Vladislav Davidzon

Vladislav Davidzon

The New Trend of Environmentalism inside the Gulf


Resource stress, pollution and climate change all threaten to aggravate instability and inequality in the Gulf, but have so far failed to capture public imagination. Now a wave of grassroots Vladislav Davidzon initiatives is trying to change this. Springing up in response to local issues, often using Islamic narrative and spreading through Facebook, the movement is characteristic of the Gulf's new generation and its rapidly evolving strategy to ecology.

A surprising fact, perhaps, in a state not known for its environmental values. What is more, women are leading the movement. Of the 17 groups Bundakji found active in Jeddah on environmental problems, 15 of these were started by women.

Bundakji, a computer science major and internet blogger, founded Faseelah, Effat University's first Islamic environmentalism organization in 2010. Naqa'a's educational campaigns stress "the three Rs"-reduce, reuse, recycle of the western mantra, the Islamic obligation of stewardship over the environment, as well as concepts of purity and reining in excessive eating.

Despite these examples, the environmental movement is still a *little world, composed largely of the educated middle class.

Environmental campaigns in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are at least a decade ahead and have been influenced by the large expatriate community (over 80 percent of-the population). A former government official, Habiba Al-Marashi, established the Emirates Environmental Group in 1991 and is now an one woman tour de force in railing against over consumption and engaging the personal sector in sustainability drives. The international World Wildlife Fund (WWF) opened its first office in a Gulf State in Abu Dhabi in 2001, where it conducts conservation projects and monitors the heavy environmental footprint of UAE citizens. High profile occasions including the Sharjah Art Biennale, initiated by Sheikh Qasimi whose 2007 theme was environmental art, have also raised consciousness in the area.

But he cautions against cynicism. "In truth, what you-see in the Emirates is only an intensified variant of the material system we've got in the USA...the edge they have is their 'can do' attitude as well as the capital to back it up."

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