Blog Action Day 2009: How To Get Jordanians To Care About Climate Change (and why they should)

This year’s Blog Action Day has chosen climate change as the central topic, with over 8,000 blogs around the world generating a conversation about the global issue within 24 hours. And I emphasize the word “global” here because all too often, we tend to view this particular issue as someone else’s problem. A problem that has no impact on our day-to-day rituals whatsoever, and for me, such perceptions, which are commonly found throughout the Jordanian public sphere, are dangerous to hold. The result is usually our detachment from global conversations on issues that impact all of us and require collective effort. In other words, the macro is just as important as the micro, and in this case, climate change is something that manifests itself in both arenas. Looking at one interesting online project, the Climate Orb, puts this in perspective. Climate Orb features stories from all around the world by ordinary people and how they’re affected by climate change. It allows for these micro-stories to be placed within a macro-context: the world. Unfortunately, the Arab world is missing entirely from the map.

All of this is to be expected. When it comes to climate change, there is an intriguing contrast between our exposure to this issue and to what others around the world are exposed to. Our media, be it local or regional, hardly mentions it. You won’t see any clever advertisements by environmental organizations in our public sphere. Our educational curricula doesn’t feature much of the issue, at least from what I’ve seen.

The list of contrast goes on and on but perhaps our inability to connect climate change, a fairly macro issue, to our own lives, is what stands out the most. How do you make the topic relevant? How do you take that global conversation and make it local to begin with? How do you get people to think locally when thinking globally doesn’t quite cut it? When images of homeless polar bears just doesn’t cut it? How is it that we fail so miserably to connect climate change to our increasingly sweltering summers and our scarcely rainy winters in Jordan? This is perhaps the most disappointing part of the bubble we live in, most of in Jordan don’t feel the ‘water pinch’. We are wasteful in ways that would suggest we are no where near being one of the driest nations in the world when it comes to water, and our future in that domain is pretty uncertain.

So where do we start?

How about education? How about raising awareness through education? How about starting a national dialog through education? How about integrating climate change as being an essential part of our national curricula, one that focuses on a single issue that is set to dominate global discussions for the next half century, to say the least.

And when I say education, I’m not merely pointing at textbooks, but a comprehensive learning experience for Jordanian students who make up the overwhelming bulk of our population, to say nothing of our country’s and region’s future. Projects, competitions, grants, scholarships, debates, exchanges, et cetera. This type of education (as all types) should manifest in a wide variety of ways, right across the intellectual spectrum.

Because this type of education is not only meant to spark a conversation, or increase awareness, or to have a global issue be embedded within our national and collective thought – but also, perhaps more importantly, have the domino effect we need. How do you create a green economy without green education? Where are your environmental experts; your specialists in fields that Jordanian educational institutions have yet to offer? How do you create green jobs without green education? How do you generate green investment without green awareness, which can only stem from green education?

If climate change in Jordan and the Arab world is reduced to a conversation about “what’s in it for us?” then the knowledge that green is the color money is key. And perhaps that’s what we need: to connect a macro issue to our pockets and our wallets. With that in mind, we should be cautious of devaluing the importance of a country like Jordan hosting a green economy and a green industry. In 2006, Germany’s renewable energy industry alone employed over 260,000 people. That’s a quarter of a million of one country’s population working for an industry that did not exist less than half a century ago. Where will a resource-poor, energy-poor, water-scarce, country like Jordan be less than half a century from now?

What does it mean to move towards a low-carbon economy? How many homes, businesses and institutions will have to modify the way they operate? How much money will they save and how will that impact our national economy? How many jobs need to be created to do those modifications? How many jobs need to be created to run Jordan on nuclear energy and enable it to become an energy exporter as the 20-year national plan seems to be? What about the amount that needs to be invested in green R&D?

Making climate change a relevant topic to Jordanians is as easy as finding ways to connect this global issue to local thinking. In other words, thinking global can help kick-start our ability to think local. Jobs are probably the easiest way in to the Jordanian psyche. Getting people to think about why climate change is relevant to how they, or their kids, might be making a living in less than a decade, is important. Creating a green economy is important; especially for a country like Jordan.

Getting people to think in those terms, shifting that paradigm and creating a whole new conversation, requires raising mass awareness, which naturally involves reviewing the way we educate the next generation. The generation that is reading a 7th grade textbook right now, but might be taking up a position in a new green economy ten years from now.

Also Read [other Jordanian blogs/publications]:
Blog Action Day: Saving The World & Our Own Future by Khalid Irani –
The Road to Copenhagen – Jordan Business Magazine
BAD09: Nature’s Revenge – Historian
Blog Action Day – Mala2e6 (arabic)
Carbon War Room & Superfreaks – The Ambassador’s Weblog [Denmark’s Ambassador to Jordan]
Blog Action Day: Climate Change on the Mind – MommaBean
Blog Action Day – Reduce Climate Change and Have Better Life Quality All at the Same Time – 7aki Fadi
Blog Action Day 2009: Saving the Planet, One Action at a Time! – Khalidah
BAD09…How Can I Help!? – SimSim


  • Great contribution to BAD09. I just hope that bloggers in Jordan will continue to debate these issues also after today. On the substance – I agree culture/education is very important. Let’s start out with not leaving all our garbage in the nature after picknicking or just thorwing rubbish in the streets. The incentives should be clear – and in these cases – don’t we all want to find a nice clean spot to rest – so please give consideration to your fellow citizen. But the need for incentives goes much further – and in particular in the economic and business spheres. Thanks for the hint to Khaled Iranis contribution. Looking forward to reading that – I hope it is not to rosy.

  • I was actually quite shocked to see that Jordan has NO recycling progrmms whatsoever.. Meaning no matter how hard you try and how much you pay, the facilities simply do not exist.

    I am a carbon neutral kind of guy. I recycle everything, keep the heater off as much as i could and drive short distances only. And LA allows me to be that kind of guy…

    Jordan needs a better public transportation system and stricter enforcement of emission laws from cars. That way at least the option is there. The option is important, you need to give people and ALTERNATIVE lifestyle to live, not a completely restricted and sacrificial one

  • Great effort…. and the link you recommended to Fares is very interesting!
    I agree with you, there is no where near enough focus from the media in Jordan on global warming and it’s impact. I don’t want to repeat the points already covered in your article, but I want to contribute with this link to a movie called “Age of Sutpid”:

    The movie received great reviews as it successfully depicted the urgency of this issue. What’s interesting is that they’re opening the door for people to hold their own screenings in order to help spread the word. I belive it should be open for global screenings soon.
    Hopefully this movie will give us a way as individuals to do our bit in raising awareness on the topic.

  • I’ve been in Jordan for just 1 year, and inshaAllah, just 5 years some more, couldn’t comment much upon this topic. As I dont really know about this topic here in Jordan. But, what I would love to tell is about the plastic bags and Pepsi cans scattered all over the place in Jordan, mostly in Irbid. Yeah, I didn’t notice that in Shmeisani or Abdoun, but hey, it just a small part of Jordan. And the worst case in Irbid take place right after summer, when the crops have been cut, embossing the brown land, with some gold colour of wheat plants. And there they are, land full of garbage. Urgh! Oh, not to talk about ciggaretes and soft-drink cans my university, JUST. and not to tell you about this kind of garbage all over the place in the town. Ah, maybe you can come and see with your own eyes.

Your Two Piasters: