In Beersheba, a bid to make industry 'environmentally friendly'

Conference aims to focus more on social and economic factors, not neglecting thought of purely "green" issues.

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To create a sustainable future, environmentalists should consider social and economic factors, professors, politicians and other public figures said at a conference in Beersheba on Monday. The Conference for Future Generations, at the Sami Shamoon College of Engineering in Beersheba, was created to put the next generation on the map, said organizer Dorith Tavor, dean of the college's faculty of engineering. "Lately, there has been a tendency to only consider what is 'green' and environmentally friendly," Tavor said. Sustainability was about more than just the environment, she said. Bio-fuels, for instance, were environmentally friendly but potentially devastating to food supplies and prices, particularly in developing nations, Tavor said. "However, it is important to think holistically and not leave the environment out of the discussion." Tavor said she hopes to make the conference an annual event. MK Ophir Paz-Pines, head of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, urged Israelis to plan ahead and make sustainable decisions. "The Zionist approach spoke of making deserts bloom," Paz-Pines said. "Let's just say that the environmental approach was not anchored in the Zionist vision, and that has a price." A lack of planning was taking its toll on lives, because of the country's poor air and water quality, Paz-Pines said. "I am for strong industry and I am for economic growth, no less than anyone else in Israel. But not at any price - I do not want an industry that kills," Paz-Pines said. Sharon Banyan, an 18-year old high school student from Omer outside Beersheba and head of the Southern Israel Student Council, criticized the government for not making environmental policies with the next generation in mind. "Decision-makers do not consider teenagers, while the earth undergoes an environmental crisis," Banyan said. "We are the future of those who are present here - and especially those who are not," she said, referring to Paz-Pines and Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra, who left the conference immediately after delivering their speeches. "Teens deserve to be trusted. There are not a lot of other options," Banyan told The Jerusalem Post after her speech. The teenager spoke of a mandate to start changing the world immediately. "This change has to be created by people with motivation, potential and a need to change, so that everyone who was here and will be here after us can have where to change other things." Retired judge Shlomo Shoham, who served on the Commission for Future Generations for five years, explained the commission's importance. The commission examines legislation for the government, considering the environmental, economic, social and scientific effects of its actions and decisions, he said. "The Commission for Future Generations is a lucky historical mistake," Shoham said. "When the Knesset voted on the law establishing the commission, they did not understand what they were voting on." According to Shoham, the commission would not have been created if the economic and lobbyist powers had been aware of what the Knesset was voting on. "It's very important to me that young people know that there is an opportunity for change," Shoham told the Post after his speech. "It's possible, it can happen, if we only go with this faith that, even in politics, we want people who care about the youth in practice, not just in words," Shoham said. Adi Wolfson, a conference organizer and a professor at the Green Processes Center at Sami Shamoon, said the conference was created to decide "how we can live today and leave those who succeed us with an opportunity to live as well." "To achieve sustainability, we must consider all the elements ahead of time, not just do as we please and extinguish the fires later," Wolfson said.