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Saving the Planet

Gordon Johnson on Pixabay

A Dropped Match Can Start a Forest Fire

When the pundits of doom warn us of climate change and destruction of our planet, many of our leaders and citizens shrug their shoulders and ask what we as such a tiny nation can do to halt this path.

There is an oft-quoted observation: Evil succeeds when good people stand by and do nothing.

Having just returned from a trip to England, I was particularly impressed by their efforts to protect the environment, both in the cities and in the countryside. There have always been strict rules about litter, but the difference is that those rules are implemented.

In every public park and green space there are inspectors making sure that picnic debris is thrown into the appropriate receptacles. These inspectors are also very friendly and helpful when asked questions, but woe betide you if you leave plastic bags on the grass or don`t clean up after your poodle. The situation is helped by the accessibility of multiple recycling bins on streets and in open spaces.

There is a definite attempt to avoid single-usage plastic. Ready-made salads and sandwiches are sold in cardboard cartons rather than as previously in plastic. In most cafes, disposable cutlery is bamboo and hot drinks, unless taken away, are served in re-usable containers. Many publishers use recycled paper for their books and magazines.

Of course there is rowdy behavior and vandalism, fueled partly by the British addiction to alcohol. And if you visit when there is a street-cleaners` strike, there will be a different picture. But the infrastructure and the implementation of the rules of "Keep Britain Tidy" are established.

There are individual quality of life sacrifices in reducing traffic pollution in central London by imposing congestion charges. While freeing the inner city from noxious fumes as well as traffic jams, this causes some inconvenience to residents who live on the fringes of these areas. However those who remember the smogs of London that choked us in the 1950s, it is rewarding to see clean buildings and clear skies over the city.

Many other cities have long provided "Park and Drive" areas where one can leave one`s vehicle free of charge and get a shuttle bus into the towns.

Of course there are pollution problems through industry, the building of new motorways and other sources of carbon footprint.

So back to Israel, what can we do as individuals to protect our environment?

It is heartbreaking to see the amount of litter on the beaches and in our beautiful nature reserves after a Shabbat or festival.

In Haifa we are surrounded by mountain forests, most of them maintained by the JNF who have provided benches and tables and toilets. And yet, when I took my family to have a picnic lunch there, we had to clean the table of greasy food and remove cigarette butts, used condoms and even a couple of needles from underneath. The toilets were flooded and unusable.

The beaches too are littered with disposable tableware and the remains of food in plastic bags, a danger to the wild-life and the fish who swim near the shore.

Haifa used to be one of the cleanest cities in Israel but now the streets are not efficiently cleaned and the open spaces are neglected.

Other cities fare no better and it is embarrassing to take visitors through the dirty and littered streets of Jerusalem.

When I started using cloth shopping bags, the cashier in the supermarket refused to use them in the crates for delivery. Whenever this happened I made a fuss, threatening to leave my shopping on the carousel and go elsewhere. Perhaps because of the charge, albeit minimal, for plastic bags, the use of these reusable cloth bags is now more evident.

Of course it is not just poor planning and lack of implementation by government and municipalities that destroy the planet. Individuals have a responsibility in the first place to Keep Israel Tidy.

Next to my house is a bus stop supplied with a good size litter bin. Invariably there is trash around the bin as somebody threw their drink can or plastic cup in its direction and missed. There is a beautiful tree nearby and in its bark a natural cavity has formed near its base, probably created by a woodpecker. Invariably there is litter thrown into this cavity and one day a small fire was ignited by a careless passerby throwing a live cigarette into it.

So how can a culture of disregard for the environment be changed?

There are organizations working extremely hard for this cause: the SPNI, Teva v`Din, the National Parks Authority. A few weeks ago, several ESRA volunteers joined one of these groups for a clean-up of Haifa`s southern beach. There are other volunteers who go into the forests to clear the litter.

In my opinion, education is at the root of care for our surroundings.

Passing through a supermarket car park one day, I noticed a man and his young son cleaning out their very posh car. They emptied the ash-tray on the ground and shook out the mats.

When I returned some time later, the car was gone, leaving the mess on the ground. Is that man giving his child a good education?

We all complain about noisy and rowdy schools but education starts at home from infancy. Taking two small grandchildren to the monkey park at Yodfat, we bought ice-cream and sat down next to the kiosk. Without any prompting, my grandson who was only 7 at the time, picked up all the wrappings and napkins and took them to the nearest bin, rinsing his hands at the tap nearby. The family at the next table gasped and asked me how he knew to do this. I replied that his parents are very conscious of the environment and have taught their children how to protect it. (I did however have to teach him not to barge into the lift at the shopping mall before people got out!)

We say that our Knesset behaves like a kindergarten with all the screaming and interrupting, but I would not send a child of mine to a kindergarten that behaved like the Knesset.



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Monday, 24 June 2024

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