negev water 298.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As Israel's leading Green organization, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund recently convened a one-day conference on global warming and how KKL-JNF can be a part of the worldwide effort to combat it. KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler attended all scientific discussions and lectures, with KKL-JNF officials representing the organization's various departments and fields of activity.
Fittingly enough, the conference began with a screening of Al Gore's popular film, "An Inconvenient Truth", which has increased public awareness of global warming. Participants were greeted by KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Avraham Duvdevani, who set the stage for the day's discussion: "We need to go back to the most basic of questions. What is man's function in the world? The midrash tells us that God told man that he had been given a beautiful world and he should be careful not to ruin it. Unfortunately, we are ruining it and our current dilemma is how to deal with this crisis.
The prophet Malachi said, "And for you, those who fear My name, a sun of righteousness and healing shall rise." The purpose of the sun is to warm the earth in a manner that creates a climate suitable for life, yet life as we know it is in danger because of this very warmth. I would like to congratulate KKL-JNF on its readiness to meet these challenges, learn about them and educate Israel's populace about the need to guarantee our future as a sustainable organism."
KKL-JNF Poised to Take Leadership Role In War on Global Warming
The conference was chaired by Professor Alon Tal, a member of the KKL-JNF Directorate, who noted that the Knesset's Committee on the Interior had recently conducted a special session devoted to global warming. According to IDCC forecasts, we can expect, along with the rest of the world, a three to five degree increase in temperature, along with a drop in annual precipitation.
Professor Tal pointed out that one of the ways of combating global warming being discussed in the international community is the creation of "stabilization wedges", which means reducing greenhouse gasses emissions from a variety of sources, rather than relying on an enormous change in a single area. Planting trees is one of seven wedges identified, so KKL-JNF's afforestation program, which began as a means of establishing a presence on Jewish lands, turns out to be a major element in stopping global warming.
Lior Shmueli of Israel's Ministry of the Environment described how Israel fits into the big global picture: "On a global scale, Israel is quite small, being responsible for the emission of seventy three million tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere annually. 81% of that figure can be attributed to the burning of fossil fuels for electricity and transportation, and the rest is divided between agriculture, industry and other causes.
In terms of emissions per capita, Israel is located in the middle of the scale, along with Europe. The current situation is that Israel is regarded by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) as a developing country, which means that Israel is not obligated to reduce its carbon emissions by the Kyoto Protocol.
This might change in 2012, when the current protocol ends and a new pact will be ratified. The Ministry of the Environment has approved nineteen projects for decreasing carbon emissions, leading to a total decrease of 2.5 million tons. We need to focus on improving standards for industry, waste, agriculture and energy. Israel is at an interesting worldwide juncture, because it has aspects of both a developed and a developing country. KKL-JNF could seriously examine how it can best be a leading partner in this national effort."
At the conclusion of the conference's proceedings, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stentzler summed up what global warming means for the world in general and Israel specifically, and how he envisioned KKL-JNF's role in this worldwide effort: "Whoever does not "flow" with nature will eventually be overcome by nature. KKL-JNF has developed unparalleled expertise in afforestation in semi-arid regions, thanks to our workers and volunteers.
The United Nations decided to plant 400,000,000 trees worldwide, and KKL-JNF has committed itself to planting 6,000,000 trees. I propose that we launch a 'tree for each citizen' campaign. There are currently 7.2 million citizens of Israel, so to reach our goal we would have to plant about 700,000 trees a year for ten years. This is too large of a project for KKL-JNF to undertake on its own, we would need the help of regional councils and students. Since tree planting is a method of carbon sequestration, we could take advantage of this project to educate people about global warming and ways of dealing with it.
"I was recently in the north, where there was a forest fire that broke out in Lebanon and then spread to Israel. Forest fires do not recognize political borders. My dream is that we share our knowledge and expertise with our neighbors, that we literally become a 'light unto the nations'. At ecological conferences worldwide, KKL-JNF is recognized as a pioneer in afforestation, water projects, agricultural research, just to mention a few. We are also creating 'twin forests' - we plant a forest here, and its 'twin' is planted another section of the world.
"Thanks to the knowledge it has amassed over a hundred years of activity, KKL-JNF can be a leader in addressing global warming both in Israel and worldwide. Global warming is a result of human misuse of resources and it is only by means of massive education, first and foremost of the younger generation, that a change in how we relate to our environment may come about."