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Dec 31, 2009

I am a humanitarian aid worker in my day job and have just returned from a work trip to northern Yemen... a poor country, very poor. Two key thoughts that I'd like to share in the area of environment (I spent most time in Hajjah and Amran Governorates so not sure how true the following might be for the rest of the country):

DESERT FLOWER - it ain't pretty
The landscape is absolutely littered with the 'desert flower' (plastic bags - in several countries now a crime punishable by jail sentence due to impacts on blocked drainages etc). It's not the first time I've seen this, but as it was so pervasive (and we had some long car journeys to reflect), I thought: WHY do they have this? Well, in order to understand it a bit more, I tried putting myself in their shoes... until very recently all what they used and ate was natural (came from nature) and the remains/ leftovers would decompose quickly. With literacy rates being very low (in the camp we coordinate the literacy is almost zero), how are they supposed to know that plastic (and other man-made fibres) recently introduced are any different?

SOLAR STOVE - it has to fit the situation
In a tent camp that we're coordinating, some organisation apparently tried to introduce solar stoves (reduces risk of rape due to no more need to gather firewood, so also better for local environment). With having contributed nothing to climate change (nor even aware of it) and being focused on survival, being 'wise for the environment' is probably not on people's minds... But why would introduction of solar stoves still be a failure? There's enough sun, enough need for being able to cook... my analysis is that though going to get fire wood is risky, it may be only opportunity for the women to leave the house/ tent, meet their friends and catch up on news, something much more important to them than saving a few bits of CO2. I believe solar stoves (or other sustainable alternatives) will still work, but the solution proposed needs to respond to true and full needs of the community, e.g. offer other opportunities to meet up in safe/ productive way not just look at individual needs.

On a more positive note: I read a British family reduced their waste to just one bill full for the year. We may not all be able to go that 'full hog', but I'm sure we can all improve, especially is we remember our faith teachings not to waste and to be just (more equal sharing of earth's resources).

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Posted: Dec 31, 2009 4:23am


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Rianne ten Veen
, 3
Solihull, United Kingdom
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