Posted by: r.m. | April 4, 2014

A green, free, loving Lebanon…and a free Palestine

Those of us who organize and struggle for justice are typically criticized for knowing only what we don’t want and not discussing what we actually do want; no to this, no to that, yes to what?

In many of the classes I teach in environmental sciences at the university, I ask my students to envision the Lebanon they want – with no challenges (except the physical limitations) and no obstacles in their way. We people created these laws and this economy – and we people can change them. So what do you want? All too often, the students have difficulty dreaming big, dreaming wide, dreaming free.

Be realistic, demand the impossible.

Here is one vision of what I do want in Lebanon – and elsewhere, from Al-Akhbar.

An excerpt:

I’ll be in Beirut just in time for the Erasure Festival, held every year to officially inaugurate all the public spaces that were opened the year prior. The festival started after the Council for Urban Development decided to prohibit the flattening of historic buildings, and demolish new buildings instead – buildings that don’t comply with formal and functional qualities that contribute to a good life in a good city. If you’ve been in Beirut in the early 2000s, you would know which buildings I’m talking about.

In place of every demolished building, a new garden, park, or public facility is erected to cater to our cherished communal well-being. Somewhere along the line of a series of tragic urban development strategies, we realized that a nation with a tree on its flag couldn’t neglect its environmental strategy. Better yet, we decided that a green strategy should be our guiding light, a template for our different development plans. It’s been great for us ever since.

Check it out in full here

Let’s keep on our eyes on the prize, as was said in the civil rights struggle in the US. Let’s keep organizing to build a society that is what we want, and not just make do co-existing with what we have.

Dream the impossible. The only dreams worth having.



  1. Micolas Abdallah (BIOL207)
    “A vision of a better Lebanon”…. It’s sad how long the list can go! Because having room for too much improvement shows how bad the current situation is.
    We blame the awful situation our country is experiencing on the civil war; had this war not occurred we would have perhaps been “Switzerland of the east”, some people think. It’s true that the civil war has had many severe negative impacts on our country, and Lebanon would be much better without it, it wouldn’t be good though I’m sure. Civil war is just the cherry over the cake, that made it harder to form a nation with good living standards. Many other war-free countries, some are even developed, are still not “good” in the eyes of their citizens. What I wanted to say here is that the improvement in nations is a global issue that not only us are experiencing.

    As a person very interested in art, I was impressed when I saw the name of Oscar Niemeyer (More about him: This great Brazilian architect is the one who designed the international fair in Najib Mikati, Ashraf Rifi and Faisal Karami’s city Tripoli ( However, due to the onset of the civil war, the work on the fair has stopped and wasn’t resumed yet, perhaps because these 3 people and many others are too busy in corrupting the country to care about architectural landmarks in their city. We have Solidere in Beirut that has renovated its buildings after the war, of course while adding some millions of dollars to the pockets of Rafic Hariri on the way. What this corporate did is also a huge indication of a major issue our country is suffering from: centralism…. Doesn’t anyone care to renovate and improve Tripoli, Saida, Baalbeck, and other forgotten parts of Lebanon while making some extra money?

    I stopped for a moment when I reached the part on love and acceptance to think about how desperately we need to stop judging each other based on sexual orientation, and this applies to the whole world not just to Lebanon. How nice will it be if our world finally admits that it’s completely normal and acceptable to love a person of the same sex and build a life with them. We need to accept love, regardless of the genital packages of the partners. Religions teach love, so there’s no reason to put it as an excuse to homophobia. This is a very small step towards achieving the unrealized yet dream of “human rights”, where all humans are free to do what ever they want as long as it doesn’t affect the rights of others. Sex, skin color, sexual orientation, social class, financial status, physical appearance shouldn’t be factors in judging a person, we must look at the human as a member of the H. sapiens species….. Before we become instinct by self-destruction.

    As presidential elections are approaching, I want to add a wish in this context: that our next president won’t be a war criminal nor an employee to KSA or Iran, an almost impossible task I know, but we all have the right to dream.

    A final dream: an industrialized Lebanon that uses the clean green energy with zero carbon emissions; a wish that doesn’t suit our politicians, but it suits us, the civilians…. Hopefully this becomes important one day.

  2. I think that all of our visions coincide with Mr Majzoub’s; a great article and yet a sad one indeed. To be honest, I really think that Lebanon reached a level of corruption that is incurable; corruption has metastasized everywhere. You might say that I’m pessimistic, but I literally witness different phases of corruption in Tripoli every single day. You can see people carrying guns and terrorizing different areas just because political parties support them, different companies not abiding by the laws and solely following their industrial profit no matter, etc.
    When you see this on daily basis you stop dreaming big, you just start dreaming of leaving this country to get a good job so that you can support your family and to live in a safe place.
    “We people created these laws and this economy – and we people can change them.” To actually do so there is only one (nearly impossible) way, and that is to stop electing the same corrupt politicians that take advantage of the people that follow them like sheep no matter what they do. I said that it is nearly impossible because, well, 90% if not more of our people support a certain party no matter what just because they represent their religion.
    Considering what Mr Majzoub said about replacing badly built buildings by green areas, it is obviously a genius idea where we’re not only removing what is bad to us, but also replacing it by something that benefits us. Sadly, I think that we’re thousands of years away from this however.

  3. “Let’s keep organizing to build a society that we want” but what society do we really want? Definitely not the one we are witnessing today in Lebanon. So why don’t we take action? To be honest, I don’t think dreaming big is the solution. I think dreaming just realistically is the solution. Why don’t we start with the small changes as a kickoff? Corruptions are everywhere. Just a week ago I was in Burj Hammoud and a fight was started in front of me and everyone suddenly was holding a gun. The difference in religion, of course was the reason. I mean, if small corruptions like those we cannot control, how are we supposed to dream big after all?

  4. Aida Metri(BIOL207)
    I believe that nothing is impossible. If you set your mind to something you can achieve it. So why not yet your goals and standards high? Have something to work for!
    Lebanon does have a lot to work on, and for “a nation with a tree on its flag” it really should start living up to the expectations and living a little more environmental. The government should stop littering and polluting, should stop building unwanted and unneeded damns in our natural reserves, should stop even just considering damaging any part of our beautiful nature…

    Like he mentions, Tripoli is an important example when it comes to the unfairness we are facing. Things have now changed for the better when it comes to tripoli, but it’s about time. When you think of a nation, you think of peace, beauty, and support. You wouldn’t imagine two neighboring communities constantly fighting and killing each other over nothing. Innocent army lives were being taken away and all for nothing. It was unfair for the people in Lebanon because of the reputation they were giving us. Tourist stopped visiting and even the Lebanese were afraid to come home.

    “My grandmother is going out again, and swears the city is as beautiful as it was during the golden age she was always nostalgic about.” That’s the way it should be. People should be able to go out and enjoy they nation and society. People should be proud of where they come from and given the basic rights of walking out the door without the concern of being shot.

    Lebanon is improving on so many levels, but still a lot could be done. The elections are getting better, the people are getting more freedom, the wars are diminishing,and people are starting to feel safe again. It’s a start and i for one am proud of the steps we are making, even though they are tiny ones. Never forget to dream big, it’s the only way to ever achieve anything. I have hopes and dreams for Lebanon that i hope one day will come true.

  5. The article got me happy for a second. Made me imagine a beautiful, peaceful Lebanon. For a second I thought of an amazing country. Unfortunately, it seems it’s going to take too long to become one. However, it’s not something impossible. I have this feeling, that Lebanon will be a peaceful country one day. Corruption will never end, but it can significantly decrease. In order to achieve our goal we have to start by taking small steps. If we continue like this, hopefully the future generations can live in a more green, peaceful, and truthful Lebanon. We might not have the chance to witness this miracle, but as long as it happens, no matter how long this will take, it will be more than great. We cannot be pessimists, and never lose hope. ” Better yet, we decided that a green strategy should be our guiding light, a template for our different development plans.” I totally agree with Majzub, that’s definitely the right thing to do. We have to care about our environment, and try as much as we can to recover the green of our country. We need to focus mostly on the children, since they are the future of the nature. Also, they still have pure minds, not corrupted yet. If we ”plant” in them the idea of taking care of the environment, they will hopefully absorb these ideas and apply them in the future. There’s one thing we cannot deny: lebanese people are warriors, survivors; for this reason, there’s still hope to save our country. We only need to join forces and fight for it.

  6. Lebanese people of previous generations, of this generation, and the next, will also share one thing: hope. Hope for a better country, with more ethics, less corruption, more loyalty, more love for the environment, less violence, and more eco friendly. ”Let’s keep organizing to build a society that is what we want, and not just make do co-existing with what we have”. What an inspiring quote. This is so true. If we work as an unit, we can have the society everyone dreams of. We just need to hold hands and fight for our cause. We need to struggle, the future generations don’t suffer and have one less problem to face. In this way it becomes easier to achieve our goal. The goal’s that everyone thinks cannot be achieved. Actually, nothing is impossible. If you want something you have to do your best to get it. Lebanon is facing many problems, but the main one is the indifference toward the environment. We, as nature caring people, have to work on it because it’s the primordial thing since there’s no life without it. We need to defend the fauna and flora, protect it, and make sure nothing affects it. We need to fight for it, because as we know, nothing comes easy.

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