All eyes were on the world’s decision-makers who gathered at the United Nations’ Climate Change summit in Copenhagen this month hoping to reach a viable climate treaty. In Egypt, a group of eco-conscious Egyptians worked behind the scenes, taking matters into their own hands.
The year 2009 saw several sprouting initiatives bringing Egypt one step closer to a cleaner environment.
While Egypt is not a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it still recognizes the vulnerability to climate change. For that reason, several local projects were initiated to play an effective role in reducing those emissions.
On the surface, Egypt Carpoolers, a virtual tool introducing Egypt to the concept of carpooling, is a way to combat the chronic traffic problem. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that the project ultimately aims at reducing the number of cars congesting Cairo’s streets and in turn reducing greenhouse emissions.
Egyptcarpoolers.com is an automated website that matches ride requests with ride offers according to the date of the ride, the driving route and the time specified, leaving a margin of one hour for both departure and return.
The next initiative could not have come a day sooner. Fed up with the heaps of garbage piled up as a result of a brawl between the governorate of Giza and an Italian cleaning company, residents of Mohandiseen took matters into their own hands.
A “Clean Up Giza campaign was initiated last September by Dana Moussa on the social networking website Facebook, and managed to attract residents keen on preserving their local environment.
Participants met up in Gamaet El-Dowal Street dressed in white, armed with surgical masks and brooms and braved the four main squares of Mohandiseen; starting with Lebanon square and ending with Messaha square in Dokki.
Earlier this year, and on a wider scale, independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm launched a similar campaign shedding light on locations where garbage is piled up.
The campaign, dubbed “For a Cleaner Cairo, was the brainchild of the paper’s editor-in-chief, Magdy El-Gallad, who proposed to his staff launching a project that would bring about positive change in society.
Every day the newspaper would publish a brief report on a specific location with a contact number at the newspaper. This unleashed a flood of phone calls and emails to the paper from citizens reporting garbage pile-ups in their districts, prompting the staff to divide up the different districts of Cairo, giving each person more time to focus on one location.
Also, doing its part is the American University in Cairo. Last August, it launched a recycling campaign in collaboration with the student clubs Volunteers in Action (VIA), Association for the Protection of the Environment, Resala Club, Biology Club and the Student Union, along with faculty and staff.
Color-coded disposal bins were distributed all over the New Cairo Campus, specifically designated for either “paper only, “wet or “dry trash, with a different set of receptacles for the outdoors and the indoors.
According to a press release, the university’s garbage is collected on campus twice a day and removed by an outside vendor. The separated waste is then intended for different local NGOs to be salvaged for their development projects.
On the international level, several initiatives aimed at having an impact on the UN Climate Change summit, pushing for an effective agreement.
Exactly 50 days before world leaders met in Copenhagen, citizens from around the world were keen on having their voices heard and putting an end to global warming under the 350 initiative.
The 350.org campaign is a global movement aimed at raising awareness about the ill effects of global warming and coming up with solutions to the problem.
The number 350 refers to CO2 parts per million in the earth’s atmosphere that scientists have identified as the safe limit for humans to continue life on earth.
Egypt’s youth took part in the campaign, organizing over 14 initiatives around the country.
The most prominent of these was an event held at Al-Rawabet Theater in downtown Cairo, shedding light on the issue through short speeches by organizers, two stand-up comedy performances, an exclusive screening of Franny Armstrong’s acclaimed documentary thriller “The Age of Stupid and a 30-minute presentation by three environmental experts on how to conserve energy at home.
Other eco-friendly initiatives took part in the campaign. Members of Egypt Carpoolers, Cairo Cyclers and World Wide Views played their part by taking pictures at the pyramids.
Hoping to have their say at the Copenhagen summit were individual groups who gathered at the Sawy Cultural Wheel on Dec. 13 – coinciding with the summit – and organized a vigil.
“Cairo wants a real deal, was the participants’ message.
Participants were also keen on showing the world that citizens of a developing country like Egypt are capable of taking action in such a pressing issue. Pictures of the vigil were later published on 350.org.
In the wake of the summit, three Egyptian environmentalists made their way to Copenhagen among some 4,000 observers at COP15 to discuss the role they hoped the Egyptian government would play at the summit.
One of the participants, Lama El Hatow, said developing nations like Egypt are responsible for pushing for efficient reduction targets and more funding.