Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mitigating Climate Change

My inspiration for taking action about our environment was the former president of Costa Rica, his excellency Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen.  Through him I first came to understand abut Sustainability and how it relates to human, environmental and economic development.  Sustainability means "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."  I met him when he came to the American University of Kuwait to speak about the escalating dilemma of climate change and its effects on our environment today and into the future.  

I had known about the former president before this being from Central America myself.  I knew he had accomplished so much in his young life and had been dedicated to gearing Costa Rica, and in many ways the rest of Latin America, towards sustainable development through policy making that includes strategic investments in social areas and the developing of environmental policies.  It is exciting that even in less wealthy countries this issue can be addressed, so imagine what the more wealthy countries can do?  This is where social responsibility comes in, but that is a topic I will save for a later post.  

At any rate, he is a very down-to-earth and un-assuming person.  He smoothly slipped through the crowd into the auditorium, but I recognized him immediately.  I greeted him in Arabic with Salam Alaikom.  He responded "wa alaikom salam!"  I then asked him how he is in Spanish and he was surprised to find an Spanish-speaking student.  I explained to him that I am from Guatemala and we had a nice conversation.  His speech was amazing.  He had the entire audience mesmorized for almost two hours with the topic and his undeniable passion, wit and charm.  

He explained how the environmental problems can find roots in the failure of government to implement and follow through on policies to address them.  He stated that it is crucial to elect representatives in government who are at least environmentally aware and able to invest in protecting the environment proactively.  A leader should focus not only on foreign relations, which need development in Kuwait, but also on domestic issues and use influence and power to make change from within, such as including environment policy as part of the National agenda.

The UN Secretary General said; "No longer was it hoped, would environmental protection be regarded as a luxury or afterthought.  Rather, environmental factors would be integrated with economic and social issues and become a central part of the policy making process."

If you might have noticed, in the corner of the poster advertising the ex-president's speech, there is a little green logo titled, "Equilibrium."  This is also how I first learned about Equilibrium, the company I am now interning for.  



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How Can Sustainability and Social Responsibility Contribute to the Future of the Middle East?

With their potential for economic growth and their financial wealth, Kuwait and the rest of the Gulf countries have the potential to become front runners in the Middle East in considering the environment and social responsibility, and I hope to help them to start that foundation.
The Middle East is a fascinating place with so much cultural richness and financial prosperity. People of the region are increasingly growing aware of the changing climate of business and of the world as a result of globalization and as such there is growing potential for development here. We can see already a substantial amount of growth and innovation in a very short period of time through the example of Dubai. Unfortunately, one area that still lacks a greater awareness is the environment and how it is being impacted by the current practices of companies and individuals. This problem affects all aspects of life from physical health to the natural beauty of the region. This problem however can also be viewed as a treasure box of opportunity for those who have vision and initiative and wish to consider sustainable concepts and how they can adopt them in their businesses.

I chose this cause because I love the Middle East. I am originally from Latin America and study in the University of Washington and I am studying abroad in Kuwait. I had so much success here and fell in love with the region so much that I was looking for a way I could give back to a place that had given me so much. I realized quickly that the region overall had great issues with regards to the environment. The beautiful beaches of the gulf were littered with garbage, there were little if any recycling programs, no awareness campaigns and lesson plans for the schools with regards to the environment, all of the landfills were unplanned and unlined and the waste seeping into the soil and polluting the storm water drains. Yet I could not understand how such a wealthy country with the financial means to take care of this issue and with a government committee assigned to the environment was allowing this to be this way. I decided I would try to see how I can help make a change for the better just as many countries have also done with regards to such issues as waste management such as the UK.