By SHARON UDASIN 02/15/2012 23:25
Program aims to present environmental trends for past 2 decades, outline options for future.
air pollution By Thinkstock
A new environmental project that examines the country’s consumption trends for the past two decades and outlines potential outcomes and solutions for the next two is asking that the public actively participate in its work.

The project, called Sustainability Outlook for Israel 2030 (Kayamut 2030), was the joint initiative of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies’ Environmental Policy Center and the Environmental Protection Ministry in October 2010, and aims to ask critical questions about Israel’s future and devise methods for the country’s path toward sustainability, according to the Jerusalem think tank.

The project, which has involved individual studies and workshop participation by environmental experts all over the country, is slated for completion by June.

“We’re looking for the big theme – we’re looking for the concept of where we might be going, and it might not necessarily be the same as in the past 20 years,” Valerie Brachya, director of the Environmental Policy Center and an external lecturer for the Hebrew University’s Department of Geography, told The Jerusalem Post.

One reason for conducting the project is that environmental issues are no longer simply a matter of “green” concern, but entail changes in consumption patterns, according to project officials. Such sentiments were also key components of January’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos- Klosters, where the issues discussed included climate change, carbon neutrality, water and urban sustainability, the think tank reported.

During the earliest stage of the project, participants identified 12 indicators from the past two decades that they felt were behind many of the environmental trends that have taken root since. Among these indicators were sulfur oxide, nitrous oxide and greenhouse gas emissions, presence of particulate matter, groundwater salinity, open space, transportation, urban waste and water and energy consumption, according to the project.

From the indicators, the researchers created scenarios for the future – including a “business as usual” scenario and six alternatives: regulated market, regulated fortress state, communal mosaic, unregulated market, unregulated fortress state and evolving state.

The researchers then created nine strategies for action, which would be suitable for most of the scenarios.

“If you are trying to promote a strategy for the long-term future, it has to be an appropriate strategy in a wide range of possible circumstances,” Brachya said.

The nine strategies are promoting innovation; calculating risk; employing nonmaterial values in determining social status; strengthening communities; expanding the concept of security to include social and environmental security; encouraging the dispersal of the population to peripheral areas; promoting leadership that takes responsibility for future generations; advocating for long-term approaches that integrate economy, society and environment; and development assessment systems that take into account environment, well-being and resilience.

By employing these strategies and others, the country can come closer to achieving a vision of sustainability, according to Brachya.

“We see it as an ongoing process that should be created and recreated and improved and revised,” she said.

As such, she continued, she and her colleagues at the Environmental Policy Center hope the public will log on to the Outlook’s website to read all of the documents the researchers have prepared, and then send feedback to the organization before the final draft of the project is created.

“We felt that the materials being prepared during the process were at least as important as the materials after the completion of the process,” Brachya explained.

“We were deliberately trying to create an awareness that something was going on and not wait until the end, when it was too late.”

While she doesn’t expect the government to immediately adopt all of the measures the Outlook suggests, Brachya does hope that individual ministries and Knesset members will be able to reflect on the data presented and employ the strategies in their decisions.

“The Environment Ministry itself will hopefully take the lead in generating and promoting this process by promoting it and putting it on the table,” she said.