A video dialogue program for young women in the USA and Muslim countries
March 2nd, 2007 at 8:51 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Our 10th session yesterday dealt with environmental issues. 

Most pressing environmental issues. We started by talking about what we considered to be the most important environmental issues. The New York participants said here in the US, global warming was currently the topic on everyone’s minds. A participant in the US mentioned “An Inconvenient Truth” (which one of the participants in Gabes had seen featured on Oprah!), saying it had helped raise awareness of the issue. The Tunisian participants said there, too, global warming was an issue. Discussion then shifted to a question of who was responsible for global warming, and how different nations should approach the problem given that only a handful of nations were responsible for the majority of the world’s greenhouse gases.

Raising awareness. We also talked about how to raise awareness of environmental issues. The Tunisian participants talked about an educational campaign in Tunisia that was targeted at younger schoolchildren to make them aware of issues at an early age. Additionally, they said there had been other awareness campaigns such as proper waste disposal messages launched in recent years. In the US, there was discussion about the fact that campaigns were reaching a far broader audience now than in the past: whereas not long ago, environmental causes tended to appeal to more of a niche audience, today they’d become much more mainstream. We also talked about the use of celebrities to raise awareness of issues: there was debate over whether it was a good or bad thing that well-known individuals were now almost required for an issue to gain traction on a global basis.   

Local environmental problems. Later we got into a conversation about local environmental issues in Tunisia and in the US. In Gabes, participants mentioned a chemical plant which had brought many jobs to the region, but had a strong negative impact on the environment. In the US, one of the participants from West Virginia talked about the coal mining problems in her state, and how the coal companies were attempting to improve their images by donating to worthy causes while continuing to pollute. Both sides agreed that it was easy to over-simplify the problem, but agreed that environmental considerations had to be taken into account in addition to the new jobs created. 

Solving the problem. Finally, we talked a bit about how to help address some of the major environmental problems that exist today. After a discussion on a variety of topics, including air pollution, one of the participants in Gabes said that so many of the solutions to the problems were prohibitively expensive, we needed to step up and try to help devise more cost-effective technology. A participant in the US mentioned Richard Branson’s recent announcement that he’d award $25 million to anyone who could devise a way to remove a billion tons of carbon dioxide a year from the atmosphere. Everyone agreed the new generation was likely to be more cognizant of the need to care for both local and global environment - we still have a long way to go to resolve today’s environmental problems, but awareness is definitely increasing both in Tunisia and the US.         


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