Every year, Earth Day is celebrated on 22 April, to demonstrate support for environmental protection. While keeping a day for creating awareness about the environment is nice, is it truly enough?
Neeshad V. Shafi, a Doha-based environmental activist, educator and speaker, is one of many responsible for creating awareness on these issues. An environmental engineer by profession, he is currently serving as coordinator for Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar. He is also the Middle East officer for CliMates, the focal point for CAN (Climate Action Network) Arab World and is the liaison officer for citizens Climate Lobby. He believes the burning issue now is of climate control.
“I believe that environmental issues like climate change are one of the greatest threats facing humanity. As young people, we are the inheritors of this planet and are the key stakeholder in humanity’s response to this crisis.”
“I believe that environmental issues like climate change are one of the greatest threats facing humanity. As young people, we are the inheritors of this planet and are the key stakeholder in humanity’s response to this crisis. Qatar cannot afford inaction on either national, regional or global level and a collective action is becoming increasingly urgent. When I realized that there was a lack of awareness on the issues concerning the environment among the youth here, I was inspired to adopt the cause and take up the issue of spreading awareness,” said Neeshad.
Today, there are a number of organizations in Qatar doing their bit for the environment. The top among them is the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM) Qatar, a not-for-profit local group that has been active for over a year. It strives to educate the general public about the merits of adopting a green attitude and conserving the use of natural resources in line to support the environmental pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030. The group with around 35 members, aims to educate, empower, inspire and engage youngsters to take action on environmental issues and climate change facing Qatar and the region.
Since inception, AYCM Qatar has been actively working with various organizations and partners in Qatar. In 2016, the group was amongst the final three nominated for Qatar Sustainability Award in the NGO category by Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC). The group was also the official youth partner for QGBC Conference 2016 and have been actively working with QGBC for various campaigns.
The group also has the honor of being the only one in the country that has promoted tree planting and its awareness through the Ghar Campaign organised by the Qatar Quranic Garden under Qatar Foundation. AYCM Qatar was also invited to talk at THIMUN Qatar 2016 to almost 100 young students from across the world where they spoke about the “Role of Education in Combating Climate change”. AYCM Qatar members were also invited to attend COP21 Paris and COP22 in Marrakesh for their continued efforts to spread awareness and education on impacts of climate change in Qatar both online and offline.
For this Earth Day, AYCM Qatar is planning to launch video awareness campaigns on topics such as air pollution and health in both English and Arabic.“There is a great enthusiasm about environment conservation and protection in recent years,” says Neeshad. “People are realizing the importance of environmental protection and conservation with active interest. Recent trend of going vegan and adopting a healthy life style is an example of change of mindsets at community level.”
“The government too has been actively prompting various activities through its campaigns on conservation and environmental protection. The Qatari government signing Paris Agreement in New York, 2016 showcases Qatar’s commitment to sustainable future for all and support for action on climate change. I truly hope Qatar ratify this agreement soon and take necessary steps at regional and local level in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 to move towards a low carbon based economy,” he added.
Earth Hour is a worldwide movement organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The event is held annually encouraging individuals, communities, households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour, from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
On Saturday, 25 March 2017, WWF’s Earth Hour rolled across the world once again. From New York to New Zealand, Paris to Paraguay millions of people came together to shine a light on climate action.
An unprecedented 187 countries and territories took part, over 3,000 landmarks switched off their lights and millions of individuals, businesses and organizations across seven continents stepped forward to prevent climate change. Hotels and establishments in Qatar also showed their solidarity with the movement by going dark for Earth Hour.
Highlights of Earth Hour 2017
- 187 countries and territories participated
- 30 countries saw #EarthHour trend
- 350+ ambassadors and influencers joined the movement
- 3100 landmarks and monuments switched off their lights
- 15,393 Facebook pages donated their feed
- 7 countries aiming for climate policy outcomes
How to celebrate Earth Day everyday
While keeping a day for creating awareness about the environment is nice, is it truly enough? “I believe efforts can be from our everyday practice, preference or habit towards environment. Even the smallest contributions count,” said Neeshad.
Here we bring you a list of things that you can do on a daily basis to help the environment:
Stop buying one-time-use items like paper towels
“If households used less FIBER paper towels, we’d save many trees from the chainsaws every year – not to mention the energy used in their production and transportation.”
We buy paper towels for the kitchen because we feel they are easy to use. Use rags or pieces of cloth instead, toss them in with your weekly wash and you’re all set. By doing so you’ll save money and a few trees too. If households used less fiber paper towels, we’d save many trees from the chainsaws every year – not to mention the energy used in their production and transportation. Crossing kitchen rolls from our shopping lists can have a huge impact.
Carry your own plastic bags
“More than 100,000 marine animals die every year from getting tangled in plastic bags or ingesting them”
Every time you go shopping, you come back, hands laden with plastic bags. Many times, these bags just go into the trash after this one time use. More than 100,000 marine animals die every year from getting tangled in plastic bags or ingesting them. What you can and should do is that when you have bought just one small item or a few which could be easily carried, politely refuse the bag they’re about to be put in.
Or better still, bring your own reusable bags. It will help to always keep a few plastic bags in your car for shopping emergencies. It might seem tiresome, but it’s good to remember that one million plastic bags are used every single minute worldwide. Many of these bags become litter, or end up in landfill sites, where they take centuries to break down. Reusing a bag a few times, or buying a sturdier one which will last longer, is a great way to cut down on unnecessary waste.
Reuse plastic bottles and containers
If you can reuse plastic bags then you can definitely reuse plastic bottles. Plastic bottles are the new plastic bags. They’re everywhere, very rarely recycled, and they don’t biodegrade. When you go out or to work carry a reusable water bottle which you can fill from your home. Similarly, pack your lunch in reusable containers instead of the disposable kind. Buying reusable bottles and containers will not only save you money, it’ll help save the environment.
Cut down on meat and dairy consumption
The meat industry produces huge amounts of harmful emissions and ecosystems around the world are being destroyed at an alarming rate to make room to graze cattle and grow the food they eat. According to a UK analysis, the meat industry accounts for 15%of all greenhouse gas emissions. Ditching the dairy can also confer significant health benefits, reducing fat intake and slashing risk factors for chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease or type-2 diabetes. It may be a difficult task for some, but even slightly reducing the amount of meat we consume would have dramatic effects and make you feel better, too.
Get a bike or take a hike
“Qatar is really promoting cycling in the country as many cycling tracks have been set up beside main roads”
It’s been said that some of the major problems facing the western world – pollution, climate change and obesity – could be solved if we all just started cycling a bit more. Qatar is really promoting cycling in the country as many cycling tracks have been set up beside main roads. It’s obviously not feasible to swap your car for your bike completely, but for shorter distances and quick errands, it’s often the quickest (and most fun) way to get around. If you don’t own a cycle or don’t want to invest in one, you can always walk short distances. It will keep you healthy too.
Any kind of wastage of resources is harmful for the environment. Shut off the faucet when not needed. Fix leaky pipes and taps. A faucet leaking just one drop per second wastes over 1,300 gallons per year! A leak from a hot water source wastes both water and fossil fuel, creating more greenhouse gasses. Switch off unnecessary lights and electric appliances when not in use. Also consider changing your light bulbs. There are a lot of different options out there that you can choose from, and most of them are much more environmentally friendly than what we grew up with. Changing them can save you a lot of time, money, and energy.
Plant a tree
Trees are a big part of our earth, and planting one will just add to the health and wellness of the world that we live in. Over a 50-year lifetime, a tree generates $31,250 worth of oxygen, provides $62,000 worth of air pollution control, recycles $37,500 worth of water, and controls $31,250 worth of soil erosion. It also provides shade that keeps homes and cities cooler.
“Start small and do simple things like return hangers to the cleaners, donate clothing and computers to charities, switch all your bills to e-bills and online invoices, avoid taking paper print-outs wherever possible”
There are a lot more things that you can do on your part for the environment. Start small and do simple things like return hangers to the cleaners, donate clothing and computers to charities, switch all your bills to e-bills and online invoices, avoid taking paper print-outs wherever possible. There are hundreds of ways you can help the environment and yourself. Don’t just leave it to Earth Day. Look into what can be done through the whole year and make taking care of the environment a regular part of how you live.
This article is from BQ Plus’s Issue 10 – April-May 2017.
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