This week, our Green Prophet in Focus series gets up close and personal with resident Prophet Michael Green.
Once a music journalist (he stands true to vinyl) and environmental activist in Bristol, UK, Michael has since brought his green wisdom to Israel. In addition to his position here as Prophet-in-residence, Michael is a journalist for various publications and keeps a blog, Swords to Ploughshares.
How would you define yourself environmentally?
At the moment, I’d describe myself as a spreader of the word, trying to let as many people know about green happenings as possible. I previously worked as a “professional” eco-campaigner at an NGO.
How you get around?
Sandals, bus and bike (in that order). Never owned a car.
Can you tell us about your biggest green passion? What fires you up?
Food – where it comes from and how it’s grown. Eating is an “environmental act” that everyone performs each day, whether they know it or not. I’m a “reformed” vegetarian–after going twenty years without flesh and five years without eggs or dairy products, I understand the importance of animals to our diet, food system and landscape whilst still not taking them for granted. (Which means I don’t mind eating them from time to time as long as I know where they come from, more or less.)
What do you think is the most important issue the world faces today?
I’ve heard it’s got something to do with carbon dioxide and things getting warmer…
What is the most important issue in the Middle East?
Unfortunately, the environment takes second (or third, or fourth) place to other issues in the regions, whether it’s making ends meet, putting food on the table, or preparing for/getting over the latest war. In Israel at least, the somewhat short-term vision is beginning to be reversed as people wake up to the fact that “the environment” isn’t something so far removed from their everyday lives.
What’s the saddest enviro-related thing you’ve ever seen?
Sometimes the worst things are the most mundane – like the thousands of plastic bags in every shop and market stall. Thrown away after five minutes then lingering in the earth for hundreds of years. It’s just stupid.
What’s the most hopeful project/company/event you’ve seen?
The inspiring Transition Towns movement in the UK, grassroots initiatives by people working to wean their communities off oil addition. When are we going to see the first Transition Town Middle East?
What do you do to play your part in greening the earth?
Living in a big city isn’t the most “sustainable” lifestyle, but I steer clear of cars, try and avoid buying/accumulating things I don’t need and then reuse or recycle the rest.
Who are your environmental heroes?
Lady Eve Balfour, one of the founders of the Soil Association and pioneers of modern organic farming in the UK back in the 1940s; Peter Melchett, grandson of the founder of the ICI chemical company who turned his back on nitrogen fertilisers to become an environmental campaigner and organic farmer (with a penchant for pulling up unwelcome GM crops); and Mario Levi, pioneer of organic farming in Israel who, after 80+ years on this planet, isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty pulling up weeds instead of spraying chemicals.
If you could meet with one of these heroes what would you ask them?
I’ve worked with one of them, met another and the third passed away some years ago.