Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Waste Management Conference

I had a great experience during the Kuwait Waste Management conference. The Public Authority for Industry sponsored it in order to raise awareness of the dangers of wastes and various negative consequences on public health and the environment of the region and of the world. The exhibitions included many organizations aimed at protecting the environment and minimizing contamination from waste and other forms of pollutants.

I was impressed by the amount of companies that exist currently in the gulf region to address waste and protect the environment. The issue I see that is not being addressed yet is social responsibility. The companies there were those that are dedicated to waste management, bu there were no companies that specialize in other areas yet have a commitment to being responsible about the waste they produce. Also, most of the companies there seemed to be addressing either petroleum, industrial, or hospital waste. But there seems to be a lot of innovation among these companies and that is encouraging to see. I didn't see any companies like Equilibrium Environmental Consulting there.

There were many lectures, one of which was regarding a recycling campaign and what was unique and significant about it was that they actually do follow up studies after they do assemblies for the public and schools to see how many people actually change their behavior after being educated about recycling. They found overwhelming results. Many people indeed responded to the new awareness. This is very encouraging considering the fact that many people in Kuwait consider awareness campaigns and education about such topics as recycling as a futile yet noble effort because they see that society in the Middle East is years behind in getting to where other countries are in this. however, this study showed that people in this region are capable of playing a role in being more socially responsible if given education and awareness about it.

I told a classmate about the conference who had created an invention to reduce waste, and he went to the conference and met someone there from the Kuwaiti government who would help to get his product licensed more expeditiously. While he was discussing this matter with the municipality, I took the opportunity to read their posters which were for the most part in Arabic, but I knew enough to understand that they were the department for environmental affairs of the municipality. I asked them if they knew anything of the National Assembly's temporary committee on the environment. According to them, it may become a permanent committee. They invited me to come to their office in Kuwait City to ask any questions I would like. I plan to do this both for Equilibrium and for my upcoming debate project in my Kuwait Politics and Government class where I will be required to do a five minute speech giving an argument regarding the environment and how it relates to the national assembly committees and Kuwaiti policy and my partner will be giving the counter-argument. Hopefully the municipality will be able to provide me some good data to back up my debate.

That is all for now...

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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.