Volume 4, No. 21 November - December 1999
In This Issue
Arab Environmentalists! Unite!
By Najib Saab
Before you finish reading this page, the lungs of 160 million Arabs would have been filled with ten billion liters of polluted air, deserts would have expanded few hundreds of meters and 75 million Arabs would have drunk polluted water. While the population of the Arab countries will exceed 340 million at the beginning of the 21st century, Arab environment continues to deteriorate steadily and unchecked. The fact is that 160 million Arabs live in air-polluted cities, 75 millions have no access to clean drinking water, and drought is spreading to cover the last five percent of Arab green lands, while desert constitutes more than 95 percent of the total area. Before the sun sets today, the size of waste mountains in the Arab region will increase by more than 76,000 tons, as we produce some 30 million tons of wastes annually.
Amid this environmental madness, Arabs lose 15 billion dollars annually, representing 3 percent of the GNP, to treat the direct health and material damages resulting from environmental deterioration. This means that our environmentally uncontrolled development policies are bringing us losses exceeding growth rates. In other words, if we consider the cost of environmental destruction, we find that all our economies are in fact bankrupt.
It is time to put an end to this collective environmental madness, which is manifested in the over-grazing of resources practiced by rich and poor Arabs alike, in order to meet today's needs and greeds, with no respect to the rights of the future generations. It would seem that every one has lost hope that there will be a future at all.
Environment & Development magazine is an attempt to help generate positive Arab attitudes towards the environment, by bringing environmental concerns to the public-at-large and making popular reading out of a specialized title. Emanating from a personal commitment to the environmental cause, this magazine conveys the message of sustainable development in the Arab world. It has never been a lackluster publication, but a message of hope committed to a prosperous and clean future for the Arab World. It seeks to create a behavioral change in the attitudes of people towards the environment, urging them to take personal actions for protecting it. Through it, Arab environmentalists could have a voice loud enough to be heard and respected by decision-makers. In less than four years, Environment & Development has entered thousands of houses, schools and offices throughout the Arab world. It has sponsored hundreds of school environment clubs, organized environmental conferences and exhibitions, and helped integrate the environment in the daily concerns of mass media, through joint ventures with leading newspapers and broadcasters in 8 countries. It has produced environmental television programmes, encouraged industrial and commercial companies to set and implement environmental policies and launched the biggest organized environmental training campaign for schools all over Lebanon, based on a comprehensive environmental activities manual it produced, the first of its kind in Arabic. It started publishing an Arabic environmental library in three book series for all ages. And foremost, it has triggered an open debate forum for Arab environmentalists around the world, who communicate via the magazine and its internet web site. In short, this magazine has never been a traditional journalistic endeavor, but rather, a spark for Arab environmental revival, placing environment among the daily basic concerns of every citizen and on the agenda of every government and official.
Through all this, the magazine has maintained its credibility and independence, refusing to be used as vehicle by environment traders or to remain silent about environmental crime. In our quest, we applauded what was good and beautiful so it would be repeated, and we exposed mistakes so they could be rectified. Doing so, we gained friends, but we also drew enemies of the environment. This was not a surprise, because we have never claimed to be neutral, nor have we tried to please every body. We are actually biased to the protection and conservation of the environment, against all polluters and abusers, whether practiced openly or evasively.
Starting January 2000, Environment & Development will be published on monthly frequency. At a time when politics, society, show business, economy, trade and women have their newspapers and magazines, the Arab environment, too, has a right to a voice loud enough to be heard in the 21st century.
Many people accuse us of being hasty, while Arabs have not yet reached a level of environmental awareness that makes them receptive to a monthly magazine dedicated to the environment. To those we say that time does not wait. The future of our children cannot be an issue for bargaining. Day by day, environmental misery spreads in the Arab World, air pollution becomes more acute, water resources get scarcer, quality of soil deteriorates and marine life vanishes. In fact we are in a hurry to announce a state of environmental emergency all over the Arab world, for all establishments, political parties and institutions, public and private, are mere deceitful witnesses to collective national suicide if they remain impartial to the destruction of the environment and resources.
During four years, Environment & Development created its readers and advertisers and transformed environment into a popular topic. During this same period, however, the magazine has consumed hundreds of thousands of dollars, which I, the publisher, like to call a personal investment in the future- the future of the Arabs, as well as that of my own children, while others call it a loss. Although we succeeded to attract so many people to the environmental cause, from students to officials and rulers, we have failed to translate this attraction into material support that we urgently need to continue and develop our work.
Publishing this magazine monthly would entail more investments. While some people regard this initiative as a continuation of a hopeless and losing adventure, we still believe that real madness is watching the Arab environmental tragedy from the spectators seats, while quietly tracking the news of politicians, singers and beefeaters as if everything around us is fine.
You read this magazine in Beirut, Riyadh, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Amman or Tunisia, so you belong to the largest Arab environmentalist gathering.
If you are a student, teacher, trader, governor or ruler,, we invite you to invest with us: As soon as you finish reading this article, make copies of the subscription coupon and give them to your friends, relatives and colleagues to be completed. If you are a company director, send the magazine as a gift to your clients, and ask your marketing manager to prepare an environmental advertisement to be published in the magazine monthly. If you are a minister of education, distribute the magazine to schools in your country. If you are in charge of an environment organization, distribute the magazine among members. Encourage your friends to buy the Environment & Development from newsstands and bookshops. You, readers of this magazine, are its best supporters, because you are among those most sensitive to the environmental challenges of the future.
Before inviting every one to support this environmental project, I started with myself. I took the venture of publishing Environment & Development from personal funds, leaving behind twenty years of successful work as an architect, settled life in The Netherlands, and my students at the American University of Beirut. Before asking others to place environment on their agendas, I entered it in mine as the sole item.
This magazine will not be financed by unidentified donors, but rather by you, friends of the environment, whether you are readers or independent advertisers. We are confident that readers and advertisers will back us. It is time for action. Turn your moral support for the magazine into individual and group subscription and advertisement. Invest in the environment. Future is for those who make it, not for those who violate it or wait for it in the seats of spectators. Environment will be the main concern of the world in the third millennium, and we shall work to make Environment & Development the Arabic magazine of the 21st century. Arab environmentalists, citizens and rulers, poor and rich, unite!
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