Experts to compare Mid-East, California environmental issues

Can environmental professionals from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority help solve the epic water battles in California? How similar are the issues of water scarcity and political conflict in the Middle East to those in the Western United States? A unique symposium coming to Los Angeles Sept. 9 will explore these critically important questions and showcase ground-breaking efforts for trans-boundary environmental cooperation in the Middle East...

Aug 13th, 2008

• Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authority experts join leading US researcher in traveling symposium examining "trans-boundary" model to resolving resource issues

LOS ANGELES, CA, Aug. 11, 2008 -- Can environmental professionals from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority help solve the epic water battles in California? How similar are the issues of water scarcity and political conflict in the Middle East to those in the Western United States? Can recent examples of successful conflict resolution and cooperation for environmental gains in the Middle East provide valuable lessons for application to California, Utah and Colorado?

A unique symposium coming to Los Angeles Sept. 9 will explore these critically important questions and showcase ground-breaking efforts for trans-boundary environmental cooperation in the Middle East. The seminar is presented by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and features a keynote address from Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.

"California's history can and has been written as successive battles over water waged both within the state and with surrounding states and Mexico. Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are waging similar battles, attempting to resolve their problems of scarcity, drought and allocation in the middle of a politically tense region," said Clive Lipchin, research director of the Arava Institute. "In many ways, these two regions that are on opposite ends of the planet have very similar problems. Yet, it seems, there are distinct differences in how California and the Middle East attempt to find solutions. Our hope is that our experiences from the Middle East may have relevance to similar issues in the Western United States."

The 5 p.m. seminar at the UCLA School of Law is designed for academics, researchers, policy makers, environmental organizations and resource agencies, but it is suitable for anyone interested in these subjects. The seminar is being offered free of charge, but advance registration is appreciated as space is limited. For questions on this program or to make an advance registration, please email david@friendsofarava.org.

Following Los Angeles, the seminar, without Dr. Gleick, will travel to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Sept. 10, the University of Denver on Sept. 11, and the University of Colorado at Boulder on Sept. 12.

Each seminar will feature Middle East environmental professionals who have worked together through the Arava Institute to cooperatively solve the region's environmental challenges, in addition to a resource expert from the city where the seminar is held. In addition to Dr. Lipchin, the other panelists are Dr. Samer Talozi from the Jordan University of Science and Technology; Nader Al-Khateeb, the Director of the Water and Environmental Development Organization of the Palestinian Authority; and Dr. Shmuel Brenner, a professor at the Arava Institute and a former Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection. Jonathan Leo, an environmental lawyer and consultant, based in Los Angeles, and a member of the Friends of the Arava Board of Trustees, will moderate the panel discussions.

The panelists will present their research, which covers a range of environmental topics from exposure to airborne particulate matter to watershed protection to the introduction of gray water and saline water as new resources for sustainable farming and crop production.

"We are all incredibly aware of the environmental issues facing Southern California and the Western states, and how much more challenging the situation becomes when multiple municipalities, states, or even countries are involved," Dr. Lipchin said. "Imagine then how difficult the situation must be in the Middle East, where environmental challenges demand cooperation not only from neighbors but from historic enemies.

"We are finding that time and time again, the cooperation that emerges during our studies is a much more effective means to reduce tensions and secure meaningful environmental gains than are more formal approaches," Lipchin said. "Bilateral agreements are most often used to resolve conflicts, but the soft approach of compliance relies on good relations between the diverse parties and leads to more effective, longer-lasting resolutions. "

Securing trans-boundary cooperation is critical as Israel and many areas of the Middle East are in the midst of historic water shortages. Similarly, a drought has been declared in California, adding to recent complications from court-ordered reductions in water deliveries to Southern California to protect endangered species. In addition, the Colorado River Basin is experiencing historic drought conditions.

"The Arava Institute's operating vision is that the environment knows no borders. The Institute realizes that one can't wait for peace in a region to deal with the many environmental challenges we face. On the other hand, our work in the environmental field also lays the groundwork for political and economic security and stability in our region," Dr. Lipchin said. "We hope our seminars and the sharing of lessons we have learned in the Middle East can help the Western United States."

The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) is the premier university-level environmental teaching and research program in the Middle East. Its main goal is to prepare future Palestinian, Jordanian, Israeli Arab and Jewish leaders to solve the region's environmental issues through peaceful means. AIES is also regarded as a model program for promoting international cooperation based on the principle that all people, regardless of their political and cultural differences, share the same environment and the same environmental challenges, and that this can be a force that reduces conflict and increases cooperation among and between regions, states and nations.

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