Green Prophet launches a new weekly series taking an in-depth look at the Middle East “green” blogosphere. This week: Mazen Abboud – a Christian minority’s view on green issues in Lebanon.
The growing awareness of environmental issues throughout the Middle East is manifested in the Internet, which includes an ever growing number of websites, forums and blogs focusing on the environment. Some of the blogs are written in Arabic, others are written in Arabic and include translation into English, and, yet, others are written only in English.
In this weekly review “Green Prophet Flies To…”, we’ll look at a blog from a different country in the Middle East. We aim to give clues to the current environmental issues that each country is dealing with, as well as talk about the identity of the bloggers and the environmental agendas they pursue in their own countries and in the region at large. Here you will find valuable data, opinions and news on environmental topics and exploits which are not discussed anywhere else.
This week we fly to Lebanon and look at Mazen Abboud’s Blog, active from April 2009. In his blog Mazen Abboud writes that he is “an environmentalist, a freelance journalist and a businessman.”
Mazen (left) is an Orthodox Christian Lebanese, who was born in 1972 in Douma village, which is located in northern Lebanon. He studied agricultural engineering in the American University of Beirut. In 2008, he got an EMBA from ESA (Ecole Superieure des Affaires), and in 2001, he established the Federation of Associations of the North of Lebanon, the Union of Northern Associations for Development, Environment and Patrimony.
He is also an alternate member of the Mediterranean commission on Sustainable Development of the United Nations Environmental Program (MAP) and an Environmental consultant to it.
Since this is a personal blog, it includes many posts dealing with Mazen Abboud’s life, exploits, and issues other than the environment which he cares about. However, there are many other posts dealing with the environment. Usually, we do not hear much neither in the news nor otherwise on the Christian Orthodox community in Lebanon. This blog gives its readers a rare look into this minority Lebanese community and its environmental concerns.
The blog deals with three main environmental issues: the church and the environment, Lebanon’s environmental policy, and the environmental activities of Mazen Abboud.
The Church and the Environment
Since Mazen is an Orthodox Christian Lebanese, he is interested on the issue of the church and the environment, on which he posted an article on June 5, 2010. The article is titled “The Environment and the Church”. The article is written in Arabic and describes the relationships between the Catholic and Orthodox church and the environment through the eyes of Pope Benedict XVI and Bartholomew, the Orthodox Archbishoph of Constantinople.
In his communique for World Peace Day, Pope Benedict XVI called the environment “a present from God to all human beings.” He said that there is an inseparable relationship between God, the human beings and nature and each person has to conserve the environment in order to build a peaceful world.
The Orthodox Church believes that honoring the creation comes before honoring the creator. It believes that the principle of imposing human beings on nature is limited by the need to serve nature. According to Bartholomew, the environment is the “icon of the creator and a live symbol and proof for his presence among us.” He said that the true Christian is the one who live in coexistence with nature.
At the end of the article, Mazen criticizes the Lebanese church priests for not giving the environment a great importance, which they give to making direct economic profit for themselves instead.
Through this blog, we are exposed to Christian Orthodox environmental activities within Lebanon. For example, Mazen describes in an article in Arabic which he posted on May 10, 2010 titled “Environmental Conference Organized by the Soldiers of Faith Association – Kosba Branch,” an environmental conference organized by this Christian Orthodox association.
This conference was attended by government officials, church officials, representatives of environmental civil society organizations and Mazen Abboud himself. This conference called for more environmental cooperation between the Lebanese government and civil society organization and for conserving the environment.
Lebanon’s Environmental Policy
As an environmental consultant, Mazen Abboud wrote an annual report addressing the environmental issues in Lebanon in 2009 in Arabic, French, and English.
He posted it in his blog in February 2010. Titled “Lebanon & The Environment in Year 2009.” In his report, Mazen Abboud deals with the issues of the impact of climate change on Lebanon; the current election law and its implications on the ability to confront environmental issues, such as solid wastes, sea and air pollution, etc.; environmental violations (increase in forest cutting permits, maritime violations); the Ministry of Environment; Lebanon’s environmental policy; the media’s role; environmental projects and initiatives launched by Lebanese companies; the means to preserve the forests; violations of underground waters; the spread of poultry farms; pollution of rivers and watercourses; and dynamite hunting.
This report includes a separate clause dealing with the lawsuit filed against Israel for its environmental violations during the Second Lebanon War. The aim of this lawsuit is to force Israel to pay Lebanon the full cost of environmental damages to agricultural lands caused by Israel during the war.
Mazen Abboud encourages the Ministers of Environment, Justice, Agriculture and Foreign Affairs to grant this lawsuit a much greater importance and push Israel to pay proper compensation for the damages it caused.
The Environmental Activities of Mazen Abboud
Mazen Abboud describes in his blog his contributions to preserving the environment in Lebanon.
On April 27, 2009, Mazen Abboud published his book “Seeds of Change.” In his book, Mazen describes the environmental problems confronted by Lebanon and suggests solutions to them.
Therefore, in April 2009, Mazen posted articles in Arabic, English, and French concerning his book.
On October 23, 2009, Mazen Abboud, a full member of the Lebanese Tobacco Board, posted an article titled “The Lebanese Tobacco Office is Getting Green.” This post describes a press conference that he conducted a day earlier at the headquarters of the Tobacco Board. He said that the Lebanese Tobacco Bureau adopted a green agenda to minimize its emmissions of CO2.
According to him, the firm’s new green policy guidelines aims “firstly, at decreasing the firm dependence on non renewable energy sources through the efficient use of electricity & the partial dependence on solar energy for lighting; secondly, at increasing the firm recycling capabilities by two folds to minimize its organic wastes; & thirdly, on diminishing the chemical residues content of the locally grown tobacco leaves by adopting more environmentally friendly pest management techniques.”
Mazen Abboud also announced the launching of an environmental prize of the Regie Libanaise des Tabacs, with a main goal to enhance green activities among NGOs & individuals.
A sum of Mazen’s blog:
This blog enables its readers a rare glance into the Christian Orthodox community in Lebanon and its environmental beliefs and actions. It describes the environmental problems of Lebanon from the viewpoint of an accomplished environmentalist, who has contributed a lot for the conservation of the environment, as can be seen from the blog. Mazen also describes his attitude towards Israel, which he blames for the environmental damages caused to Lebanon following the Second Lebanon War in July 2006.
When dealing with environment in the Middle East, we tend to focus on the Muslim environmental agendas while forgetting that there are many other minorities living in the Middle East, such as various Christian sects, Druze, Bahais, Circussians, and others who have also a relationship to the environment.
This blog is a very good example showing the environmental awareness and the great importance given to the environment not only among the majority Muslims but also among Middle Eastern minorities