KKL resevoir 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy KKL Photo Archives)
Now and then, conservationists and environmentalists revisit the question of how
to most effectively promote environmental activism.
Should resources be
invested in preserving a specific nature spot or heritage site? Should we be
aggressive and bare our teeth, or would taking more defensive actions help us
meet our goals quicker and more effectively? We can draw a great deal of
inspiration from aggressive struggles in which people make tremendous personal
sacrifices to achieve an environmental objective.
I have always been
impressed by the determination of Greenpeace activists who use tiny inflatable
rafts and loud speakers as weapons against enormous whaling ships. And most
Israelis were genuinely moved by the heroic struggle of Adi Lustig, a
20-year-old woman who camped out on Palmachim Beach to draw the public’s
attention to the construction of a vacation village on the majestic beach.
(Against all odds, her actions successfully impeded the project even after it
had been approved.) It’s easy to identify with and applaud these loud,
individualist kinds of struggles. First of all, they may very well end in a
victory that halts or delays harmful projects. Second, these struggles are
perceived, often justly, as actions of ordinary people against the
establishment, the wealthy, and corruption. Finally, the media usually draws
attention to this type of struggle in an effort to raise environmental
So, what’s the downside? There is nothing inherently wrong
with an aggressive struggle, particularly one that is conducted tastefully and
in a non-violent manner. But it is not an effective long-term strategy. For
every struggle that ends in victory, there are 20 cases in which the environment
is the big loser. If Israel’s environmental organizations made use of these
types of “guerrilla” tactics regularly, the land would lay
KKL-JNF has been working on different, more effective
strategies for decades. The National Outline Plan is a perfect example. Simply
put, this little- known plan will change the environment of Israel forever. We
collected data, we drew lines on maps, and, in 1995, the plan received
Though it was reached through peaceful means, the
significance of this achievement is immense. The plan granted legal status to
1.6 million dunams (160,000 hectares) of forests and other open areas that we
saw as important to preserve. These are the green lungs that provide air to the
entire State of Israel.
The National Outline Plan wasn’t flashy but it
got the job done.
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It is also important to stress that we should not
perceive the establishment as the embodiment of evil or as an entity that must
be opposed. It is possible to work together, openly and peacefully, to take
advantage of every possibility for environmental activism.
One example of
this is the cooperation between KKL-JNF and the Megiddo Regional Council to turn
Ramat Menashe into a biosphere reserve.
This project spans 84,000 dunams
– an enormous area by Israeli standards.
At present, the biosphere has no
statutory status, but it does have something possibly even more valuable: the
commitment of residents and their leaders to preserve its character for
generations to come. Even UNESCO was favorably impressed by this project, and,
in 2011, it officially recognized Ramat Menashe as a biosphere
Education is also essential for environmental protection.
KKL-JNF has made the decision to take an active role in this endeavor by
constructing “green classrooms” in schoolyards that are designed to raise
awareness about environmental issues and nature preservation. If these issues
become ingrained in the minds of residents of this country, if environmental
awareness flows in their blood, we will need far fewer dramatic one-man
struggles in the future.
Unlike in soccer, in the case of environmental
protection, the best offense is a good defense. A proper struggle for the
environment is supposed to take place without any heroic operations. It is a
tough job that requires perseverance. Aggressive tactics are sometimes
inevitable when all other efforts have failed, but they often indicate that
someone fell asleep on the job.
So, for the sake of Israel’s environment,
let’s make sure we stay alert.
The author is the world chairman of
KKL-JNF, and will discuss “Israel’s Green Tomorrow” alongside fellow experts at
the Fifth Annual Israeli Presidential Conference: Facing Tomorrow 2013, in
Jerusalem later this month.
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