By Taffline Laylin
Anyone who has been paying attention will have noticed that a host of exciting new green projects are popping up all over the Middle East, including the soaring vertical garden at the Al-Sultan Ibrahim restaurant in Maameltein, Lebanon. Designed by Green Studios Beirut and Gatserelia, the 96 square meter living wall in one of Lebanon’s most well-known seafood restaurants surpasses the West Elm green wall in Kuwait in both size and scope, making it quite possibly the largest of its kind in the entire Middle East/North Africa region.
By Arwa Aburawa
Students from the American University of Beirut have worked with the Forum for Environment and Development to create a documentary on the environmental challenges facing the Arab world
The youth of the Arab world have had a particularly inspiring – if turbulent – last couple of years. Protests, revolutions and taste of real empowerment has made it into their lives and encouraged them to work to shape the future they want. As well as political corruption, one issue that is worrying young people is what the future holds if climate change isn’t dealt with. The formation of the Arab Youth Climate Movement ahead of COP18 has seen some of that concern realised into action. Now, students at the American University of Beirut (AUB) have worked with the Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) to create an informative and touching documentary on the environmental challenges facing the Arab world titled ‘That They May Have Life’.
By Tafline Laylin
Lebanon’s carbon emissions are relatively small compared to other Middle Eastern nations such as Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, and pale in comparison to that of China and the United States, but its environmental record is far from pristine.
Heaps of burning trash and some of the world’s most disgusting waterways are just two of the numerous issues plaguing the country, which is why we almost fell out of our chairs to learn that the Environmental Minister not only acknowledges climate change (which is more than some Americans are willing to do), but claimed his ministry is actively engaging solutions and coping mechanisms.
Ahead of this year’s UN Convention of Climate Change in Qatar, COP 18, Nazem al-Khoury expressed concern about the impact that climate change is and will have on Lebanon.
By Tafline Laylin
More than 200 cyclists took over the streets of Beirut Sunday demanding a sustainable public transportation system for Lebanon.
Haunted by the pollution poisoning their city’s car-clogged roads, more than 200 cyclists took over Beirut last week Sunday in an effort to demand a revival of its once-decent public transportation system.
The seven kilometer (5 mile) activist ride from the new waterfront to Mar Makhael train station, which is littered with the bones of retired busses and trains, occurred exactly one year after 14 non-government organizations established the National Coalition for Sustainable Transportation, spelled out a dual message: public transportation is crucial to combat pollution and traffic, and biking is cool.
By Tafline Laylin
Avatar Architettura decks out a working space for fashion designers with chic recycled wooden pallets.
Avatar Architettura has decked out a working space for fashion designers in Beirut with recycled wooden pallets otherwise destined for one of the city’s notorious landfills. Known for strategies that “privilege ecology, flexible systems, biodiversity, and recycled materials in an urban context,” the Italian designers used the pallets to transform a 220 square meter space into a striking but highly flexible office and workshop.
By Brooke Anderson
A view of Mount Hermon
Seemingly a world away from the hustle and bustle of Beirut, the Lebanon Mountain Trail, less than an hour’s drive from the capital, winds through the mountains that extend from the country’s northern to the southern borders. The trail showcases colorful foliage in the autumn, snowy summits in the winter, waterfalls in the spring and a respite from the hot summers on the coast. It is home to Roman ruins, temples, mosques and churches dating back over a thousand years.
“The scenery is absolutely staggering. You can be high up in mountains, and can look out over Beirut and the Mediterranean,” says Adrian Cazalet, a retired banker from England.
By Tafline Laylin
A solar-powered goat farm in Lebanon now enjoys clean energy around the clock while the rest of the country sits in darkness for up to 18 hours a day.
Hasan Istaytiyyah was lucky to have six hours of state-run energy a day before he decided to install a solar photovoltaic system and ditch his dirty generator. Now he tells Daily Star that he has energy all the time, and finally feels connected with the rest of the world through internet access and satellite TV despite his remote location in the Bekaa Valley near the border of Syria.
Istaytiyyah’s story is a familiar one. Although Lebanon has strong northerly winds and piles of sunshine, the country’s leadership has failed to incorporate renewable energy to help meet the 2,400 MW daily demand. With a 900MW shortfall, many residents – particularly in rural areas – are without power for up to 18 hours a day.
By Sara C Nelson
Blood red river: The river, which divides the east and western suburbs of Beirut turned an eerie shade of red last week
Dye illegally dumped by a factory is apparently responsible for turning the Beirut River an eerie shade of blood red.
An investigation began last week after the river, which separates the eastern and western suburbs of Beirut, turned a deep red, prompting fears there had been a mass dump from a slaughterhouse.
The river, which flows into the Mediterranean, was visited by government and local officials, with preliminary test indicating dye to be the culprit, the Daily Star said.
By Tafline Laylin
Next Wednesday activists will hold a public forum to democratically demand access to the Horsh Beirut urban park.
In 1696, the Horsh Beirut Pine forest used to be as large as 1,250,000 square meters but the Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans, and World War II allies each took their turn plundering its timber in order to build ships and weapons. Further damage has been done since then to such an extent that today one of the only urban parks in this concrete jungle has shrunk to a mere 255,000 square meters. Although significantly smaller than it once was, Horsh Beirut could still offer residents of Beirut a retreat from the city smog – if the city hadn’t denied access to it for the last two decades. Activists are now speaking out against what they say is a denial of their inalienable rights. Public property
Ten years ago Beirut’s municipality rehabilitated the park (presumably using taxpayer money) but it still hasn’t been re-opened to the public and no decent explanation has been given.
By Tafline Laylin
Adventures in Lebanon is offering a Valentine’s Day snowshoeing tour that is bound to heat up this special day!
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and if you’re anything like us, you’re scratching your head looking for fun-loving things to do that don’t involve diabetes-inducing chocolate and environmentally destructive flowers. Why not treat your special sweetie to an awesome snowshoeing tour offered by Adventures in Lebanon?
Not only will you have plenty of excuses to snuggle up to stay warm, setting off all kinds of love chemicals, but you’ll burn off so many calories that you don’t have to feel guilty about closing the night with a wonderful meal back in Beirut.
The Valentine’s Day tour starts at 9am on February 12th. Your trip, which will be arranged by Adventure in Lebanon’s Joe and Viviane Karam, will commence at the Futuroscope parking lot across from the Habtoor Hotel.
By Moshe Terdiman
Hizbollah is going green with an eco-jihad as a tactic of war against Israel.
On October 9, 2010, Hizbullah‘s Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, briefly came out of hiding to mark the end of Hizbullah’s campaign to plant million trees in Lebanon to restore the country’s forests. This campaign was organized by Jihad al-Binaa, Hizbullah’s reconstruction arm, and sponsored by the Lebanese Minister of Agriculture, Hussein Hajj Hassan.
With a shovel on his hand, Hassan Nasrallah was shown on Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station digging a hole, planting and watering a small tree outside his home, which was destroyed by air raids during the July 2006 War. Hassan Nasrallah, who had been last seen in public in July 2008, was accompanied by the Lebanese Minister of Agriculture for the ceremony.
Nasrallah gave a speech at the event in which he praised Jihad al-Binaa for its role in organizing this campaign.
By Rola Tassabehji
Want to see the garbage flowing from Lebanon’s waterways? Greenpeace Lebanon goes undercover to reveal shocking videos of 14 polluters (see them below).
They are young, passionate about the environment, and not afraid to engage with technology to get their voices heard. Greenpeace Lebanon continues to demonstrate the power of the “Net Generation” in raising awareness and introducing change to the environmental destruction of the country through a new social media campaign focusing on Lebanon’s fragile coastal waters.
According to Leen Hashem, Communications and New Media Officer, the new Secret Blue Shieid campaign is part of a marine reserves initiative launched last year. The objective of this latest drive is to raise awareness and mobilize people in order to face politically powerful polluters of Lebanon’s fragile coastal waters. Greenpeace Lebanon was able to take samples of the water from twenty coastal points and send them to labs in London for further analysis. Results, expected in a few weeks, will help identify who is responsible for the pollution, a first step to stopping the daily contamination that is taking place across the coast.
By Linda Pappagallo
Lebanon goes green with seed bank, but can this memory keeper for nature fight GMOs?
Lebanon harbors over 2600 plant species of which 119 are counted to be endemic. The unique climatic and landscape diversity in Lebanon has shaped 22 bio-climatic zones which fosters one of the most precious ecological services: genetic diversity. Unfortunately, the conservation of biodiversity in Lebanon is increasingly at risk due the largely uncontrolled and unidentified introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in the domestic market and the absence of national policies that specifically outline biosafety legislation.
Lebanon has only recently ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (October 2008) a convention that provides guidance for the rational management of the risks associated with the use of biotechnologies. Nevertheless, there is no official policy for the detection and identification of produce that contains GMO. The lack of legislations that monitor biotechnologies are likely to have unidentified effects on the future of domestic biodiversity.
By Katie Scott
The hanging gardens of Babylon were the inspiration for an architect’s ambition to turn the city of Beirut into a “wonder forest”.
Wassim Melki of StudioInvisible explained to Wired.co.uk that while the concept of rooftop gardens is far from new; he is proposing creating them “on a very large scale” throughout the city and its suburbs. And he is suggesting a simplified gardening approach to encourage the rooftop garden proliferation.
“Most conventional rooftop gardens are very complex,” he explained. “They require a specific type of insulation and drainage, and a study should be conducted on the roof slab and how much weight it could support. Since many of the existing buildings are more than 50 years old, we are suggesting putting the trees in relatively large pots.”
By Karen Chernick
Long live the queen, if she can manage to sit on Niloufar Afnan’s recycled ‘Royal Stool’.
At this year’s New Designers Exhibition in London, Lebanese-born designer Niloufar Afnan decided to poke a little fun at the royal family and demonstrate the possibilities of upcycled furniture. She exhibited Royal Stool (pictured above) and 46 (shown after the jump) – two furniture pieces that show the possibilities of reusing found objects. Both pieces are made from found furniture parts and scrap materials that Afnan collected and assembled in new ways, showing us that with a little creativity and problem solving even broken items can be functional again.
The Royal Stool is made of a British Royal Mall bag that is draped over a plastic bucket and secured with a ring that holds it in place. Alternatively, the bag could be placed over any other type of found object to turn it into a stool.
By Rola Tassabehji
From a small office on Bliss Street in Beirut, overlooking the Mediterranean sea, a small team of young Lebanese activists are busy trying to expose environmental injustices, change attitudes, recruit volunteers, lobby and fundraise, in a country where every day politics often comes in the way of any environmental reform. Fresh out of college, Campaigner Rayan Makarem has his tasks set: complete the programs launched by the founders of Greenpeace Lebanon while coordinating with the global and regional offices to initiate new Pan Arab campaigns from the only official Greenpeace office in the Arab world.
- Rola: Tell us about yourself and your role at Green Peace Lebanon.
I just graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Masters in Environmental Policy. I had volunteered for a year before than and I’m now a full time Campaigner. I am in charge of Campaign Department. Within that Department, we are 4 people in the Fundraising and 6 people in Programme.
We are a young small team but have many years of experience. The older group has passed their knowledge to us. In addition, we get volunteers mainly from high schools and universities in the hundreds. We can mobilize them depending on what we want to achieve.
Lebanon's precious Cedar forests
Lebanon’s 2,000 hectares of cedar forest are a peaceful oasis for hikers, mountain bikers and bird-watchers, a world away from the hustle and bustle of Beirut.
In the Shouf Cedar Reserve, the country’s largest natural forest, villagers make a living selling home-made jam, honey, pickled olives and wine to tourists.
The area was declared was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2005.
While sustainable tourism is booming, the ancient forests are under threat from climate change.
Nizar Hani, manager of Shouf Cedar Reserve, said: “Right now we have a new challenge for the cedar forest in Lebanon, which is the climate change.
Lebanon could get a lot cleaner thanks to a brilliant plan devised jointly by Nestle Pure, Spinneys, and Servicorp.
By Tafline Laylin
That’s right. Nestle Pure, Spinneys, and Servicorp are planning to save Lebanon from the plastic waste that kills tens of thousands of Mediterranean creatures each year by introducing reverse vending machines to certain Spinneys locations throughout the country. Their initiative called “Protect Lebanon – Recycle Today” will allow users to return their empty plastic bottles and cans to the vending machines for a small return.
With nearly 200,000 employees, Nestle in particular is frequently criticized for promoting alternatives to breastmilk. Spinneys in the United Arab Emirates is known to stock endangered fish species, and I don’t have any juicy scoop on Servicorp. Suffice it to say that it was surprising to learn that these three businesses have devised a brilliant plan to energize Lebanon’s soporific recycling movement.Despite the tireless efforts among environmentalists, Lebanon really battles to manage its waste. Mostly this has to do with a lack of environmental education. Since a large percentage of the population doesn’t really understand how toxic plastic waste is to our environmental and physical health, recycling initiatives often go bust, and little intellectual infrastructure is in place to change that.
By Arwa Aburawa
Nina Rahal-Lott, is a trained architect who wants to transform the Badawi refugee camp in Lebanon from an ‘environmental catastrophe’ into a green haven
Born and raised in Beirut and trained as an architect, Nina Rahal-Lott is a women with a vision. After witnessing the dire conditions that Palestinian refugees live in across Lebanon, she is single-handedly attempting to setup a voluntary organisation of environmentalists and architects to help in any way possible to improve the environment of the refugees.
The idea is to improve first the living units of the most needy, such as the elderly and the handicapped,” she explains. “That can begin with simple help, such as thermal insulation, or new hinges for the doors, simple water taps, cleaning their streets and planting trees for them…I will be doing my best to provide sustainable solutions with minimum cost. ”