The year in retrospect has been a positive one. Despite civil unrest, dangerous regimes, and appalling environmental crimes and neglect, there are good green things afoot for the Middle East. Today we recap some of our green leaders of 2012, the people of the Middle East and for the Middle East who have made 2012, and the world’s future a little greener, a little brighter. In no particular order, we’d like to thank the following people for their progress and positive actions in the fight for environmental change.
Gidon Bromberg is one of the usual suspects who is not overlooked in our books.
Last year we recognized his colleague Munqeth from Jordan, but the big credit goes to this Israeli man for founding, directing and running the world’s most peace-oriented green roots organization, Friends of the Earth Middle East.
Connecting people through shared water resources, the group which works between offices in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan is number one in our books for green diplomacy. Keep up the great work Gidon!
Tristan Reid. Sometimes it takes a few outsiders to inspire the insiders. To push some boundaries and show locals what can be done. The following three prophets have done just that: Tattooed ecologist Tristan Reid is not from the Middle East, but he uses his “body” in all sense of the word to fight for the environment.
His upper body is covered with endangered Middle East birds tattoos, and he was recently in Israel learning about the ecology there before heading over to Turkey to hike as protest to the country’s intent on building a series of damaging dams.
With Turkey bridging the east and the west, and with a pristine nature worth fighting for, we laud Reid for his ability to use his activist spirit for the good green cause.
Easkey Britton. When Ireland’s Easkey Britton walked into the sea in southern Iran with a surfboard in hand, curiosity brought out not only the locals but the police.
Luckily for her and Marion Poizeau, the filmmaker who was documenting her journey, the police only wanted to alert them to the rocks on the beach and make sure they were okay.
Assured of their skills and safety, Britton was then allowed to do what she does best and subsequently became the first woman to surf in Iran.
Solar Mama Rafea from Jordan is an inspiring young woman who travelled to India to learn how to become a solar engineer.
She is still struggling to install a solar power farm in her village in Jordan. Many of the Bedouin communities in Jordan which previously lived off their herds, are now highly dependent on government handouts.
They usually make up the poorest sector of society and have a very low standard of living. As such the government sees this solar project as a strategic way to encourage these poor villages to generate their own energy and also become more self-sufficient. Rafea is working towards that goal.
Hayrettin Karaca. Turkey is not a country where environmental awareness is terribly high. But one man has done more to solve this problem, as well as the forces that threaten Turkey’s natural habitats, than almost anyone.
The second Turkish environmentalist to win one of the “alternative Nobel prizes”, Hayrettin Karaca devoted his life to nature conservation after witnessing alarmingly unsustainable land development on travels throughout Turkey in the 1970s.
As he faced potential jail time last year for “trespassing” on public land to document deforestation, Karaca’s award has drawn global attention to this remarkable environmentalist. Take notice.
Senad Hadzic has shown the world of Islam that the most sustainable way of making it to Mecca is by doing it by foot. This Bosnian Muslim man fulfilled his Hajj duties this year by walking from Bosnia all the way to Mecca – that’s 3,540 miles!
The heel-toe-express is the most sustainable form of transport. And once upon a time it was the only form of transport that pilgrims could rely on.
A sight for sore eyes would be to see Saudi’s millions-strong faithful walk it to Mecca next year, reducing their flying carbon footprint, and enabling people from this fast-paced world to tread a little lighter on this planet.
Manar Moursi. This gal is the founder of Studio Meem in Cairo. For someone who has graduated from two of the most elite American universities – UVA and Princeton – Manar couldn’t possibly be more humble.
Now, nothing escapes her watchful eye…She recently displayed her sassy Off the Gireed furniture line at the Design is a Verb exhibition at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Arts Center and continues to work with local Egyptian artisans to produce unique, sustainable products that also celebrate Egypt’s cultural heritage.
We met Manar at the Ataba market in order to get a sense of how traditional palm fiber crates are used in the street. A bustling, chaotic place that links contemporary and medieval Cairo, Ataba is most famous for its booksellers and open air food market.
Catherine Jaffee. It’s impossible to understate the importance of bees. Like fruit bats – thousands of which were gunned down by unknown assailants in Lebanon not long ago– they are pollinators that ensure human survival. And since they are fond of flowering plants, bees are often found in the world’s most beautiful places.
This is especially true in Turkey, where a group of young nature enthusiasts, led by Catherine Jaffee, are organizing the country’s first honey-tasting tour from Kars.
They are calling the seven day walking trip, Walking the Honey Road, and the unique Balyolu tour introduces visitors to the special tastes and diversity of Turkish honey as well as ancient nomadic travel routes and artisan culture.
Sara el-Sayed and Betty Khoury. Nature has been developing solutions to its own challenges for the last 3.8 billion years, so two women in Egypt have set up an eco-tourism venture that tunes into that infinite wisdom.
Biologists Sara el-Sayed and Betty Khoury decided to start their own business after last year’s revolution made their previous jobs obsolete. Dayma offers guided journeys to many of Egypt’s less-explored locations and last up to 10 days.
But here’s the most interesting aspect of their “everlasting, enduring, or sustainable” tours: instead of trooping with the throng to the same old historical destinations, Dayma focuses on biomimicry – “an alternative manner of development that harmonizes with natural processes.”
Mahmoud Hanafy. Hardly anyone has as much knowledge about the Red Sea marine environment as Prof. Machmoud Hanafy does.
Working for HEPCA in Sinai, the premiere marine preservation NGO in Egypt, natural sea life as we know it (coral, dolphins, sharks, dugong) would not be faring as well in the region were it not for Hanafy and his colleagues who cast a critical eye on environmental injustices in Egypt. And then report them to authorities and the public.
Want to meet some more inspiring people? Here is Green Prophet’s 11 eco-heros for 2011.