Category Archives: Copenhagen

E-IR: How Can Islam Help Us Tackle Climate Change?

With the latest scientific findings predicting even more drastic changes to the earth’s climate[1] and the complete failure of the UN climate summits to agree a fair and decent deal on cutting the world’s emissions,[2] it is clear that we are running out of time to tackle climate change.[3] Rather than a steady increase in attention and action, it seems the world’s government are slowly going quiet on climate change, distracted by more pressing concerns such as unemployment and the economic recession.[4] The most recent UN COP17 conference in 2011 at Durban, South Africa, failed to put climate change back on the world agenda and big players such as the US and China don’t appear to be taking their responsibilities seriously.[5]

One topic that has been given a recent boost by this desperate state of affairs is geo-engineering which is defined as ‘the deliberate manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change’.[6] Indeed, a field experiment which consists of spraying sun-reflecting chemical particles from a balloon into the atmosphere over Fort Sumner in New Mexico to artificially cool the planet has just been given the all clear.[7]

However, embracing geo-engineering as ‘Plan B’ is not only dangerous as the outcomes of planetary-scale experiments are highly uncertain; it is undemocratic, irresponsible and ignores the fact that we have a perfectly good ‘Plan A’ – to cut our emissions. We just need better ways of convincing people to do that. One area that is commonly overlooked when exploring ways to encourage greater climate awareness and action is faith and religion. Islam, in particularly, which is perceived as the faith of oil-rich sheikhs is sidelined with sparse academic research highlighting the insights Islam has to offer an environmentally vulnerable planet. Continue reading

@Mcr_Climate : Brussels sprouts action on climate change gas reporting

Manchester Climate Monthly co-editor Arwa Aburawa travels all the way to Brussels and sees parliamentarians decide that European states must now take account of the “sub-national context” when measuring their greenhouse gas emissions. What does this mean for Manchester? Read on…

Manchester City Council has been struggling to keep its promises to monitor its greenhouse gases. For example the annual carbon budget report, which would help make sure the council is on the right track to meet its ambitious targets, failed to appear on the agenda of the July meeting of the City Council’s Executive. The Council’s “Environmental Advisory Panel” has met only once all year, and the Greater Manchester Climate Strategy Implementation Plan is delayed again. So, where does the European Union come in?

Well, as you are probably aware the Kyoto Protocol and various agreements at Cancun and Durban have helped set binding carbon targets for the UK and most member states of the EU. To help monitor their progress, a ‘monitoring mechanism’ was established. However, there are two major problems with the monitoring mechanism: the reporting isn’t transparent or consistent enough between nations, and it is also too focused on the national level to be useful regionally.

The local context is missing and that is a real problem. Councillor Neil Swannick* developed a proposal that has been put to the European Committee of Regions on ‘monitoring and reporting greenhouse gases’.

Continue reading

My New Green Column At Sisters Magazine

Yep, the title says it all. Sisters Magazine contacted me a couple of months ago about writing a green column for them and, of course, I said yes! So for the next couple of months I’ll be lovingly putting pen to paper (more like fingers to keyboard) on topics such as eco-mosques, solar power, meat-eating, growing your own veg and spreading the green Dawah. So keep an eye out and here’s my first on eco-mosques of the world. Read the full article here. Continue reading

An Interview With Bashar Masri- The Man Behind Palestine’s Green City

Since announcing plans to build Palestine’s first planned and green city back in 2008, the Rawabi project has faced its fair share of criticism. From political complications over using Jewish National Fund trees, concerns by environmentalists over the lack of water and waste-water management plans to threats by Israel to shut down access roads and boycotts- the project really has seen it all.

Rawabi (which means hills in Arabic) is an ambitious $800 million USD project which aims to build houses for up to 25,000 people in a location between Jerusalem and Nablus whilst respecting the environment. Despite these good intentions the Rawabi project does seems to pose more questions then it answer.

For example, how does it plan to navigate the political conflict between Israel and Palestine during construction? Does the Rawabi project really live up to its green credentials? And what do Palestinians think of the project? In a bid to get to the bottom of these questions we caught up with Bashar Masri, the man behind the Rawabi project (who is also rumoured to be one of the richest men in the Middle East) to find out more. Continue reading

How Sharks Keep Us Breathing: An Interview with Filmmaker Jonathan Ali Khan

“What is happening to sharks around the world is the most shameful and biggest commercial sellout that man has ever perpetuated against the natural world” – Marine Conservationist and Film-maker Jonathan Ali Khan

Swapping fashion design for fish and wildlife, the film-maker Jonathan Ali Khan has been working on marine conservation in the United Arab Emirates for the past 25 years. His series ‘Arabia’s Cycle of Life’ reached 25 million viewers in the Middle East North Africa region and his latest project ‘Sharkquest Arabia’ is a 2-film TV documentary which uses natural history to communicate the issues facing sharks throughout Arabia’s waters. Green Prophet caught up with Jonathan Ali Khan to talk about the important role sharks play in keeping humans alive, what fisherman can do to protect sharks, the Japanese and Chinese lobby, and how TV and film may be the best way to reach a wide audiences about wildlife conservation.

Why are sharks important for preserving ecosystems and why should we be working for their conservation?

Jonathan Ali Khan: The role of sharks is to manage the food chain. It’s no mistake that these animals possess a formidable range of senses and qualities that have positioned them at the top of the aquatic food chain. As the apex predator, the role they play in the fundamental law of natural selection is in fact linked to the overall health of the seas of our planet. With 92% of our living biosphere being aquatic, almost 80% of our planet’s air is generated by the algae and microscopic phytoplankton that are found in the sea. Many thousands of fish species and other marine organisms feed on phytoplankton and algae. Sharks on the other hand prey on the fish that feed on plankton; right up through to the top of the food chain. So if we remove the sharks, as we are systematically doing at an unsustainable rate of over 70 million sharks a year, then it leaves the plankton feeders free of predation and free to gobble up the main source of our planet’s main oxygen supply! Therefore, it is in our interest to maintain a healthy source of oxygen and air, if we want to keep on breathing! Continue reading

Book Review: The No-Nonsense Guide To Climate Change

Maybe it’s just me but I think that one of the most difficult things about being a climate activist isn’t remembering to put out the recyclables for collection on a Wednesday but rather getting to grips with climate science. Maths and science were never my strong points at school and the most basic of climate science seems to be explained by boffins who way over-estimate my knowledge/abilities to be actually useful. So when I heard there was a ‘No-Nonsense Guide’ to climate change which included climate science I was pretty eager to get my hands on a copy. Thankfully I was not disappointed as the handy pocket-sized guide was easy to read and follow, and didn’t skimp on depth and detail either.

Continue reading

Guardian: Hand-reared endangered spiders released into the wild

Conservation programme releases thousands of rare fen raft spiders into a Suffolk nature reserve in a bid to boost their numbers

an adult female raft spider carrying her bag of eggsPhotograph: Natural England

Arwa Aburawa

The Guardian, Friday 22 October 2010

Thousands of endangered spiders have been released into a Suffolk nature reserve this week as part of a conservation scheme to stem their decline in the UK.

The ecologist Helen Smith, working with the government body Natural England, has hand-reared the 3,000 baby fen raft spiders in her own kitchen. She said: “They are all lined up in individual test tubes and I’ve had to personally feed them flies since the spring – which you can imagine is very, very time consuming for that number of spiders.”

Continue reading

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

On the 20th of July 1969 as Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind on the moon, Mark Edwards was lost in his own lunar landscape of the Sahara Desert. The aspiring photographer had graduated from art school with a great curiosity to see the world and ended up completely lost in the deserts of Niger. Luckily for him he was rescued by a Tuareg nomad who not only saved his life but also inspired a forty-year project which culminated in his ‘Hard Rain’ exhibition which was at Copenhagen during the climate change summit and more recently on display at the London School of Economics university.

Getting lost in the Sahara, admits Edwards, is not particularly difficult especially as there are no signposts or even roads. Even so, relief is probably the only word to describe how he felt after he was found by the Tuareg nomad. “He took me back to his people and reappeared from a tiny little hut with two bits of wood and a beaten up cassette player, “ he recalls.

“He put the wood together and made a fire and we had a nice cup of tea. Then he warmed the cassette batteries, turned it on and Bob Dylan sang a hard rains gonna fall. I was just astonished by the lyrics in this song, by the presentation of it- one of the things that Dylan does is to conjure up with very few words, very vivid images. I just got the idea to illustrate each line and over the years I did it.”

‘Hard Rain: Our headlong collision with nature’, which has been seen by over 12 million people and displayed in the United Nations headquarter building in New York, sets powerful photos of environmental degradation and its impact on the poorest against lyrics from Bob Dylan’s famous song. Forest destruction in Haiti, oil spills and urbanisation all sit alongside kids swimming to polluted water for plastic to recycle and Bangladeshi refugees. For Edwards, climate change is handcuffed to poverty.

Edwards was also keen not to just show beautiful abstract pictures but also their context: how did we get here and what do we need to do next. “We are in the art school now and there is an exhibition of great, big, beautifully printed photographs but they have no content. It’s art. I don’t want ‘Hard Rain’ to be seen like that, it is not art. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle of pictures that define the challenges of the twenty first century held together by Bob Dylan’s lyrics. So, it’s not art.”

The exhibition is accompanied by 5,000 words of text so that people can read that if we keep burning fossil fuels, ice on land will melt causing sea levels to rise, and if the sea level rose by just one metre it would make 20 million people homeless in Bangladesh and India alone. “Where will they go?” he asks during the slide-show presentation at Manchester Metropolitan University. “There is nowhere for 20 million people to go,” he responds.

Picture after picture is shown of the devastation humans have wreaked on this planet; how fragile it is and how fragile our existence is. Edwards insists that we need to change the way we think for there to be real change. We have to realise that we are all interdependent. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ he reminds us- there is only us and we all running out of time. Change can either be bloody or beautiful and the choice is ours. Coming to the end of his presentation, Edwards asks the audience not to applaud and tension of what we have just seen- our choices laid out in such stark terms- stays with us.

Inspired by the likes of Cartier-Bresson and Andre Kertesz, classic masters of reportage, Edwards also boldly claims that ‘Hard Rain’ gave him the opportunity to present the pictures in a way that was honest to his own experience. Something, he says, he never had the chance to do working in the media as an environmental photographer. “I’ve never came back from a picture story with a journalist and felt that we told the full story,” he admits.

“Rather than the well crafted photo which might deceive people, it’s the story that is too neat. When you are out in a difficult situation, its all got jagged edges, it’s not clear cut and journalists make out, in my mind, that the story is clear cut. So, I just felt that we had these stories that were too neat, with a neat beginning, a cover, continuity pictures, a coherent story and the conclusion. You know, it wasn’t like that at all. We were left with lots of question marks.”

In fact, Edwards does have a few gripes with the press and says he sees through the media games played around Copenhagen which have been lowering expectations so that leaders can say that we all did well at the climate summit this December. “All silly stuff,” he remarks. To counter this, Edwards hopes that his book and exhibition, which will be on display during the climate talks, will help focus people’s attention on decisions that need to be made in Copenhagen and put pressure on our leaders to make sure that they make the right ones.

So what does he believe should come out of Copenhagen? Edwards replies that he simply wants our government to start listening to the scientists. “What they are saying is that what governments have to do is get down to pre-industrial levels of CO2 emissions. When scientists say something to government, give a directive like what to do in the BSE crisis, they follow it. It’s not a decision that we have to make. We can’t disobey science or what our scientists are saying.”

Copenhagen, Edwards states, is the last opportunity for government to govern on the issue and if they fail, it becomes a citizens imperative to take action. “Those of us who have seen the effects of climate change, which we are beginning to see in Africa and tropical countries, have a responsibility … I mean I’m not an expert- I am a witness.” Seeing the exhibition makes us all witnesses in a way and in the words of Bob Dylan, now ‘what’ll you do?’

by Arwa Aburawa

Climate Slamdown and Updates on Copenhagen

I don’t know how you could have missed it, but if you have let me tell you: Copenhagen is here! Yes, leaders of the world (good and bad) are meeting up to decide the world’s fate and hopefully come up with a fair and binding agreement for dealing with climate change.

Ed Miliband, our Minister for Energy and Climate Change who was in Manchester on Tuesday for his Copenhagen rally seemed hopeful that it could be pulled off but as inspiring as it was to hear ‘Martin Luther King didn’t say I have a nightmare, he said I have a dream’.. I think it’s safe to say we all have our reservations…

Anyway, I thought I’d spread the word that you can follow the action (or inaction as the case may be) through daily updates at Climate Slamdown. As if you’re not already enticed I’ll just add this cartoon by local cartoonist extraordinaire Marc Roberts… and also let you know that there is more on the Climate Slamdown website!

Marc Roberts