(photo credit: Greenpeace/Roger Grace)
Environmental organizations in Israel most often make the headlines when they blockade polluting plants or petition against them, and the rest of the time they plod on, fighting for the public's attention.
Environment Minister Gideon Ezra acknowledged last week that they are not usually successful.
"We need to find a way to make the green business everyone's business," Ezra said, speaking at a seminar funded by the Beracha Foundation, whose director, Dr. Martin Weyl, stressed the importance of the environmental lobby's finding new tactics.
Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) in Chicago, also attended the seminar and presented a model for environmentally-friendly business policies.
"We solve environmental problems in different ways," said Learner, "but all of our approaches are designed to reach strong results. We think this approach can be put into practice in Israel."
"We take sustainable development principles and we put them into practice," Learner said. "Whenever we say no to something we oppose, we say yes to a better alternative. If we say no to a highly polluting coal plant, then we also say yes to a better, clean energy alternative," he explained.
Learner said that an organization would do better if its overall message solved problems, rather than merely pointing them out.
Learner also said that having strong companies on ELPC's side made the environmental argument more persuasive.
"We have partnerships with British Petroleum, which owns one of the world's largest solar energy companies, and with General Electric," he said. "On many of our clean energy issues, we can reach out to BP or GE. We don't have to agree with them on everything, but we can agree with them on things that are good for their businesses...and good for environmental progress."
According to Learner, the blueprint his group has presented to decision-makers in the Midwest compared a standard business scenario to one stressing clean energy development. The ELPC's numbers predict the energy efficiency and renewable energy fields leading to increased economic output of almost $20 billion by 2020, and creating a net increase of 209,000 jobs.
"In Israel, the numbers would be quite different, but the approach that we suggest has some value," Learner said.
"[Ours] is a model that you can look at and say what...would work in Israel...This is a powerful approach for achieving real changes that improve the environment in ways that work for the economy as well."