Since March, Palestinians in Gaza have been setting fire to Southern Israel. They do so using the most low-tech means possible – by releasing kites and balloons to which they’ve connected pyrotechnic charges. As crazy as it sounds, they’ve even sent over condoms in which they placed explosives.
Israel is burning. On some days over 15 new fires are being set, with over 2,000 acres of land charred. Immense amounts of crops have been destroyed. The environmental damage is huge.
To all of this, the world’s environmental community says nothing.
There has been not a word from Greenpeace, nothing from the Sierra Club, nothing from Earthwatch, nothing from the World Nature Organization. There hasn’t been anything been from anybody.
For those of us who deal frequently with energy issues, this is no surprise. Israel is out of favor politically. To accuse the “oppressed” Palestinians of creating environmental destruction wouldn’t fit the “in vogue” political narrative – that the Palestinians are the good guys and the Israelis are the bad guys.
Theoretically, environmentalism should be universalist. It doesn’t matter if the pollution comes from Los Angeles, Beijing, Nairobi or Gaza. Pollution knows and respects no borders. Untreated raw sewage flowing into the Mediterranean from Gaza City will wash up on the beaches of Ashdod in Southern Israel no matter where the border is drawn.
In practice the opposite usually is true. Environmental organizations can be some of the most cynical, political groups you can deal with. Just look at their stance regarding the Paris Climate Accords.
The Accords themselves are fairly meaningless. They set out a series of broad principles, then left it to each country to present an environmental action plan. The key is what is in those plans.
Some countries, like the United States under President Obama, proposed an aggressive plan to reduce greenhouse gasses, which in fact we are meeting (although ironically this is due mostly to fracking and natural gas). Other countries like China, the world’s largest polluter, were not so forthcoming.
In effect what the Chinese said was they would try to limit the level of increase of their CO2 emissions such that it would peak around 2030, then gradually reduce it thereafter. This actually was what China has been doing anyway. It meant little to no real change in Chinese policy.
When China proposed that basically it would do nothing, there was no howl of environmental anger from Greenpeace or the World Nature Organization. Apparently, the same groups that shout to the sky about an immediate climate emergency weren’t willing to tell China that our planet can’t wait until 2030.
Let Israel try that, however, and the story would have been much different. China may be the world’s largest polluter and it may occupy Tibet, but it’s not big bad Israel.
Imagine world reaction if Israelis purposely were burning Palestinian land. My guess is that at least the story would be told. If Israel loses patience with what is going on now and takes military steps to stop the current conflagration, don’t expect any understanding from the West, and certainly not from the environmentalists.
Israel has lots of faults. It rightly can be blamed for incalculable shortcomings, but not its overall environmental record. The original Zionists restored a truly “dead” land, draining the swamps that wouldn’t allow a traveler in 1900 from going directly from Jaffa to Haifa. Israelis, by hand, replanted millions of trees in places that had been deforested for over 1,000 years. The story is one of the environmental glories of the age.
Last year, the World Economic Forum confirmed that Pakistan’s northwest province of Khybar Pakhtunkwa has planted one billion trees. Called the “Billion Tree Tsunami”, the plan reforested an entire province where trees had been felled. Just as in Israel, local people marveled at the impact of the tree planting on the local weather. In effect, the greater tree coverage produced its own weather change.
All of this is taken from the playbook of the Jewish National Fund, which was so instrumental in restoring the land of Israel (and of which, full disclosure, I was a USA national executive officer for many years). If you read stories about the Pakistan Tree Tsunami, however, don’t waste your time looking for KKL-JNF references. Again, that would mean reflecting Israel in a positive light.
The next few years will be filled with environmental issues on which serious discussion needs to be held. Don’t look for that from our environmental organizations. If they don’t even care when land is purposely being burned by Gazans, why should we listen to them when they talk about renewable energy, fossil fuels or any of the other issues that are not clear cut and really need some serious analysis. For the “enviros”, the need to be accepted at the swanky dinner parties of the politically correct too often takes priority over their concern for the environment of the planet.