Today I crashed a conference in Cairo at the luxurious Marriott Hotel in Zamalek. There were 147 participants from 19 countries attending this Third Annual SWEEP-Net conference. The theme was “solid waste management goes green.”
Actually, I was invited by one of the participants to sit in on the closing session. With a headset for simultaneous translation, I listened as they called out the names of the MENA (Middle East North Africa) countries that were represented at the conference. I heard “Palestine” but apparently no one from Israel attended. The Egyptian Ministry of Environment hosted the affair.
Although I missed the 3 days of sessions and presentations, I received a thumb-drive today with all of the material. The reports will be posted on SWEEP’s website and we can even follow them on Facebook.
The group ended the conference with a song (in Arabic, French and English) about how our planet is suffering, the climate is changing and what will our children inherit?
There are reasons to be hopeful. A young Palestinian from Gaza, educated at Oxford, has started a new organization — Zero Waste MENA. Another university student in Gaza has received recognition for her proposal (along with the $$ to implement it) to create a recycling program which will provide jobs to women who want to learn how to make useful things from recyclable materials.
Garbage is big business. While the professionals figure out ways to more efficiently dispose of our solid waste, or turn it into new forms of energy, I want to find ways to change our consumer culture. Do we really need all of this stuff?
There are more than 7 billion people on the planet today, expected to grow to 9.22 billion by 2075. We must learn to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Reducing our stuff and changing our “throw-away” mindset will be a big part of the solution.