Posted by: r.m. | November 13, 2008

changing the world

All too often, there is talk of impotence.  The crisis is too large. We cannot solve it. We are too few. We are too weak.

But, as George Monbiot writes today, “We naïvely believe that it takes 51 percent of the people to make change in a democracy, but it clearly doesn’t—5 percent is plenty, if those 5 percent are engaged in symbolic action that can force the kind of legislative change that resets the course for everyone. …If people who care about climate change mobilize politically, 5 percent will be more than enough too—it will persuade senators, congressmen, and presidents to back strict legislation that will set real caps on emissions and fund real research on the technologies we need. If such laws pass, they would change the behavior of 95 percent of Americans, including reluctant in-laws. This kind of equation isn’t hypothetical.

So here’s the thing. Along with spending a lot of time figuring out how to make your own life practically green (because, it’s true, how are you going to face your kids if you don’t?), spend at least a little time figuring out how to engage in the symbolic political action that might actually add up to something useful.

You have to keep reminding yourself that atmospheric physics and chemistry don’t give you points for doing the right thing—they only care about how much carbon is in the atmosphere. We have so little time that we can’t waste any of it. Screw in a new light bulb? Sure. Screw in a new global treaty? Now we’re talking.”

We in Lebanon are not immune, we’re not separate from this political struggle. In the US, they are fighting to get the government to wake up. In this region (yes, we have to think regionally), let’s fight to get the Arab States to wake up.

IndyAct – leading a campaign in the Arab world on climate change – writes “the Arab World has a big role to play in the global climate change issue, due the following reasons:
• The Arab World region is one of the most impacted region by climate change, especially in the water and agricultural sectors, which will threaten our food security and livelihood
• The Arab World shares a major responsibility to the problem due to its oil producing countries
Oil-rich Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, have been actively hindering climate negotiations
• The Arab World is rich with renewable energy and can play an active role in the solution, especially in CSP technology and exporting solar energy to Europe (trans-Med project) and Africa.
• With a combined population of 325 million people in 23 countries, the Arab World voice can heavily impact the global climate change debate and policies.
Up until now, there is no concrete climate change campaign in the Arab World, and it is up to the Arab civil society to achieve the required change in their region. Therefore, IndyAct launched its Arab Climate Campaign to insure that:
1. The Arab World supports and commits towards a global greenhouse gas reduction goal of at least 50% by 2050, while actively and positively engaging the global climate change debate / negotiation to meet that target.
2. Rich oil producing countries in the Arab World recognize and accept their responsibility for climate change according to their historic oil trade, and establish commitments to mitigate climate change
3. The Arab League supports and ratifies a new protocol for the second commitment period, which includes specific CO2 emission caps for developing countries and specific obligations on rich fossil-fuel producing countries.”

So: what do you have to lose?

What do you have to gain?




  1. Thanks for an amazing article. Yes… we can make a difference, and we already started. IndyACT now has formed the Arab Climate Alliance, which is more than 25 NGOs across the region working on climate policy. Last week, I was contacted by the League of Arab States and asked me to attend the meetings of the committees that draft the Arab Leagues climate policy positions.
    Change has started, and as you said it requires individuals to engage in the symbolic political action. We are more than enough, and we are more than each one of us think.
    By the way, one of campaign objectives have changed. Now we are calling for 80% reduction global GHG reduction by 2050, according to the new science produced by IPCC.

  2. The Arab countries are one of the main reason for the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but they own the solution to this disaster. Action should be made about this issue immediately. Awareness and decreasing our consumption is not going to get us anywhere. We should start encouraging our countires to take a step to help reduce the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We have the key to survival, so we should open the doors of hope for this planet.

  3. Mr. Hmaidan’s lecture had quite an effect on me. In high school we used to received guest speakers to raise awareness about the critical situation of the environment. It became routine; global warming, GHG effect, save the planet bla bla…I felt as though we needed to stop talking green and start acting green. It has also always frustrated me how indifferent people have become towards what should and does concern them. In Balamand, even with clubs concerning recycling, nature, etc., there are only a select few who care to devote their time to such matters. That is why, with a little help, I hope I can start campaigns in university, try to write petitions to the government (although I highly doubt we’d get anywhere), anything there is to spark change.

  4. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
    -Mahatma Ghandi-

    It’s always admirable to see someone living his ideas, because that’s the only way one can hope to convince others.

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