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Peres, Erdan honor top defenders of environment
By GREER FAY CASHMAN
09/01/2012
Intel Israel, Misgav Regional Council among winners at annual awards ceremony.
 
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, though speaking half in jest, said on Sunday he might propose President Shimon Peres for one of the Environmental Excellence Awards for 2013.

Speaking at the annual awards ceremony at the President’s Residence, Erdan said Peres not only talked about protection of the environment, he did something about it.

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Erdan who in December 2009 accompanied Peres to Copenhagen for the UN Conference on Climatic Change, recalled that before the conference there had been arguments among government minister’s as to what Israel’s objective should be. Peres took the initiative and told the conference that he wanted Israel to be a regional laboratory for the environment, said Erdan, adding that this was more or less what has happened.

Prizes of NIS 50,000 each were awarded on Sunday in categories of environmental protection after the screening of a video illustrating the work of each of the winners. They also received certificates and environmental statuettes created by artist David Gerstein.

In the video, Intel Israel CEO Maxine Fassberg declares: “We have to give our children a better world than we received. The footprint we leave here will determine the quality of life of future generations.”

• Intel Israel was awarded the prize in the Industrial and Commercial category in recognition of its leadership in the adoption of environmental technologies, for the integration of environmental principles and technologies in all areas of its activities.

• In the Personalities category, Alon Schuster, head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, was honored for his extensive environmental activities.

• In the Young Entrepreneurs category, Nader Alafinish and Aya Rimon, leaders of the young environmental leadership program in Rahat, won recognition for promoting environmental education and awareness among the Beduin.

• In the Volunteers category, Eti Altman, a well-known animal rights activist, was lauded for changing public attitudes toward animals. Erdan said that every time he witnessed the humane work that she did, it brought tears to his eyes.

• In the Associations and Organizations category, the Environmental Fellows Program of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership won high praise for its implementation of the flagship program for environmental training in Israel, established 10 years ago. Also in this category, the Eretz Carmel NGO received accolades for its ever-growing activities on behalf of separation of waste in Israel.

• In the Local Government category, the Misgav Regional Council in the Galilee was chosen for initiating the “Sustainability Master Plan” in local government, a model adopted in other local authorities.

Erdan said he regarded it as a privilege to be serving as environmental protection minister, because it gave him the opportunity to not only meet wonderful, caring people, but also to learn about numerous environmental problems and how to solve them.

When the government discussed budgets and cutbacks, it was easy to overlook the importance of the environment, said Erdan. That’s why it was so essential for people outside of government to take the initiative and to approach environmental issues with a sense of mission.

“Sometimes you need some crazy people to start the revolution to bring about change,” said Erdan, citing as an example a 12-year-old Canadian girl by the name of Severn Suzuki who at the UN Earth Summit Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, addressed delegates on the urgency of sustainable development.

They were so moved by her sincerity and her passion that they really started to move things along, he said.

Peres said that in the Garden of Eden, Man had everything he needed in terms of fresh air, pure water and organic fruits, but was expelled because he didn’t behave appropriately.

Unfortunately, said Peres, even after the expulsion he still didn’t behave appropriately, and didn’t to this very day.

“We are beginning to understand that the battle for the environment is the battle for our existence,” Peres said.

Being friendly to the Earth meant cooperation between people and between nations, “because nature has no political borders,” he said.

In this context he mentioned joint initiatives undertaken by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in water management and development.

Environmental needs could not wait for political solutions, he said. On the contrary, with the parties to conflict working together on solutions to environmental problems that affect all of them, they were building a bridge for peace.

Earlier in the day. Peres hosted a delegation of US senators led by Daniel K. Inouye (D Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and president pro tempore of the Senate.

At the start of the working meeting, Peres told Inouye that Israel owed much of its security to Inouye’s contribution, his work and his steadfastness with regard to Israel.

Peres also had warm praise for Senators Thad Cochran (RMississippi) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland).
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