How To Save The Forest For The Trees

Activism in Jordan reminds me of what happens when a house is on fire in Jordan. Some will rush to help you put it out but most will just gather around to comment and tell you where you went wrong in your life. Some will say your aiming the garden hose wrong. Some will say that it’s just a small fire and you’re really just looking for the attention. While others will tell you not to worry because the weather report predicted rain. And while they’re all standing around the house eventually burns down.

During my undergrad I spent roughly two years as an amateur activist in Toronto organizing as many campaigns as I could for as many issues as I believed in. And while every issue has its internal conflicts you can usually get everyone on board with the most fundamental of things; the bigger pictures. We might all disagree on the complexities of foreign policy in northern Africa but we can all get on board for a march against the slaughter of half a million Darfurians. Surely we can all get on board with the idea that genocide is bad. It’s just such a common place issue that appeals to our universal humanity and forms our civic religion.

For every issue or campaign in Jordan, you will hear a million excuses that just make you wonder if people are missing the bigger picture; the forest for the trees. Missing the sense of urgency in certain issues. Missing the fact that one can’t do everything, and acknowledges the existence of many things in the context of all things, but wants to truly play some small role in doing something about this one small thing.

Say you wanted to collect donations for Iraqi orphans. You’ll probably here someone say “well what about the Palestinian children” or “It’s America’s war they should pay for it”. And these won’t be excuses from people whose door you’ve knocked on for a donation. They will be random strangers, friends and family who discourage you from acting. “What about the children in Jordan?”, someone will blurt out.

So for the latest attempt (hardly a week) to save the Dibbin forest in Jerash from being swallowed up by a tourist complex the best excuses I’ve heard in the past few days for not being a part of the campaign are as follows:

1- “What about the rest of Jordan?”
2- “Where are you when people are trashing that forest with their picnic garbage?”
3- “You’re just trying to be cool”
4- “It’s just 100 trees that’ll be affected”
5- “I’ve never been to Jerash”
6- “Wait, how many jobs will the tourist complex create?”

In truth, everyone’s entitled to their opinion but realistically, no one is trying to end world poverty here.

It’s a forest…we want it to stay that way.

It’s just that simple. As of right now, it requires no chaining of one’s body to a tree.

Sign the petition, don’t sign the petition, whatever.

But if you don’t participate, you don’t get to complain about the results later.

(at least not without me calling you on it)


  • Usually, if it’s a spelled out cause with clear goals and objectives its chances of receiving criticism do to its ‘ambiguity and hidden agenda’ is very low…

    If I am donating for a charitable cause, I’d like to know what that cause is and for whom. Is it going towards a scholarship fund for ‘less privileged’ students in the school of Journalism at x university, is it going towards a day care center in x refugee camp, is it going towards adopting a child in x country. I’m not going to ‘blindly’ donate – not knowing for what purpose! I definitely wouldn’t want to sign a blank check! And same with a petition…How can I sign something that I cannot see the content of? It really does not make sense at all!

  • Salaam;

    For what it’s worth, Nas (and I know: not very much) both myself and my husband — a “simple villager” whose village isn’t very far from Dibbeen — are both onboard with Save the Forest. Insha’Allah! It’s a rich legacy of Jordan that I don’t want my children to be denied.

Your Two Piasters: