The rich folk from the United Arab Emirates are known for their over-the-top cars and wealth. Like gold-plated mercedes. Faux or real, the oil-rich Arab countries, even when they make green initiatives do it in such a bombastic way, counter-intuitive to the gentler, earth-friendly approaches most of us Green Prophets would stand behind.
But all might not be lost if the United Arab Emirate’s “Green Sheikh” gets his way: Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al-Nuaimi (who we interviewed on Green Prophet), a member of the ruling Ajman Royal Family is now being known not just for his wealth. Locals are calling him the “Green Sheikh” and “Down to Earth Sheikh” as a result of his concern for his local and the world’s environment as a result of pollution and climate change. His concern started young, says his family.
According to the National, Sheikh Al Nuaimi has embarked on a journey to Antarctica as part of a 70 member team to study the effects of global warming and climate change on what was once considered to be the world’s coldest place on earth.
“If I wasn’t [down to earth] you wouldn’t see me here (preparing for such a trip).You have to find something where you can make an impact, far away from your daily and routine life, far away from your family and country,” he said.
Even before deciding to undertake such an adventure, Al Nuaimi was already being referred to as “the Green Sheikh” due to his passion and concern for the environment which began when he age 6, when he accompanied his father on hunting trips using only trained falcons instead of guns.
“My father was an excellent falconer and learned the ways of nature from these magnificent birds which take what they need and not what they desire in order to live,” he said.
The Sheikh also became aware from Man’s destruction of the environment during his stint in the petroleum industry as a young man, when he began to see the effects of extracting oil from the ground and what it became after being refined into gasoline and other products.
“I knew I wanted to convert from a chemical engineer, from a polluter to a protector, to an environmental engineer. So I converted. It’s the same knowledge, just flip the chart, flip the paradigm,” he continued.
Taking that in mind, he left the petroleum industry and went back to university to earn a masters degree in environmental science. Since then, he has devoted his life to finding ways to protect and preserve the environment. This was followed by a PHD in Industrial Ecosystems, a field that is very much needed in the fast developing Persian Gulf region where he lives.
His official role is as the environmental adviser to the Ajman Government, where he is also chairman of Green Base Environmental Services and the founder of the Majlis for Holistic Knowledge and Holistic Health, according to another National article on him.
During his stay in Antarctica, Sheikh Al Nuaimi hopes to study how the melting of ice shelves and glaciers in the worlds’ most southern continent will have an eventual effect on the region he hails from.
Actions by concern environmentalists like Sheikh Al-Nuaimi is a far cry from those of other less concerned individuals in the UAE who construct grandiose development projects such as Dubai’s “The World” which is threatening marine and coastal eco-structures; as well as Abu Dhabi’s Al Reem Island project, considered by many to be nothing more than “a playground for the wealthy.”
The Sheikh’s concern for the future of our environment has also bound to be much more than that of the Abu Dhabi oil billionaire who is the “proud” owner of a white gold Mercedes sport’s car, said to be worth more than $2.5 million, that was the subject of a recent Green Prophet article.
Environmentalists like Sheikh Al Nuaimi are a courageous breed; and can be compared to other heirs like David de Rothschild who has been involved in a number of environmental projects including a planned voyage in a boat made from recycled plastic materials to a large floating plastic “island” in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
It would be ideal if both De Rothschild and Sheikh Al Nuaimi will one day pool their efforts to work together on projects to help preserve what is left of our world environment. Maybe they could sail away together on the Plastiki sailboat made from plastic bottles, and after accounting the destruction of garbage island, sail over to the Gulf where they can take count of soil erosion and other man-made problems. Think of the movie they could make!
:: The National
More green news on the UAE:
Is Abu Dhabi’s Al Reem Island Considering the Environmental Implications?
UAE’s SAG Group Tell’s Middle East to “Take Environment Seriously or Suffer”
The World and other Developmental Projects Causing Serious Gulf Erosion