Enemies of the environment

Mahmoud Ahmad

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Recently, an environmental campaign was started by a Green group the Association of Sudair that called on people to start and sustain a drive to plant more than 100,000 trees in the next ten years. About 250 people, mostly young people in addition to some elderly, participated in this green drive and managed to plant more than 6,000 trees. The campaign was well organized and systematic.

The volunteers, dressed in uniforms, were given free saplings and were then asked to plant it in a specified place. Many other organizations too participated in this green drive by providing the organizers with these plants. The organizers’ aim was to increase the green space by selecting and planting types of trees that can survive in a harsh environment that suffers from lack of water.

Another Green initiative was begun in the Eastern Province city of al-Ahsa to plant trees in a public park. Again, volunteers and students carried out the task of planting over two million trees in this park and in other locations in the surrounding areas. This is part of the initiative by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture to plant over 10,000,000 trees around the Kingdom as part of the 2020 National Transformation Program.

The ‘Go Green’ drive has primarily two main objectives — one to stand as a barrier against movement of sands (desertification) by building a natural fence to stem this creeping disaster while also helping in combating pollution thus contributing in creating a healthy society — a major goal of Saudi Vision 2030.

This is music to our ears and a great step forward to protect our environment from the ‘enemies of environment’. It was common and still a practice to take down trees for wood that was mostly used as fuel. The weather is getting nicer these days and with the onset of winter, we will see people going camping in the desert and in the process cut down trees to use wood for fire.

The practice of cutting down trees randomly and in large numbers is seen everywhere and they do it without any fear of government authorities acting against them. What is shocking is that some people pour acid around the tree to kill the roots before taking it down. Not only that, but they take the extra wood to a public market and sell it openly.

The green initiative only shows that the level of responsibility toward our environment is growing, and that is a positive sign

Mahmoud Ahmad

Callous act

They simply don’t care about how badly their callous act affects the environment as long as they can earn a few riyals. Despite the fact that the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture is providing imported woods as an alternative to people who want them, the ‘enemies of the environment’ insist on killing the environment with their ax or any other instrument that would help them decimate trees.

Honestly, sometimes I question myself, whether we really know what the word “environment” actually means? The action, or even lack of it sometimes, around us shows that the overwhelming majority lacks the basic knowledge about environment and on the importance to protect environment, as it is an ancillary need for humans’ survival.

If we look at beaches, large number of families leaves their trash behind to be picked up by cleaners, even if the garbage can or basket is just a few meters away. Some simply throw the waste in the sea and it washes over the shore and creates a dirty image.

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The presence of waste and garbage also affects siltation and beach drift that could affect the shoreline. If it was not for the efforts of volunteers who care and carry out cleaning drive campaigns and the constant efforts of the cleaning workers, then we would have the ugliest shores, whose lines could have altered with the movement of sand and water.

The same is seen with people’s penchant for hunting migrating birds and wild animals in large numbers mostly for sports. This shows a great lack of understanding toward the environment. I have sadly seen in many video clips, groups of young people hunting for small migratory birds without any clue of what this natural flight entails.

The flights of these birds herald the changes in the climate as well as provide enthusiasts knowledge of the types of global habitat that these birds prefer and visit, in addition to the directional map they offer.

Shrinking habitat

But the shrinking of their habitats and human predatory actions have culled the numbers while also putting some of them on the endangered list. It is so sad when we see them taking the air rifle and practice their sniping abilities, and most of the time leaving behind dead birds.

There are many studies on the benefits of planting trees and protecting the environment. It combats climate change, provides oxygen and clean air, brings back wild life, especially migrating birds, it saves water and prevents water pollution in addition to preventing soil erosion. If we really care about the environment we should at least read the benefits before playing our part in this growing green movement.

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The green initiative only shows that the level of responsibility toward our environment is growing, and that is a positive sign. Involving the young children in these drives positively affects them, for they carry this positive message from their childhood into their adulthood and become one more silent soldier in the growing Green army, who if not actively helping will at least be there to stop the ones who act without a thought.

It is my belief that environmentally friendly campaigns should be carried out on a monthly basis and it should always involve children. We should not wait for the ‘Tree Week’ to carry out a green drive and then forget about it for the rest of the year. For a sustainable world we need to sustain the drive throughout our lifetime.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on November 15, 2017.

Mahmoud Ahmad is Managing Editor of Saudi Gazette for Local and Gulf Affairs. He can be reached at mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa and his Twitter handle is @anajeddawi_eng.

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