Pre-army academy students take green message to ministers

ByEHUD ZION WALDOKS
February 2, 2010 00:23

"We realized that change must come from the gov’t," say youths.

Students from pre-military academies rally for the

environment protest 311. (photo credit:Ehud Zion Waldoks)

Representatives of 10 pre-army academies from around the country left their halls of learning in favor of the corridors of power on Sunday. They banded together to deliver a message to the government: “Well done so far, but let’s see more environmental activity on your part.”

The young women and men composed a letter to 10 government ministries praising them for their green actions, but also urging them to pick up the pace and make environmental action a top priority. They then split up into smaller groups and delivered the message in person to the ministers. In some instances, they met with senior advisers, in others with the ministers themselves.



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The initiative began with Maya Kornberg, an Israeli-American studying for the year at the Nahshon academy at Kibbutz Shoval, in the northern Negev.

“On October 1, we set up a community action group. We toyed with which topic to address, Holocaust survivors, poverty,” Kornberg told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday at the Wohl Rose Garden, as she and others set up for a rally opposite the Knesset.


“However, we read the articles about the McKinsey report [that assessed Israel’s greenhouse gas reduction potential] and were struck by its conclusions. We realized that environmental issues affect the whole world and every strata of society. And if we don’t act, it will affect both us and our children,” she continued.

“We realized that the pre-military academies have a lot of power. We also realized that change would come from the government. So we decided that we’d address them, but instead of yelling about what’s bad, we’d talk about where we go from here. We wanted to show them that it matters to us and so it should matter to them too,” said Kornberg, who normally spends three months a year in Israel and the rest in Palo Alto, California.

For Kornberg, the science of global warming was not unfamiliar. Both her father, Roger, and grandfather, Arthur, are recipients of the Nobel Prize. Arthur Kornberg was awarded the Nobel in Medicine in 1959 and Roger Kornberg was recognized in Chemistry in 2006.

While Maya Kornberg said their achievements had not pushed her specifically into environmental activism, she did credit an activist upbringing.

“I was raised in a household where I was encouraged to go out and do things, to be active. And growing up with two scientists, they were aware of the scientific evidence that global warming is occurring and the need to work against it,” she said.

The Post tagged along with one group of representatives to the National Infrastructures Ministry on Sunday. There, the group from the academies was received by Minister Uzi Landau’s chief of staff Smadar Bat-Adam. Landau himself was delayed by a cabinet meeting that ran longer than expected, but joined the discussion at the end for a few minutes and a photo-op.

Rather than being condescended to or humored, the group was treated to a serious overview of the ministry’s environmental activities and some of the dilemmas the ministry faced in crafting and implementing policy.

Having come prepared with facts, figures, questions and proposals, the delegates offered a synopsis of their letter and worrying statistics from the Environmental Protection Ministry and the McKinsey & Company report from November, which the ministry had commissioned.

“Emissions will double to 142 million tons of carbon [per year] dioxide by 2030, but according to the report’s conclusion, 65 percent of that growth can be avoided,” Gil Ben-Cohen of the Amichai Academy pointed out.

Bat-Adam not only offered an overview but also addressed their letter, saying that “from our perspective, the McKinsey report is not a very thorough report. They didn’t consider all of the proper parameters. The committee of [ministry] directors-general is supposed to release their conclusions soon and we should wait for that.”

The students quizzed Bat-Adam about the need for another coal-fired power plant and the viability of energy derived from waves. She replied that other forms of energy besides coal were too unreliable to comprise the baseload for the nation’s electricity. Moreover, she said, “with new filters, the pollution from two coal-fired plants in Ashkelon will be less than there is now with one.”

After the meeting, the students said they were impressed with the seriousness with which the ministry seemed to tackle its responsibilities, but reflected that the ministry’s environmental sensibilities were not as fine-tuned as theirs were.


“As opposed to the response we got from the Foreign Ministry, that it was looking into data, here they are already doing,” Ben-Cohen said.

At the same time, Gilad Shezifi of the Mechinat Telem pre-military academy in Jaffa, felt the ministry did not quite get how important environmental action was for its own sake. Lavi Hoffman, also of Telem, couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but thought the National Infrastructures Ministry’s answers were “too pat.”

They were all in agreement, however, that one had to remain skeptical in the face of government and that any environmental activism “can only help and not hurt.”
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