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Green light at the end of the economy's dark tunnel

By Najib Saab
January 2009

The world enters a new year under the burden of two major crises that have caused havoc in 2008: the food crisis and the financial-economic crisis. The cause of the current food crises was mainly attributed to the expansion in the production of biofuels from agricultural crops that were intended to be used as food for humans. Former U.S. President George W. Bush has promoted the production of fuel ethanol from grain and sugar cane, to get rid of dependence on imported oil. By doing so he cut off the food supplies of hundreds of millions of human beings. Once the food crises ended the world was hit again with the financial markets crisis that has caused the collapse of markets which drove giant companies to bankruptcy, leading to a state of global recession.

One reason lies behind both the financial and the food crises: addiction. Instead of developing policies to stop this "addiction" for fuel and ensuring energy use efficiency, the Bush doctrine went further to encourage the production of big cars and supporting wasteful consumption habits. This has reached to a point of supporting the desire for more fuel by turning food into biofuel. The consumption society has gone far by over-borrowing until it collapsed, taking with it the world economies. Tackling the current economic crises by injecting more liquidity into the same financial system is like treating an addict by providing him with more drugs and booze. This is similar to the approach of reducing the loss of natural resources by more rapid exploitation and accelerating the production rate instead of managing consumption. The result is obviously more addiction, piling up of debts and preparing the grounds for new catastrophes.

The solution may however emerge from the same incubator of this acute crisis. If no solutions for sustainable use of resource and environmental protection emerge from this economic recession, the day in which ecological collapse will hit us like lightning is not far away. Do not dare to believe those who are used to spread reassurance messages about the inherent ability of nature to regenerate. Those same people were the ones who told you that the economy was flourishing, only moments before the big collapse.

We may be witnessing a historic opportunity to support the approach of transition to a "green economy". Governments should make it clear that any company seeking financial resources within a ‘rescue plan" must turn into clean technology. New investments should move towards ecological services that use fewer resources and produce fewer pollutants.

 What we are talking about is turning into a reality. The CEOs of the three biggest American car makers who have arrived in Washington last month requesting credits in billions of dollars to save them from bankruptcy, found no stronger argument than using hybrid cars to travel from Detroit to Washington in order to convince the Congress and the American public that they have decided to change their approach. They have all promised in their reform plans to turn into the production of small, energy efficient and low polluting cars. Until two weeks ago, the same people used to come to Washington with private jets, and proudly driving the pre-historic gas-guzzlers they produced.

Even the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, during his economic shuttle trip that included some of the Arab Gulf states, talked in each country about the new green economy, and managed to get commitments amounting to billions to invest in Britain's green economy.

We may likewise try to find solutions to help Arab green investments to remain in Arab countries and support their population. The economic recession might be a driver to reconsider some of the mega development projects that have been abruptly shut down at the shores of some Arab countries. This may be an opportunity to re-think, contemplate and use the idle period of recession to conduct serious studies that determine the nature of environmental impacts.

The world is changing and we cannot remain watching. One cover story of Newsweek magazine last month can be the best indicator of change: Green Rescue- for the collapsing economy. One of the noticeable indicators was the fact that General Electric has announced, in the midst of the economic collapse, that its profits from eco and energy efficient products has increased by 21% to reach 17.0 billion US $ in 2008.

There is definitely a green light in the black clouds of the collapsing economy.

Arab Environment in 10 Years
ARAB ENVIRONMENT IN 10 YEARS crowns a decade of the series of annual reports produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment. It tracks and analyzes changes focusing on policies and governance, including level of response and engagement in international environmental treaties. It also highlights developments in six selected priority areas, namely water, energy, air, food, green economy and environmental scientific research.
Environmental Agenda
Environment in Arab Media
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