Holy Land Goes Green - Someone Tell the Government!


Reading power plant - part of Tel Aviv's contribution to global warming.

Environmental awareness has finally moved into the mainstream in the Holy Land. The State of Israel, hitherto not generally known for its leadership in sustainability, has apparently reached the green tipping point. Suddenly conferences about environmental issues are multiplying, green degree programs are opening up in universities, and even some politicians are starting to realize the importance of climate change. Ironically, though, the only one left unaffected by the new mania for everything green is Israel's Environmental Protection Minister.While Israel has had a well-developed community of environmental NGO's for years, with organizations advocating for everything from proper water management to socially-just land distribution, the activist sector of society has long known "the loneliness of the long distance runner," as one former Environmental Protection Minister put it. These days, however, "everyone has become green," as screenings of An Inconvenient Truth and discussions of global warming have become de rigueur.

Israel's private sector, defined by its creativity and inventiveness, has also gotten into the act, with an abundance of new products and services in fields such as water conservation and desalination. Some Israeli entrepreneurs are planning to position the country on the forefront of green innovators.

The Environmental Protection Minister, however, quite possibly just doesn't get it. While over 180 countries will be participating in December's UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, as well as countless intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations from all over the globe (including six from Israel), the Israeli government will not be among the participants. Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra recently announced that he is canceling his participation in the conference, citing the high cost of providing security for his entourage in Indonesia. The honorable Minister said he would "rather use the money we save for important things." Go figure.

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