Arwa Aburawa – Green Prophet Good news that impacts the Middle East and your world Tue, 13 Jun 2017 06:52:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Arwa Aburawa – Green Prophet 32 32 Ask Geoff – How To Grow A Forest Garden & Free Permaculture Videos Wed, 01 May 2013 13:02:49 +0000 permaculture geoffPermaculture teacher Geoff Lawton who is currently based in the Middle East answers all your growing questions

Permaculture power couple Nadia and Geoff Lawton, currently based in Jordan, have released a series of great (and free!) Permaculture videos online. The videos are basically a how-to guide of applying Permaculture principles, things to consider before buying a property and how to grow on a budget. They are all well produced and are a great, practical guide to growing using Permaculture principles. All you have to do is sign up (and they promise never to sell, rent, give or divulge your email information to anyone) and then you’ll have access to the videos as well as pdf downloads.

The videos are all well produced, easy to follow and cover :

– Surviving the Coming Crises

– Property Purchase Check List

– 5 Acre Abundance on a Budget

– Urban Permaculture: The Micro Space

Each one also comes with a pdf version if you prefer to read in your own time or to keep a guide to refer back to. According to the website, these are only available for free for a limited time so get to his website quickly to claim your freebies! Geoff Lawton is also offering to answer all your growing-related questions on a weekly basis. So if you’re struggling to grow in cold or hot weather, can’t get enough water or dealing with flat land, he’s on hand to help.

You can hear Geoff Lawton’s TEDx talk about the importance of Permaculture in the Middle East above. Since 1985, Geoff has designed and implemented permaculture projects in 30 countries for private individuals and groups, communities, governments, aid organizations, & multinational corporations. He has taught the Permaculture Design Certificate course and designed permaculture projects in 30 countries.

For more on Permaculture in the Middle East see:

Permaculture is the Silver-Green Bullet – Nadia Lawton Interview

Organic Farming Boom in Palestine

Permaculture and Sustainability Project Takes Off In Jordan

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The Gulf Monarchies and Climate Change – A Book Review Tue, 30 Apr 2013 11:59:47 +0000 climate change gulf monarchies mari luomi book cover

Working in Qatar has clearly given the academic Mari Luomi access to lots of information about the climate change rhetoric and reality of the Gulf. It also puts her in a rather awkward position in terms of being able to voice her criticism. After interviewing Luomi for Green Prophet around a year ago, however, I was really interested in reading her forthcoming book. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s an honest portrayal of the region with a focus on Qatar and Abu Dhabi and the complex factors at play which mean the two countries have taken rather divergent paths to dealing with climate change.

The book, which is very readable, charts Qatar and Abu Dhabi’s shift from passive players towards a somewhat more active and moderate climate policy. It explores the social contract in many of the Gulf countries based on fossil fuels (political obedience is exchanged for cheap energy and money) as well as a lack of domestic demand for a more active climate policy. This is reflected in the fact that cutting fuel subsidies, which would make conservation and a greater push toward efficiency feasible, is often seen “as an uncrossable line.” (p.91)

‘The Gulf Monarchies and Climate Change’ highlights this bind as something of a chicken or egg situation. The countries need a stronger civil society to influence the government to take more action but government discourages this through the fossil fueled social contract and then say civil society aren’t pushing it and they need more domestic support. Luomi finds that although action is being taken, the issue is still not a priority in terms of national policy. In fact, global mitigation against climate change is often seen as a bigger threat to the countries than actual climate change (due to a loss of revenue if they have to stop selling oil).

Water Energy Climate Change Panel November 2, 2009 WEB Thumbnail

Indeed, due to the complex set of interests around the issue most of the green campaigning is very non-controversial and focuses on conservation and beach clean-ups rather than emission. Luomi focuses on various case studies such as Abu Dhabi’s nuclear programme, Masdar as well as Qatar’s strong position in terms of natural gas and the impact of this on climate policy. One of the author’s real strengths is being able to weave a story about how these countries operate socially, economically and also environmentally. Luomi also takes a rather pragmatic look at what motivates action/inaction which I think reflects the reality of the situation in the Gulf. She is also keen to point out that the region has a tiny impact in terms of emissions (historically and also today) and won’t be able to stop dangerous climate change alone.

I found the reporting on the nuclear project in the UAE particularly interesting and the book is a mine of useful data and statistics. The data coming from Qatar was particularly interesting as there is so little information on the country’s developments. The penultimate chapter looked at the Gulf monarchies role in the UNFCCC negotiations; the influence of Saudi Arabia, the growing focus on CCS, the continued influence of negotiators from the oil-sector, Bahrain and Oman’s rapidly declining oil which marks the beginning of divergent interests in the GCC, UAE cultivating an image a clean tech leader in the region and need to move away from the ‘Saudi position’. All really interesting stuff and a must read. Although some would criticise the huge a focus on energy, I think this a well-written and well-researched book on the emerging and often contradictory position Gulf nations take on climate change.

For more green book reviews see: 
A No-Nonsense Guide To Climate Change by Danny Chivers
Book Review – I’m With The Bears
Earth Architect Nader Khalili’s Book: Racing Alone
‘Beacons – Stories For Our Not So Distant Future’

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‘Our Jordan is Not Nuclear’ Say Greenpeace Activists Tue, 23 Apr 2013 14:09:10 +0000 Our Jordan isn't NuclearCampaigners step up their lobbying for a nuclear-free Jordan as the final decision with regards to the chosen firm approaches. The Jordanian government will pick the firm which will build Jordan’s first nuclear station in May.

Greenpeace campaigners in Jordan have urged the government to consider “the dire risks” the proposed nuclear project will have on current and future generations. “Nuclear reactors can never be safe. That is the reality,” said Safa’ Jayoussi, Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner in Jordan. “It is time the government takes seriously our proposition for an energy policy based on renewables.” Greenpeace have issued a report entitled ‘The Future of Energy in Jordan’ illustrating the vast potential for renewable energy in the form of wind and solar energy.

The report states that Jordan’s lack of nuclear expertise alongside serious challenges such as a lack of cooling water, existing grid weakness and seismic concerns, make the proposed nuclear project a real threat to Jordanians. Renewable energy resources – particularly solar, however – can technically provide sixty times more than Jordan’s electricity consumption in 2050.

Greenpeace asserts that a vision for a nuclear free Jordan is possible, and a bold vision for 100% renewable is in fact attainable by 2050 and will contribute significantly to the local economy with the creation of more than one hundred thousand direct and indirect jobs, and a saving of over $19 billion (on a present value basis) by 2050.More than 20 million Jordanian Dinars being spent over the past five years on the nuclear power program.

Hoda Baraka, Greenpeace Communications Officer said; “Jordan has tremendous potential for utilizing wind and solar sources of energy making this a viable and safe substitute to nuclear. The Jordanian people deserve a bright future away from the nuclear gloom.”

Greenpeace calls on the Jordanian Prime Minister to listen to the people and issue a decision to stop the proposed nuclear program.

To sign the Greenpeace anti-nuclear petition, visit their website. They currently have over 5,000 signatories.

For more on Jordan and it’s nuclear plans: 

Jordan’s Nuclear Plans Doomed Says Industry Expert

Greenpeace Assess Jordan’s Energy Future Without Nuclear

Basel Burgan – A Force Behind Jordan’s Anti-Nuke Movement

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‘Beacons – Stories For Our Not So Distant Future’ Are Climate Shorts Mon, 22 Apr 2013 14:21:00 +0000 beacons climate change short story reviewA great collection of short stories inspired by the ecological crisis which are honest, creative and sometimes really funny

I don’t know if it’s just me but whenever someone recommends a book that is for charity or even a song that is ‘worthy’ – alarm bells go off. Alarms that tell me to stay away and to avoid contact at all costs. ‘If they want money, then just ask and don’t put us through the hassle to reading drivel written by virtuous people or music designed for hippies with only the strongest stamina’ I reason. As such, you can imagine my delight when I did actually read a book of climate-inspired short stories which is not only giving all the royalties to the ‘Stop Climate Chaos Coalition’ but is also genuinely worth recommending. This can’t happen often – or I hope not, as I might be missing out on some great stuff.

There are 21 stories in ‘Beacons – Stories For Our Not So Distant Future’, one of which is a graphic short story, with contributions from the UK’s greatest short story writers. There’s a story with a time machine, one with a Scottish Chief, a story about a vanilla sundae with hot chocolate sauce, one about suicide-inducing TV presenters, Marco Polo, about children, death, unfulfilled love and loads more about people navigating a quickly shifting landscape where the norm is no more.

Here’s what you need to know (in a format inspired by the short stories):

1. You need to read more stuff by Adam Marek, David Constantine, Liz Jenson and A.L.Kennedy. Holly Howitt and Jem Poster were pretty good too. They all have great stories in the collection, but that’s obvious isn’t it.

2. There are only two, maybe 3, stories which are duds which isn’t bad considering there are 21 stories in the collection.

3. The editor has done a great job. It also seems that all the writers all have taken the theme seriously and thought hard about the issue of climate change before putting pen to paper/hand to keyboard(?).

4. I have been informed by a reliable friend that my criticism that most of the authors mention the weather is unfair as this collection is about climate change.

5. I love short stories and also happen to know the editor Gregory Norminton so I might be a tad biased. But only a tad.

6. Helen Simpson, who has written a great short story collection on climate change titled ‘In Flight Entertainment’, is missing from the collection. Maybe she was all out of climate stories. Who knows.

7. All the stories are new commissions. No reprints, no nothing – all in all, you get your money’s worth.

8. The editor decided to put together the book to support the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition back in 2007. The collection has been a long time coming but I think the final product was worth the wait.


9. It’s only £8.99/ $14.99 and you can buy Beacons – Stories For Our Not So Distant Future here.

10. If want to read another great collection of environmentally inspired stories after you’ve read this collection, you could do worse than to read Verso’s ‘I’m With The Bears’ which was reviewed here.

Title: Beacons – Stories for our not so distant future
Editor: Gregory Norminton
Publication Date: 07/03/2013
256 pages

For more book reviews see: 
A No-Nonsense Guide To Climate Change by Danny Chivers
Book Review – I’m With The Bears
Earth Architect Nader Khalili’s Book: Racing Alone

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Sign to Save Lebanon’s Turtles! Ancient Naqura Coast on Mediterranean Sea At Risk Sun, 21 Apr 2013 14:04:01 +0000 Turtles at the Lebanese CoastCampaigners in Lebanon are asking for support to protect an ancient Phoenician coastline which is under threat due to a port project

Lebanese environment campaigners are calling on nature lovers far and wide to help them protect an important piece of their natural heritage along the Mediterranean Sea. It seems that a beautiful part of the Southern coastline, the Naqura cliffs and beach, which is home to turtles is the site of a possible petroleum port development project. In an online petition they are calling on the government to declare the coastal area in south of Lebanon that stretches from the Naqura Cliffs to the Tyre Reserve a nationally protected area.

Naqura Cliffs, Mediterranean sea, lebanon

“Endangered species of turtles have been coming from all around the Mediterranean for thousands of years to lay their eggs and reproduce on these beaches [Mansouri beach and Kolaila beach],” explains campaigners.

According to the campaign material, the Lebanese coast is not more than a mere 210km long. Many parts of the coast are polluted and/or affected by illegal constructions. Less than 5 % of the coast remains clean and untouched. As such protecting this section currently under threat is of extreme importance as it is one of the last remaining natural spots on the historic ancient Phoenician coast.

The ancient Phoenician coast with its unique rock formation at the Naqura Cliffs is being endangered by a port project. A project campaigners are calling absurd and destructive.

You can help support the campaign by following developments here and also signing this petition. So far, over 7000 people have signed the petition bringing them pretty close to their 10,000 target.

For more on environmental issues in Lebanon see: 

Lebanon Joins CITES: Can We Stop Killing Everything Now?

Vertical Gardens Green Lebanese Restaurant

World’s Oldest Living Olive Trees in Lebanon

Live Art and Polemical Politics on the Lebanese Coast

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Faith Leaders Unite Against The Illegal Wildlife Trade Sat, 20 Apr 2013 14:05:56 +0000 faith leader and illegal wildlife traffickingReligious organisations are working with conservation groups to help end the consumer demand for products supplied by the illegal wildlife trade

A major initiative linking religions and conservation groups in opposing the illegal wildlife trade, which is annihilating the world’s rare and endangered species, has been launched. Leaders of 34 religious traditions presented the Alliance of Religions and Conservation founder Prince Philip with statements of their support. (This news comes as Jerusalem starts its First Annual faith-based Green Pilgrimage).

Illegal wildlife trade is the fifth largest illicit transnational activity worldwide after counterfeiting and the illegal trades in drugs, people and oil. The religious leaders called on their followers to do all they can to end the illegal trade and to ensure that they don’t support the industry in any way. Although the intiative is focused in key countries in Asia and Africa which are affected by the trade, the Middle East is one region where wildlife had been smuggled in – with cheetahs being kept as pets in Dubai and animals held at airports where they were being trafficked in.

The statements of support came from various religious leaders across the world incuding the Muslim communities in Bangladesh, the Muslim women’s communities of Uganda and the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.

“We ask all the faithful to protect those species in our own lands that are most threatened, such as the elephant, tiger, primates, pangolins and many others, and to assist in the prevention of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in order that on the Dreadful Day of Judgement, when the community of creatures stand before Allah, we will not be condemned by their words. The richness of this world is a gift and a blessing from Allah. May we in turn be a blessing to all that Allah has made and given to our care.”

– from the statement made by the Indonesian Council of Ulema (Muslims)

At time when the Muslim world and the Middle East in particular are regularly criticised for their poor animal rights record (read this story on animal abuse in Jordan), it’s good to see religious leaders taking a clear stance and encouraging their followers to do the same.

ARC is a secular international organisation founded by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1995 to help faith groups develop conservation programmes based on their own beliefs, teachings and practices. It also helps the religions link up with key environmental organisations, creating powerful alliances between faith communities and conservation groups. It now works with 11 major faiths through the key traditions within each faith.

Crucially, the wildlife partnership focuses on undermining consumer demand in China and other Asian countries for medical ingredients or luxury items made from rare and endangered species.

ARC Secretary-General Martin Palmer said: “All faiths believe that our place in nature is to protect as much as it is to use the gifts that have been given us. This is why 34 major religious traditions from around the world, each driven by their own spiritual understanding of our responsibility to the rest of nature, have joined together to combat this most pressing of assaults on the diversity of nature – the illegal wildlife trade.

“This ranges from the Daoists of China working to change the mindset of those who buy traditional Chinese medicine using ingredients from threatened species, to the Muslims of Indonesia calling on the faithful to safeguard over-exploited animals such as pangolins, primates and tigers, to faith leaders in Africa speaking out against poaching. For all of them this is a moral and spiritual issue.

“This marks a new and potentially highly significant development in the struggle to preserve the great species of our planet, or, as many of the faith would put it, those creatures that most need the protection of God.”

For more on animal rights and wildlife trafficking see:

Act Now to Help Jordan Learn To Befriend Man’s Best Friend 

269life Activists Etch and Burn White Calf Branding Into Skin

Interview: Illegal Wildlife Trafficking with Karl Ammann

Image of a street juggler entertaining people on the occasion of Eid in Pakistan via Naiyyer /

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Green ‘Khutbah’ Muslim Sermon Campaign Launches Today Fri, 19 Apr 2013 13:28:54 +0000 Go Green muslim GK1 khutbahToday marks the first annual ‘Green Khutbah Day’ which also coincides with Earth Day 2013

Muslims have been asked to encourage their spiritual leaders, imams, to devote this Friday Khutbah or sermon (19th April 2013) to celebrate the blessings, graces and beauty of all of Allah’s creation. Muaz Nasir from Khaleafa who is leading the effort is also hoping to raise awareness amongst Muslim of the environmental challenges facing humanity.

“The ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ is aiming to challenge Muslims to become stewards of the environment by making changes to their daily routines,” explains Nasir. “Although the evidence of environmental damage is stronger than ever, the public is starting to tune out due to the recent economic crisis and a lack of political leadership. But Muslims cannot tune out from the environmental damage – tuning out would mean that we are disregarding our moral responsibility to Allah’s creation.”

The campaign requests that all Muslims commit to the 3 ‘C’ action plan:

1. Consume Less

2. Conserve More

3. Care for the Environment

Sample sermons and also resources to engage the Muslim congregation have been provided at the Green Khutbah site which includes a link to us. There are also Quranic verses and hadiths highlighting the importance of nature, conserving water, minimising waste and recognising our role as stewards of nature. The site also has a long and useful list of practical actions that Muslims can take to green their mosques and green their lives.

Here are some of the suggestions:

– Help protect the future of nature by calling on governments and other decision-makers to protect our natural heritage.

– Many household items, such as clothing, toys, and furniture, can be donated to social service or religious groups.

– Instead of letting the tap run until the water gets cold, keep a jug of drinking water in the refrigerator.

– Repair leaks in toilet tanks promptly. You can check for leaks from the toilet tank into the bowl quite easily. Put a small amount of food colouring into the toilet tank. If the coloured water appears in the toilet bowl without flushing, you should repair the leak.

For more on Muslim green actions see: 
Green Muslim Blogger Says Spiritual Connection With Nature Is Key (INTERVIEW)
What Can Islam Do for the Environment? Lots, Actually…
Host Greener Iftars at Mosque says Imam Zaid Shakir (VIDEO)
Sharing Eden – Green Teachings From Muslims, Jews and Christians
Sofiah Jamil  Talks Faith, Women and Climate Justice
London Mosques Start Beekeeping Trend – Interview

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Why It’s Hard To Celebrate World Water Day In the Middle East Thu, 14 Mar 2013 16:13:56 +0000 middle east water scarcity world water day 2013 With the region getting drier ‘at an alarming rate’, what is there to celebrate this World Water Day?

In the lead up to World Water Day which will take place next Friday, I have gathered some interesting water-based facts on the issue. The Middle East and North Africa region is famously one of the driest regions in the world and things don’t look like they are getting better. So what is there to actually celebrate? Read on for the bad news and also some rather great news…

Firstly, the bad news. According to the latest statistics gathered by IRIN, the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) is getting drier at an alarming rate. And whilst trading and importing food brings in ‘virtual water’, it also makes the region extremely vulnerable to trade disruptions caused by dwindling supplies, higher prices or lack of money to pay for the imports. As a report on the issue of climate change and the Arab Spring points out, a winter drought in China contributed to global wheat shortages and skyrocketing bread prices in Egypt, which is the world’s largest wheat importer.

The report also points out that as the region’s population continues to climb, “the water availability per capita is projected to plummet… Rapid urban expansion across the Arab world increasingly risks overburdening existing infrastructure and outpacing local capacities to expand services.” Whats more, the reliance of Gulf countries on oil sold at high prices to buy food and also remain resilience in the face of water scarcity can’t last forever.

As a the report at IRIN states, this trade has simply hidden the gravity of the water scarcity situation and made it easier to neglect the development of more sustainable solutions (that doesn’t include desalination). So is the region headed towards a perfect storm of water scarcity?

That’s not clear yet. For one, water scarcity is not new to the region. The Middle East has been slowly drying for thousands of years and people have always come up with strategies to survive. Adaptation strategies are slowly gaining more importance with Egypt investing more into its water infrastructure – the World Bank has granting Egypt US$6.7 million to improve its management of water resources. And Jordan is taking more measures to harvest rainwater. The water-scarce country is also leading the way in terms of collecting water use data, especially in the agriculture sector which is consuming a huge portion of their water. So it’s not all bad news.

Indeed another piece of good news is that predictions of bloody conflict over water have so far failed to materialise. Despite a growing population and more pressure on water resources than some predicated, people haven’t taken to their guns to secure their share of water. This is something we can all celebrate as it not only demonstrates the region’s maturity but also its willingness to tackle the issue with care and consideration.

For more on water issues in the Middle East see:

Water Scarcity Leads More To Peace Than War (INTERVIEW)

Severe Water Scarcity Could Hit Arab Region by 2015

Food Shortages Could Force World To Go Veggie

: Photo of man watering a plant in the desert via Shutterstock.

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The Big Ask – Is Islamic Sustainability The Answer To Our Green Prayers? Wed, 13 Mar 2013 17:08:18 +0000 green prayer I interview Professor Al Jayoussi about Islamic notions of sustainability and whether they could ever be seen as universally applicable

In a previous post, I raised concerns over what an Islamic worldview can realistically offer those looking for a new sustainability model. After reading Odeh Al Jayoussi’s book on the topic, I felt that there were a lot more lingering questions than answers. Would Islamic sustainability really be considered an option outside the Middle East? What about those wary of any religious-based doctrine? Also after years following the ‘Western model of sustainability’, did we really want to be promoting another universal model? I caught up with Al Jayoussi,  the current vice president of Jordan’s Royal Scientific Society, and put these very questions to him. Read on for his responses.

Tell us a little about yourself, and how your work informed this book?

Well, this journey started almost thirty years ago when the United Nations University were embarking on a project on water and Islam for which I drafted two chapters on this topics as well as international law and shared water resources. This included notions such as equity, Ihsan and this evolved into a new framework of sustainability. At the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) this developed further when I visited Yemen in 2004 and I was exposed to interesting notions of local knowledge and the early heritage in Yemen. I was fascinated with the contrast of the old and the new. That you could envisage the notion of unity within diversity. Also, the eight years I was privileged to work at ICUN I visited many parts of the world including India, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Europe, the Gulf States and Mexico.

So I got to see different parts of the world and I was trying to reflect on the notion of sustainability and all of this went into the book. My work at ICUN was aimed at developing a new notion of sustainability based on local culture. I have some critique of the current, dominant model of sustainability which talks about the three pillars – the social, economic and ecological. I felt that the model lacked an embedded local culture and also a spiritual dimension. I was also looking for a topic which would help create a dialogue between East and West and I thought that the environment and ecosystems would be a great vehicle to communicate harmony and interconnectedness between these two.

Odeh Al-Jayoussi islam sustainable bookYou bring Islam to the centre of the debate on sustainability – was it difficult to make that connection?

Well, for me it wasn’t difficult at all. It’s all about how you view the world and I don’t see Islam as purely a religion but also as a worldview and a way of life. In that sense the aim of the book is to influence policy and enable scholars to talk to people and broaden their perspective from one which sees Islam just as a local religion to one which recognises that it is a worldview. It’s about looking at sustainability in a broader sense.

Do you see the model that you have put forward as a universal model or something that is particularly suited to the Middle East- North Africa region?

The intent is to present and articulate a universal discourse so that humanity can utilize Islam not only for harmony and tranquility but also for a dialogue to talk with others. We believe that Islam is mercy for the whole of humankind and is also a continuum of other religions and part of the human journey of knowing his destiny and having a sense of purpose and meaning.

I can see that there will be a real difficulty in applying this model in the West where Islam is seen only as a religion. Do you agree?

You are absolutely right. There is a difficulty in the West as there was a historical separation between church and state, man and woman etc. So this type of fragmentation was part of the Western journey in terms of knowledge. In this book, I was trying to look for unity or tawheed rather than separation and also looking at ways of overcoming this fragmentation. This includes the unity of disciplines, the unity of the now and hereafter, the unity between art and science – I was looking for synergies and complementary relationships rather than looking at things in pieces.

There is a growing recognition in the West that the current development models are not fit for purpose and that the growth economy is destructive. Do you think that now is a good time to be promoting new models and frameworks?

I think part of the challenge between East and West in terms of epistemology is two things – one is biology and the other is economic. In terms of biology we don’t agree with the West about evolution – we believe in creation and that man is dignified. The other dimension is money – the value of money and how it is generated in terms of interest. We believe that part of the ecological crisis stems from the fact that the current economic model doesn’t tells us the ecological truth as the metrics is based on GDP which as you know doesn’t reflect the wealth and health of nations or happiness. So we need to develop new metrics for sustainability or what I call the good life and so in order to define sustainability we need to define what a good life is. That’s why the notion sustainability needs to look at the notion of life generally to life with dignity, peace and harmony.

Do you get a sense that this is already a shift occurring in the West? For example, you hear a lot about the Happiness index and the Green GDP as there is a greater recognition of the flaws of the GDP.

Yes. I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is a need for a paradigm shift as the current economic model has a lot of flaws and defaults.

islam and sustainable development al jayoussiDuring this interview and also in your book, you talk about the importance of a local connection yet you also want this model to be universal. Are you hoping that if nations looks to apply this model in say Latin America that they would bring their own, local culture and interpretation into it?

Yes. In terms of the model and its universal applicability, it is all about unity within diversity. Part of that is talking to each other as we share the same destiny and there is a clear statement in the Qur’an which says that we are all created from nations and tribes so that we may get to know each other. So there is a universal message in the Qur’an which says that the prophet was sent as a mercy to the whole of mankind – not to Arabs or Muslims but to the whole humanity. However due to the degradation of civilisation we lost thing kind of universal message and we now it is time to revive a new discourse of universality and sustainability could the right medium through which we communicate this message.

What would be the benefits for the MENA region if they adopt this model?

I think that part of the challenge is that this part of this world was influenced by colonialism and after all these decades we are still affected by that way of thinking. Development in the South is mimicking and following the West in terms of consumerism and there is an disillusion in the Middle East that the Western model is the best model. This is a root cause of all sorts of social and ecological degradation and a general lack of human dignity. You cannot detach the issue of the environment from other issues such as poverty and social problems. So definitely this part of the world has been negatively impacted by following in the footsteps of the Western economic model and in a sense this part of the world lost its identity and has no pride or confidence in its local values. That’s why it has failed to have an ecological model that has local roots.

Is that the reason between the gap between the principles and practice in reality?

Absolutely, the Newtonian model looks at nature and plants as machines and part of the colonialism was that the region borrowing that type of thinking which brought with a whole host of problems. Now we need to revisit and rethink our whole social DNA and have our local roots in our local soil.

What have the reactions to the book been like?

I have had a lot of positive feedback from many scholars and people from the region and in Europe. Like you they were concerned with issues of relevancy, applicability and scalability. I think when we talk to people on a local level and with community organisations, there is real resonance and people appreciate notions such as Ihsan which is about inner beauty and unless we have that, we can reflect that onto the rest of the world. We can’t communicate harmony with the rest of the world if we don’t have an inner harmony. So having the right terminology is important and when I used the word hyat tayyebah which means a good life, it has more resonance within a local context. I think the real challenge is how we bring confidence and pride and a sense of appreciation of our local knowledge and I think in that area, a lot still needs to be done.

For more on Islamic perspectives on sustainability see:

Islam and Sustainable Development, A Book Covering These New Worldviews
Sharing Eden – Green Teachings from Jews, Christians and Muslims
London Mosques Start Beekeeping Trend – Interview
The Eco-Mosque Checklist – 7 Steps to a Greener Mosque
Consumerism, Ecology and the Sabbath

:: Photo of young South Asian women praying via

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Egypt’s Battle With GM Crops (and Food Poverty) Thu, 07 Mar 2013 09:37:32 +0000 food gmo greenpeace egyptGreenpeace raises the alarm about the presence of GM crops in Egypt despite an announcement by the Egyptian government that GM seeds had been discarded

Back in 2012, the Ministry of Agriculture in Egypt made the bold statement that no Genetically Modified (GM) crops were to be planted in Egypt. Although this may have been a relief to various campaigners and the average Egyptian concerned about their food, it now emerges that things are not as straight forward as they first appeared. According to Greenpeace a new report has found that Egypt is actually Africa’s third largest country to commercialise a GM crop. So where does that leave Egyptians?

“This is a situation of grave concern, our government is assuring us that they are taking precautions to protect the Egyptian people, environment, and economy, and according to this report what was promised was not fulfilled,” says Ahmed El Droubi, Sustainable Agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace.

The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, released its annual Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops report and found that Egypt planted 1,000 hectares of GM maize in 2012.

However, the Minister of Agriculture announced that the only licensed shipment of a GM crop to enter Egypt in 2012, a 40 ton shipment of MON 810 of GM maize, was to be withheld and executed by his Ministry.

Something isn’t adding up and Greenpeace say they want answers. They want to know why there are inconsistencies in the findings of the report and statements made by Egypt’s Ministry of Agriculture.

“The Egyptian people are entitled to know what is planted on our land and what we are eating!,” added Ahmed El Droubi . “The risks of GMOs and the threats they pose are unquestionable, this already banned activity by no means should continue. We demand the Egyptian government puts in place clear biosafety laws banning GMOs.”

The recent GM development comes at a particularly precarious time in Egypt as food poverty is on the rise. According to a recent government survey, 86% of Egyptians say that their income is insufficient to cover their monthly food, clothes and shelter bill. This was a rise from 74% in 2011. Households are adopting radical strategies to cope with the widening gap which include cutting out meals or reducing the portion sizes.

In the past, campaigners of Bozoor Balady have also worked hard to promote the importance of local seed diversity and the value of native seeds and crops.

For more on food issue in Egypt:

Egyptian Seed Bombing Campaign to Hit Cairo and Alexandria

Egypt’s Frightening Food Poverty On The Rise

Zooba: Egyptian Street Food Goes Inside

Egypt Struggle to Supply Wheat to Hungry Country

Photo of young man selling vegetables in Aswan via ChameleonsEye /

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