Osama, Khaloud, Zein and Sawsan (from left to right) present green projects from Jordan at Green Prophet’s Environment blogging workshop.
It was 20 hours we will never forget. Nineteen journalists, activists and bloggers from Jordan, the PA and Israel met at an international blogging workshop in Jordan intending to make better environment bloggers (and friends) out of all of us. Hosted by Green Prophet, Volunteers for Peace in Bethlehem and the Masar Center in Jordan, we shared, we ate, we danced and we wrote. Blog posts from the event are forthcoming.
Besides all of our mutual desires to share and to learn more about communicating our regional problems in the global blogosphere, each and every one of us all shared our local environmental issues, projects and dreams. Readers should take note: it’s very uncommon for Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis to meet in such face-to-face encounters. We overcame our fears and stereotypes to broaden our worldviews and to make change.
In order of presentation, let’s start with Jordan:
It seems that all of the Jordanian participants had studied at the Arava Institute in Israel, so they were already attuned to the importance of cross-cultural dialogue in solving green problems.
We met Sawsan and Osama who have both studied at the Arava Institute (see them in the video below), and who are instigating a pilot project called “Thin Film” to see how thin, transparent and flexible solar panels from Arizona can be used on greenhouses in Jordan and the Middle East. The idea here is that the solar PV panels with limited efficiency can be used to collect light energy for electricity, while letting enough sunlight through for photosynthesis. The project set for 14 months has been underway for only 2 already.
For example, the electricity generated can be used for pumping water to the greenhouse plants. It works already on crops like algae. The Jordanian team, partnered with other locals in the region, are looking to see if thin films will work for other crops like tomatoes and cucumbers.
We learn that only 16% of the Jordanians use water solar heaters on their homes, while in Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority, about 80% of all homes use this method for heating water.
Meet Osama and Sawsan on film:
Zein tells us about an eco-schools project she is trying to create in Amman, by building environment clubs to create a culture of activism in Jordan, a culture that is lacking. “The best thing for the future is working with children,” she says. “They will watch what their moms and dads are doing at home.” Among some of the planned activities is a communal garden and recycling center.
Meanwhile Khaloud is taking a survey on what’s needed in environmental education in Jordan and is working on building a teaching curriculum.
Hug people not trees! Manal explains to us that water is relatively cheap in Jordan, and people don’t have awareness to conservation. On another note, she’s working on a countrywide campaign to collect money for planting trees in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. People are mocking her work. Why are you collecting money for trees, they ask?
So far she’s help collect enough money to plant about 1 million trees, and hopes to plant 2 million more in the coming year or so.
The group then met Mohammad a fairly active blogger and social renegade for Global Voices Online. He talks about the need of reducing the cost of solar PV cells to a price point that’s reasonable for the Jordanians to consider using it. Today solar PV generated energy costs for about $3 per kilowatt hour in Jordan. While people pay about .9 cents per kilowatt hour in Jordan for power from the grid. In Germany, power plants can get the price point down to as low as .15 cents per kilowatt hour.
Can it be done in Jordan? Transmission costs will need to be lowered, he says. Solar powered water heaters, he adds, are something that can be used now in Jordan. They cost about JD 600 to install (about $850). He advocates the use of such systems.
Next up is our meeting with the group from Israel. Stay tuned.