Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Middle East, Food and Biofuels

I have been looking into biofuels in the Middle East recently (see links below), as its an area of ‘green’ development which could be really problematic for the water and food-scarce region and also because there doesn’t appear to be much realization of the dangers of biofuels amongst many MidEast enviros. One of the biggest problems with biofuels is that it pitches the need for food and the need for fuel against each other, drains important resources used for agriculture and also happens to necessity the destruction of forests to make space for land to grow biofuel crops.

The Jatropha plant, which was once hailed as a great biofuel plant for producing diesel fuel for cars, has attracted my attention as it has been taken up by Jordan recently and also because a lot of research is emerging about its problems.

A study of jatropha biofuel production in Kenya by ActionAid found that the supposed ‘green fuel’ produced six times more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. This was mainly due to the fact that to grow jatropha, forestland was cut down and carbon emissions locked within were released. Furthermore, despite the popular belief that jatropha grows successfully in semi-arid conditions, to make its harvesting economical then you need to put in more water and fertilizer. As such,  many studies have concluded that “if an investment in irrigation and fertilizer is required, why not grow food crops instead.” Thus, the food vs. fuel tension emerges. Continue reading

Bedouin Women to Bring Solar Power to the Desert

I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak to the two women you see pictured above- Rifia and Seiha who are from Jordan- during their stay in India where they were training to become solar engineers. When I eventually managed to track them down (I just kept repeating ‘Jordan?’ to whoever picked up the phone at the college and it worked!), they seemed eager to speak to anyone who spoke Arabic- even if mine is a little on the dodgy side.

This March 2011, they completed their six month training and returned to Jordan to start a new life for their village. Hopefully, they willl manage to attract enough attention for a sponser to pay for the start-up costs for the solar panels- if only so that they get a chance to put their skills into practice and bring solar power to their villages in the harsh deserts of Jordan. Here’s the piece I wrote about them for Green Prophet…. Continue reading

Saddam, War and Water: Restoring Iraq’s Marshlands

You don’t often get a chance to talk about Iraq and success in the same sentence so I was very happy when I stumbled across the story of Iraq’s Marshlands and the organisation working hard to restore the vital wetland.

I’ll hand it to you the story doesn’t start well. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980’s, the Marshlands of Iraq- which was the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East- became a haven for people who resisted Saddam and many of the Marsh Arabs who lived there also rebelled against Saddam.

In response to this,  Saddam began diverting water away from the marshlands in the 1980s effectively draining away the wetlands which were transformed in a couple of short years into dry desert. This was punishment for their rebellion. The marshlands, which originally supported around a quarter of a million people, shrunk to just 10% of its original size and was described as an “ecological and human disaster” by the UN.  An estimated 70,000 people left for camps in Iran, plants died, birds flew away and ecosystem was on the brink of extinction.  Continue reading

Green Prophet: How to Live a Car-Free Existence

Maybe it has something to do with my love of trains and car-induced travel sickness as a child, but I can honestly say I’ve never aspired to driving a car.

Hitting the open road or whizzing around the city in my very own car doesn’t really fill me with anything but dread. Although I think that choosing to drive is a personal decision, it does however seem to annoy lots of people. People who seem to think that you are a complete failure unless you can drive and own a car.

I am 24 years old now and I have come to terms with the fact that I will never drive my own car but my little sister (nothing like a little public humiliation here!) thinks ‘it’s a little embarrassing’ that I don’t drive. It’s an important skill, she reasons, one which would give me a lot more independence. She’s right about the personal independence it would give me as a young Muslim women but than I tell her what I always tell anyone who asks why I don’t drive- ‘Driving is not the future’.

Continue reading