More than a year has passed since my last meeting with the former Vice President of America, Al Gore, in Jeddah, which he visited as part of the economic forum. My meeting with him was long and he explained to me his new priorities away from the political world and far from his famous defeat in the race for presidency against George Bush in 2000. It was clear to me that one of his priorities was to form a new visual media that would be equivalent to blogs in the form of Current TV, which would be prepared and edited by viewers; however, the most important issue to him was the environment and the challenge of protecting it from those who abuse it.
Al Gore was completely different to the “robotic” man that I had met in 1995 in the East Wing of the White House that was designated for a meeting with a delegation of Arab businessmen. The man had a cause that filled him with enthusiasm. Not even a few months passed when he released his astounding docufilm, “An Inconvenient Truth”, in which he features and explains the disturbing situations of the environment and the dangers facing planet Earth. The film enjoyed extraordinary success and the accompanying book of the same name was also a bestseller. Al Gore became the most prominent supporter of the environment and was joined by other influential activists such as the American actor, Leonardo DiCaprio and the British businessman, Richard Branson who gave their moral and financial support to the cause.
The environment is an elective issue in the Middle East, approached only by intellects and academics in a basic way; however the fact is that the consequences of neglecting environmental issues will affect every single person without exception.
There is no stronger or more apparent evidence of environmental issues than the excessive levels of pollution in the form of dark clouds that hang over Cairo and the dumping of excrement and remains of animals in the River Nile. Even the Paris of the East, namely Beirut, suffers from the tragedies of pollution as the machines march on to destroy Lebanon’s pine trees, stealing one of the country’s most important features and affecting its ability to breathe. Moreover, there is toxic waste buried in Sudan, the damage of which is yet to be revealed as well as the cost of such damage. The Jeddah disaster cannot be overlooked; the city that has no sewage system, the cause of which remains at large and unpunished.
The volume of fatalities, diseases, theft, administrative malpractice and financial corruption will remain a “dirty” secret that the Arab world will not be able to deal with unless there is a serious and real confrontation, without the courtesies, to look at the reasons behind the deterioration of the environment that is taking place today and which remains without a solution, regulations or punishment. Today, the environment has become one of the most important tools to measure the development of countries and one of the causes behind improving the quality of life in the same way as education, health and the judiciary. If it is not dealt with in this manner, the ultimate cost will be very high, which future generations will not be able to bear. The Arab region has always been the center of wars and conflicts; could it be the place where an environmental initiative for the world is launched to show the world that its people are truly concerned about the population of the earth and its preservation, just as they were commanded to be?