Apr 23,2017

Ali Kassay

A good book that I read some time ago was “Collapse”, by Jarred Diamond, whose main argument was that communities which overexploit their environment tend to collapse as their territory becomes uninhabitable.

Diamond did not focus on Jordan, but he mentioned that the Petra region was verdant when the Nabataeans first settled there. Then, with population growth and over grazing and logging, soil degradation and desertification set in, rainfall dwindled and finally the brilliant system of cisterns no longer carried enough water to support the city.

As I read the book, I remembered a slogan from the early 1980s: “Towards a green Jordan in 2000”.

Curious about the progress we made, I turned to the “Aligned National Action Plan to Combat Desertification in Jordan 2015-2020”. It seems that the 1 per cent green left in Jordan is now in danger of disappearing within a few years.

Environmental degradation may be a universal phenomenon, but in Jordan it has reached an alarming level, and the reason is that whatever was done or not done to turn Jordan green by 2000, we Jordanians have stopped or reversed it through a number of practices that include deforestation, overgrazing, bad agricultural practices, land tenure fragmentation and random urbanisation.

So the slogan now is to turn Jordan green by 2025.

I certainly hope that we succeed. Otherwise, posterity may read documents titled: “Making Jordan fit for human settlement again 2040-2045”.

Not being an environmental expert, I cannot add anything constructive to the objectives of the national action plan, but as a concerned citizen, I would certainly advocate that we do not throw the whole burden on the government.

Every little bit helps, and everyone should think of and implement, alone or with others, ideas that can contribute, no matter how modestly.

One very good idea was a personal effort by a dear friend of mine. Whenever a child was born to any of his friends, his gift was a tree for the new parents to plant wherever they wanted.

Another idea to foster the culture of caring for trees would be to put a grape vine in every house. Vines are as indigenous as fig and olive trees. They are also cheap and hardy plants that need little water, produce very quickly and can be grown in a largish pot on the balcony of an apartment.

Additionally, having a vine can boost the family income, which would enhance the plan’s chance of success by adding an element of economic advantage.

Grapes are a Jordanian staple in summer and, traditionally, they were preserved for winter in various ways, such as by making raisins, dibs (grape molasses), enab tabikh (coarse grape jam), khabisah (a paste that goes by many other names), to say nothing of stuffed vine leaves. It would cost hardly anything to put a vine in every house in five to eight years.

These are merely two ideas and there is ample room for many better ones. What are we waiting for?