By the Environmental Education Centre
All people have the right to live in a clean and green environment. At present, the environmental situation in Palestine is quite grim, due to a combination of factors. Some things are out of the control of the Palestinian people, as restrictions from the Occupation have inhibited our ability to care for the environment. Yet, despite all that cannot be controlled, our everyday behaviour can help to protect and maintain the land that we call our home.

The path to sustainability is a difficult one. Environmental knowledge is not a priority in Palestine, as the people here endure great hardships and trials that take over their attention and their daily lives. The Occupation has greatly limited the freedoms and rights of the Palestinian people, and, as a result, the Environmental Education Centre (EEC) has been forced to overcome many obstacles in order to meet the needs of its community. Through diverse and extensive programming, we hope to educate and empower people to behave in a way that is environmentally conscious, helping to alter negative attitudes and foster relationships with the natural world.

Not long ago, the pace of life was different in Palestine. There was less rushing and less pressure. Things were simpler, though perhaps lacking in some of the convenience items that we value today. Palestinians lived closer to the earth, not because “going green” was the trend, but because that was the culture, the history, and the way of life.

It is hard to have hope when trees are uprooted, settlements expand, control over resources is restricted, wildlife habitats are destroyed, the air becomes thick with pollution, and the water becomes more scarce, in addition to countless other environmental violations. However, the EEC continues to dream of an independent state of Palestine that is green, clean, and free from the Occupation and environmental degradation. We will not stop dreaming until this is a reality. In the face of all of these obstacles, individuals still have control over their individual behaviour, and, as Palestinians, we must demonstrate attitudes and behaviours that show our devotion to this land.

In the future, it is hoped that environmental care will be recognised as a priority by the Palestinian people and reflected as such in public debate. In order to achieve our goals for sustainability, we must focus on our environmental responsibility, both individual and collective. As we contemplate this responsibility, there are many lessons to be learned from past generations that can help to shape environmentally friendly behaviours in this society.

Historically, Palestinians were very environmentally conscious, though without ever naming themselves as such. Less than 40 years ago, people used baskets, rather than plastic bags, to carry their groceries. Food was grown locally and organically by friends or neighbours, rather than imported and covered in chemicals and pesticides. People lived simply, but it was a rich life with many benefits that evade us in this day and age. Solid waste was much less of a problem, as there were no plastic bags or individually wrapped snacks to litter the streets with. Any waste or rubbish typically was organic material, which could be used to feed animals, such as donkeys, rabbits, or goats. Less water was used when bathing, cleaning homes, or washing clothes. All of this made for a life that was rich, full, healthy, and authentic to Palestinian culture.

In those days, our lands were green, free of rubbish, and cultivated with native plants. There was an attitude of pride that came from caring for the earth. Children grew up with a love and respect for the environment, modelling their parents’ lesson: environmental care was essential to maintaining a good life.

Life has changed in Palestine. Some situations remain beyond our control, while others are within our capacity to change for the better. There can be no argument that in today’s time, the world moves faster, we have become dependent on technology, and we often feel as though we do not have the time to sit and appreciate the wonder of the natural world. Our behaviours and attitudes towards nature have changed, and these changes are having a negative effect on the Palestinian environment. The new generation is growing up in a world of concrete buildings and television screens, separated from and unable to experience the environment around it. We are not only losing touch with the natural world, but we are losing touch with our traditions and the traditions of our ancestors who nurtured and loved this land. As Palestinians, we belong to the land, and we must care for it so that future generations can experience the beauty and wonder of the natural environment.

Sustainable change must begin with early intervention and influence. Each new generation is shaped by the generation preceding it, providing us with a great deal of responsibility to teach our children to model environmentally friendly behaviours. It is imperative that we begin teaching the new generation of children to care for the environment from a very young age, and, by doing so, we will help to shape the attitudes with which this generation will approach and interact with their environment. Additionally, continued work in the fields of education, advocacy, and environmental law enforcement is crucial in developing positive behaviours towards the environment throughout Palestinian society.

We have the ability to change our attitudes and our behaviours to reflect the wonder of the world. We have an opportunity to rediscover what our grandparents knew, to fall in love with the land, and to begin to understand that human beings are not separate from the earth. If we do not, it will not only be detrimental to the environment, but also to the human race.

Change is possible-and necessary-in Palestine. Caring for the environment does not require one to renounce technology or to completely alter the way we live; simple changes in our actions will help to improve and preserve the environment for generations to come. Teaching ourselves and our children to reduce waste, to stop using plastic bags, and to appreciate nature will make a world of difference as we look to both the future and the past, and as we remember the relationship that we have with the world around us.

While every individual’s behaviour is important and environmental care is done on a personal level, in order for significant and sustainable change to take place our collective behaviour and attitude towards the environment must change. It cannot be done alone. Networks between individuals, environmental organisations, civil society, and the ministries of the environment, education, and culture must be formed in order to protect and preserve the land to which we belong.

The field of environmental care is constantly changing and expanding and this work requires great commitment from all people. The people of Palestine must be inspired to change their negative attitudes towards the environment and develop a sense of awe and responsibility for their surroundings. As Mahmoud Darwish said, “On this earth is what makes life worth living.”

As Palestinians, we must renew our connection with nature, to engage the world around us, and to fall in love with the environment in which we live. May our actions and our attitudes demonstrate this love and respect for our environment and our homeland, Palestine.

The Environmental Education Centre, which is an educational program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, is directed by Simon Awad, who is the executive director of the EEC. He is also an expert in the field of environmentalism and a wildlife researcher. He has authored and co-authored several books on the environment and human rights issues. He can be reached at or