to our health, related to the discomforts of every day living, those related to our budgets, as we don’t economize in an eco-friendly fashion…are not due to the U.S., Iran, Russia, Israel, or the international tribunal. These are OUR problems. We caused them. So tell me, are going to hide behind “this is Lebanon” and pretend that we have no responsibility in these matters?

We used to be known as “Lebanon the Green” and “The Paris of the Middle East.” What are we known for now?

My fellow Lebanese, are we going to allow this state of affairs to continue? Are we? This is our home, our land. It is up to us to rehabilitate it. So come on, let’s get started. Let’s be innovative. It’s time for us to participate in beach clean-ups, tree-planting, and advocating for eco-friendly policies. It’s time for us to adopt more eco-friendly behavior, like saving water at home, carpooling, growing plants on our rooftops and/or balconies, using sources of renewable energy, and more. It won’t change overnight, but it’s got to start somewhere. Damn straight, this is Lebanon. This is our home, our country, our nation. Are we willing to let it go to ruin? Is this what we want to live in? I don’t think so.  So let’s effect positive change. We can do it, Lebanon!!!

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. It appears as though climate change and desertification have finally made some news, as Minister of Environment Nazim Khoury addressed the General Assembly on Tuesday, pledging that Lebanon would combat climate change and desertification. He said that we are working to increase the amount of energy that comes from renewable sources to 12 percent by 2020 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 35 percent by 2030.  Apparently, the economic benefits from such changes are roughly $3 billion! So far, so good.

He also said implementing this commitment is expected to cost a total of $12 billion, and called on developed countries to fulfill their obligations under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and secure effective and coordinated long-term funding. Going into greater debt might not sound great, given that we have quite some national debt, but we’ve always been a developing country and in any case, these are issues that need to be addressed and dealt with. Besides, it is good in the long-run!

What the plan actually is and how (or, more practically if), it is going to be implemented is anyone’s guess. Frankly, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that not all potential funds go straight into a new ministerial private pool. But I digress.

My fellow Lebanese, there are individual things we can do to combat climate change and desertification, even if we don’t get foreign assistance (or see the fruits of it, anyway). A lot of the fight against climate change involves reducing the amount of CO2 (and other gases) we release into the air. To find out your “carbon footprint” and how you can do little things to reduce the amount of CO2 you use and thus help the environment, please follow this link: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

As for desertification; this involves replanting, reforesting, and rehabilitating our land. So let’s do it, Lebanon. Let us rehabilitated our polluted and burned lands. Let’s get out there and help our country. Let us make it the best it can possibly be, both for it and ourselves. We can do it, Lebanon!

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. If you follow the news, then you probably know that the smoking has been officially banned in public places. Indeed, if a restaurant owner allows smoking in his or her establishment, they may be fined up to 1 million L.L., and if an individual is found in violation of this law, they may be fined up to 100,000 L.L. The World Health Organization supports this, as do many other health activists. Indeed, it is predicted that fewer people will be affected by second-hand smoke, and that more people will be less motivated to smoke if they have fewer opportunities to do so.  However, one aspect of this law which has yet to be discussed is how smoking affects us environmentally, and the improvements that can ensue.  We know what smoking does to our bodies, but few know what smoking does to the Earth. So here we go!

It is fairly obvious that smoking pollutes the air and quite often the ground; after all, how often do you walk and see cigarette butts on the sidewalk or on a dirt road? However, this type of pollution is far more dangerous than we assume. Cigarettes contain over 4000 carcinogenic chemicals which are exhaled and released into the air and the atmosphere.  The cigarette butts that are thrown away also contain chemicals which enter our eco-system, and they take 1-5 years to decompose. Knowing that ~ 60% of Lebanese are smokers, think of the amount of cancer-causing toxins that are released into the air daily. We inhale these toxins, whether we like it or not. Not only does this affect our health, but it also affects that of animals and vegetation. After all, the quality of air is diminished, making it difficult for our plants to thrive, and our animals get sick, too. Nor are these chemicals released into the air exclusively.  Courtesy of the cigarettes butts, the improper disposal of garbage, and the fact that particles can only permeate in the air for so long and eventually settle, cigarette toxins also leak into our soil and infiltrate our waters. As such our water supply ends up polluted. We drink this water, feed our livestock with it, and water our vegetables and fruits with it. Using such contaminated water leads to a variety of health problems, cancer not being the least of them.  

In terms of cigarette production, the amount of environmental harm done in the name of smoking is phenomenal. Think about it. Because it’s a cash crop, trees are cut down and destroyed in order to make space for farming use. When it’s planted, tobacco is sprayed with pesticide, which leaks into the soil and water, and is harmful for you to inhale. But there is more. Think about the paper production. For every three hundred cigarettes produced, an entire tree is destroyed. That large carton of cigarettes you bought at the airport has over a tree’s worth of paper. On a grand scale, roughly 6.43737 km of paper are used PER HOUR  in order to roll and package cigarettes.  While we may not produce cigarettes in Lebanon, think about the amount of harm we do to the environment globally when we smoke. This is on top of the damage smoking does to your health and your immediate environment!!

With this new law, you will be protected in more ways than one. At the level of personal health, you will be protected from inhaling second-hand smoke. At the level of the environment, there will be fewer toxins in your air, soil, and water. Hopefully there will be fewer cigarette butts littering the streets.  If fewer people purchase cigarettes due to this law, there will be less environmental damage done worldwide in terms of deforestation for the purpose of growing and packaging cigarettes. Lebanon, this is a sign of progress for both our health and our environment. This law is awesome! Well done, Lebanon!!