Beyond Magazine Issue 4 Winter 2011

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White core 2011

Oh sweet snow! When shall we meet again? Show me the light: The many energies of Gebran Bassil Walid Jumblat opens fire on growing urbanism Watch Bernard Khoury fight the deep slabs

To bee or not to bee!

The disappearance of these insects poses an existential question


Ready for a reality check?


here is little doubt that humankind and indeed the whole planet is facing an environmental crisis. Whether that crisis was exasperated by global warming, ozone depletion, deforestation, or top soil erosion, remains to be seen.

Industries produce the goods and services that meet our needs, wants, and desires. It is this process that has caused a great deal of ecological damage – damage that continues on a day-to-day basis. However, businesses and industries are not solely to blame for this; governments and consumers must shoulder some of the responsibility too. It is governments that regulate the business community both legally and economically and have allowed this environmental destruction to happen and continue. Consumers must accept their share of the blame as it is they who have consented to using goods and services produced in an environmentally taxing way. That said, it is the unique and close relationship between the production process and the environment that puts the burden of environmental protection squarely on the shoulders of businesses and industries.

The manufacture of products and delivery of services for consumption involves the usage and conversion of raw materials. This process unavoidably produces waste. Indeed, the processed product itself is destined to become waste as well. This is the nature of consumer goods; they are purchased, used, and replaced. The production of goods will consume most of the resources, but even its utilization and eventual disposal consumes more. There is no escaping the fact that what goes in, must come out as waste. What needs to be done is clear. Businesses and industries ought to reduce the environmental costs of production. Accordingly, we at the Ministry of Environment are in the process of developing a compliance law, which will make environmental auditing mandatory for all polluting businesses and industries. The aim of this move of course is not to close down these businesses but to reach the hoped for balance between growth and environmental protection. Mohammad Rahal Minister of Environment

White Core 2011


A word from the publisher

A capital tragedy


etween the stinking pollution and the wastes mess, Lebanon is disappearing. Between overpopulation and random constructions, Beirut is vanishing. Whatever happened to our city? It used to be fertile ground for striking, majestic trees and amazing, old homes. Now it is nothing but blocks of concrete, suffocating our vision.

Beirut used to be called the temple of knowledge, the Paris of the Middle East – descriptions that made us proud. So how do the Lebanese and Beirutis accept that their city be called a “capital for concrete”? Have we turned our city into an anti-green and ugly monster? And we as citizens, what are we doing to protect our surroundings? Beirut has lost its landmarks and charm. We must wake up because climatic changes are eating away at our nation, and green spaces and the environment are being raped by random building permits. Our city is screaming for mercy and compassion. Its butchers are known, having their fun, pulling out the trees, destroying gardens, and ripping its green heart out! We must reject what is going on! We are the ones responsible for the reforestation of Lebanon and maintaining its eternal motto “Green Lebanon”. I am among those who aspire to give Beirut a civilized face to show the world… killing trees is like killing people. There is no sense of civilization in that! It is a barbaric side of us, which we should not accept as a trait of ours! We must work to give our city some oxygen, to create a beautiful healthy milieu. It is time to act and turn our city to a better place to live in. Let us fight a different fight… fight to recreate Beirut, a heaven on Earth as it once was! Who’s with me? By continuing to be a Beyonder, it means you’re with me in the fight! Happy one year anniversary to us and to you lovely Beyond readers. Thank you for believing in us from the very start and taking a chance on us! We told you we will not disappoint you! With your strength, we keep rising higher and Beyond!

Pascale Choueiri Saad

White Core 2011


Publisher and General Director Pascale Choueiri Saad


Ronald Saad

Chief Editor

Maha Majzoub

Environmental Consultants Edgard Fouad Chehab Bassam Kantar, Nader El-Nakib


Joelle Choueiry Makhoul

Chief Photographer Nada Karam

Guest Photographers

Michel El-Esta, Rayya Haddad, Alfred Moussa, Clement Tannouri, Cherine Yazbeck, Michel Zoghzoghi

Design and Graphics Pauline Hage


Rena Karanouh

Responsible Director Antoine Hajj

Contributing Writers

Marwan Arakji, Suzanne Baaklini, Diana Boudargham Tannoury, Amal Chaaban, Amer El-Haddad, Alice Hlidkova, Wael Hmaidan, Kristen Hope Burchill, Bassam Kantar, Richard Labaki, Ana Maria Luca, Sarah Lynch, Dalila Mahdawi, Andrew McCornack, Phillipa Mishlawi, Antoine Naaman, Aline Sara, Cherine Yazbeck

Printed by

Chamas for Printing & Publishing Mazraa, Colombia Center Beirut, Lebanon This magazine is printed on recycled paper.

Published by

Five Stars Tourism s.a.r.l. Azarieh Str. Azarieh Bldg. – Block 01 Beirut, Lebanon Tel: +961 1 994 006 Fax: +961 1 994 007


ground Spring Awakening 2010

(c) Alfred Moussa



Cover photo by Clement Tannouri

16 In an all new light

The many layers of Gebran Bassil


Progressive man of the mountain Talking to Walid Jumblat


Winds of change Grasping new forms of energy



60 Slow dancing

Wallace “J” Nichols waltzes with the turtles

78 Buzz off

What would happen when the bees disappear?

112 White pride

The arrogant disappearance of snow

128 Talking climate

204 30

Deal or no deal?

146 Tipsy toes

Organic alcohol adds a punch to a growing industry

150 Bottled up emotions

The scandalous privatization of aquifers around the world

182 My big fat green wedding

With this vintage ring, I thee wed


194 Architects of change

Inside the studio of Bernard Khoury

200 Don’t build your city, grow it Interview with Mitchell Joachim


Reclaim the art scene Hugo Franca reclaimed wood designs

240 Operation grassroots How to green up the city

246 Painting the sky green Happening rooftop gardens

when you are done leafing through beyond, shelf it as your trusted green companion or send it to recycling

White Core 2011


Contributors Edgard Fouad Chehab

Diana Boudargham Tannoury

Philippe de Bustros

A Master in International Communications and International Relations from Boston University, Mrs. Boudargham-Tannoury enjoys writing short stories and poems, one of which graces the pages of this issue of Beyond. As environment protection is a cause close to her heart, BoudarghamTannoury tries through her poems to help raise awareness about nature’s fragility.

President of the Environmental and Public Gardens Committee of the Municipality of Beirut, Mr. de Bustros has been extending a great deal of help and advice to Beyond. Managing director of AGC Equity Partners, he has over 24 years of experience in wealth management. He is also an avid promoter of the campaign for banning smoking in public.


Nader El Nakib

Bassam al-Kantar

Clement Tannouri

Dania Jabr Farra

Marwan Arakji

A short paragraph is not enough to explain what Mr. Chehab represents to Beyond. In short, he is a miracle worker. Assistant Resident Representative and the Energy and Environment Program Manager of United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Chehab is also an advisor to the Minister of Environment. He enjoys a 17-year stint in the environmental field.

Mrs. Husami is a prominent face that is not strange to Beyond. In this issue, Husami reveals her artistic side. She has been painting all her life and has attended painting and technical courses in Akron University, Ohio. A great deal of her art explores nature and landscape.

An aerial photography specialist, Mr. Tannouri continues to share some of his breathtaking pictures with Beyond. Tannouri runs his own graphic design and advertising company. He has published several books, the latest of which is Cedar of Lebanon, Pledge of Eternity, which he co-authored with Mrs. Pascale Choueiri Saad, the publisher of Beyond, and Mrs. Lara Hanna Debs.


President of G, an NGO whose aim is to advance green and sustainable projects, Mr. Nakib is a vocal backer of the green movement and combating climate change. Among his many titles, he is an international officer in the Future Movement. In this issue, Nakib writes about beautifying the Msyelha quarry.

A strong supporter of Beyond, Mrs. Jabr-Farra is a managing partner in boutique graphic design firm Channel Design. The dynamic mother of four, who grew up between Canada and the U.S., is also a member of NGOs Tamanna and Himaya.

Mr. Kantar is a feisty journalist who writes about the environment in the daily Al Akbhar. He is a founding member of the Lebanese Environmental Party (LEP). In this issue, Kantar travels to Cuba to highlight the country’s green experience. In a seperate article, he notes the importance of sidelining politics to resolve Lebanon’s wastes issue.

Mr. Arakji excels at many things – finance and technology are high up on the list. Arakji returned to Lebanon from the United States in 1992 and joined Bank Audi two years later. He went on to start a “special projects” unit within the bank. For Beyond, he writes his sidesplitting account on how much energy technology and modern life exhaust.


What a One-derful World!


eyond turns one this issue, hence the bit of borrowing from Louis Armstrong there, with a dab of poetic license. We can’t believe how fast the year has passed, or how many things have happened on the green front in the course of this year! It’s been a Wonderful ride, granted there were (and still are) some bumps along that road. But we’ve come across such Wonderful people on the way. They have inculcated a green spirit in us while some of our great energy has rubbed off on them.

You will notice the issue in your hands has grown even thicker than past editions. This is because of all the things that warrant coverage around the nation and beyond borders. The White Core issue visits the snowy plains up in the mountains, as we wait for our conceited friend to grace us with its presence. Of the Wonderful faces we are happy to know better this issue are those of Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil, Progressive Socialist Party Chief Walid Jumblat, and Dutch Ambassador to Beirut Heere Eltje Gerrit de Boer. Architect Bernard Khoury, on the other hand, left us in Wonder while New York’s “urbaneer” Mitchell Joachim gave us a piece of his mind. We also spoke to celebrated marine biologist Wallace “J” Nichols and Brazilian design genius Hugo França. And we traveled to Cuba, Masai Mara, London, and Kamikatsu. You’ll have to flip through these pages to know why. You have surely realized by now that there is no fluff in Beyond. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not easy on the eye. Lifestyle, fashion and accessories, art and design, technology, food, and social life are all happening in this issue. Just because we’re dealing with a serious subject matter, that doesn’t mean we can’t have some serious fun. So kudos to those having fun with us while thinking responsibly about the environment. You are the ones restoring our faith in a Wonderful World!

Maha Majzoub

White Core 2011






In an all new light – Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil has been pushing forward a wide scale national energy efficiency strategy. But Beyond casts the beam on a totally different sustainable side of the young politician. Photographs by Nada Karam and Alfred Moussa


t is a few minutes past nine p.m. We are not the ones waiting to talk to him. A reporter for a political daily also taps her fingers in the lobby of his ministerial office in Corniche al-Nahr. Among the stack of magazines, leaflets, and newsletters piled up on the aging table there, we notice a copy of Saving Energy, a publication by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “He is ready for you,” says his assistant. He has just stepped out of his mini workout routine, and looked like he got his second wind after a long day’s work. We were there to discuss his energy saving vision for a country teetering on the edge of electricity chaos. Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil has drafted a national plan for energy efficiency for discussion by the cabinet. He has already commenced a detailed plan to distribute Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs to a million homes, promote the use of solar water heaters, and install street lighting poles. This is only phase one of a mega plan for energy conversation, he stresses. Bassil has also been vocal about the aggravating water scarcity issue. “We have managed to deplete our groundwater reserves, and in 10 years they won’t be able to sustain us if we carry on like this,” he says. And with his growing appreciation for natural resources and God given elements, something new took root in the politician’s life – his appreciation of old homes. “I have a passion for old houses and

tradition,” he says. Through his initiative, Lebanese Old Houses, which he launched in 2000, he has been buying old devastated and forgotten houses and bringing them back to life. “Its main goal is to preserve the traditional architecture.” He has also renovated Beit il Mouneh in his hometown, Batroun in the north. He gave the dilapidated house of homegrown foods a reshuffle and has been organizing local events to go with it. Bassil has also printed postcards of every village in Batroun as well as each mouneh item. He explained the story behind each postcard. He knew the nitty-gritty details. “This is clay pottery that is special to Batroun. I did a three-day exhibition at Beit il Mouneh for people to come and do this clay pottery.” “Oh, these are the old wind mills to extract salt naturally,” he continues. Beyond has a long chat with Bassil, about his passions, energy and water propositions, and more. BEYOND–What piqued your interest in old homes? GEBRAN BASSIL–I was a civil engineer and after building few constructions conventionally, I found out that I couldn’t keep on doing things that way. So I turned to old homes. Old houses are a personal passion. I have all sorts of old stones and woods and building materials. I started, which breathes new life to destroyed old homes. I don’t only renovate old houses. I build them from scratch and you can’t tell the

difference. The work is mostly concentrated in Batroun. Right now I’m working on one in Smar Jbeil in Batroun and another in Laqlouq, Mount Lebanon. My dream is to have old houses renovated in every village in Lebanon. What we’ve been doing has given value to old Lebanese homes again and raised their prices. I’m also taking care of the old market in Batroun and preserving landmarks in the area. I’ve also renovated Beit il Mouneh. B–Can you elaborate on that? GB–I bought Beit il Mouneh in 2008. It took long months of renovation because it was so run down. Now it is fully operational. Our ancestors used to eat very healthy without spraying pesticides back when the concept of organic did not exist. In celebration of mouneh, we’ve done a booklet on every mouneh item. We’ve held so many events there to support the locals and revive the old spirit of Batroun. I would like to do something for each item like an event for rosewater this week, and another item the next. Time is not on my side though. B–Time is also a sensitive issue in your energy saving plan. Can we talk a bit about your energy conservation plan given Lebanon’s festering electricity problem? GB–The recently passed energy plan has three main segments: Infrastructure, supply and demand, and legal framework, and 10 initiatives such as generation, transmission, distribution… What White Core 2011



I believe is more important is related to the demand segment of energy efficiency. The three segments fall together with the norms and standards of green energy – and that is you should not depend on one without the other. So even if you produce energy from wind, it isn’t enough, maybe it is trendy, but you can save a lot more energy and help the environment for example by doing what we’re doing now with the CFL bulbs. We got a grant from the European Union along with some funds from the government by which we launched in March a three-part plan to conserve energy. The plan stipulates distributing three million CFL bulbs in the amount of $7 million, one million solar water heaters, and 500,000 street light poles. We also have national plan for energy efficiency that we will soon adopt in the cabinet. The abovementioned project is the first phase of the energy efficiency plan. This is the first time that the government of Lebanon supports something that will not generate profit to it. It is backing something that will help people save energy and money. We are working in tandem on an energy conservation law. This way we can give people incentives to go green. For instance, as part of this phase, we will be signing on with the Central Bank to give people zero percent interest loans over five years to get the solar water heaters for $1000. The state will pay $200 of that while the rest can be paid in $13 monthly installments over five years. After fixing the water heaters, a citizen can save $26 a month on his/her electricity bill. The whole point of this is to have a solar water heater for every house in Lebanon. B–What other renewable energy sources do you think Lebanon should tap into, given that you stress that it should not depend solely on one over another? GB–Lebanon is a small country. It can benefit from its wind capacity as well as solar capacity, we can even 18 18

GROUND Horizons

produce energy from waste. We can’t, for instance, have many wind farms because we don’t have long stretches of land; we’re not Saudi Arabia or Scandinavia. If we put a wind turbine in one area, the neighborhood will go crazy. This will cause another problem of noise pollution. And what if there was no wind or no sun, how do we generate energy? So these are alternative sources of energy but they are not reliable and don’t constitute the base load for energy. So in a country like Lebanon we should opt for energy consumption reduction as a means for sustainability. At the demand management level, we also need to introduce equipment and machinery that will lower consumption. Introducing tariffs and metering systems will allow and encourage citizens to reduce energy at home. By reducing their bill, this will reduce the pressure on the electricity station they’re connected to. In a country like Lebanon, if you introduce incentives or constraints, they will have a more powerful impact on the energy situation than creating new stations. It is such small actions that will have a strong impact instead of going for the trendy options. B–So you’re saying we should not fully depend on them and focus elsewhere? GB–I am not against renewable energy sources. In fact, they are part of the national plan for energy efficiency, and we are working on them very seriously. We are preparing to launch a feasibility study for wind farms, where we believe they will not meet the full energy demands for Lebanon but will help on a smaller scale. I am saying renewable energy generation should be an alternative. B–On to the water issue. The creation of more dams and artificial lakes will supposedly help combat fires and stabilize the clearly changing climate. So why aren’t more dams and artificial lakes being created? GB–We’ve been fighting for this for a long time. In Lebanon, we definitely

need dams. And since you brought up the water issue, let me tell you that we’ve been depleting our groundwater reserves. Our rapid use of groundwater resources is a dangerous and unsustainable trend. Moreover, the water is polluted. We are therefore witnessing a water deficit. Lebanon annually has eight and half billion cubic meters of replenishable water reserves, of which almost six billion is lost naturally through processes like evaporation. A further one and half billion is wasted into the sea, leaving 1.2 billion for human consumption out of 1.45 billion needed. B–So what can be done to avert the looming water crisis? GB–At the infrastructure level, the first thing to be done is to construct dams and fix the old pipelines, which are wasting a great deal of water. At the management side, we should have far better management of water resources by fairly distributing them and introducing the concept of water conservation, which can only be implemented by installing water meters. Since we don’t have meters, we tend to overuse water when we have it, and when we don’t have it, we buy and only then are we careful. When we install meters, this will change. We will reduce our water consumption. This will have a tremendous effect. But we don’t have this culture of paying for what we use. My main targets in this regard are to install water meters and build dams. I hope to accomplish this. We also should not neglect wastewater, which is an additional source that we’re overlooking. It can be used for many purposes such as irrigation. We should introduce wastewater tariffs. B–How is the ministry being green? GB–The ministry became carbon neutral with my advent, which was a project funded by the British embassy in Beirut. We have also reduced greatly our energy consumption bill, and we are preparing to install the PV system. We have loads of ideas. But we need money for that.

Courtesy of Sleiman Franjieh (c) alfred moussa

Beit El Mouneh before

(c) alfred moussa

Beit El Mouneh after

Summer White Core skies2011 2010

19 17

“My dream is to have old homes renovated in every village in Lebanon.” – Gebran Bassil

(c) alfred moussa

(c) alfred moussa

Bassil has printed postcards of every village in Batroun as well as every mouneh item specific to his hometown.


Progressive man of the mountain Interviewed by Pascale choueiri saad Photographs by Nada Karam

– Growing urbanism and lack of urban planning in Lebanon worry chieftain Walid Jumblat.


e are trying to beat the morning traffic to get to the Shouf district. It is still very early into Saturday, when MP Walid Jumblat is usually in his palatial Mukhtara mansion. The heavy rain dented our plans a bit, as like other Lebanese on the road on that morning, we don’t quite know how to handle first and second rains. The car skidded more times than we like to remember. We painstakingly make our way to the heavily guarded home of the Shouf leader. A nice man with piercing blue eyes escorts us to Jumblat’s meeting hall. We have to take several flights of stairs. The hallway is bustling with people and Shouf residents who lined up to greet the head of the Jumblat dynasty. Whether on the left or on the right, the man knows how to draw a crowd. Jumblat chairs the Shouf Cedar Society, which manages the Shouf Biosphere Reserve (SBR), within which is the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve. The reserve is the nation’s largest, and was declared a protected area by a 1996 decree. In 2006, Noura Jumblat, the lawmaker’s wife, was awarded the Forest for Kyoto Prize by the Italian Environment Ministry for her extensive ecological efforts in the Shouf. When she accepted the prize, which is named after the Kyoto Protocol on climate



change and improvement, Mrs. Jumblat said, “The prize should be made out to Walid Jumblat, who has dedicated a lot of time and effort to the preservation of the Shouf Cedar Reserve…I was only his partner in this, whereas it was all his idea to preserve this region.” The MP has played a pivotal role in helping preserve Lebanon’s cedar trees. And during the 1975-1990 civil war, he built sand ditches and planted landmines around the Shouf cedar forest to protect it. In his exclusive interview with Beyond, Jumblat shares his qualms and hopes about the environment. BEYOND–You were among the first to launch nature preserving campaigns, long before it was the trend. Why is that? WALID JUMBLAT–I’ve been fond of nature for as long as I can remember. And I see that people in Lebanon don’t care about nature, neither does the government. The private enterprise has mainly been trying to protect the environment. We’ve been doing that in the Shouf and we’ve been successful up until now. The private sector is not enough though. In other countries, the state is in control of this. But there is no state in Lebanon and there are now laws. B–Do you think that will change one day? WJ–I doubt. When you see the coastal beaches being seized and reworked by

(c) Nada Karam

(c) Nada Karam


B–Is it true that during the civil war you built sand ditches and planted landmines around the cedar forest in the Shouf to protect it? WJ–Yes, during the war I fixed landmines there to prevent people from coming to the cedar reserve. It was the only way to prevent people from entering and having picnics there. B–What are the main environmental concerns for the Shouf? WJ–Growing urbanism will make Shouf ugly, like the whole of Lebanon. We don’t have a master plan for urbanism. Nobody is taking care of that. I believe this is essential. B–At the national level, what are your concerns? WJ–The same problem of the Shouf applies everywhere. Look at Beirut. You don’t even have gardens. One garden was fixed up by the Ottomans, which is Sanayeh. But that’s as far as it goes. B–But there are underway efforts led by the Ministry of Environment to renovate

other gardens and build new parks. WJ–Great. I am glad to hear that.

and slowly but surely we are destroying our mother Earth.

B–So what do you think can be done to stop the prevalent situation? WJ–Nothing can be done without the regulation of state. When the state does not care about nature, the environment, and urbanism not to mention applying laws, you can do nothing.

B–Global warming skeptics say things are not as extreme as the media and some sides like to portray it? WJ–I don’t believe that. Corporate giants drilling for oil and mining for minerals are really stronger than states. And I don’t believe global warming is a hoax. I think it is a fact on the ground.

B–Last year, you launched an interesting initiative to restore old homes in 22 villages across the Shouf. What is happening with that? WJ–We’re trying to change things in the Shouf. But we’re trying to get the funds for this project. Sadly it has stopped for now. B–So money is always a challenge it appears? WJ–Yes, that and laws. B–What do you have to say about the quarries cartels in Lebanon? WJ–They are stronger than the state. As long as the state is weak and corrupt, we can do nothing. B–What do you have to say about the global climate change? WJ–The whole world climate is changing,

B–What do you make of the green trend at the moment? WJ–I think it has weakened recently. It is not what it used to be. I believe giant corporations are stronger than the green hearts of this world. That is why the Copenhagen Summit (December 2009) was a failure. B–On a personal level, how are you ecofriendly? WJ–I am personally responsible and I do my best to urge people around me to do the same but not all people are willing to of course. B–On a final note, what are your hopes? WJ–I hope we can unite efforts with all the green people and those who care about nature to salvage what is left of our beautiful nature .

Jumblat’s Mukhtara Mansion

(c) Nada Karam

the private sector, when you see old buildings being destroyed for high rises, or when you see the inconsideration for and lack of preservation of nature, I’m a bit skeptical.

White Core 2011


politically correct

Entering the Dutch cycle Photographs by Nada karam


he Netherlands might occupy a small spot on the world map, but its international influence is far from bitesize. Aside from hosting The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court and being one of the six founding members of the European Community, the kindom is one of the globe’s most cultured hubs, as it has the highest concentration of museums in the world. The Dutch also have a reputation for being eco trendsetters and nature and outdoor lovers. Every Dutch person has a bike and there are twice as many bikes as cars in Holland, which has no less than 15,000 km of cycle paths. There are over a thousand old-fashioned working windmills in the breathtakingly beautiful country, which is famed for its flower parade and its tulips, daffodils, and orchids. Even the heir to the Dutch throne, Prince Willem-Alexander, takes personal interest in water management. The Dutch embassy in Beirut has been extending a hand to Lebanon at the environmental level in a myriad of fields, including waste management and energy generation. Beyond talked with His Excellency the Dutch Ambassador in Lebanon Heere Eltje Gerrit de Boer about the embassy’s environmental endeavors by us. BEYOND–The Dutch embassy has recently invited Dutch specialists in the field of waste management to Lebanon to visit the local waste management facilities, and exchange views with Lebanese officials. It also organized a seminar on “energy from waste”.



What other environment-related efforts/projects has the embassy been involved in lately? HEERE ELTJE GERRIT DE BOER– Let me first thank you for your interest in the environmental issues that have been raised in the context of bilateral relations between the Netherlands and Lebanon. We do think that this is an ever more important policy field where action is needed and where we believe that international cooperation is essential for success. At the same time I have to stress that the execution of any major activity will have to be carried out by the countries themselves, if only because of sovereignty. Moreover, other countries can advise, share experiences, discuss best practices, exchange information about new technologies... But the eventual investments are of an order that go far beyond the possibilities of any embassy. Where embassies can help is in the mobilization of knowledge, expertise and capital of interested private enterprise. With this in mind we have brought a number of experts in environmental issues to Lebanon for a seminar so they could exchange views with Lebanese environmental experts and authorities. We were very fortunate to also enjoy the interest of the Minister of Environment, Mr. Mohammad Rahal, which eventually led to a visit of the minister to the Netherlands so he could see for himself the Dutch advancements. B–What other projects do you have coming up? HEGDB–Thanks to the various actions that we have taken together, quite a number of contacts have been established and we are confident that some of these

contacts will mature either in the near future through the scientific world or by way of commercial cooperation. However, we will continue to closely follow actions in the environmental field. B–What are the most pressing environmental problems in the country where the embassy would like to assist? HEGDB–I think that Lebanon is facing various environmental problems actually like any other country and it is in my view impossible to arrange them in terms of levels of urgency. That coincides

(c) nada karam

with the views of Minister Rahal who clearly aims at an integrated approach to a collection of environmental challenges in this beautiful country, such as treatment of organic and inorganic waste, sewage, the notorious waste dump near Sidon, waste collection, water pollution, etc. Moreover, I am pleased to see that various cities have started to clean their streets by regular waste collection and removing litter. As I said before, we are ready to share experiences and discuss problems with Lebanese authorities. B–But you would agree the wastes issue is a festering one.

HEGDB–We humans are not the only living creatures in this world. There are also animals and they produce organic waste as well, as you may have noticed in the streets of Beirut. In the Netherlands, we have become very aware of this aspect. Cities have developed strict rules for families that have pets and when in Holland, you will see many owners walking with their dogs carrying an eco-friendly bag, specially designed for this purpose, to deal with their pet’s feces. I can’t buy such specials bags in Beirut, but when I walk our dog I always carry a bag with me. More on a commercial scale, farms

produce organic waste as well. In the past such waste could be spread over the lands, but meanwhile agricultural production methods have developed so far in my country that specific legislation was drafted in order to ensure that nasty smells remain limited and that ground water will not be polluted. Moreover, the agro-industry itself developed new techniques to optimize their production, also regarding this particular question. For the time being Lebanon does not yet seem to be suffering from this issue but I can assure you that it will eventually have to deal with White Core 2011


politically correct

it when your agro-industry develops further and demand for agricultural products increases. B–The Lebanese fishing industry complains about the pollution of coastal waters, thus ruining their industry. Could you tell something about the Dutch experience? HEGDB–We have indeed gone through a period where the water was so polluted that it practically killed all fish. The problem existed particularly in the rivers Rhine and Meuse. Within the framework of the European Union, we have started to study and discuss these questions with the coastal states, for instance, for the river Rhine those were Switzerland, Germany, France and the Netherlands. And we have agreed on a number of measures, which have eventually resulted in a clean river where fishes have returned. You can now see on the banks of the river Rhine people angling. That does not mean that we have now solved all questions. Demand for fish has increased so much that we are now confronted with the problem of overfishing. Thanks to fruitful cooperation of fishermen, scientists, and authorities measures have also been taken to limit annual catches of the various kinds of fish to preserve the various species. B–In how far does this also apply to Lebanon? HEGDB–I am not an expert in Lebanese fishing. Actually I am not even an angler for a hobby. But I have been told that along the Lebanese coastline you are faced with serious problems for your local fishing industry because of sewage pipes releasing the sewage into the sea. Moreover, I have been told that such releases are too close to the coast, thus also polluting swim-water for your own population as well as for tourists. Fortunately, I understand that this question has also the active interest of Minister Rahal. But it might well be a good idea to organize 32


a seminar, specifically dedicated to this question, to make Lebanese waters cleaner and make Lebanon even more attractive for tourists.

seems to be clear that my country cannot become fully independent of the more traditional energy sources such as oil and gas.

B–Perhaps we can move on to more general issues such as climate change? HEGDB–We have all followed the major conference in Copenhagen last year where the issue of climate change was discussed. I think that it was a very important conference and that it did bring the worldwide discussion on a higher level. Unfortunately, discussions were temporarily sidetracked because of some mistakes in the reports that were used as the basis for our global dialogue. And fortunately, discussions seem to be back on track in the run-up to the next conference in Mexico City. The Netherlands government is very much attached to continuing the negotiations related to climate change and plays an active part both in the formulation of EU policy and the global dialogue. I sense that Lebanese interest is increasing as well and we would surely like to develop further cooperation in this field.

B–Your country is known for its struggle against the water and the remarkable defenses that it has developed. What would you like to say in that regard? HEGDB–Indeed, water is something the Netherlands has defended itself against ever since it grew out of the delta of the rivers Rhine, Schelde, Meuse and Eems some 4000 years ago. Consequently, the Dutch approach to water was originally rather defensive whereas you might qualify the Lebanese way as more protective. Over the years we have gradually come to share common problems to a certain extent. I refer particularly to water handling, water efficiency and water pollution. Lots of potable water is lost on the way from its production to its consumption. Moreover, it requires highly developed technology to turn contaminated water into potable water. I do think that it would be an excellent idea for our scientists, technicians and policy-makers to share their experiences in this field and exchange views on best practices.

B–Western countries are also involved in environmentally friendly forms of energy generation. Could you tell us something about Dutch initiatives? HEGDB–In addition to energy generation through the handling of waste, both through incineration and by organic combustion, we are also active with regard to wind energy, energy through the change of tides and – most important – energy cells on rooftops. Meanwhile, quite a few families are living in houses that take most of their energy requirements from their own roofs. Regarding wind energy, the authorities are currently developing plans to construct a major windmill park on the Dutch part of the continental shelve of the North Sea, not far from our coast. However, it

B–Is there anything else you would like to raise? HEGDB–I think, this “tour d’horizon” illustrates quite well the tremendous size of the sector and its variety. Environmental questions do not stop at legal borders and international cooperation is highly necessary. That applies particularly to small countries such as Lebanon and the Netherlands. We can make further progress in this; we are very eager to do so and we are very fortunate with the Lebanese Environment Ministry, led by Minister Rahal, as our counterpart.


head above water – With six priorities in West Asia including environmental governance and resource efficiency, UNEP’s Habib El Habr is fighting on many fronts. The regional chief talks exclusively to Beyond.


abib El Habr does not have time for interviews, and if you knew his day-to-day tasks and duties, you would understand why. Currently the director and regional representative of the United Nations Environment Program Regional Office for West Asia (UNEP/ROWA), a post he assumed in 2005, Habr has many balls to juggle, particularly working in this part of the world. Besides a focus on freshwater resources management, his experience with UNEP has also included work in coastal and marine management, wastewater management, environmental health, and environmental assessment. He also works on the development of policy options and advice to the concerned governments on major environmental issues and is a member of the United Na-



tions Disaster Coordination Team. Habr’s first job after earning a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and a Ph.D. in Freshwater Ecology from University of Lyon, France, was as a water research specialist at the National Scientific Research Council in France. In 1988, his long relationship with the UN body would begin with his appointment as officer-in-charge and deputy chief of the freshwater unit at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi. Beyond catches up with the busy executive. BEYOND–UNEP has six priority focuses on environmental challenges in the 21st century. Which of these are most pressing in the Middle East? HABIB EL HABR–UNEP’s six programmatic priorities are: Climate Change, Disasters and Conflicts, Ecosystem Manage-

ment, Environmental Governance, Harmful Substances and Hazardous Wastes, and Resource Efficiency. Each of these is important to the region. West Asia, as with all regions of the world, is facing climate change, with increasing incidence of drought in the already arid region posing a particular challenge and the need for the identification and implementation of adaptation strategies, especially in our agrarian economies. We are also living in a region beset by conflict, and UNEP has worked with afflicted countries in assessing and working towards the

rehabilitation of affected environmental components. Ecosystem management provides us with a valuable tool to overall environmental management through an ecosystem approach, which considers all ecosystem components and their inter-linkages in developing management solutions. Within the West Asia region we have a number of important ecosystems, including marine, desert and mountain. How we manage and make decisions about the environment, including the role of civil society and public participation, are crucial issues relating to how we govern the environment and proceed on the path to sustainable development. Harmful substances and hazardous wastes and resource efficiency both look at the industrial base and its development in the region, with the oil and gas sector posing particular challenges in terms of chemicals and waste management, and the region’s high rates of consumption being a particular area of focus. B–What has UNEP been concentrating on in the Middle East? HH–UNEP has focused on all six of its programmatic priorities in the West Asia, responding to needs identified for the region as a whole through the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) as well as those of individual countries. Support to Palestine and Iraq has been a priority, as has positioning countries to respond to the challenges of climate change as well as addressing biodiversity management in the International Year of Biodiversity 2010. B–List a few recent or in the pipeline projects and campaigns. HH– In 2009, UNEP’s Regional Office for West Asia took part in the global “Seal the Deal” campaign, which collected signatures to a

petition encouraging the governments of the world to agree to a binding commitment on climate change at the Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen. This year we are working with countries of the region to complete their National Reports on Biodiversity. We have recently completed a capacity building project on Environmental Impact Assessment and are looking towards work with Iraq on adaptation strategies for climate change as well as developing a Green Economy Initiative in Jordan to embrace the economic diversification and green job opportunities that can be created through such an initiative. B–How has UNEP observed the International Year of Biodiversity? HH–In addition to working with regional countries on the preparation of their fourth National Reports, UNEP held a high-level ceremony in Bahrain to celebrate the International Day. We also have a number of ongoing campaigns and outreach activities with our partners across the region and focusing on different stakeholders, such as governments, children, and youth. B–Is it true that this region lags far behind the West in green laws and legislation? How bad is the problem? HH–In general, the environment agencies that develop, implement, and enforce environmental legislation in this region are much younger than their Western counterparts and are, therefore, still growing. That said, incredible progress has been made in recent years in the development implementation and enforcement of environment legislation across the region, based on the commitment of the countries to the environment.

B–Which countries in West Asia have been making considerable and tangible efforts to become more environmentally conscious? HH–Each country of the region has taken steps to address its own priority environmental issues, but the efforts of both Palestine and Iraq in the face of extreme adversity deserve highlighting. Lebanon has also always participated actively in these efforts. It has a very dynamic and committed Ministry of Environment that recognizes the diversity of the environment in the country, as well as active civil society, with a number of non-governmental organizations focusing on the environment. B–Does UNEP have much hope the climate talks in Mexico will yield any results? HH–UNEP is indeed hopeful for positive results on climate change coming out of Mexico and is working with countries towards a positive outcome. B–Which talks or events are you looking forward to? HH–My work in the region involves participation in a variety of activities and events, all of which are interesting and allow me to meet with a range of UNEP’s stakeholders. UNEP is currently organizing its Regional Consultation for the Global Environment Outlook 5, UNEP’s flagship publication, which brings together partners and stakeholders from across the region to discuss the environmental challenges and priorities for the region. B–What are UNEP’s forecasts and hopes for the region? HH–The region has some challenges to face in terms of the environment, but with the commitment of its leaders and people it is embarking on a path to achieve sustainable development.

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Winds of change – The year 2010 is also known as the Year of the Oil Spills. It has become glaringly obvious that the world needs to find a new, clean, and renewable source of energy like never before. Words by amal chaaban Photographs courtesy of Baie-des-Sables


s images flash across our screens of oil-soaked birds and ecosystems ravaged not just by oil but also by the chemicals used to clean up the oil, it becomes evident that the dependency we have on fossil fuels is not congruent with preserving the environment.

As awareness of global warming and peak oil numbers grew, the race was on to find alternative energy sources. Scientists have long been searching for a renewable source of energy to feed our insatiable appetite for electricity, cars, and all the modern conveniences money can buy. It is no longer just about finding a replacement for oil to

fuel our gas guzzlers, it has become about energy as a whole because we are definitely running out of oil. Detractors of clean energy (usually oil and coal barons) point out that we have yet to find a sustainable source of energy that provides the same levels of coal and oil. They miss the most obvious and powerful resource of all: Wind.

(c) Bruno Babin

renewable energy

Wind energy has been in use for thousands of years. The Persians used wind energy in the form of windmills to grind grain and the Dutch used windmills to reclaim their land from the sea by draining wetlands. Today, technology has evolved to the point where wind turbines can now be used to power up to 20 percent of Canada’s electricity demands, an estimate of roughly 17 million homes. With technology like that available, the logical move would be for countries to start investing in the necessary infrastructure to create mass wind farms. Alas, with governments around the world buckling to corporate interests and lobby groups, this has not happened. In the United States, it was not until oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said, “I have the same feelings about wind, as I had about the best oilfield I ever found” that people sat up and took notice. Pickens had plans to build a massive wind farm before the economy tanked in 2008. That is not to say that wind energy is not moving forward. It is. There are now several wind farms round the state of Texas where there were formerly oil rigs, and lawmakers are looking at wind power as the new boom without a bust. Blown out of proportion? Wind Energy does have issues attached to it in terms of provisional capacity and its detractors are very quick to point out that if there is no wind for several days in a row, the turbines cannot indefinitely provide electricity. While this is true to a certain extent, The Canadian Wind Energy Association states “Wind has an availability factor of 98 percent – much higher than conventional forms of energy production”, and also advises us that even if for some reason the wind does stop blowing, it is unlikely that every single turbine on a wind farm would stop blowing simultaneously. Detractors also talk about the environmental impact of 38


turbines on the flight patterns of birds and bats, which is actually a wild hare because countries require several ecological studies to be done before any turbines can be erected or farm sites confirmed. Regardless of migratory flight patterns that may be interrupted or the occasional bat or bird, the ecological impact of a wind farm is minimal in comparison to the ecological impact of even a minor oil spill. Wind farms

leave no trace of their presence except turbines; they do not emit fumes, nor do they spew toxins into the atmosphere or the ground. They are the most ecologically friendly source of energy currently available. The world can no longer just sit back and wait for science to discover the next big thing in energy and fuel sources. We are now in a state of grace with little time left before alternative energy sources are not just a thought for the future but a necessity for right now.

(c) Bruno Babin

L’année 2010 est connue comme étant l’année des déversements pétroliers. Il est devenu bien évident aujourd’hui que le monde a besoin de trouver une nouvelle source d’énergie qui soit propre et renouvelable. L’une des options évidentes et les plus puissantes est l’énergie éolienne. De nos jours, la technologie a tellement évolué au point où les éoliennes sont devenues capables, par exemple, de générer une électricité capable de couvrir jusqu’à 20 pour cent des besoins du Canada, alimentant environ 17 millions de foyers. Avec une

technologie pareille, la démarche logique au niveau des pays serait de commencer à investir dans l’infrastructure nécessaire pour créer de gros parcs éoliens. Mais hélas, puisque les gouvernements du monde entier succombent toujours aux intérêts des entreprises et des groupes de pression, ceci n’a pu être achevé. Les parcs éoliens ne laissent aucune trace de leur présence à l’exception des turbines qui n’émettent pas de fumées et ne crachent pas de toxines dans l’atmosphère et le sol. C’est la source d’énergie la plus écologique actuellement disponible.

‫ لكن لألسف مع خضوع الحكومات في جميع أنحاء العالم لمصالح الشركات‬.‫على نطاق واسع‬ ‫ ال تترك مزارع الرياح أي‬،‫ بعكس مصادر الطاقة األخرى‬.‫ لم يتم تحقيق هذا األمر‬،‫وجماعات الضغط‬ ‫ فمظاهرها الوحيدة هي التربينات التي ال تبعث أي نوع من الدخان كما ال تقذف‬.‫أثر على البيئة‬ ‫ إنها المصدر األكثر صداقة للبيئة من بين المصادر المتو ّفرة حالي ًا‬.‫السموم في الجو أو األرض‬.

‫ لقد أصبح من الواضح اليوم أن العالم بحاجة‬.‫ بكونها سنة اإلنسكابات النفطية‬2010 ‫تُعرف سنة‬ ً ّ .‫فعالية‬ ‫تشكل طاقة الرياح أحد أكثر الخيارات البديهية‬ .‫إلى مصدر جديد للطاقة النظيفة والمتجددة‬ ‫فقد تطوّ رت التكنولوجيا بشكل كبير مؤخراً حيث أصبح من المستطاع على سبيل المثال إستخدام‬ ‫ مع تو ّفر‬.‫ مليون منزل‬17 ‫ أي ما يكفي‬،‫ في المئة من حاجة كندا للكهرباء‬20 ‫توربينات الرياح لتأمين‬ ‫هكذا تكنولوجيا من البديهي أن تباشر البلدان بتطوير البنية التحتية الالزمة إلنشاء مزارع الرياح‬

White Core 2011



Some light at the end of the tunnel? Photographs courtesy of the UNDP

– CEDRO project promotes renewable energy and energy efficiency applications in Lebanon


he incumbent Lebanese government says it aims to achieve a 12 percent share from renewable energy sources in the total electricity mix by 2020. That may not seem that ambitious considering the current capacity of power plants in Lebanon, which is theoretically or nominally around 2100 MW, and given that hydropower already supplies up to four percent of actual power. Yet it is a substantial target if the plan of Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW) to produce 5000 MW post-2015 is realized. That means Lebanon must produce 600 MW of renewable energy by 2020 – a difficult task to say the least. “Which” renewable energy sources and “how” to go about populating the national grid or electricity mix with these sources are questions that the Community Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Demonstration project for the Recovery of Lebanon (CEDRO) is helping answer. It is 40


doing that through its renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) demonstration projects and its national studies and/or assessments related to renewable energy potential in Lebanon. Translating as the cedar tree in Spanish, CEDRO is in fact funded by Madrid, which via the Lebanon Recovery Fund (LRF), allocated $9.73 million to establish the project in 2007 following the July 2006 conflict. The CEDRO project is a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) executed project, working in coordination with the MEW, the Ministry of Finance (MoF), and the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR). CEDRO also cooperates with various governmental agencies, such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Interior, and municipalities, and is backed by internationally renowned consultants. Modus operandi To help push forward renewable energy and energy efficiency

applications in Lebanon, CEDRO works concurrently on three main fronts – technology, research, and national awareness. The bulk of CEDRO’s work is on the technology front, through which EE and RE projects are realized on the ground, concentrating on small scale RE and EE projects. To date, 25 photovoltaic systems (PV) of either 1.2 or 1.8 kWp capacity have been installed in regions across Lebanon (Akkar, Bekaa, and the South) in public institutions ranging from schools to community centers and local municipalities, the UNDP says. It adds that these systems are complete with inverters, controllers and data-loggers, and back-up storage battery systems. In Kherbet Selim First Public School in the south where CEDRO has installed a 1.8 kWp PV system, the school no longer uses its back-up diesel generator, and for almost most of the year only pays the connection fees to the national grid or Electricity of Lebanon (EDL). Meanwhile, multiple sites are being tested for wind availability and speed through the installation of anemometers (wind readers) to be selected

Hekr el Dhairi public school

El Tleile public school El Rihaneh public school

 ³! !

 ³!

! !J Hakour mixed public school !

CEDRO is an energy efficiency and renewable energy demonstration project managed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy and Water, the Ministry of Finance and the Council for Development and Reconstruction. The CEDRO project is funded by the Lebanon Recovery Fund by means of a grant from Spain.

Mashta Hammoud school


CEDRO Sites Location Beneficiary Sites - Renewable Energy

El Mkaitaa public school

Rajem Issa public school

! !  ³! Karha public school

Kherbet Daoud public school Kroum Arab public school Abdallah Rassi Hospital-Halba Ain Yaakoub public school



Meniara Public school

Tripoli governmental hospital

! Habsheet public school

® V


Ouyoun el Samak public school Hermel governmental Hospital

® V North


Sir Ed Denniyeh governmental hospital

Ehden governmental hospital



Batroun municipality



® V

Kfar halta public school

Ras Baalback community center

 ³!

Jran public school



Assia municipality

Shabtine public school


E ³


TVA building

Red cross



 ³!


Bassel fleihan

EE finance institute ³ ³³ E ³ ! Faculty of agriculture

el ftouh ® Keserwan governmental hospital V

Ministry of E social affairs

Rafik Hariri governmental hospital

Deir el Ahmar public school

! Ehmej public school Í Jbeil w ! Halat public school

Ministry of hydroelectric and electric resource

Baalbak public school

Shiah public school


! Lebanese army teaching institute J - Baalback -


Zouk mosbeh public school

Chmestar community center

E Banque du liban ³

E!! ³ EE E J Roumieh prison facility ³ ³ J !³ Hammana E ³ E municipality³ Regie

Mount Lebanon

Zahle municipality

E ³ ! Housh el Oumara community center

Aana public school


E ³

Ain Kfarzabad public school

! L

! AL Rawda public school ! Hosh el Harime public school ! AL Kadiriya public school

Implemented technology

! Tell Zounoub public school ! Kamed el Loz public school Moukhtara municipality¢ ± Jeb Jennine !  Mdoukha public school ³! Sebline public hospital ® V municipality and library ! Saida municipality ! Bkasine public school ¢ Saida governmental J hospital J Jezzine governmental hospital

Kfour public school

 ³! Wind turbine

® Solar water heater V

! Photovoltaic E Energy efficiency ³

Ain Qenia public school



Nabatiyeh Kfar Kila public school

! Kherbet Selem public school

Ain Ebel municipality


PV street lighting


LED street lighting

w Floodlight Í

 ³! ! Kfarshouba public school

Chebba public school

South Lebanon Debaal public school  ³! Ayteet public school !


Mohafaza Boundaries


Urbanized Areas


Houla municipality

O 0



40 km

! The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.


for microwind projects (or small wind), particularly if sufficient wind regimes are found on those sites. With respect to heating hot water, large solar hot water (SHW) systems with capacities ranging from 2,000 to 12,000 liters have been installed in public institutions such as Sidon Hospital in the south, Tripoli Governmental Hospital, Keserwan Public Hospital, Baalbeck Army Barracks, and currently Roumieh Prison, offering substantial savings on the use of diesel oil for heating water and reducing local pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. Street lighting options are being demonstrated as well through CEDRO, particularly PV street lighting implemented in Batroun and Assia in the north, and light-emitting diodes (LED) street lighting options currently under preparation for a street in Mukhtara in the Shouf. Projects for energy efficiency lighting and thermal insulation of existing public buildings (retrofitting) are also under preparation and would be implemented soon, according to the UNDP. As CEDRO is a demonstration project with limited budget, its main objective is to help pave the ground for EE and RE applications to be initiated and invested by the private sector. To achieve this, the barriers which impede the penetration of RE and EE applications in Lebanon are identified 42


and measures that remove these barriers are worked on. These setbacks are mainly legislative and/or regulatory and economic. All the installed electricity-generating systems are designed to export electricity, yet currently the law prohibits such export. For example, on a sunny weekend when the schools are closed and the battery systems are full, there undoubtedly would be excess electricity, which can be used elsewhere yet is currently wasted. Interconnection to the grid and subsequently support mechanisms for RE to help reduce the economic cost of RE are required and the MEW is currently working on the realization of this issue. Filling the gaps On the research level, CEDRO is assisting in filling the knowledge gaps with regards to the RE sources that can be used. For example, the national wind atlas of Lebanon is under implementation from CEDRO, and should be published towards the end of this year, where the “constrained potential” of large scale onshore and offshore wind energy capacity for Lebanon will be identified. By the yearend, CEDRO says it will be able to say how much wind power capacity can be realistically installed in Lebanon. The national bio-energy strategy is also being initiated by CEDRO. In Lebanon, the use of biomass is

minor and limited mostly to the use of wood for heating. The assessment of the potential is therefore highly required under strict “sustainability” criteria, which ensure that no negative impacts on food supplies and prices, and on other social, economic, and environmental indicators. The project will also be analysing concentrated solar power potential in Lebanon, and may implement other RE technologies in coordination with the Ministry of Energy and Power. Put together, the above studies will indicate the total renewable energy potential of Lebanon, and it would be up to the government and the private sector in Lebanon to realize that potential in accordance with the MEW energy policy paper.

At the awareness front, CEDRO focuses on spreading awareness in the community about RE and EE applications. This is targeted at young students in schools where the RE systems are installed, as well as national media coverage across the Lebanese community to spread the importance of RE and EE applications for energy security, for the diversification of national energy sources, for national economic wellbeing, and essentially to lower GHG emissions and take responsibility for future generations. Projects such as CEDRO are vital for the stimulation and maturing of the RE and EE markets. Given that the local

market can be considered in the inception stage, providing secure and sufficient sources of funding creates the necessary stability for private sector players to prepare the ground and encouraged to expand their RE portfolios until such times when full scale support is given through feed-in tariff or other mechanisms. CEDRO is a live example of this. In 2008, for instance, around 10 local renewable energy firms applied to be shortlisted at CEDRO to be able to bid for projects at CEDRO, of which seven succeeded in being shortlisted.

given a minimum required standard. These firms employ 15-50 employees each, and projects such as CEDRO will undoubtedly create leverage in the market, where these firms will not wait idly for projects to be released from CEDRO alone, yet will be seeking other opportunities elsewhere in the private sector. Furthermore, strengthening the RE market will increase competition and reduce the costs of RE applications.

In 2010, 27 firms applied for short-listing, of which 13 succeeded in being shortlisted

White Core 2011


brown environment

before the flood – The UNDP is on “preemptive strike mode” through its Flood Risk Management project.

Photographs courtesy of the UNDP


ter, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” We are all familiar with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s doomed navigator’s callout in his narrative poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. And Lebanon, like many Mediterranean countries, is familiar with a string of environmental problems such as pollution, water shortage, soil erosion, biodiversity decline, global warming, desertification, and flash floods. Experts point the finger in blame at human interventions and climatic variability for the above. And Lebanon is seriously reeling from



ecological headaches, as a 2004 report by the World Bank suggested environmental degradation costs the nation around $655 million per year, which is equivalent to 3.9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Lebanon, in fact, is no stranger to floods. The first recorded flood dates back to June 1293 when the city of Baalbeck was devastated and scores of casualties reported. Heavy floods have struck many Lebanese areas, washing away houses, agricultural lands, and infrastructures and often leaving human losses, explains Antonio Youssef, technical expert, National Action Program to Combat Desertification, Ministry of Agriculture.

Northern Bekaa is considered an area most vulnerable to flash floods following torrential rains. They usually occur during the months of May and June or October and November. A series of floods was registered in this region in Lebanon’s modern history. The most destructive, however, hit in 1967, 1987, 2001, 2005, and 2007, where roads and electrical and communication networks were cut, and bridges and infrastructures destroyed. The agricultural industry incurred major losses too, including field crops and fruit trees. A great number of cattle drowned and several aqua farms along the Assi River were ravished. The government paid no less than “$5 million to compensate those hard hit by the floods of 2005 and 2007 and restore dilapidated infrastructures,” Youssef adds. Against this backdrop, the United Nations Development Program

(UNDP) launched in 2007 the “Flood Risk Management and Water Harvesting for Livelihood Recovery” project in Baalbeck– Hermel. Funded by the government of Spain through the Lebanese Recovery Fund (LRF), the project sets out “to introduce measures that will lead to flood risk reduction and better availability of irrigation water and networks needed to achieve crop diversification and improve productivity in the affected areas of Baalbeck-Hermel,” says Youssef, who is heavily involved in the project. Many outputs have been planned to be realized to that end, Youssef notes, beginning with managing and reducing risks and damage caused by floods in the target area, and harvesting and managing water for irrigation and making it available to farmers. The project also aims to increase land cover in the risk area and reduce soil erosion, as well as increase capacity building and public awareness. The two-phase project concentrated its first leg on the watershed of Aarsal and

Fakeha (94 Km2). During almost a two-year period, the project’s phase one established eight retention ponds with a capacity ranging between 30 and 120,000 cubic meters. In addition, 158 structures (check dams, stone walls, and contour stone walls) were erected in select locations to effectively minimize the effects of the floods. To reduce soil erosion, a Soil Erosion Risk Map was developed and many selected sites replanted with native wild species such as wild prune, wild almond, and wild pear. “The main goal was to regenerate the green cover soil conservation and reduce flood energy,” Youssef says. “In fact, 12,000 seedlings were planted, and it is expected that newly planted sites will be a source point for seeds spreading and consequently cover may be expanded.” Meanwhile, the construction of a water reservoir in Deir El Ahmar is underway. “This reservoir will serve to harvest rainfall and wasted water during fall, and stored water will be

distributed to irrigate wine vineyards of high economic value,” Youssef adds. He lamented a series of challenges that rigged phase one of the project. “At the beginning of the project, there was lack of commitment on the part of municipalities and local communities,” he points out. Commitment by contractors was almost nil too. Insufficient data especially climatic information further complicated this stage, coupled with an absence of awareness among concerned stakeholders about the flood and the importance of control measures. In early 2009, phase two of the project, which covers the watershed of Aarsal Ras Baalbeck (250 Km2), was launched. “The goal here is to reduce the effect of floods on the downstream area of Ras Baalbeck and Assi River. The same concept applied in phase one will be pursued during this phase with focusing in reforestation activities,” according to Youssef. Phase two is expected to come to a wrap end of 2011. White Core 2011



Hemp… it grows on you – The common misconception is that Hemp, being a member of the cannabis family, is drugging. The fact is hemp seeds are extremely healthy and can be an alternative source of income for rural communities that cultivate illegal crops, such as hashish. Beyond takes a look at the underway Industrial Hemp Project in the Bekaa. Photographs courtesy of the UNDP


t is never fair when your reputation is tarnished because someone in your family is an out of control bad boy or girl. And the hemp seed has for long been a victim of its own roots. But just because it is from the cannabis plant, that does not make it an illegal narcotic. It contains very low or no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active hallucinogenic chemical which impacts the brain, as opposed to hashish, which contains over 15 percent THC. Since the cultivation of illicit crops such as the high THC cannabis plant is rampant in the Bekaa, a tripartite project carried out by local and international parties has been endeavoring to change the



status quo. Initiated in October 2007, the Industrial Hemp Project is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), managed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), both of which are funding it along with the support of the government of Brazil. Each of the UNDP and the MOA is shelling out $100,000 for the project and Brazil is devoting an additional $55,000. The project aims at introducing and promoting the cultivation of Industrial Hemp as an alternative to the illegal cannabis plants in the Bekaa so as to improve the livelihood of rural communities and reduce land degradation. Sunflower, saffron, and capers were among the other proposed alternative crops to grow in lieu

of the hemp seed. However, cultivating each of the above had its limitations, Dominique Choueiter, project coordinator, Industrial Hemp Project, explains. “The project identified Industrial Hemp as a suitable alternative crop for several reasons,” Choueiter continues. “Hemp cultivation is very close to cannabis cultivation, with no special requirements. It is also well adapted to the Lebanese edapho-climatic conditions. It is environmentally friendly, as no pesticides or herbicides are needed.” Moreover, hemp is economically viable, because it creates a wide range of end products. Hmm… hemp you say? When considering the uses of hemp, the list turns out to be long and interesting. Many

White Core 2011


people may not know that hemp is a deliciously healthy food or supplement given its high protein and Omega 3 and 6 content. It can be eaten raw, used in cooking, or sprinkled on many foods. It is also an ecofriendly textile making waves on the green fashion lane. Hemp can additionally be used to make biodegradable plastics as well as biodegradable composites, which have even more applications such as geo-textiles or agricultural textiles. Lebanon can also make use of its abundant supply of hemp for paper production or for building insulation. In the initial phase, the project tested several varieties of industrial hemp from different countries and identified varieties and locations 48


(North Bekaa) that might be suitable for Lebanon and their seed source. “We also proposed resources, such as machineries, equipment, etc.., needed for planting, harvesting, and processing of hemp for oil production,” Choueiter indicates. It also investigated the capacity of the local industry to utilize and manufacture different products and provided preliminary analysis concerning potential products to be commercialized. “We also undertook farm-gate net profit per dunums for the best tested industrial hemp varieties,” Choueiter adds. “We have already established a network between certified hemp seeds providers in Europe and Canada with the agricultural private sector in Lebanon.” UNDP and MOA are now undertaking several agronomic

trials in Northern Bekaa to plant and process the hemp seeds. The projects plans to develop and implement capacity building and hand-on-training for farmers, facilitate the establishment of a “hemp cooperative” in the cultivation area, and establish a linkage between the farmers and the private sector to sell the crops for oil pressing. “We would also like to promote a hemp quality certification,” Choueiter goes on to say. The project, which is slated for completion by December 2011, has chosen the cultivation of hemp for seeds production for the extraction of oil and hulled seeds for human consumption, and the cakes (extraction residues), which are rich in proteins and can be used

the concerned ministries – MOA, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Health – within the framework of the project to better proceed with its implementation and raise general awareness among police staff for instance.” Besides, the legal structure of hemp importation is not clearly defined by the concerned ministries, which causes significant delays in the importation procedure. For instance, imported certified hemp seeds from Canada and France were blocked at the customs for several months as they were considered as illegal. “There is a lack of detailed legislations and regulations related to Industrial Hemp, which should be worked on in more detail with the concerned ministries,” Choueiter stresses. as animal feed. “Hemp stalks left in the field are also interesting byproducts and can be mixed with olive cakes and compressed to obtain wood for heating. This option requires a small investment and can provide the local communities with tangible results in a short period of time,” Choueiter says. High road to happiness? But it has not been totally smooth ride for the implementing bodies, because it is conventionally believed that hemp will make people high. “A major hindering issue is lack of awareness among governmental institutions and local communities about Industrial Hemp and its importance as a substitution crop,” Choueiter points out. “We need to strengthen cooperation between

“Introducing a new crop as substitute to illicit crops is a long process,” Choueiter says. “It starts from undertaking cultivation trials and more important raising awareness not only among target communities and farmers

but also among consumers of the end-products.” Choueiter notes that further efforts have to be undertaken to enlarge the spectrum of targeted communities and work has to be focused on the establishment of related industries and long term market channels to ensure the sustainability of the project. Promoting hemp as an ecofriendly textile in Lebanon is currently not on the menu, says Choueiter. “The establishment of a fiber plant to produce hemp textile requires a big investment and would suffer from competitiveness with the Chinese textile market,” as China is the world’s largest producer of hemp. The 21st century is being touted as China’s century, so it is well worth drawing lessons from the economic powerhouse in that department.

Le projet du chanvre industriel (cannabis “chami” en Arabe) a été lancé en Octobre 2007 sous le financement du Ministère de l’Agriculture Libanais, le Gouvernement Brésilien et le PNUD. Le projet vise à introduire et promouvoir la culture du chanvre industriel dans la Béqaa comme alternative au cannabis indien, ou hashish, riche en tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), et ceci pour améliorer les conditions de vie des communautés rurales et protéger le sol cultivable contre la dégradation. Le chanvre industriel appartient à la famille des cannabinaceae et

ses variétés sont utilisées dans la production de graines et de fibres avec des taux très faibles, voire nuls, de la substance stupéfiante THC, contrairement au cannabis indien répandu dans la vallée de la Béqaa et qui contient plus de 15% de cette substance. Le chanvre industriel est riche en protéines et en oméga 3 et 6 et pourrait ainsi être utilisé dans la fabrication de suppléments nutritionnels. Il peut également être utilisé dans la fabrication de papiers, de textiles, de matières plastiques biodégradables, de matériaux d’isolation thermique, etc.

White Core 2011

‫تم إطالق مشروع‬ ‫ أو‬،‫الق ّنب الشامي‬ ،‫الق ّنب الصناعي‬ ‫في تشرين األول من‬ ‫ بتمويل من‬2007 ‫العام‬ ‫وزارة الزراعة اللبنانية‬ ‫والحكومة البرازيلية‬ ‫وبرنامج األمم المتحدة‬ ‫ يهدف‬.‫اإلنمائي‬ ‫المشروع إلى إدخال‬ ‫وتشجيع زراعة الق ّنب‬ ‫الشامي في منطقة‬ ‫البقاع كبديل للق ّنب‬ ،‫ أو الحشيش‬،‫الهندي‬ ‫الذي يحتوي على‬ ‫نسبة عالية من مادة‬ ‫التتراهيدروكانابينول‬ ‫ وذلك‬،THC ‫المخ ّدرة‬ ‫لتحسين الظروف‬ ‫المعيشية للمجتمعات‬ ‫الريفية هناك والح ّد من‬ .‫تدهور األراضي‬ ‫ينتمي الق ّنب الشامي‬ ‫إلى فصيلة الق ّنبيات‬ ‫وتصلح أصنافه إلنتاج‬ ‫البذور واأللياف مع نسب‬ ‫ أو حتى‬،ً‫منخفضة جدا‬ ‫ من مادة‬،‫منعدمة‬ ‫التتراهيدروكانابينول‬ ‫المخ ّدرة على عكس‬ ‫الق ّنب الهندي المنتشر‬ ‫حالي ًا في البقاع والذي‬ ‫يحتوي على نسبة تزيد‬ ‫ بالمئة من هذه‬15 ‫عن‬ .‫المادة‬ ‫يتم ّتع الق ّنب الشامي‬ ‫بنسبة عالية من‬ 6 ‫ و‬3 ‫البروتين واألوميغا‬ ‫لذا يمكن إستعماله‬ ‫في صناعة الملحقات‬ ‫ هذا ويمكن‬.‫الغذائية‬ ‫إستخدامه في صناعة‬ ‫الورق واألنسجة‬ ‫والبالستيك القابل‬ ّ ‫للتحلل بيولوجي ًا ومواد‬ ‫البناء العازلة للحرارة‬ ‫وغيرها‬.



Peak time – The Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project has the pie-in-the-sky goal of ensuring the protection of globally threatened and significant populations of soaring birds migrating along the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway.


n Lebanon, nobody has it easy – not even those who happen to sport a pair of wings. Soaring birds hovering over our skies are threatened by anthropogenic activities during their migration season. Migratory birds, such as raptors, storks, pelicans, and ibis, are exposed to certain stresses, making them susceptible to localized threats, especially when they fly low and slow, when roosting, feeding, and drinking. “Migrating birds are among the most remarkable components of global biodiversity,” according to BirdLife International (BLI). Their seasonal migrations, often many thousands of miles long, appeal to humans’ imagination and create a sense of mystery, the global organization says. Meanwhile, managing and protecting migratory bird populations is particularly challenging, given the vast range of habitats they occupy during the course of their seasonal cycle and the need to undertake work in very different ecological and political conditions in the breeding grounds, BLI adds.

There are four key sectors placing the migration of soaring birds during the migration season in the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway in jeopardy, according to Dr. Saleem Hamadeh, project manager, Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project. Launched in March, the project aims to ensure that globally threatened and significant populations of soaring birds that migrate along the flyway are properly conserved. Hunting, Hamadeh begins, is the number one threat to migratory birds in the country. “In Lebanon, where the hunting sport is part of the 50


national and social culture, the hunting law is not fully in practice. Hunters have no knowledge or respect to species, timing, season, protected or private areas, or safety of others. Half a million Lebanese citizens are hunting, and over 25 percent of them have the license and official permission to shoot birds,” he tells Beyond. “Therefore, hunting practices in Lebanon include shooting raptors and storks; they are easy targets due to their slow fly, large size, and daily passage in huge series.” Birds such as eagles and falcons are hunted despite protection by international laws, especially in the high Lebanese mountains, he adds. Birds are also affected by energy – mainly collision with the power lines that are passing over the Lebanese mountains, hills, and Lebanese valleys. “This collision will cause the death or the injury of migratory birds, and is considered to be one of the serious threats to the migration in the flyway,” Hamadeh explains. Agriculture, he continues, a bulk source of income for a large proportion of the population, has brought about the increased use of agro-chemicals such as pesticides. “As a result, mortality from pesticide poisoning though ingestion of prey or through contaminated water, while migration is taking place, is one of the major threats the birds are facing,” Hamadeh states. Moreover, waste management is increasingly hazardous to our feathered friends. “Huge amounts of waste that are exposed to open areas attract scavenging birds including raptors. Visiting birds can ingest toxic substances and frequently entangled in plastic, wires, or injured from metal

Ciconia Nigra


Red Kite Milvus

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Noethern Bala Ibis Geronticus Eremita

scrap or fire,” Hamadeh stresses. Large numbers of birds often die in open waste treatment facilities due to downing or entrapment in sludge because of the bad pond design, or get sick from drinking contaminated water. A bird’s eye view To remove the threats, it is necessary to engage these sectors in meaningful conservation action, with conservation and biodiversity integrated with, rather than distinct from, the rest of the economy, says BLI, the technical supervisor of the project. MBS aims to incorporate biodiversity priorities into the policies, strategies, legal frameworks, decisions, and actions of the full range of players in concerned sectors, it indicates on its Website. This project focuses on the eastern sector of the African-Eurasia Flyway – Rift Valley and Red Sea Flyways – which is possibly the most significant corridor for bird migration in the world, according to BLI. The project is making the flyway system (its communities, planning authorities, land-use systems) “soaring-bird friendly”, ensuring safe passage between breeding and non-breeding grounds. 52


“The project seeks to achieve its objectives by addressing the underlying causes of the threats that affect soaring bird’s diversity within the flyway – the ‘barriers’ to soaring bird conservation. Birds maybe in danger of being killed throughout the flyway and the project will therefore take a ‘flyway system’ approach,” BLI continues. Action will take the form of effective dialogue, awareness raising, stakeholder participation and incentives for sustainable management backed by a mix of measures underpinning the policy, legal, and legislative foundation for making the flyway safe for soaring migratory birds, it says. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), BLI’s partner in Lebanon, is directly involved in the project, which is implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The MOE is the project’s hosting agency, carried out in partnership with national NGOs and government agencies across the region. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the project is due for completion by December 2012.




Are we barking up the wrong tree? Words by suzanne baaklini Photographs by Alfred Moussa

White Core 2011


(c) alfred moussa

– The characteristic nature of Lebanon has fortunately promoted a rich plant and animal biodiversity. But there are a myriad of challenges endangering that. As the International Year of Biodiversity comes to an end, Beyond examines biodiversity and conservation in the country.


he United Nations has declared the year 2010 as the “International Year of Biodiversity”, speaking of “a celebration of life on Earth and of the value of biodiversity in our lives.” The world body invited the globe to take action to safeguard the variety of life on Earth. The message is clear and simple: Without biodiversity, life on Earth and the fate of humanity are at stake. The UN adds that 2010 is an occasion to rethink the impact of man’s activities on the ecosystems and assess the activities aiming at preserving biodiversity in every



country. All over the world, efforts were undertaken to enhance the following certainty: It is time to act! Nowhere on Earth would such actions be as significant as they would in Lebanon, where plant biodiversity is particularly rich given a list of climatic and topographic factors. Perhaps the most accurate figures at our disposal at present remain those provided by Father René Mouterde in his book on Lebanon’s biodiversity Melanges de l’Université Saint Joseph. Published some 50 years ago, the book records a total of 2600 plant species, 221 species of which are endemic to the region (Lebanon, Syria, and

Jordan), and 90 of which endemic to Lebanon alone. This biodiversity, however, is under strain due to population growth and increasing human induced activities, says Lara Semaha, who heads the Ecosystems Department in the Ministry of Environment. “Among the complaints we receive, a large number relates to the activity of coal makers, the illegal and massive felling of trees, road building in an inadequate manner, the dumping of rubble in the forests, and illegal hunting,” she explains. “Among the other more or less direct factors of pressure on biodiversity are

(c) alfred moussa

forest fires and the rampant and chaotic urbanization that leads to deforestation.” If, however, protecting the ecosystems and biodiversity is essentially an environmental matter, the means at the ministry’s disposal to confront the dangers threatening natural sites are rather modest. “Many efforts are being made to fight against forest fires and illegal felling of trees, but they are still insufficient,” Semaha points out. The problem is that actions meant for the protection of biodiversity often require prerogatives that are distributed

among several ministries. For example, it is up to the Ministry of Agriculture to issue permits for pruning in forests, so often ill-advisedly and illegally used for felling trees. When we receive complaints of this type, we have to not only contact the Ministry of Agriculture, but also the mohafez (governor) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).”

From a legal point of view, each classified reserve has required the adoption of a separate law, Semaha says. But this could change soon. A comprehensive framework draft bill on natural reserves is currently in the works in the ministry, she confirms. One of the main advantages of such a law would be the possibility to create reserves on privately owned land.

Natural reserves State efforts to preserve the country’s biodiversity have so far consisted of creating natural reserves. “The first natural reserves declared in Lebanon in the 90s were seven: Al Shouf Nature Reserve, Horsh Ehden, Palm Islands, Tannourine Cedars, Bentael Pine Reserve, Tyr, Coast and Yammouneh,” says Semaha. New draft bills were presented for the classification of two new sites, Chnanaïr in Kesrwan and Wadi Hojeir in the South. “Moreover, studies were conducted by the Ministry of Environment for another two sites of great importance: The plateau of Qammouha in Akkar and Jabal Rihane in the South. Both are awaiting government approval,” she adds.

As for the initiatives by civil society and academia in observation of the International Year of Biodiversity, we left those for the very end as they were regrettably few and far between. Worth a mention are the efforts of IBSAR (Nature Conservation Center for Sustainable Futures) in AUB, which marked the International Biodiversity Day on May 22. The center called on all students and faculty to submit projects on the theme of biodiversity within the framework of The International Biodiversity Day at AUB as part of the IBDAA project.

The natural reserves in Lebanon are genuine sanctuaries of biodiversity. According to cabinet studies quoted by Semaha, hundreds of plant, mammal, and bird species have been listed. In all, some 58 rare species, 63 endangered species, 127 considered important and 31 endemic species to the country, can be found in these sites. She laments, however, the fact that there is no recent record of endangered species, the last having been compiled in a 1996 study carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the Global Environmental Fund (GEF).

L’Organisation des Nations Unies a déclaré l’année 2010 comme “l’année international de la biodiversification”, avec pour thème “célébration de la vie sur terre et de la valeur de la biodiversification.” Selon L’ONU,” le monde doit prendre les actions nécessaires pour garantir la variété de la vie sur terre: La Biodiversification”. Au monde entier, des mouvements sont menés dans le but de renforcer ce fait: “C’est le temps d’agir!” Ces actions auront un effet incomparable au Liban grâce à son innombrable compte de facteurs climatiques et topographiques. Néanmoins, la biodiversification subit les tensions de la croissance de la population et de l’augmentation des activités humaines. Pourtant, les moyens de confrontation des dangers menaçants les sites naturels possibles

au cabinet sont très modestes. Les efforts de sauvetage de la République Libanaise consistait jusqu’à ce moment, à créer des réserves naturelles. “Les premières réserves naturelles déclarées au Liban aux années 90 étaient sept. De nouvelles lois de projet étaient présentées pour la classification de deux nouveaux sites, Chnanair à Keserwan et Wadi Hojeir au Sud du Liban. En outre, des recherches ont été conduites par le ministère de l’environnement sur deux sites supplémentaires. Il n’y a pas de taux récents sur les espèces en voie de disparition, les plus récents étant accumulés d’une étude conduite en 1996 par le Ministère de l’Agriculture, le programme des Nations Unies pour l’environnement (UNEP), et la caisse mondiale de l’environnement (GEF). White Core 2011

‫أعلنت األمم المتحدة‬ ‫ السنة‬2010 ‫عام‬ ‫الدولية للتنوع‬ ‫ واختارت‬،‫البيولوجي‬ ‫لها شعارا «االحتفال‬ ‫بالحياة على األرض‬ ‫وبقيمة التنوع‬ ‫ ووفقا‬.»‫البيولوجي‬ ،‫لالمم المتحدة‬ ‫يتعين على العالم‬ ‫اتخاذ اإلجراءات الالزمة‬ ‫لضمان تنوع الحياة‬ ‫ التنوع‬:‫على األرض‬ .‫البيولوجي‬ ،‫على خط متصل‬ ‫يتم تنظيم حركات‬ ‫في العالم كله‬ ‫من اجل تعزيز‬ ‫ «حان‬:‫هذا الواقع‬ »!‫الوقت للتحرك‬ ‫ومن شأن هذه‬ ‫اإلجراءات ان يكون‬ ‫لها ال مثيل له على‬ ‫لبنان وذلك نظرا‬ ‫للعوامل المناخية‬ ‫والطبوغرافية التي‬ ‫يتميز بها والتي ال تعد‬ .‫وال تحصى‬ ‫ يخضع‬،‫مع ذلك‬ ‫التنوع البيولوجي‬ ‫لتوترات كثيرة سببها‬ ‫االساسي النمو‬ ‫السكاني وزيادة‬ .‫النشاطات البشرية‬ ‫اما وسائل مواجهة‬ ‫هذه المخاطر التي‬ ‫تهدد المواقع‬ ‫الطبيعية فال تزال‬ .‫متواضعة جدا‬ ،‫وفي هذه االيام‬ ‫تكمن جهود االنقاذ‬ ‫التي تلجأ لها‬ ‫الجمهورية اللبنانية‬ ‫في خلق محميات‬ ‫طبيعية واالولى‬ ‫التي اُعلنت في‬ ‫التسعينات هي‬ ‫ هذا و ُقدمت‬.‫سبعة‬ ‫قوانين عدة لمشاريع‬ ‫جديدة خصصت اوال‬ ‫لتصنيف موقعين‬ ‫ شننعير في‬،‫جديدين‬ ‫كسروان ووادي حجير‬ ‫ باإلضافة‬.‫في الجنوب‬ ‫ أجرت وزارة‬،‫إلى ذلك‬ ‫البيئة بحوثا على‬ .‫موقعين اضافيين‬ ‫وال توجد نسب‬ ‫حديثة حول االنواع‬ ‫المهددة باالنقراض‬ ‫وآخر االحصاءات‬ ‫ترتكز على دراسة‬ ‫اجريت في العام‬ ‫ من قبل وزارة‬1996 ‫الزراعة وبرنامج األمم‬ ‫المتحدة للبيئة‬ ‫وصندوق البيئة‬ .‫الدولي‬




White Core 2011


(c) alfred moussa

Initiatives by civil society and academia in observation of the International Year of Biodiversity were few and far between.


Living to tell the tail – Beyond talks to marine biologist Wallace “J” Nichols who has been following turtles across different parts of the globe. Words by alice hlidkova Photographs courtesy of Wallace “J” Nichols


hen it comes to tracking sea turtles, marine biologist Wallace “J” Nichols is first to admit some societies do not care about the reptiles. “Their decline won’t change the lives of most people, but that does not mean we should kill a vital part of an ecological system,” Nichols says.

For two decades Nichols has tracked and studied green, loggerhead, hawksbill, olive ridley, and leatherback turtles along the coasts of California, Mexico, El Salvador, Indonesia, and other parts of the world. He campaigned with indigenous groups in Mexico and held educational seminars across U.S. college campuses. He guided graduate students through field research and reported to U.S. Congress on threats to sea turtles. His efforts, a direct result of the unencumbered extension of his childhood curiosity, were featured in documentaries, on television and radio. Long track Nichols developed deep attachment to turtles at a tender 60


age, when he tracked his first leatherback in Chesapeake Bay, ultimately leading him to pursue environmental studies. At a small liberal arts school in Indiana, Nichols took refuge in the university’s nature park. After completing a Masters of Environmental Management at Duke University and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology at the University of Arizona, he began tracking ocean wildlife. In 1994, he tracked a loggerhead from California to Japan with a transmitter bonded to her shell. For Nichols, Adelita’s 6,000-mile journey west proved successful and served as starting point for marine conservation dialogue. At conferences, Nichols discusses threats to sea turtles. He draws on illegal hunting of turtle for food and eggs. “Because turtles are slow-growing, late maturing animals, as demand surpasses local consumption, the turtles fail to produce, and the population begins to crash,” says Nichols. Shrimp trawls, gill nets and long lines, plastic pollution, oil spills, boat strikes and disease,

(c) Terri Garland

Nichols weighing turtle

(c) Mike Liles, El Salvador

Hawksbill satellite telemetry

For two decades, Nichols has tracked and studied turtles along the coasts of California, Mexico, El Salvador, Indonesia, and other parts of the world.

a by-catch (accidental catch) further reduce turtle population. Nichols understands the turtles as “flag species” – a symbol for responsible fishing, thoughtful coastal development, clean energy, biodegradable and reusable materials, ocean health, community activism and indigenous rights. In 1999, Nichols created Grupo Tortuguero in Baja, Mexico to engage local communities in protecting endangered sea turtles. Through supportive social networks, communities collaborated to safeguard local turtles. In 2000, only two non-governmental organizations and community groups existed; by 2010, there were 36. Grupo Tortuguero contributed to the emergence of philanthropic associations. A friend of Nichols, AJ Schneller, is documenting marine conservation issues in isolated communities in Baja, while researching the outcomes of sea turtle murals. “We are trying to show public art spaces can be reclaimed from commercial advertisers and used for the purposes of environmental education and outreach,” Schneller indicates. The group inspired Nichols to raise broader marine conservation awareness beyond Mexico. He founded Ocean Revolution to protect the marine wildlife in Mozambique.

His current project, LIVBLUE, addresses whales, turtles, plastic, oil spill, and neuroscience. The collaborative initiative engages businesses, universities, NGOs, and individuals to act on the protection of the Earth. Fostering change In Baja, Julios belongs to the Bahia Magdalena indigenous group. He had spent all his life hunting loggerheads for a living. He met Nichols in 1999 when he was working as poacher. Julios blamed culture and ignorance on poaching. “I never met someone so concerned with the protection of our natural resources,” comments Julios about Nichols. Julios inhabits an area where eating turtles remain a fabric of life. Survival of local and isolated communities is dependent on turtle meat, which costs $2/kilo. However, anyone aged 20 and younger knows that eating turtles is illegal, says Scheller. Fines are high and poaching is punished by jail. The risks are higher for turtles than lobster and shrimp. “It costs $5000 a week poaching shrimp,” remarks Scheller, “and you could make this in a week poaching turtles.” Former poachers like Julios and some local fishermen now work to help Grupo Tortuguero. In a

decade, turtles sold on black market reduced significantly. Local regulations have tightened; lawsuits persuaded the municipal government to curtail activity in the region. At nearby Seri (Comca’ac) indigenous group, Nichols organized many campaigns aimed at longterm conservation. There, the turtle conservationists are the only ones in the country with hunting permits. In two decades of collaboration in Mexico, tens of thousands of large turtles were saved and hundreds of thousands of hatchlings released. Solid barriers Despite the mounting support, Nichols admits to barriers. “Bureaucracy, inadequate funding, corrupt officials, our addiction to fossil fuels and plastics, remain a problem.” In Asian countries, sea turtle consumption is permitted and encouraged with little support in conservation and legislation. In the Middle East, the lack of enforcement on the part of governmental agencies and corruption in state agencies has slowed the conservation process. Global climate change, loss of nesting habitat and beaches, and rise in sea level, are a constant threat to the turtles. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has reported the global decline of loggerheads. “However, there has been tremendous attention around the world and people are beginning to see it,” says Nichols. At previous conferences, he met with journalists and academics inspired by his research. “Some people see me as incredibly narrowly focused, and some as a generalist,” he says. “But without adjusting culture and crime, politics and corruption, little can be achieved for the sea turtles.” White Core 2011


(c) nicolas pilchet


The slow dance – Beyond looks at how the region and Lebanon are taking care of their sea turtles. Words by alice hlidkova



ne might doubt the Gulf is a welcoming habitat for sea turtles. But extreme climate and rapid development did not slow their migration, nor did that stop local marine biologists from tracking their ecological footprint via satellite transmitters (PPTs).

“There, the turtles escaped palm and world developments,” said Dr. Nicolas Pilcher, founder and executive director of Marine Research Foundation and the project’s scientific adviser. For 22 years, Pilcher has tracked turtles in the Middle East and discovered the Gulf’s lower corner, northern UAE, which became an important Hawksbill habitat.

Created in 2001, the EWS-WWF Marine Turtle Conservation Project is a Gulf-wide venture, which tags five Hawksbills each from UAE, Oman, Qatar, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. For the first time, marine biologists successfully mapped females’ regional migration patterns after they had laid their eggs.

For Pilcher, more protection was needed at sea. With dredging and landfill projects creating new land structures, turtles cannot adapt to seabed dumping over shallow water habitats. “I’m not aware of a single dredging project in the region, which has required turtle mitigation measures,” said Pilcher.

Starting in Iran, three turtles headed to Qatar and two towards the UAE.

Lisa Perry, EWS-WWF Conservation and Education program director,


alluded to further regional decline of turtles through loss of habitat and incidental by-catch of fisheries. “Six of the seven species are endangered,” said Perry. Still, all 25 turtles survived, and parts of Iranian and western Abu Dhabi coasts remain safe for turtle migration. “I can’t comment on pollutants, as we are not there to check on them, but movement-wise all looks good,” said Pilcher, who remains optimistic with the upcoming year. “I am curious to see if the animals will change their habitats when waters start to cool, and to see if their feeding grounds adapt to the climate changes,” he stated. Meanwhile, the organization receives funding from its symbolic adoption packs, corporate and turtle sponsorships. “We are still seeking funding for the duration of the threeyear program,” Perry added.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the island known by locals as Nakheel Island, measures 200 hectares and lies six nautical miles from Tripoli. On the northeast end of the sandy beach, four females each produce 80 - 110 eggs, and leave them to hatch for 70 days. Every two years, at the age of 20, females return to nest while males remain at sea. “With coastline development, the turtles come here,” said ranger Issam Sidawi. A former fisherman, Sidawi has overseen visitation for 14 years. “There are some 150 - 300

visits daily and 1,200 on weekends,” remarked Sidawi. Though turtles are far from mainland sources of pollution – plastic and by-catch – visitors toss bottles and plastic bags on the beach, which the turtles consider as jellyfish. “People leave their trash; they don’t care,” said Sidawi’s aide, Barbar. “There are no signs.” Sidawi added, “Fishermen don’t care about turtles.” Palm Islands Nature Reserve Chair and Researcher, Ghassan Ramadan Jaradi elaborated: “It is early to attract the attention of visitors to the nests of turtles because they may return secretively to take the eggs that are considered by their local community as aphrodisiac.” According to Jaradi, the team is raising awareness among locals,

fishermen, and visitors. In 2007, they distributed leaflets on turtle conservation. Jaradi ensures the island’s protection under the Ministry of Environment Law 121/ 92, and through the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry of Defense grants assistance through its army, while the Environment Protection Committee (EPC) and Balamand University and Cimenterie Nationale all provide additional funding. With pressure from the Minister of Environment, the “the main task is on the shoulder of the reserve committee” from municipal and NGO volunteers to local ecologists. With loggerheads declining in Lebanon, the number of nests is increasing in the reserve, from three to 36. Meanwhile, Jaradi’s team keeps looking forward to upcoming hatchlings.

(c) palm island nature reserve


ack in Lebanon, the Palm Islands Nature Reserve makes a unique breeding ground for Lebanon’s loggerhead turtles.

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The rite track

– The annual migration of the wildebeest, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelle into Masai Mara Photographs by Michel Zoghzoghi



White Core 2011


(c) Michel Zoghzoghi

(c) Michel Zoghzoghi

flora and fauna


very year, hordes of wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, topi, and eland migrate into and occupy the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya from the Serengeti plains, Tanzania. Occurring from July to October, the migration is so immense it is called the Great Migration, and is arguably the most spectacular natural event in Africa. It involves some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 200,000 zebras, 97,000 topi, and 18,000 eland, which migrate north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture. They return to the south around October. These migrants are followed along their circular route by hungry predators such as lions and hyena. The Masai Mara is a large game reserve in southwest Kenya, which is a northern continuation from the Serengeti National Park game reserve. It is named after the traditional inhabitants of the area – the Maasai people. Originally established in 1948 as a wildlife sanctuary, the reserve covers some 1,510 square kilometers. It is the northernmost section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers some 25,000 square kilometers in Tanzania and Kenya. The wildebeest is the overriding inhabitant of the Masai Mara – there are no less than three million of these gigantic mammals on the reserve. Members of the “Big Five” – lion, leopard, African elephant, African buffalo, and black rhino– are also to be found on the reserve. There are also large populations of hyenas, cheetahs, giraffes, jackals, and bat-eared foxes, hippopotami, antelopes, and Nile crocodiles, as well as over 450 species of birds.



The black rhino and hoofed species are the most to bear the brunt of poaching or other human induced consequences. The black rhino population has dropped severely. Some estimates suggest there are less than 50 of them on the reserve. Meanwhile, a study funded by

the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) said that hoofed species exhibited major losses on the Masai Mara. Conducted between 1989 and 2003, the study pointed to a 95 percent reduction of giraffes, 80 percent of warthogs, 76 percent of hartebeest, and 67 percent of

impala populations. Increased human settlement in and around the reserve has been blamed for the losses. These stunning pictures where shot during the latest migration in the Masai Mara.

White Core 2011




White Core 2011


(c) Michel Zoghzoghi

Occuring from July to October, the Migration is so intense it is called the Great Migration.



White Core 2011


(c) Michel Zoghzoghi

(c) Michel Zoghzoghi

(c) Michel Zoghzoghi


Buzz off, nature tells the human race – If bees go down so would we according to ‘The Vanishing of the Bees’ Words by Richard Labaki Photographs by Alfred Moussa

(c) picasa



beekeeper and a scientist inspect a hive harboring 3,500 bees at 10a.m. Three hours later, they revisit the hive only to find it eerily silent and empty. This mysterious occurrence, which is currently afflicting bees all over the globe, is known as “Colony Collapse Disorder”, CCD. Left unsolved, this problem could have dire consequences on a major scale. Eighty percent of the fruits/nuts/veggies/ herbs we consume are pollinated by honeybees. Even cows, chicken, and other species depend on bees to pollinate their diet. Consequently, their disappearance could trigger the breakdown of our food supply – a shortage never before experienced by humanity! It is estimated that if bees totally vanish, humanity can parish in as little as four years!

‘The Vanishing of the Bees’ also delves into the agricultural practice of monoculture (the growing of a single crop over a wide area), which is hurtful to bees since they need biodiversity to flourish. Moreover, monoculture requires heavy interventions in the form of insecticides. And here is the major problem: Systematic insecticides seem to undermine the bees’ natural defenses and harm their brains. Consequently, impaired memory affects the bees’ navigational system, leaving them unable to find their way home. As soon as systematic insecticides belonging to the class of Neonicotinoids were introduced in 2003, CCD cases started to erupt. Still, countries such as the UK and the USA refuse to ban this class of insecticides.

This is a serious wakeup call; one that the documentary ‘The Vanishing of the Bees’ sheds light on from different angles and manages to get the viewer engaged in what is happening. And one cannot help but empathize with interviewed beekeepers like Dave Hackenberg, who was amongst the first to sound the alarm, as they explain their ordeal in dealing with the rapid demise of their business. The documentary also investigates several possible culprits behind the CCD phenomenon – from suspected parasites and viruses to cell phones and even Russian conspiracy theories. The exploitation of bees in order to sustain the commercial operation of producing honey and pollinating crops is also believed to play a role. Bees are fed a poor diet of sugar syrup instead of the raw nectar from flowers, which is rich in beneficial nutrients. Additionally, queens are

But it is not all doomsday scenarios, as decisive measures are being taken in many European countries to ban the use of systematic insecticides. French beekeepers retaliated against Bayer – the manufacturer of the product Gaucho – and won the case. Italy, Slovenia, and Germany all unite in their fight against the use of such insecticides. And while honeybees continue to vanish in many parts of the world, the documentary, which is directed by George Langworthy and Maryam Henein, offers a myriad of ways to counteract this multifaceted dilemma on several fronts. Yet we need to act fast as Mother Nature is drawing a potent weapon against us – maybe as a deterrence to cease our ongoing transgressions against it. After all, humanity only acts upon reaching the edge of the precipice.

‫ وقد أطلق‬،‫يختفي النحل اليوم في ظروف غامضة‬ ‫على هذه الظاهرة التي تطال أقفرة النحل في جميع‬ ‫ إذا بقيت هذه‬.»‫أنحاء العالم إسم «خلل إنهيار الثوالت‬ ‫المشكلة من دون حل قد يكون لها عواقب وخيمة على‬ ‫ إذ يقوم النحل بتلقيح أزهار حوالي ثمانين‬،‫نطاق واسع‬ ‫في المئة من الفواكه والحبوب والخضار واألعشاب‬ ‫ حتى األبقار والدواجن والحيوانات‬.‫التي نستهلكها‬ ‫األخرى تعتمد على النحل لتلقيح المأكوالت التي تدخل‬ ‫ بالتالي يمكن أن يؤدي إختفاء‬.‫في نظامها الغذائي‬ .‫هذه الحشرات إلى تدهور المخزون الغذائي للبشر‬ The Vanishing of the ‫يس ّلط فيلم وثائقي بعنوان‬ ‫ (أو إختفاء النحل) الضوء على هذه القضية من‬Bees .‫زوايا مختلفة وينجح بإشراك المشاهد في ما يجري‬



artificially inseminated – severely narrowing the gene pool. All such practices have lousy repercussions on the wellbeing of the bees.

Les abeilles sont en train de disparaître d’une façon mystérieuse. Cet événement, qui affecte actuellement les abeilles du monde entier, est baptisé « désordre d’effondrement de colonies ». Si ce problème n’est pas résolu le plus tôt possible il pourrait avoir des conséquences néfastes sur une grande échelle. Quatre-vingts pour cent des fruits, graines, légumes et herbes que nous consommons sont pollinisés par les abeilles. Même les vaches, les poulets et d’autres animaux dépendent des abeilles pour la pollinisation des constituants de leur régime alimentaire. Par conséquent, la disparition de ces insectes pourrait entraîner l’effondrement de notre approvisionnement alimentaire. Un documentaire intitulé «The Vanishing of the Bees » (ou La Disparition des Abeilles) examine ce phénomène sous des angles différents et parvient à engager le spectateur dans ce qui se passe.

(c) alfred moussa

(c) alfred moussa



(c) alfred moussa

White Core 2011


(c) omsar



Cleaning up the mess Source Ministry of environment

– A comprehensive national plan for solid waste management in Lebanon


uring Lebanon’s civil war, insufficient staff in most municipalities in Lebanon, particularly in the capital and other cities, in addition to the loss of equipment and machinery, the disruption of treatment plants and lack of access to dumps have led to a complete



hindrance of this vital sector’s operation, and eventually to cities and streets full of foul-smelling garbage which disturbed and drew the attention of residents and visitors. This situation was one of the priorities to be dealt with after the civil war was over, in view of the threat it posed to public health and safety.

After parliament passed the contingency plan for the advancement and reconstruction of Lebanon in 1991, the World Bank, which was commissioned to submit studies and assess the status of the waste sector, made a series of recommendations following a number of field studies. It said the administrative and executive body of municipalities, especially in Beirut, was unable at the time, to accommodate this amount

of urgent work due to the long years of war without the required rehabilitation. The World Bank suggested an action plan similar to those in practice in many other countries. The plan said the activities of the public sector should be entrusted to the private sector, especially cleaning and waste collection, both of which required quick decisions and continuous action. The body recommended issuing a tender among qualified international companies for the management of the damaged and paralyzed waste sector in Lebanon. Indeed, several international tenders were conducted between 1991 and 1994. They tackled the assignment of waste collection and transport activities as well as the rehabilitation of the Karantina garage, treatment plants, and incinerator in addition to the incinerator in Amrousieh. However, these measures were insufficient to manage this sector since they were not part of an integrated plan. The Normandy and Burj Hammoud dumps remained the main complication for this sector’s activities, next to other dumps in Sidon, Tripoli, and all over Lebanon, until the number of random dumps reached 200 – 27 of which are of paramount importance.

The cry out After several complaints from citizens living near the Burj Hammoud dump and the Amrousieh incinerator, in addition to pressure exerted by political parties and bodies, the cabinet decided to close the dump. However, this was always being deferred due to the absence of an alternative location to send the waste to. People were dissatisfied with the government’s incredibility due to these repeated delays. This prompted the cabinet to ask the then Ministry of Environment (MOE) to develop a contingency plan by which to close the dump, within a maximum period of six months. So the MOE proposed a comprehensive plan to properly deal with the waste in two phases – the first consisting of a contingency plan aimed at quickly finding an alternative to the Burj Hammoud dump, and the second would be complementary after the closure to ensure the functioning of the public facility according to sound environmental methods, and to be an example for other areas. The plan was mainly aimed at reducing the amount of waste that had to be disposed of. Organic matter had to be sorted then transformed into compost. All sorted material that could be reused was to be collected, and the remaining debris was to

be burnt in the Karantina and Amrousieh incinerators. All waste exceeding the capacity of these two incinerators was to be sent to the sanitary landfill, which was not yet available at the time. The cabinet approved this plan in January 1997, and it was adopted for implementation. It included the closing of the Burj Hammoud dump, and establishing facilities for sorting and treating some 1,700 tons of waste generated daily and buried in the Burj Hammoud dump. It also called for establishing sanitary landfills to receive the exhaust left over from the sorting and incineration activities in addition to construction debris and large-sized waste. Moreover, the plan called for finding sites and facilities capable of coping with the quantities of waste that needs to be treated, and finding the right contractor to equip and operate them. The contingency plan went into effect that year; the first phase was implemented, the two sanitary landfills located, and the capacity of the Karantina and Amrousieh plants increased to accommodate all the waste that was being sent to Burj Hammoud dump, which as per the plan, was closing in July 1997. Hitting a solid wall However, the second phase could not be completed due to many

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‫إقترحت وزارة البيئة في‬ ‫ خطة إجمالية‬1997 ‫عام‬ ‫لمعالجة النفايات بطريقة‬ :‫سليمة وعلى مرحلتين‬ ‫األولى تكون مخصصة‬ ‫ألعمال خطة طارئة تتناول‬ ‫بسرعة عملية البدائل عن‬ ‫ واألخرى‬،‫مكب برج حمود‬ ‫مكملة بعد فترة‬ ‫تكون‬ ّ ‫اإلغالق لتأمين سير العمل‬ ‫في المرفق العام على الطرق‬ ‫البيئية السليمة ولتكون‬ ‫قدوة لبقية المناطق على‬ ‫ وكانت‬.‫األراضي اللبنانية‬ ‫الخطة في جوهرها ترمي‬ ‫الى تخفيض كمية النفايات‬ ‫الواجب التخلص منها بفرز‬ ‫وتحويل المواد العضوية‬ ‫الى سماد وكذلك اإلستفادة‬ ‫من المواد المفروزة القابلة‬ ‫إلعادة اإلستعمال ومن‬ ‫ثم حرق العوادم المتبقية‬ ‫وحسب طاقة المحرقتين في‬ ‫ أما ما‬.‫العمروسية والكرنتينا‬ ‫يفيض عن قدرة المحارق فقد‬ ‫نصت الخطة الطارئة على‬ ّ ‫إرساله الى المطمر الصحي‬ ‫الذي لم يكن قد توفر في‬ .‫حينه‬ ‫وقد بدأ العمل بهذه الخطة‬ ‫ وتم تنفيذ‬1997 ‫في عام‬ ‫الشق المتعلق بالمرحلة‬ ‫األولى بالخطة الطارئة‬ ‫وإيجاد المطمرين الصحيين‬ ‫ورفع قدرة المعامل في‬ ‫الكرنتينا والعمروسية‬ ‫إلستيعاب كافة النفايات‬ ‫التي كانت ترسل الى مكب‬ ‫ وأقفل مكب برج‬.‫برج حمود‬ ‫حمود حسب الخطة في‬ ‫ أما المرحلة الثانية‬.1997 ‫للخطة والمكملة للمرحلة‬ ‫األولى والتي صممت‬ ‫كنموذج يحتذى به لسائر‬ ‫المناطق اللبنانية فلم‬ ‫يتسنى إنجازها وذلك بسبب‬ .‫عدة صعوبات وعوائق‬



Le ministère de l’environnement a proposé en 1997 un plan global pour traiter les déchets d’une façon saine suivant deux phases: la première se traduit en un plan d’urgence qui consiste à traiter rapidement les déchets de la décharge de Burj Hammoud. La seconde sera complémentaire après la période de fermeture pour assurer le fonctionnement du port publique selon les normes de l’environnement, et par la suite elle sera un exemple pour le reste des zones sur le territoire libanais. Le plan visait au fond à réduire la quantité de déchets qu’il faut éliminer en triant et transformant les matières organiques en fumier, ainsi que de profiter des matières triées réutilisables, puis brûler le reste des gaz et retirer l’énergie des deux incinérations à Amroussieh et la Quarantaine. Quant à l’excès des incinérations, le plan d’urgence exige de l’envoyer aux sites d’enfouissement, qui n’étaient pas disponibles à l’époque. Les travaux selon ce plan ont commencé en 1997 : l’exécution de la première phase, la création de 2 sites d’enfouissement, et le renforcement des capacités des usines de la quarantaine et Amroussieh pour pouvoir accueillir tous les déchets qu’on envoyait à la décharge de Burj Hammoud qui a été fermée selon le plan la même année. Quant à la deuxième phase du plan, celle qui complète la première et qui a été conçue comme un modèle pour les autres régions du Liban, elle n’a pas été réalisée et ce à cause de plusieurs difficultés et obstacles.


drawbacks. The contingency plan was designed to address 1,700 tons of domestic waste daily, which is the amount that was collected at the time with a reserve of 250 tons per day. The plan design took into consideration the distribution of these quantities on different operations such as sorting, incineration, composting, and burying based on the capacity of equipment and availability of space at operating locations. However, several factors changed the criteria related to the calculation of these quantities, which led to the modification of part of the plan, the confusion of another major part, and the disruption of several others, thus affecting the form and substance of the plan in terms of containment (sanitary burial), and in terms of the quantities that were increasing steadily. For instance, there was an unexpected increase in waste Your garbage, your problem Integrated solid waste management services are currently available in approximately 19 percent of Lebanon and cover about 60 percent of the total population (Figure one): 1 - Tripoli (disposing of waste in a monitored dump without any sorting or composting) 2 - Zahle (Sanitary landfill with sorting but without composting) 3 - Beirut and Mount Lebanon, with the exception of Byblos and some villages, where waste management company Sukleen serves 345 municipalities, corresponding to approximately 2.2 million people, with a rate of 2,500 tons per day. In the remaining areas (Figure two), random dumps prevail, leading the annual cost of environmental degradation resulting from poor management of solid waste to reach a minimum of $15 million (World Bank, 2002).


quantities due to the addition of new areas, reaching 2,400 tons in the first two years. Today, the amount sometimes reaches 3,000 tons per day, almost twice the amount originally indicated by the plan. Besides, the volume of composting operations was slashed from 1,000 to 300 tons per day, due to the unavailability of the space necessary to run the process in Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Incineration activities in the Amrousieh and Karantina incinerators were also ceased since their capacity was much lower than necessary. After incineration activities were stopped and composting volumes reduced, the surplus was sent to the Naameh landfill – consequently reducing its fullness capacity from ten to two years. Failure to find additional locations for treatment and alternative landfills to Naameh resulted in the exhaustion of processing activities at the Amrousieh and Karantina facilities. The national experience, with its advantages and disadvantages, has identified some conditions that must be taken into account when developing a new strategy for the management of domestic solid waste. Any process for the disposal of domestic solid waste in crowded cities must take into consideration the specificity of these cities, most importantly the scarcity of available land, which makes sanitary landfills and composting undesirable techniques since it is impossible to apply them in such places. Reducing the volume of waste through incineration is a process that has proven effective in most developed countries, especially if conducted in an environmentfriendly way. Composting and sanitary landfills, when the land and the appropriate dimensions are available remain perfect

environmental and economical choices suitable for the nature of the situation in most rural areas of Lebanon. Recommendations of the Ministerial Committee entrusted with drawing a proposal for the management of solid waste 1. Adopting thermal disintegration to convert waste into energy in major cities. 2. Adopting the 2006 plan in the rest of Lebanon, in addition to studying the possibility of adopting thermal disintegration there. 3. Involving the private sector and facilitating its tasks of managing solid waste on a turnkey basis (from collection all the way to final treatment) or through two different operations (collection or treatment). 4. Putting the MOE and the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) in charge of merging the two proposed plans to match what was agreed upon above. 5. Putting the Ministry of Energy and Water in charge of proposing a legislative text that guarantees the right of the private sector to produce and energy from waste. 6. Backing municipalities that will receive different waste management facilities such as thermal disintegration plants, deportation stations, composting plants, and landfills. 7. Placing CDR, in coordination with the MOE, in charge of signing a contract with an international consultant to: • Choose the best solution and the appropriate mechanism for the situation in Lebanon • Develop technical guidelines

for the primary classification of thermal disintegration companies • Assess and classify companies • Develop the technical guidelines of the final tender • Evaluate offers • Monitor implementation 8. Placing the MOE in charge of signing a contract with an international consultant to monitor the quality of the workflow in line with the spirit of the plan and the work progress. 9. Placing the MOE in charge of signing a contract with an international consultant to carry out an awareness and guidance campaign to allow for accepting thermal disintegration. 10. The government will be in charge of monitoring the implementation progress and securing all necessary funding for the process, while benefiting from the successful experiences of neighboring countries.

That’s rubbish Lebanon produces around 1.5 million tons of solid waste per year – 40 percent of which ends up in random dumps, 50 percent in landfills, and the remaining 10 percent is recycled. Although waste collection services have developed significantly over the past ten years and recycling has increased, the currently running projects were based on contingency plans designed to address urgent problems, and no comprehensive national plan for waste was developed and adopted. So burying the waste is still the main option in practice. This not only applies to the nonrecyclable and non-compostable leftovers, but also to most of the organic matter that is sent to landfills, even after fermentation, which is considered squandering. The main reason is the weak containment capacity and the absence of effective programs to sort the waste at the source. To this day, waste treatment programs have ignored the adoption of integrated management systems, starting by reducing the amount at the source in addition to reusing and recycling. They also ignored the adoption of treatment options compatible with the kinds of waste, the local situation, and the difficulty of finding suitable land for the creation of sanitary landfills.


White Core 2011



Solid facts about a slippery problem – Household solid waste is one of the costliest, most sensitive, and ramified environmental issues in Lebanon. When it comes to solving this problem, it is essential to leave politics aside.

Words by Bassam Kantar


e are all familiar with the dumps of Normandy, Sidon, and Burj Hammoud and the foul smells they emit as we stand amazed before the sheer size of these artificial mountains on the shores of the Mediterranean. Lebanon produces around 1.5 million tons of solid waste annually; 40 percent of which ends up in random dumps and 50 percent in landfills. Only 10 percent is recycled. In 1997, there were different views about the appropriate solutions to adopt to address the waste issue, and conflicting opinions and theories emerged – between those in favor of sanitary landfills and those backing incineration. The sector also witnessed a major push for sanitary land filling, particularly by the World Bank. Where does it all go? Comprehensive solid waste management services are currently available in about 19 percent of Lebanon, covering around 60 percent of the total population, reports suggest. In Tripoli, waste is disposed of in a monitored dump with



the absence of sorting and composting operations. In Zahleh, it is buried in a landfill, and sorting and composting operations are applied. As for Beirut and Mount Lebanon, excluding Byblos, the Sukumi and Sukleen companies service 345 municipalities; equivalent to about 2.2 million people and with an average of 2,500 tons of processed waste per day. In other areas, however, random dumps are predominant, making the annual cost of environmental degradation resulting from poor management of solid waste at least $15 million. There are about 200 of these random dumps, including 27 large and dangerous ones in: Sidon, Taalabaya, Habalin, Sarafand, Saadnayel, Hamat, Al Ghazieh, Kab Elias, Miziara, Ras el-Ayn, Al-Nabi Sheet, Ashash, Srifa, Jeb Jennine, Kfar Hibbou, Jab’a, Kayal, Jdeidet Bebnine, Kfar Tibnit, Al Hermel, Kosba, Tirbel, Al Jord, Al Fakeha, Sarar, Deir el-Ghazal el-Jord, Mzar Sannine, Fneidiq, and Al Qammoua. The last decade witnessed significant progress in addressing

this issue, especially with the ongoing implementation of a support program for municipalities in solid waste management by the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform, with funding from the European Union through a grant of 14.2 million Euros ($19.7 million). While the program covered several municipalities and unions in various regions in Lebanon, and its projects helped increase the overall recycling rate, they were neither developed nor interlinked in a comprehensive national plan. The option of burying waste in landfills or disposing of it in random dumps is still adopted, and this applies not only to nonrecyclable or non-fermentable residues, but also to most organic matter that is sent to landfills, even after fermentation, which is considered squandering and an additional cost to be paid by citizens. The main reason for this is the weak capacity of existing treatment plants and the absence of a formal conviction of the efficiency and feasibility of launching programs and plans to sort waste at the source. Waste treatment programs have so far disregarded the adoption of comprehensive management systems, starting by reducing the amount of waste at the source, reusing, and recycling, as well as adopting treatment

(c) Cherine Yazbeck

J. weighing turtle(c) Terri Garland


options that match both the quality of the waste and the difficulty of finding land for the establishment of sanitary landfills. Not on my turf! In fact, the difficulty of finding this land is not only linked to its unavailability, in terms of environmental impact, but to the refusal of municipalities to host landfills on their territory. But this refusal is surely justified, after the discouraging experience of the Naameh landfill. Municipalities surrounding the landfill (Naameh - Abey – Ayn Drafil - Baawerta - Aramoun) never received a dime of compensation for the landfilling activities they undertook in their territory. Compensation for this kind of work was approved by the cabinet years ago and is reiterated in all its decisions related to solid waste management. Therefore, the Ministry of Interior is required to immediately pay the compensations it owes to the municipalities surrounding the Naameh landfill. The due amounts should be calculated with a retroactive effect starting 1997, date of establishment of the landfill, based on the decisions taken by the cabinets in June 2006 and April 2010, and in concordance with Article XI of Decree No. 1917 /79, which states that: “Each municipality located in the vicinity of a sanitary landfill or a treatment plant for waste arriving from other municipalities is to benefit from an increase of its share of the revenues paid by the independent municipal fund.” This is according to the following: The equivalent of $6 in Lebanese pounds for every ton 90


of waste arriving at the sanitary landfill from other municipalities; the equivalent of $4 in Lebanese pounds for every ton of waste arriving at the treatment plant from other municipalities. Moreover, Resolution No. 55 issued on 01 / 09 / 2010, called for the preparation of a draft decree guaranteeing the right of each municipality located in the vicinity of a sanitary landfill or treatment plant to receive compensation. However, nothing has been done so far in this regard. Today, and after the Naameh landfill has reached a brimful, talk of an alternative plan to address the waste problem has reemerged. The cabinet assigned a ministerial committee to examine the issue and conduct a related study, and the Minister of Environment, Mohammad Rahal, issued a priority note on the subject and made visits to the Netherlands and China to examine modern techniques in waste treatment. The study the ministry presented to the cabinet concluded that the concept of sanitary landfills in major cities should be replaced with thermal disintegration plants. The amendment proposed by the Ministry of Environment bashed the old plan adopted by the cabinet in 2006, which was based on the adoption of sanitary landfilling and has not been implemented it to this day. While many environmental authorities have reservations about thermal disintegration and any kind of waste disposal by incineration, the MOE in its report stresses that complete thermal disintegration eases the

sorting process, diminishes the space required for landfilling, produces electricity, and prevents the formation of non-drainable fluid waste. As for the risk of air pollution, the report states that “it’s almost inexistent given the use of modern techniques.” Thermal disintegration and taxing The ministry believes that the adoption of thermal disintegration will reduce expenses through a long-term contract over 20 years, as long as the cost does not exceed $55 per ton, and the government buys the produced energy for no more than $0.11 per kilowatt/ hour. The Ministry of Energy and Water will be assigned to draft a legislative text guaranteeing the private sector’s right to produce energy by means of

thermal disintegration and sell it. This will encourage companies to present their offers for investment in this field. The remaining costs, especially the cost of establishing disintegration plants (incinerators), are still being studied, and Rahal is set to present the cabinet with a proposal to include a direct tax on waste in the 2011 Public Budget, payable through the electricity bill. This approach is already applicable in Alexandria, Egypt based on a waste tax equivalent to the capacity of electricity consumption. For example, if a house uses a 5-amp switch, it pays $1 per month. For a 10-amp switch, it pays $1.5, and for a 15-amp $2.5 and so on, all the way up to factories and hotels whose tax may reach $70 per month. This tax could bring in around $9.6

million per month, which could help pay for a major part of the required cost. The remaining part can be paid by municipalities, as is the case today. In fact, the ministry’s pledge to reduce the cost to this level is without doubt welcome news for the Lebanese, especially if we consider that the current cost of waste treatment reaches $130 per ton. In its most recent meetings, the cabinet discussed the cost of treating and managing wastes through heated debates. And since politics play a major role in this technical and sensitive matter, clearly there is lack of transparency with regards to the value of the contracts signed with private companies handling solid waste management operations in

Beirut and Mount Lebanon. The Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit the contracts related to sweeping, collecting, treating, and burying waste in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, and supervising all expenses from 19 / 07 / 2010 until 19 / 07 / 2011 for a $164,900 contract. The move came over 10 years after beginning to apply the contracts of the contingency plan established to deal with solid waste, raising many eyebrows. Worth mentioning that the national campaign for waste management launched in 2006 by 100 civil associations demanded a full investigation about the money spent on these contracts, and the referral of the entire file to the Attorney General of Finance.

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trashy stories – recycling

Getting dumped with dignity Artwork by Rena Karanouh

If someone tells you of the Recycle, Reuse, Reduce (3Rs) one more time, you will probably get Really mad. You know that by now and you know what is to be done about it. Your heart is in the right place but you might not have or know the right place to dispose of your garbage. Recycling is really easier than what we make of it. It is like sorting your whites from your colored laundry. Think of wastes as organic and nonorganic. The first being household food waste, agricultural waste, and human and animal waste, and the latter is garbage that cannot be composted. Examples include plastic, glass, metal, rubber, or paper. All it takes is sorting your non-organic wastes such as plastic, glass, metal, or paper and placing them in the respective recycling container where available across the nation. And the recycling company takes it from there.

trashy stories – recycling

It’s no free throw! Photographs courtesy of OMSAR

– Large scale campaign as part of a nation-wide waste management project encourages citizens to think before they toss their garbage.


on’t “just drop the whole thing”, “think it over a bit”. This is what a wide scale waste management and recycling campaign is currently attempting to tell the nation. “Think before you throw” is the title of the campaign carried out by consultants Sustainable Environmental Solutions (SES) and arcenciel organization, urging the Lebanese to reconsider their waste dumping habits and to recycle. The euro 141,000 ($193,553) campaign is “one of the largest awareness efforts being done in waste management in Lebanon,” says Farouk Merhebi, solid waste management expert, Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR). SES and arcenciel have produced a documentary that explains the mind-boggling 94


waste predicament in Lebanon, while underscoring what is to be done to start redeeming the situation. SES started working on the campaign material late last year, which includes the documentary DVD, a song by activist Paul Abi Rached, waste management manuals, leaflets, posters, pens, hats, and T-shirts. It was officially launched on July 13, and SES is operating on the field now, Merhebi remarks. The campaign is in fact part of a massive underway project on solid waste management. The program began with a euro 14.2 million ($19.3) grant from the European Union to help municipalities manage solid wastes, by equipping them with machinery and gear, building waste treatment plants, operating and maintaining the plants, or conducting awareness campaigns,” Merhebi explains.

projects were Seventeen retained for financing based on the municipalities’ needs as part of the program, which was launched end of 2005. “It was sort of a competition. The municipalities submitted their needs and we evaluated their applications and ended up choosing 17 out of around 57,” Merhebi adds. The projects are distributed all over the Lebanese territories, including the north, south, Bekaa, and Byblos, with each project differing from the next based on the gaps of each municipality. “For instance, [the southern village of] Abassiyeh asked for a medical waste treatment facility, while others asked for sorting and composting. Others requested the awareness campaign,” Merhebi continues. Projects also vary in scale. “There are projects that can serve the entire village. Others are more large-scale, such as the Tyr waste treatment facility, which is one of Lebanon’s largest. It can treat 150 tons of wastes and can meet the needs of 62 villages.” The program also gives the municipalities a startup cost to operate the plants.

J. weighing turtle(c) Terri Garland

“We have additionally allocated some money from the Public Budget for the municipalities to secure the operation and maintenance of plants for three years,” Merhebi says. Each area benefiting from the awareness campaign enjoys “public workshops for citizens” to pave the ground to sorting. There is also two-day “training for staff working in solid waste in plants” in municipalities, in addition to “training of trainers” to help those in charge to proceed in their own villages after the campaign expires. The program concentrates on areas where Sukleen, the largest waste management company in Lebanon, which operates within Greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon, does not go. The objective is reaching a stage where the municipality can operate the plant independently, Merhebi notes. The awareness campaign is multi-targeted, according to the waste expert. “It aims to promote the plants we’re setting up, to train people working in solid waste how to sort wastes, and to teach the public to sort wastes, basically separating organics from non-organics.

This is to encourage them to sort at source,” Merhebi says. When sorting at source is done properly in municipalities and in households, the operation of the sorting and composting facility will be easier, because it will receive cleaner material. “We don’t want to go overboard. We just want people to separate organics [food wastes] from nonorganics that can be recycled. When these two things are separated, they are then taken to the waste treatment plant and the process will be much easier and less time consuming for plant staff.” To test people’s willingness to sort their wastes, OMSAR and the concerned parties conducted a survey. “We were surprised to find out that between 67 to 70 percent of those asked were interested in sorting but just needed the available mechanism. Unfortunately, there is no legislation in this regard and municipalities cannot support the public much in this regard so they need external aid. That is where we come in, and through other donors, we can help them provide the basis for this to happen,” Merhebi says. And the campaign is causing a rippling positive effect. “In [the

southern village of] Khiam, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) got interested and decided to supply the town with 4,000 recycling bins, which were distributed to households,” he says. Merhebi referred to the whole program, which ends around 2013, as “a successful model”. “This project by itself achieved something on the ground. We’ve been talking for years about a solid waste management plan. At least now there are 17 projects with around 11 facilities, 60 percent of which being major ones that can serve large towns. I think this is a successful model. At least there are facilities now, so we don’t have to start from zero to reach the target,” he says, adding, “Statistically these projects are solving 17 percent of solid waste management problem in Lebanon.” Four TV spots will run soon on local stations promoting the campaign. And although it ends in March, training material available can now be used as a model later. Meanwhile, the ministry is working on a Website for anybody interested in viewing that material. White Core 2011


trashy stories – recycling

RecycLebanon picks up the pieces

Words by Phillipa Mishlawi


ecycling is not new to Joey Debs, a dynamic 23-year-old business graduate. His family has long been involved in the field. When word got around he was entertaining thoughts about promoting recycling with his friends, he was bombarded with enthusiastic initiatives from individuals willing to start recycling in their offices, homes, and at schools. Debs said: “Statistics have shown that nine out of ten people would recycle if it were made easy.”

So with a group of young, e n v i ro n m e n t a l l y - c o n s c i o u s and passionate individuals who want to promote the healthy practice among the community, Debs started RecycLebanon – a fledgling non-profit project. The only drawback Debs said was “individual initiatives seldom last for over three months, either because the enthusiasm wears off or because of logistical setbacks and challenges.” These are mainly due to the transportation of the collected material to the recycling company’s premises. Recycling companies are willing to send their trucks, but only if the quantity to be collected is approximately one metric ton and no individual has the storage capacity to retain this quantity of reusable items. The group concluded that they had 96


to think on a mass scale. “So we decided to form RecycLebanon in order to combine individual ideas and efforts into a practical and working system of recycling. RecycLebanon will work with anyone who is interested in recycling. We will provide them with the resources and necessary know-how to successfully take part in this campaign.” Debs continued: “Our strategy is to tackle each individual case, and come up with working solutions to problems that people face when attempting to recycle. Moreover, we accept paper, plastics, and aluminum.” This is coupled with the group’s altruistic motive. “We promise to work in the most efficient and costeffective way and all the proceeds from selling our collected material will go to charity,” Debs said. One ton of paper, he said, is worth $30, while a ton of plastics costs $150, and a ton of aluminum nets $300. “We plan to recoup whatever small operational costs we have by generous donations. If recycling is implemented properly the costs should be minimal. It is an economically sound concept that is

capable of self-funding on the long run.” The project started in early 2010 leading off with two schools and one university operating a successful recycling operation. This small success has spurred the group onto expanding the concept to other university campuses and offices. “So much is wasted in restaurants, hospitals and schools and we are itching to reeducate them,” Debs remarked. On making people aware to get them more involved, he said: “We are now working on our Website, as well as a marketing portfolio that will comprise of educational wall posters, recycling bin posters, and visual presentations, which can be seen in the different locations where we are recycling.” In addition to making recycling easy by providing all the necessary resources, RecycLebanon wants to make recycling information accessible by creating a network that fuels a valuable recycling database. It also aims to educate the youth of today to understand the impact their actions have on our planet.

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Horizons ground

(c) Getty images


How do I dump thee? Kamikatsu counts the ways – What if you are faced with a scheme that prompts you to process, recycle, or reuse every single bit of trash you produce at home? This is exactly what’s been going on in the small town of Kamikatsu, on Japan’s Shikoku Island. Words by Amer El-Haddad Photographs by Getty Images

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zero waste

Kamikatsu will entirely eliminate its reliance on incintrations and landfills by 2020.


n September 2003, the town caught the world’s attention when it announced it was adopting Japan’s first Zero Waste Declaration with the goal of becoming a world leader in sustainable waste management. According to the declaration, Kamikatsu will have entirely eliminated its reliance on incinerators and landfills by 2020 to become the country’s first zero waste community.

The town was therefore forced to change its garbage management procedures by strict regulations that stipulated, as a start, shutting down all incinerators. Kamikatsu’s 2,000 inhabitants have since been part of a unique ecological experiment. The town had reached a point where it was no longer able to burn its garbage, said Sonoe Fujii of the Zero Waste Academy – established in 2005 to manage the zero-waste program and promote education on sustainable waste management practices through knowledge sharing initiatives. The waste, which was formerly hauled to rice fields and incinerators to be burned, now faces one of several fates. Organic waste, on the one hand, is treated in home composters available in almost every household. Noncompostable waste, on the 100


other, is either given away at a local store for further use by other residents, or taken to the village’s zero waste center where it is meticulously separated into 34 different categories to be recycled. Where does it go?

Food waste is processed in small home-composting systems. The resulting compost is then used in gardens, horticulture, or agriculture. With the help of government subsidies, 98 percent of households have been equipped

to process their own organic waste, eliminating the need for an industrial composting plant. Items that can be directly reused are sent to the Kuru Kuru recycling store where villagers give and take things such as clothing, kitchenware, etc… free of charge. Other kitchen items, like chopsticks, are directly sold to recycling companies at a profit for the local government and then transformed into useful products such as paper or fertilizer. Any waste that is not composted

(c) Getty images

or forwarded for reuse is taken to the village’s zero waste center to be separated into 34 categories. Glass bottles, for example, must be sorted by color and without their caps. Plastic bottles must be sorted according to their original content; for instance, soy sauce and cooking oil bottles must be kept separate from bottles that contained mineral water and green tea. What’s more, all bottles, cans, and even plastic food wrappers must be washed. Magazines and newspapers are piled into bundles. At a later stage,

all trash that has been sorted is sent away for recycling. Anything in good condition is sent back to the free store for reuse by others. Some items, however, cannot be processed as such and can only be discarded, mostly due to lack of funding and other technical difficulties. Broken glass, ceramics and light bulbs are buried in landfills, while batteries are shipped hundreds of miles to a recycling plant. This surely got some critics talking, pointing out loopholes that undermine the

system’s efficiency. The idea of turning the town into an ecological experiment in waste management was initially met with some opposition. However, recent polls show that 60 percent of residents are happy with the system and optimistic about achieving their goal of zero waste by 2020. With the help of the Zero Waste Academy, Kamikatsu is expected to continue as a leader in sustainable waste management, setting an example for other communities in Japan and the world.


Degrade or die Words by Richard LabakI

– ‘Reverte’ alters the nature of plastic to preserve nature


he equation is simple: Paying a small fraction to become environmentally friendly yields tremendous results when it comes to your business. On the one hand, clients and potential customers appreciate the move and this generates interest and builds loyalty to your services/ products. And on the other, you contribute to a cleaner and greener environment. “It’s a complete winwin scenario,” asserts Rudy Jaafar, partner, Positive Plastics.

An avid supporter of renewable energy/eco-friendly solutions and whose diet embraces vegetarianism for environmental purposes, Jaafar joined forces with Imad Atalla to establish Positive Plastics almost a year ago. The aim was to import tried and tested solutions from the West to empower the green movement in our region. “Although plastic is a great material – one that is cheap, impervious to 102


moisture, flexible, strong, printable and very durable – it takes forever to degrade,” he explains. And this, as we all know, has dire consequences on nature and wildlife. And so Positive Plastics partnered with the British company that produces ‘Reverte’ – a third generation oxo-biodegradable agent that renders plastic environmental friendly without compromising the qualities that make plastic so popular. “One does not have to change existing machinery or anything of that sort – it is just a simple additive,” says Jaafar. “We certify and train manufacturers on how to use this technology. We supply them with the material and constantly make sure everyone is doing what needs to be done.” ‘Reverte’ could be utilized in the making of any plastic material to be used and later discarded such as bags and even plastic bottles. However, PET bottles with added

‘Reverte’ need more time to degrade when compared to bags with this additive. Products could be stored for a good period of two years – or longer depending on conditions – before degradation begins. And once exposed to elements such as light, heat, and mechanical stresses, the process of breaking down is initiated, which could take around two years to complete. ‘Reverte’ is safe to use as it is FDA and EU certified. Positive Plastics is currently focusing on Lebanon with plans to expand across the Levant. Jaafar seems optimistic about Middle Eastern countries embracing eco-friendly approaches; the UAE, for example, is pushing for laws necessitating the usage of oxo-biodegradable additives in plastic products. And a survey his company recently conducted revealed that the majority of the Lebanese prefer environmentally-friendly products. Such a revelation should be more than enough to entice companies to go green.


The ugly truth – A question invariably asked by those who follow closely on the explosive issue of quarries is why is it so difficult, if not totally impossible, to regulate this sector and to close the quarries operating illegally? The answer is simple: Money, money, money… Words by Suzanne Baaklini Artwork by Rena Karanouh



erhaps no other environmental issue stirs as much passion, even violence, as much as the quarries – the owners of which often resist any application of the law and are particularly influential. The enormous financial interests can, however, explain this phenomenon. In fact, prior to 2002, nothing compelled quarry owners to pay any taxes to the state or invest in the rehabilitation of the site. They unfortunately applied the Arabic proverb “To turn sand into gold” to the letter. In 2002, decree number 8803 was issued. It stipulated, for the first time, the following regulative measures to the quarry industry: The presence of an engineer on site, the involvement of the municipality in granting the permit, the obligatory rehabilitation of the site when work is over and the payment of specific taxes to the state. These taxes were clarified in the Ministry of Finance’s decision number 1109, prepared in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment. The sums required depend on the size and the type of exploitation and consist primarily of two types of payments: One a sum calculated based on the area of the exploited land paid to the municipality, the other a sum calculated based on cubic meters of extracted materials paid directly to the Ministry of Finance.


available to Beyond prepared by a quarry owner operating legally shows a yearly income of $95,000, $20,000 of which is paid for the land, and a little more than $15,000 in taxes. Even if the declared profits are less than the actual ones, the numbers are still very significant. They would be much higher, of course, in the case of illegal quarries where no taxes are paid. In fact, have the measures stipulated by this decree been applied since 2002? Nothing is less sure. According to a well informed source, these measures are enforced in a general manner, yet “a lot of illegal activities are always happening on the ground.” The same source adds, “The quarry owners have several strategies to escape full payment of the taxes. For example, they work on a piece of land that is different from the one they declared in their application for the permit, usually a larger one. This is very difficult to verify by the Internal Security Forces (ISF) officers, unless they are accomplices.” This does not even include the quarries that are still functioning illegally. It is fair to say, judging from recent scandals such as the quarry discovered in Ras el Harf (Metn), that the situation has not fared much better since 2002, not even since the recent decisions of the Ministries of Environment and Interior to close down the illegal quarries, which led to the closure of a good number of them.

The second tax was in fact fixed at 1,000 Lebanese pounds per cubic meter. This might seem inadequate with regard to the enormous ecological damage caused and the health risks sustained by the people living in the vicinity of the quarries. Another fixed tax of 2.5 million pounds was imposed per quarry. Add to that a bank guarantee between 4,500 and 9,000 pounds per extracted cubic meter of material for rehabilitation purposes.

How much, therefore, has this chaos cost us during all these years, when no adequate permit was even required? A report written for the Lebanese Environmental Party (LEP) by its president, journalist Habib Maalouf, specifies that since the 90s, “the state revenues did not exceed 140 million Lebanese pounds per year (less than $100,000), for a sector in which hundreds of millions of dollars are invested”!

Show me the money You have probably been wondering how much profit a quarry operator generates. A document made

Who, then, is behind these quarries, who profits from them and who “protects” them? “The quarries sector is political par excellence,” states Mahmoud


Ahmadieh, president of the environmental NGO Nature Without Border’s. “No other sector makes money as fast, and the cycle of corruption protecting it includes some politicians, some members of the administration and the owners themselves,” he adds. “Be they individuals or groups, such as some political parties, they make millions of dollars. My solution is to have the quarries concentrated exclusively on public land, have the rehabilitation of sites imposed by force, have a master plan elaborated as soon as possible and, why not, open the way for the importation of gravel,” Ahmadieh goes on to say.

Pourquoi est-il si difficile de réglementer le secteur des carrières et de fermer celles qui fonctionnent sans permis ? La réponse est simple, c’est l’argent. Les taxes à payer par les propriétaires de carrières sont définies dans le décret 8803 adopté en 2002. Même si les sommes exigées pourraient paraître assez modestes étant donné les bénéfices exorbitants générés par cette activité, les exploitants continuent d’inventer toutes sortes de stratagèmes pour éviter de s’acquitter de leurs dus à l’Etat, selon une source bien informée. Quant aux carrières illégales, celle qu’on fait fonctionner sans permis ou avec un permis non-adapté (construction de route par exemple), elles représentent une perte sèche pour l’Etat comme pour le contribuable et l’environnement. Alors qui sont ces bénéficiaires jouissant d’une telle impunité ? Un écologiste dénonce un cycle de corruption englobant des hommes politiques, des membres de l’administration et les exploitants eux-mêmes. ‫لماذا من الصعب جدا تنظيم قطاع المقالع‬ ‫والكسارات وإغالق تلك التي تعمل من دون ترخيص؟‬ ‫ والرسوم التي يتوجب على‬.‫ المال‬:‫الجواب بسيط‬ 8803 ‫أصحاب الكسارات دفعها محددة في المرسوم‬ ‫ وحتى لو ان المبالغ‬.2002 ‫المعتمد في العام‬ ‫المطلوب دفعها قد تبدو متواضعة بالنظر إلى األرباح‬ ‫ يستمر مشغ ّلو‬،‫الباهظة التي يدر ّها هذا العمل‬ ‫ في ابتكار كل أنواع‬،‫الكسارات وفق مصدر مطلع جدا‬ ‫ أما‬.‫الحيل للتهرب من دفع مستحقاتهم للدولة‬ ‫ تلك التي تعمل من‬،‫بالنسبة للمقالع غير القانونية‬ ‫دون ترخيص أو مع تصريح غير معتمد (لبناء الطرقات‬ .‫ فإنها تمثل خسارة للدولة والمساهم والبيئة‬،)‫مثال‬ ‫ من هم هؤالء المستفيدون من هكذا عمل‬،‫اذا‬ ‫ويفلتون من العقاب؟ خبير في شؤون البيئة يفصح‬ ،‫عن ان هناك حلقة فساد متورط فيها سياسيون‬ .‫ومسؤولون واصحاب المقالع أنفسهم‬


Piecing back the past Words by nader el-nakib

– Giving the Msayelha quarry a complete, muchneeded facelift


he first reaction is an obvious one – they are very ugly. Anyone familiar with the Lebanese landscape cannot miss the quarries gnawing at the valleys, gorges, and mountains. In a small and spectacularly beautiful country like Lebanon, these large gaping eyesores are a detriment. They are a threat to people, archaeology and the environment, and a waste of precious land. 108


Inhabitants living near these quarries will testify to the dust, noise, and fume induced by machinery. Quarries can cause landslides that endanger the lives of people living in surrounding areas. In the Land of the Cedar, many historical sites have been destroyed as a result of quarry activity, including Roman ruins and a cave where a prehistoric human skeleton was found. It goes without saying that quarries are

very damaging to the environment. They disrupt the hydrology of nearby areas by cutting into water tables and cause erosion that silts up streams and rivers. The Msayelha area was once known for its historic castle surrounded by lush forests, the Jaouze River, apricot orchards and a picturesque old Arab bridge beckoning travelers to cross. Sadly, illegal quarry activity has changed all of that. Visitors to the castle now see it surrounded by scarred mountainsides.

What can be done? Quarries are extremely difficult to reclaim, but that is precisely the challenge G, Lebanese green consulting and carbon offsetting firm, is undertaking by beautifying the Msayelha quarry under the patronage of Minister of Environment Mohammad Rahal. Launched with a press conference under the auspices of Rahal and in the presence of presidents of different municipalities of Batroun, this is the first time that anyone will be doing quarry work in Lebanon. How will it be done? The G team of engineers studied the Msayelha site, considering different scenarios to find the best possible solution

given the financial constraints. Rejected ideas included building a six-meter high support wall, planting trees at the bottom, or using regular metal, plastic, or leaf mesh. The area covered will be the two sections situated behind the Msayelha castle with a total area of some 10,000 square meters and maximum height of 80 square meters. During the first month of the project, which is already underway, sixty meters high cranes will be used to fix hangers on the topsides of the quarry. Then, eight climbers will spend about a month and a half coating the quarry with galvanized wired mesh. Once that is complete, soil

will be added to the bottom of the quarry. In order to completely fill the bottom, approximately 250 bags of soil will be required, each bag covering two to three meters. Once the soil is in place, foremen will oversee the planting of 700 plants and vines that will grow and climb covering the mesh in two and half year period. G will be responsible for watering the plants for the first month and half. After that, the municipality will take over the irrigation. A G landscape architect and agricultural engineer will supervise the health of the plants during the course of the first year. White Core 2011






s c r atchi n g the s u r f ace

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(c) Clement Tannouri

What a flake! – Will snow show its white pride this year or will it be ‘run and hide’ again? Photographs by Michel el-Esta, Rayya Haddad, Clement Tannouri, Michel Zoghzoghi

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(C) Michel Zoghzoghi

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(C) Rayya Haddad


ans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Snow Queen tells of a queen who ruled over the snowflakes, travelling throughout the world with the snow. Known as the queen with the frozen heart, she was greatly feared wherever she went. Her first kiss was numbing, and her second would cause partial or total amnesia. Her



third time? Well, not so charming – it kills you. In a word, the Snow Queen was a curse. But in our book, if the Snow Queen continues not rear her head, this is the real evil spell. Like many other parts of the world, Lebanon has been bearing the brunt of climate change. Our summer months are stretching like badly-

produced soap operas and winter temperatures continue to get even warmer. While that may be good news for people who enjoy sun-kissed skin year round, the ecosystems are not jumping in joy. Lack of snow affects wildlife migration patterns as well as the entire food chain. And this problem has a snowballing effect on our agriculture and of course winter tourism, which has been dealt a

severe blow over the years. So the question on everybody’s mind is once again “Will it snow this year”? We hope the Snow Queen decides to make an appearance in the land of the cedar this season. Rumor has it she is tangled in a messy fist fight with Khione, the Greek goddess of snow, and each is wrestling her way here. Ladies do you too have to fight over us?

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(C) Rayya Haddad



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Lack of snow affects wildlife migration patterns as well as the entire food chain.



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(c) Clement Tannouri



(C) Michel el-Esta

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The agriculture sector and the winter tourism have been dealt a severe blow over the years by the lack of snow.



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(c) Clement Tannouri




White peaks parading their nakedness In the glare of the sun, shamelessly Jealous dark clouds move forth In a haze, covering their beauty Snow, remnants of a stormy night Climax of a torrid affair Indecent proof of nature’s vulnerability Unsoiled love, pure and white Solitude frozen in my eyes With weariness, I gaze away Into the waves breaking At the depth of the horizon Mountain and sea accompany me One betraying the other Luring my thoughts into the imaginary Capturing my soul, forcing my reality.

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Are we iceberg cold-blooded fools? Words by Wael hmaidan Artwork by Rena Karanouh

– The world will convene again in Cancun to cobble up a new climate change deal. But should we get our hopes up? Wael Hmaidan, executive director, The League of Independent Activists (IndyACT), gives the talks the once over.


lmost a year since the Copenhagen climate summit, governments are still trying to negotiate a new global agreement to fight climate change. In December, world leaders will meet again in Cancun, Mexico, to try to complete what they fell short of doing in Copenhagen. Well, we don’t mean to burst your bubble but analysts say that they will fail once again. During the year, we have seen a number of events

unfold related to climate change. This includes the unprecedented floods in Pakistan and across Asia that affected tens of millions of people, not forgetting the horrifying fires in Russia that caused a global rise in the prices of wheat, and the colossal oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps the most striking events of 2010, all these are somehow linked to climate change. But these consequences are only the beginning. Scientists project that the most conservative estimates show that this planet, (which now sustains six billion individuals, and in 2050 population growth projections predict that we would be nine billion), will only be able to provide enough resources for two billion individuals in the future. So who will stay and who will go?



China and India alone house close to two billion people. So when competition for food and water starts, one can only imagine what these countries and all other major powers would do, especially with all those atomic bombs to play with. Not a very beautiful sight. Nevertheless, things do not look all that grim. Yes… progress in the international climate negotiations are moving at a snail pace, but this is expected knowing that the task will reshape the whole human economy and society. What is all the more interesting to note is that although interest in climate change was expected to subside after Copenhagen, it actually has not. Many governments are starting to take serious action against climate change. Involvement in the United Nations negotiations has increased, and even public interest in the issue has proven to be strong. During the global day of action against climate change in October, more than 7,500 events occurred around the world, marking the biggest day of public mobilization in the history of the planet – even bigger than what Copenhagenmania has achieved. We can still save the planet, and this generation holds the responsibility of defining what we are all about. Are we the virus of this planet, or are we the species that deserves to lead?

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Let’s take it outside – Lebanon’s rugged environment and green beauty makes the country perfectly suited for ecotourism. Beyond gives you a rundown of eco-friendly destinations that are worth their salt. Words and Photographs by Cherine yazbeck


cotourism, or responsible travel to natural areas, is one way to preserve the environment and improve the life of locals by maintaining traditions. It also supports the local economy through education or action even though some private facilities are run regardless of the surrounding communities. Promoting the equitable use of natural wealth is a viable and appropriate endeavor to preserve a country’s main asset – its natural resources. Despite its many burdens, Lebanon is paying keener attention to sustainable development to satisfy a growing niche market that could lead to socioeconomic growth of mountain villages. Lebanon is high on the list of popular regional destinations for nature and adventure travelers, given its wide selection of natural reserves and sites with features that range from mountains to wetlands.

White Core 2011



Green tourism in the country is sometimes encouraged by the municipality or the local authorities but it remains for the most part a privately-owned business mainly motivated by personal interest. Ecotourism operators usually run with a small administrative base, significantly contributing to long term development of the ecotourism industry on a national level. Ecotourism also requires the full involvement of 132


travelers who must leave no trace of their visit and support local economies through the purchase of traditional items that are not detrimental to the environment, thus helping the population support itself while maintaining a strong tradition. Buying souvenirs in small scale local-owned shops ensures that the profits remain in the community. Examples of the ethical practice in the small nation include the reputed Taanayel eco-lodge,

remote region of Hermel. In the same region lies a whole community of eco-lovers. El Jord is a unique site that highlights the consequences of each traveler’s footprint – a core value not to destroy the natural setting while discovering it. Lebanon’s flora and fauna is remarkably diverse for its size, though many indigenous species are right now in jeopardy. This is one of the reasons that led Karim and Fatina Khatib to build a sustainable camping complex in the Shouf. Eco-village is a community concept whereby green travelers live green experience committed to the protection of the environment that is even reflected on their plates by enjoying vegetarian-only meals, while yoga courses calm guests’ minds and spirits. Meanwhile, Camping Douma is an authentic camping in the wild. It promotes camping with only basic amenities – a true natural experience. Lebanon Mountain Trail, on the other hand, is a leading actor in ecotourism related activities. The NGO has benefitted from USAID funding that helped draw a 440 kilometer-long hiking trail, from Qobeiyat in the north to Marjayoun in the south.

an arcenciel accommodation site located in the Bekaa Valley. While the Eco-lodge, run by Bou Madiem in the alluring Hermel desert north of the country, provides beds and meals to clients after a long day’s hike. The entire village of Kwaikh is dedicated to ecotourism with tours that include cooking workshops as well as picking edible wild endemic plants, a genuine treasure in this

Take a hike As ecotourism encompasses hiking, many private companies provide a full outfitted backpacking experience in a small group setting, led by naturalists providing the opportunity for an educational experience. They teach and practice “Leave No Trace” hiking and camping. Along these lines, one cannot overlook Thermique Esprit d’Aventure, a safe extreme sports club run by thrill-seeker and eco-addict Raja Saadé. Liban Trek also often organizes trips with knowledgeable green guides. Anybody in the mood for a wild adventure also has the option of going to the stunning wetland reserve of Aamiq, in the Bekaa. In addition, Reserve Afqa, in Mnaitra, Kesrouan, organizes summer camps with outdoor eco-orientated White Core 2011

‫ سياحة‬،‫السياحة البيئية‬ ‫مسؤولة تحترم البيئة‬ ‫وتحرص على دعم السكان‬ ‫المحليين اقتصاديا‬ ‫لبنان بلد صغير يحوي‬ ‫ مع‬.‫موارد طبيعية غنية‬ ‫ أصبحت‬،‫مرور السنين‬ ‫التنمية المستدامة فيه‬ ‫مسألة حيوية من شأنها‬ ‫الحفاظ على هذا الكنز‬ .‫الفريد في المنطقة‬ ‫السياحة البيئية هي في‬ ‫كثير من األحيان شكل من‬ ،‫اشكال الوعي الفردي‬ ‫اما المجتمع المدني‬ ‫فيتولى من جهته قيادة‬ .‫السياحة المسؤولة‬ ‫جمعيات وشركات خاصة‬ ‫عديدة انضمت لتقديم‬ ‫الدعم في هذا المجال‬ ‫فقامت بتهيئة مساحات‬ ‫ ووحدات سكنية‬،‫خضراء‬ ‫ باالضافة‬،‫إيكولوجية‬ ‫الى مراكز تسوق تتمتع‬ ‫بشروط تهوئة وتناسب‬ ‫ كما‬،‫طبيعة األطفال‬ ‫تقوم بتنظيم رحالت في‬ ‫ وحتى‬،‫ ونزهات‬،‫الطبيعة‬ ‫لقاءات لجمع النباتات‬ ‫ هذا‬،‫البرية الصالحة لألكل‬ ‫المشروع الذي اُطلق في‬ .‫قرية كويخ في الهرمل‬ ‫هدف هذه الجمعيات‬ ‫والمنظمات هو تعزيز‬ ‫السياحة المستدامة بحيث‬ ‫يصبح الكل قادرا على‬ ‫زيارة االماكن السياحية‬ ‫مع الحرص على عدم‬ .‫تركه اي اثر في الطبيعة‬ ‫ويتميز لبنان بثروة حيوانية‬ ‫ونباتية ال تقدر بثمن وال‬ ‫ وهذا ما يكتشفه‬.‫تعوض‬ ‫كل من يشارك في رحالت‬

Lebanon Mountain

‫ للمشي مسافات‬Trail ‫ والتي تربط شمال‬،‫طويلة‬ .‫البالد بجنوبها عبر الجبال‬ ‫ يتضمن‬،‫من ناحية اخرى‬ ‫التراث الوطني العديد‬ ‫من المحميات الطبيعية‬ ‫منها محمية شاطئ صور‬ .‫ومحمية بنتاعل الطبيعية‬



L’écotourisme est un tourisme responsable respectueuse de l’environnement et soucieux de soutenir économiquement les populations locales. Le Liban est un petit pays aux riches ressources naturelles. Au fil des ans, le développement durable est devenu un enjeu vital pour sauvegarder cette richesse unique dans la région. L’écotourisme est souvent une prise de conscience privée et la société civile tient les rênes du tourisme responsable. De nombreuses associations et sociétés privées se sont mobilisées pour proposer des parcours ‘verts’, des logements écologiques, des centres aérées d’initiation à la nature pour enfants, du trekking, de la randonnée et même une cueillette de plantes comestibles sauvages initiée par tout un village du Hermel, Kwaikh. L’objectif de ces associations et autres structures est de promouvoir un tourisme durable où chacun visite sans laisser de trace de son passage. La faune et la flore libanaise sont extrêmement denses et composent une richesse irrécupérable. C’est cette précieuse découverte que propose le Lebanon Mountain Trail, un sentier qui relie le nord au sud par la montagne. Par ailleurs, de nombreuses réserves naturelles sont inscrites au patrimoine national comme c’est le cas par exemple de la Réserve côtière de Tyr ou encore de la Réserve Naturelle de Bentael.


activities such as rappelling and climbing. It has also initiated green days for schools in the area. Dhiafee program lists alternative accommodation options such as bed and breakfast in private homes helping locals to stay in their own villages. Against this backdrop, Lebanon urgently needs an eco-certification program addressing the need to identify genuine ecotourism and nature tourism operators in the country through labeling. This involves a strong involvement of the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Tourism in most ecotourism activities. So far, only natural reserves


are strictly registered and protected areas, and these are: Palm Islands Nature Reserve, Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve, Tyr Coast Nature Reserve, Yammouneh Nature Reserve, Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, Bentael Nature Reserve, Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve, and Karm Chbat Nature Reserve. With the growing interest in the field, Lebanon has a lot to gain from developing eco-routes that will eventually help maintain its rich natural resources and keep local population in their own villages and towns.

registered eco destinations Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve Karm Chbat Nature Reserve Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve

Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve

Yammouneh Nature Reserve Bentael Nature Reserve

Tyr Coast Nature Reserve

White Core 2011


(c) Vamos todos


Walking the walk

Words by Kristen Hope Burchill



he ecotourism sector is booming in Lebanon and competition is rife between tour operators to keep their activities fresh. Their task: To infuse their outings with an innovative and creative edge; and one operator is rising to the challenge. Vamos Todos was created by a group of outdoor activity enthusiasts in the wake of the July 2006 war. The club has offered since then a wide


range of activities on a weekly basis without fail. Specializing in hiking, Vamos Todos, which means “Let’s go all together�, also offers caving, rappelling, zip-line, mountain climbing, diving, biking, rafting, and snow-shoeing. The focus, though, is not merely on the physical pursuit of outdoors activities. Mark Aoun, president, Vamos Todos, explains how the club is committed to raising awareness about all the various aspects of visiting rural Lebanon.

(c) Vamos todos

“We try to promote the idea that in Lebanon there is a lot to discover,” says Aoun, emphasizing the “special angle” of each of their hikes. This could mean visiting local ruins or archaeological sites, lunching with a local family, partaking in the activities of a local non-governmental organization, or purchasing area-specific delicacies from a small scale producer. During its excursions, the Vamos Todos team dwells on the importance of keeping their environment clean. A day out with Vamos Todos is not, therefore, merely a walk in the woods. Aoun and his team take care to promote the culture and financial wellbeing of the local population by involving them in the touristic process, including using local guides. They also support local communities by organizing special events like cherry picking with villagers in Arsal or apple picking in Akkoura. Moreover, Vamos Todos times its hikes according to the seasons, choosing a particular area when the rivers and waterfalls are in full flow or while the most beautiful wildflowers are in bloom. For Aoun, it is important to recognize the diversity in Lebanese nature. Therefore, their hikes cover the entire country – not just the tops of mountains along the Lebanon Mountain Trail but also the coasts, the south, and the Bekaa Valley. “Lebanon is very important in ecotourism. Every day, you could do a totally different hike,” says Aoun. In addition to weekly hikes, the group organizes monthly events, including weekend overnight trips

where participants stay and eat with local people. They also run a “bosok” night, which revolves around the traditional Lebanese musical instrument of the same name and is geared towards raising awareness about Lebanon’s cultural heritage. Spread your wings The activities of Vamos Todos are not limited to Lebanon. It also organizes trips to ecotouristic locations around the region, including Syria and Jordan, and it has recently set its sights further. In November, it took 35 members to an elephant reserve in Sri Lanka. Apart from being a stunning destination for ecotourism, Sri Lanka was Aoun’s choice as the first country to visit in the Far East for a more social cause. “Our idea is to change our view towards the Sri Lankan people in Lebanon,” explains Aoun, referring to the tens of thousands of those who come to Lebanon as domestic workers and sometimes suffer discrimination. “By showing that these people are from a very beautiful country, we will indirectly respect them more.” Four years since beginning its work, over 8,250 people have participated in Vamos Todos activities, many of whom experienced ecotourism for the first time. Aoun is proud of this, as he believes that highlighting ecotourism in Lebanon is key to promoting understanding and respect in the country: “The better you know Lebanon, the more you will feel love for it, the more you will want to preserve it, and the more you will forget the things that divide people.” White Core 2011



The Walkabout Drum Circle play for a crowd of over 100 people

Lost in trance-lation – “In a Nutshell” goes back to nature with eclectic music, organic food, and a bonfire

Words by Sarah Lynch


group of Lebanese took nightlife out of Gemmayzeh’s pubs and instead spent a night partying under the stars, proving that nature is fun and fabulous. “In a Nutshell” was held in October in the oak forests of Ramlieh, where over 100 people gathered for an evening of food, fire, and funk. “I’ve always believed that food is a huge element in creating a feeling of togetherness,” said event organizer Firas Abi Ghanem. “With this event, we decided to add music to that concept.” The evening was held at a campsite in Ramlieh, between Aley and the Shouf. “We wanted to get people out of Beirut and get them together in a place where there’s clean air, good food, and good music,” Abi Ghanem said. One idea behind the event was to raise awareness about a variety of elements, ranging from nature to new types of music to organic food. After quests trickled in by car or buses that left from Beirut’s Zico House, the night began with dinner around 9p.m. A local organic farmer provided the vegetables used in the meal’s eight dishes, while his wife spent two days preparing the food with the help of several assistants. The buffet included chicken and rice, hreesah, lentils with fried onions, a spread



of salads, and hommos. The most popular dish was oven baked pumpkin kibbeh with walnuts and pomegranate syrup cooked inside. Lebanese sweets and aish seraya were served for dessert. DJ May played a mix of Afro beats, Brazilian and world music to start the night. Then the Walkout Drum Circle, playing Afro-Cuban beats, took the forest floor around 1a.m. at the height of the excitement. People danced and drank around a campfire, while Palestinian hip-hop artist TNT blew fire—an act he does as part of his repertoire. “There were people of all different nationalities, from all different backgrounds there,” Abi Ganem added. “It was such a positive feeling.” As people moved to the thumps of rumbling drums, organic farmer Masoud brought in a crate of locally grown apples. The party died down around 5a.m. Most people crawled into tents to catch sleep before sunrise, while several others gathered around the fire to hear the soothing sound of Jade Balaben’s mouth harp. They brewed and drank tea as the sun came up. Saj was served for breakfast. The event was the first of its kind held by Sangam Productions. “We’re talking about having four big events like this every year, one for each season,” Abi Ghanem said.

eco travel

Your car needs you –Human waste now powers our ride


ou have always thought of your car as an indispensible part of your life, but the next time you sit behind the wheel, start thinking of yourself as an integral part of your car’s being … for the most unlikely reason. That is if you are driving the retrofitted Volkswagen Beetle! This bug’s engine runs mostly on methane bio-gas produced from human waste. British engineering company GENeco has introduced the Bio-Bug, which instead of overreliance on fossil fuels or rare metals for cars batteries like many hybrid cars do, runs on methane gas. And it says people will not feel the difference. The new car starts using regular unleaded gasoline, but then runs on methane gas. It can run on both conventional fuel and methane fuel as it has two tanks,

mainly running on methane. If the methane tank runs out, the car will switch over to the conventional fuel tank, GENeco says. The Bio-Bug is the first methane-powered vehicle to be released in the UK, and operates without reduced performance. GENeco claims “70 homes flushing for a year can power one Bio-Bug for 10,000 miles,” which is the average annual mileage for a UK motorist. The scientific name for this process is anaerobic digestion, by which biodegradable material like human waste is broken down into methane gas. Many sustainable energy projects are relying on this process, which is encouraged in countries that produce a great deal of wastes. Now there is a whole new meaning for “going down the toilet”. So start flushing for your car’s sake!

White Core 2011


green nations

Dancing to the drums of Cuba’s green revolution – Understanding Cuba’s environmental experiment requires objectively linking its political and economic systems to its status quo, especially in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union. Words and Photographs by bassam kantar



(c) Bassam Kantar

White Core 2011



uba has been reeling from a 48year embargo imposed on it by their irreconcilable neighbor, the United States. The 110,861 square-kilometer communist island has an estimated population of 11.4 million. All these factors intrigue observers as to the country’s ability to economically confront the U.S., which lies just 145 km away, and withstand the raging storms and natural disasters that seem to have domesticated the coasts of this beautiful island. On the other hand and in light of the economic developments witnessed by the world during the last twenty years, Cuba seems as if it has been living in total seclusion. If we move away from ideological formulas and their denominations, we can say that mono-economy is today an anachronistic issue. Let’s not take into consideration the countries of Eastern Europe, which chose “shock therapy”, and whose model may not be compatible with Cuban traditions and leader Fidel Castro’s legacy. Instead let’s consider China and Vietnam, which offer two successful models of the gradual shift away from mono-economy – an economy which considers the government sector as the only sector for economy. The capitalism of the monopolistic state in China 142


and Vietnam has given a strong dynamism to the economic transformations in these two countries. Economists agree that now is the perfect time for Cuba to shift towards a market-oriented economy without feeling embarrassed. Today, most nations around the world are living a market-oriented economy, including the U.S. where the government sector is running many of the formerly private companies after they declared bankruptcy, such as General Motors. Experts argue that Cuba is currently in a somehow comfortable position after its economy resumed growth in the backdrop of losing all its economic partners with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. In 2008, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) witnessed a growth rate of about four percent. Cuba’s current President, Raul Castro, is planning to cancel half a million government jobs, out of four million, by March. In late September, local media said the authorities will allow the use of the convertible (dollarequivalent) Cuban peso for paying the rent of some houses, a first in fifty years. They will also allow citizens to open small businesses, as well as rent out their cars. The great escape United Nations experts say that Cuba, despite its poor economic status, has succeeded in adapting to environmental variables, especially in terms

(c) Bassam Kantar

of reducing the number of deaths from natural disasters. Despite the ferocity of the hurricanes that hit the island annually, due to more extreme weather conditions, and the resulting implications such as the spread of disease and malnutrition, Cuba always manages to escape the consequences that other countries are unable to avoid. Cuba enjoys a remarkable preparedness to cope with climatic extremes, thanks to improved systems for predicting hurricanes and heat waves. According to studies conducted by the UN, climate change is expected to lead to more drought, wildfires, heat waves, floods, landslides, and rising sea levels – all are dangers that pose threats to the world’s population, which is expected to increase to nine billion by 2050 from the current six billion. The consequences of natural disasters are usually the worst in terms of increased mortality. According to Achim Steiner, executive director, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), responding to such disasters in the short term is mainly about being prepared to counter diseases. He points to Cuba’s success in reducing deaths caused by storms during the last decades. Cuba is highly experienced and professional in the fields of forest management, nature reserves, and

ecotourism as well as spreading environmental awareness and education. One of the leading examples in environmental awareness is when the Cuban authorities succeeded in 2007, the “Energy Year”, to change all light bulbs, refrigeration devices, and home air conditioning equipment within a period of just one month, as part of a government deal with China, which provided new equipment at cost price. Cuba is paying for this equipment with money savings resulting from the reduced energy production, all part of a five-year plan ending in 2012. The big political enmity between the U.S. and Cuba did not keep the latter from pursuing joint coordination between them to protect the environment. In early September, a team of American environmental scientists and activists met with Cuban officials to discuss the formation of a coalition to protect the dwindling shark population in the Gulf of Mexico, in collaboration with the Mexican state. The meetings were the result of improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba, and a shared conviction that joint efforts between the three countries overlooking the Gulf are the only way to save the sharks – a species said to have seen a 50-percent decline of some of its types. Scientists mainly link this decrease to excessive fishing to meet the growing demand for shark fin soup in China, a country witnessing rising standards of living. White Core 2011



Head in the clouds – We’ve been told that reducing air travel is better for the environment. Recent research suggests it is really not that “plane and simple”.

Sources lift and airbus Artwork by Rena Karanouh


e keep hearing that reducing our carbon footprint is essential for our environment. We quickly associate airborne travel with our carbon footprint although it is essentially the sum of all emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, induced by our activities in a given timeframe.

Aviation has been pinned down as the culprit for most carbon emissions. But research shows that over the past 40 years, the industry has reduced fuel burn and emissions by 70 percent and noise by 75 percent, and that today it contributes two percent of global manmade CO2 emissions. Other studies went further. A recent report from Oxford Economics raised questions about whether reducing air travel would indeed be for the betterment of the environment. It also revealed the extent to which the world’s economic progress and future prosperity depend on a growing aviation industry. Some of the report’s key findings were that lower growth in aviation does not necessarily imply lower emissions when the impact of replacement activities and transport are taken into account. Moreover, air transport directly employs over 5.5 million people and generates $425 billion gross domestic product (GDP). By just including air transport’s contribution to tourism, these figures increase to over 33 million jobs and $1.5 trillion of GDP, it adds. By 2026, the report continues, the industry is estimated to support 50 million jobs and $3.6 trillion GDP. According to reports published in a National Geographic custom publication called Lift, the aviation industry is “key to lifting people out of poverty, and lifting economies, societies, and species towards a sustainable future.” It added that the industry is also committed to improving its environmental performance further by “continuing to invest heavily in research, technology, and air traffic management solutions.” Accordingly, aerospace innovations have been making the world greener, from composite materials used in wind turbines to technologies that improve fuel efficiency, Lift says. 144


Changing course Now that we are rethinking travel, let us mull a green approach to individual travel, which is important to protect the places we visit, not just for ourselves but for those who will visit them after us. So before setting off on an outback, here are a few things you may want to consider: Accommodate this Staying in an eco-friendly setting not only minimizes the negative impacts on the environment, but it also won’t break the bank. If the weather helps, why not seek camping options? Otherwise, try hostels; they are cheap and have an “at home” feeling. If you have no luck with the above, browse the Internet for green hotels, B&B’s, and/or lodges. A few questions you might want to ask before booking: What kind of recycling programs does the place have? What energy saving programs does the place have with regards to lighting, air conditioning, water heating, etc...? How does the institution contribute to the local community? Once there Try to economize on water and energy as much as possible, based on this equation: Long baths = bad, Fast showers = good. And when you leave the room, turn off the air conditioning, heating, television, lights, and any other electric devices. Familiarize yourself with your host’s recycling program so as to join in. Public transportation is your best bet for getting around, as taking a cab or renting a car means more CO2 emissions. When you’re off sightseeing, make sure to be a responsible tourist. Always follow the instructions available at sites and most importantly: Don’t litter! Buying locallymanufactured products is what you should look for when you work up an appetite or want to buy a souvenir – this would encourage the local industry. You should also steer clear from fast food chains – eating at local restaurants gives you a taste of the local cuisine and brings you closer to the culture there, which is really the whole point of your excursion.

White Core 2011



I’ll take it organic, not stirred – The production of organic alcohol adds a punch to a growing ethical industry. Words by Aline sara Photographs by Alfred Moussa


rom Central Asian vodka, to French champagne, passing through the vineyards of the Metn and Bekaa, alcohol is the latest to have joined on the organic frenzy in Lebanon. Lebanon’s wine market is steadily emerging, and so is people’s awareness of risks from the country’s pesticide-infested produce. As such, it is no surprise local wine producers are equally taking their own set of precautions when farming their grapes. Chateau Musar, a frontrunner in Lebanese viticulture since 1930 which has created a legend out of local grapes, has been leading the charge in the organic department. “All our wine making techniques are natural and since 2006, we have had organic viticulture from Istituto Mediterraneo di Certificazione (IMC),” explains Serge Hochar, chairman, Chateau Musar. adding that they were the first Lebanese winemaker to obtain this label. “For our white wines, we are the only ones to use Lebanese indigenous grapes,” he stresses, noting “more public awareness about organic wines.” According to Gaston Hochar, general manager, Chateau Musar, understanding the meaning of organic wine presupposes a basic knowledge of the product’s fabrication. The two-fold procedure begins with the vineyards. In order to be certified, says Gaston Hochar, the grapes must be farmed organically, free of any antibiotics, fertilizers, food additives or pesticides. The second part of the fabrication takes place in the winery and consists in the fermentation and preservation of the drink. Only when 146


(c) Alfred Moussa

organic reactions

Serge Hochar chairman, Chateau Musar

both the vineyards and the wineries are deemed organic by the IMC, the Italian body responsible for monitoring products in Lebanon, can they boast the official IMC organic approved label. “Otherwise it is not serious,” points out Serge Hochar. “At Musar, our vineyards have been declared organic by the IMC,” says Gaston Hochar, “and though the IMC was ready to approve our wineries, we preferred not going through the process for several other reasons.” “Wine,” he says, “is a result of fermentation and 99 percent of international producers add wine yeast and other artificial substances to their produce.” Gaston Hochar continues, “But our wine is produced naturally and chemical free, with very minimal use of sulfur,” which is frequently used to prolong the drink’s life and prevent it from turning acidic. Veni, vidi, vici Given that wine’s value is typically evaluated according to its age, preservation techniques are at the very heart of the organic related debate. In fact, many frequently confuse organic wine with wine that is strictly made with organic grapes, which does not necessarily mean the vinification is too. Though several wineries are in the process of acquiring their certification here, it is monks who have been flaunting the IMC label – approximately 15 of them from eight of the country’s monasteries. With grapes harvested from the hills of the Metn, to the valleys of the Shouf, passing through the area of Batroun and Byblos, the flavors unite under the name Adyar—which literally means monasteries in Arabic. In addition to their grapes, Adyar’s wineries have been sanctified organic. “We used to sell in the monasteries’ shops, but have now moved on to organic and health stores,” explains oenologist Frederic Cacchia, who supervises Adyar’s produce. “We also have our own shop in Sodeco.” Although limited to a current production of 60,000 cross adorned bottles, Cacchia says they hope to double that number in the coming few years. They are also joining the international market, currently exporting to Australia, and soon to Belgium and Germany.



That’s the spirit Besides catering to wine lovers, those who like their liquor a bit more hard can also find their niche of organic flavored spirits. Khazakhstani Snow Queen Vodka hit the Lebanese market last summer with Ashrafieh’s A New Earth organic and eco living store launching the award-winning drink. Winner of the Top Vodka at the prestigious 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, it undergoes a five-time distillation process using organic wheat and confound ground spring water. Although still timidly popular, the vodka, which has been hailed for its smoothness, is peaking people’s interest. The bottle is selling. However, as Sabine Kassouf, co-owner, A New Earth, explains, “Our shoppers are usually very health oriented and conscious. They come for detox and relaxation products and are more inclined to purchase products like organic wine or organic champagne,” she notes, pointing to a colorful bottle of POP Earth champagne. A special edition from French producer Vranken Pommery, the champagne is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier has a fruity, zestful taste. In addition to being organic, POP Earth is capped in a bottle made of lighter glass than other champagne bottles, which in turn helps reduce pollution, making the drink not only organic but also green. The bubbly mix obtained an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 (environmental) certification more than 10 years ago for its eco-friendly wine-harvesting as well as for its minimal energy and water expenditure. Even the champagne’s label is made with recycled paper and water-soluble ink. Moreover, it sells at $55, rendering it a great option for people who want to bring something fun and eco-friendly to a party, says Kassouf. Because being IMC certified is a lengthy and tedious process, several other alcoholic drinks, such as signature Lebanese arak are reportedly in line for their turn to be certified. At this rate, it seems bacchanalian debauchery will be taking an entirely new, perhaps eco-friendly, twist.

organic reactions

Eau De Vie comes back with an organic flair


nybody familiar with fine-dining knows Eau De Vie restaurant, which is nestled atop the posh InterContinental Phoenicia Hotel, Beirut. The distinctive concept has reopened its doors to reveal a whole new interior, an innovative new menu, a selection of the finest wines, whiskies, and cigars as well as an exclusive concept that welcomes guests from 10:00 a.m. to 03:00 a.m. But Eau De Vie returns with an earthy edge.

Famed for its unique panoramic views, Eau De Vie is now taking the organic route – by serving Le Soula wine. Le Soula was created in 2001 as a partnership between UK wine importers Richards Walford and local biodynamic superstar Gérard Gauby, who had found a number of old and abandoned vineyards with great potential. It now has 27 hectares of vines situated in the deep south of France in the Agly valley in and around the village of St. Martin de Fenouillet. Le Soula’s winegrowing philosophy is to be as natural and “hands-off” as possible in the vineyard and the winery. Biodynamics is employed and they have now started on a journey to organic certification. Hence the fruit is handpicked and whole bunch fermented (stalks on) with wild yeasts. Extraction, the bane of so many modern warm-climate wines, is studiously

avoided. There’s also no chaptalisation (the addition of artificial sugar), acidification, or filtration. Eau De Vie also boasts the one of the world’s largest varieties of wines, whiskies, and cigars. The new wine tasting room holds “One of the Best Wine lists in the World” as awarded by Wine Spectator magazine. The addition of Lebanon’s first enomatic machine enables enophiles to enjoy an unrivalled selection of wines by the glass and gives them the opportunity to sample icons of wine such as Petrus and Cheval Blanc. The new walk-in cigar humidor and whisky display hold an extensive assortment of whiskies and cigars spanning the globe, including an unparalleled selection of Scottish single malts. Adding zest to the experience is the new menu, which features simple yet palatable dishes made from the most premium fresh ingredients available. “We wanted to make Eau De Vie more accessible whilst preserving its special position as one of Lebanon’s finest restaurants and we feel the new menu and décor achieve this,” remarks Head Chef Jacques Rossel. The space has been entirely redone by British designer Martin Hulbert who has most recently worked on hotels for The Dorchester Collection in the UK. The new design incorporates a crystal chandelier that spans the length of the restaurant creating a fashionable yet elegant and timeless feel. White Core 2011


(c) Alfred Moussa

Almond tree in the Bekaa

WATER wars

Without a drop of logic

– Why governments are allowing the privatization of aquifers around the world and why the billion-dollar bottled water industry is contributing to water scarcity Words by amal chaaban Photographs by Alfred Moussa



“We never know the worth of water ‘til the well is dry” – Thomas Fuller


ater, the single most important resource in the world, is running out. The human body is made up mostly of water. The range of percentage goes from 78 in babies to 60 in adult women. Without water, the average human can only live three days before dehydration. With this in mind, one must ask why governments are allowing the privatization of aquifers around the world. Why are people being made to pay for the one thing that no living thing can survive without? Beyond takes a deep drink of the elixir of life and brings you the reservoir of hidden knowledge.

In 1732, Thomas Fuller wrote, “We never know the worth of water ‘til the well is dry”, and this has never been truer than today. The majority of the world’s freshwater supply comes from aquifers deep in the earth. In the pre-industrial era, the aquifers were replenished from precipitation. In today’s post-industrial world, replenishment of the aquifers is not faring well. Aquifers are deep enough underground that it can take literally thousands of years to replenish them. Global warming, pollution, over-paving, and contamination are all contributing to clean freshwater scarcity. When freshwater becomes scarce, whole eco-systems become threatened as water is needed to sustain even the smallest of life forms. The United Nations World Water Report of 2006 explains that “there is enough water for everyone.” The downside is that “water insufficiency is often due to mismanagement, corruption, lack of appropriate institutions, bureaucratic inertia, and shortage of investment in both human capacity and physical infrastructure.” Reiterated in their 2009 report, the UN neglects

to mention in any detail that one of the largest contributors to water scarcity is the billion-dollar bottled water industry. In her book Blue Covenant, prominent water activist Maude Barlow connects the dots between the unholy trinity of the World Bank, the UN, and privatization of water. Barlow looks at countries that require help from the World Bank but have been made to meet certain conditions in order to get that help. Bolivia was one of the countries which had to agree to privatize its water supply in order to receive assistance from the World Bank. No privatization of water, no help. It is little wonder then that the UN reports pointedly do not stress the effect that private water companies are having on water supplies around the world. Private water companies are decimating the world’s water supply in their quest for more profits. Water has moved from being a right to a multi-billion dollar money machine. Companies collectively made 15 billion dollars selling water to North Americans in 2006. While companies have seen slowed growth due to growing awareness of their environmental impact, the profits are still enormous. To that end, water companies such as Nestlé and Evian are embarking on worldwide campaigns to make their products seem more environmentally friendly. It will take more than a few ads for Nestlé’s image to improve. When speaking to water activists, the first company they name that is trying to secure water rights on small town wells and aquifers is Nestlé. Despite their best efforts to be clandestine and use backroom deals, Nestlé has become the poster child of water privatization followed closely by FIJI. Both companies have taken major hits in the public relations arena in recent years due to their

White Core 2011


Sans eau, l’Homme moyen ne peut vivre que trois jours avant qu’il ne se déshydrate. La révolution industrielle et urbaine, le réchauffement climatique et la pollution sont tous des facteurs qui ont contribué, et contribuent toujours, à la carence mondiale en eau potable fraîche. Il faut cependant se demander pourquoi les gouvernements dans le monde entier sont en train de permettre la privatisation des aquifères. Pourquoi est-ce que les gens sont obligés aujourd’hui de payer pour la seule chose qu’aucun être vivant ne peut vivre sans ? Dans leur quête pour encaisser plus d’argent, les entreprises privées fabriquant l’eau en bouteille sont en train de décimer l’approvisionnement mondial en eau. Ainsi, l’eau a cessé d’être un droit acquis de l’Homme et est devenue une machine qui génère des milliards de dollars. Alors que des entreprises comme Nestlé et Evian ont connu une lente croissance récemment à cause de la sensibilisation croissante envers leur impact sur l’environnement, leurs profits sont restés jusqu’à présent énormes.


methodology. FIJI is considered the lesser of two evils because they only use the aquifers in the Fijian Islands. Nestlé’s modus operandi goes something like this: Locate an aquifer, approach local authorities to apply for licensing rights to the aquifer, and try to seal the deal without a public hearing, partly because their reputation precedes them and to circumvent the public uproar. Each time Nestlé has tried to gain rights to an aquifer, they have found themselves with a fight on their hands. Regardless of how deep Nestlé’s legal pockets are, grassroots David organizations throughout North America have sprung up to take on Goliath. These organizations have sustained some losses but the majority have been victories leaving


Nestlé with a large legal bill and a further blackened reputation. Award-winning director Irena Salinas’ 2008 documentary on water “Flow” goes into painstaking detail about water scarcity and the privatization of water. She interviews the people with the knowledge and the activists who are fighting the companies trying to control the world’s water supply. “Flow” lays it out in black, white, and color, leaving no doubt that whoever controls the world’s waters will in turn control everything from crop irrigation to water for sanitary use. We unfortunately see a future with a thirsty world searching for oasis since whoever wields the waterpower controls the survival and quality of life of people across the globe.

‫من دون ماء‪ ،‬ال يمكن‬ ‫لالنسان العادي ان يعيش‬ ‫اكثر من ثالثة أيام قبل‬ ‫أن يجف جسمه‪ .‬الثورة‬ ‫الصناعية والحضرية‪ ،‬وظاهرة‬ ‫االحتباس الحراري والتلوث‪،‬‬ ‫كلها عوامل ساهمت وال‬ ‫تزال تساهم في زيادة شح‬ ‫المياه العذبة الصالحة‬ ‫للشرب‪ .‬مع ذلك‪ ،‬ينبغي‬ ‫على المرء أن يتساءل لماذا‬ ‫تسمح الحكومات في جميع‬ ‫أنحاء العالم بخصخصة‬ ‫المياه الجوفية‪ .‬لماذا يضطر‬ ‫الناس هذه االيام لدفع مال‬ ‫مقابل الشيء الوحيد الذي‬ ‫ال يمكن لكائن حي ان‬ ‫يعيش من دونه؟ في سعيها‬ ‫لجمع المزيد من المال‪،‬‬ ‫تُهلك الشركات المتخصصة‬ ‫بانتاج المياه المعبأة في‬ ‫زجاجات‪ ،‬إمدادات العالم من‬ ‫المياه‪ .‬هكذا‪ ،‬لم تعد المياه‬ ‫حقا مكتسبا لالنسان انما آلة‬ ‫تدر ّ مليارات الدوالرات‪ .‬وفي‬ ‫حين أن شركات مثل نستله‬ ‫وإيفيان شهدت نموا بطيئا‬ ‫في اآلونة األخيرة بسبب‬ ‫الوعي المتنامي عند الناس‬ ‫تجاه تأثيرها على البيئة‪ ،‬اال‬ ‫ان أرباحها ال تزال هائلة حتى‬ ‫هذا اليوم‪.‬‬

‫‪(c) Alfred Moussa‬‬


‫ ‪White Core 2011‬‬


London goes locavore

Words by Chérine Yazbeck

Photographs by Chérine Yazbeck, Jason Lowe, Jeff Cottenden


f you do not often chomp on beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and fish with a side of root vegetables then you must not be English by blood. Regular staples of the English diet consist of the Bubble and Squeak (fried leftover vegetables), Toad-in-the-Hole (sausages covered in pudding batter and baked), Cornish Pasty (pie stuffed with minced meat or vegetables), and the traditional Sunday Roastbeef and Yorkshire pudding. The sandwich was born in the UK and is very popular eaten with crisps together with the common takeaway fish and chips. Breakfast is a big issue for the Brits, usually consisting of eggs and bacon and the trimmings – mushrooms, baked beans, and black pudding. British food is commonly described as bland and heavy. The main justification for this is perhaps the cool and damp climate not allowing many types of fruit vegetables to grow. Rationing during two world wars has greatly shaped the eating habits of the British too. Nowadays, there is a rising awareness about food in the UK, and many gastronomic experiences are being put together in the capital through littleknown gourmet venues with an extended Britishflavored menu, often cooked with locally sourced ingredients. Blast form the past One of the most celebrated authentic ventures is St John (26, St John Street), a former smokehouse opened by the acclaimed Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver in 1994. A bakery, bar, and restaurant come together in a beautiful rough white interior. St John brings a rustic simplicity to the city providing seasonal, simple British food with quality



ingredients. On the blackboard, a tribute to the British kitchen with dishes such as Smoked Herring, Mussels and Sea Purslane, Chicory and Anchovy, Smoked Eel, Ox Tongue, Stinking Bishop and Potatoes, and Mackerel and Pickled Red Cabbage. For dessert, Eton Mess, Eccles Cake and Bread Pudding with butterscotch Sauce are on the menu. Located in a busy area, at a stone’s throw from Covent Garden, Great Queen Street (32, Great Queen Street) is run by head chef Tom Norrington-Davies. He believes that there is a new trend of “British bistro” with a genuine traditional cuisine spiced up with some Italian or Middle Eastern ingredients. “There has been a revolution in British demand in the last 20 years thanks to cheaper airfares, and people are seeking better tasting food,” says NorringtonDavies who is keen on creating seasonal dishes. On the site of a former sausage factory, Hix Oyster & Chop House (35-37 Greenhill’s Rents) is a renowned venue that offers the very best of the season’s oysters and a variety of meat cuts, carefully sourced in the UK. The menu is set by seasonal variations. If you fancy some farm cheese, Neal’s Yard Dairy (Borough Market, 6 Park Street) is the right place to taste premium dairy products from the British Isles. Michael Jones, manager of the Borough Market branch, has seen a steady increase of customers through the years due to media attention. “There is a large base of dairy products in our country with two hot spots: Somerset and the South West. With over 60 cheeses, there is a wealth of superb cheeses, authentic produce made by farmers that are developing a wider range of goat cheese quite popular now. We sell Ticklemore, Chabis, or Stawley – all goat cheeses produced in the UK,” he says.


Raise your glass Gastropubs, which serve fine British food accompanied by first-rate beer and ales, have also jumped the locovore bandwagon. Anchor & Hope (36 The Cut) and The Harwood Arms (Walham Grive – Fulham) adapt their daily menus to seasonal produce. Meanwhile, The Bull & Last (168 Highgate Road) is famed for its homemade cold cuts board and fish board (mackerel plate, smoked haddock, and gravalax). Although tea time is no longer a tradition in larger English cities, on some high-end London hotels, the tea experience is still going strong with scones, strawberry jam, and Cornish clotted cream. Examples include the famous cream tea that can be savored at Orange Pekoe (Barnes – 3 White Hart Lane). For a less formal tea treat, Rosie’s Deli Café (14e Market Row – Brixton) is a café-delicatessen located in the colorful ethnic neighborhood of Brixton. 156


In the metropolitan city, there is also a renaissance of small scale artisan baking, and Flour Power City Bakery (Borough Market) is a leading actor in this department. The bloomer is the classis white loaf. Andrew Whitley’s book Bread Matters pays tribute to bakers who perpetuate the baking traditions in the UK and encourage the revival of artisan breads. The locavore movement gathered pace in London when celebrity chefs like Oliver Rowe openly advocated locally sourced food, stressing his use of “classic British ingredients”. The term locavore describes the practice of eating a diet consisting of food grown/produced from within an area bound by a 100mile radius. Rowe embraced the challenge of using 80 percent of produce sourced from the area of Greater London – within the M25 motorway circle, spurring chefs to work with local farmers thus supporting small scale growers. London now seemingly boasts an evergrowing population of locavores.

ethical eating

From going round in circles to thinking inside the box – Specialty and organic foods are nowhere near new, but their appearance on supermarket shelves in Lebanon is. A joke leads a mother and a homeopath to start a business selling these rare items online. Words by Phillipa Mishlawi


hen Dianne Debs, a mother of five, discovered that two of her sons had allergies to certain food items, she was running from Hazmieh, to Mar Elias, to Bsalim, as she could not find everything she needed in one store. “You should open a place that contains all these goods,” Debs’ second son Joey playfully said one evening, after seeing her suffer with traffic on a sweltering hot day. With her homeopath, Abdul-Razzak Merhi, who is registered from Montreal, Canada, Debs took her son’s advice to heart. And that is how “Back to Health”, a new concept in shopping for specialty and organic food items, hit the cyber world. The two like-minded health-conscious individuals now operate an online health shop offering fast and free delivery to consumers’ doorsteps. Merhi, who specializes in treating allergies and diets and already has a health shop in Tripoli, has made available all the items he sells in his store. “I made it so nothing is missing. And everything in my shop is going to be available online: Flours, baked goods, natural cosmetics, as well as supplements,” he explained. Debs added, “We stock the majority of items that a woman needs to cook with – alternatives to wheat byproducts and alternative sugars. The other advantage we have over other health stores is that we have a comprehensive range of products. We don’t just carry one brand name; we carry them all.” The goods are organic and some are locally sourced too and come wrapped in an interesting little box. “The products we have are already certified as organic, and since we are not selling fresh fruit and vegetables we do not need a specific license, but if laws change, then yes, we will naturally apply for a certificate,” Debs said. What’s more, tried and tested recipes will be posted on the Website soon. “It is so much easier for the consumer,” Merhi interjected, “no fighting the traffic only to find that the store does not have

what you need.” Most of Merhi’s patients have expressed interest. “I have colleagues, and other therapists who will tell their patients, and of course there is word of mouth. One person tells another and so on. Lebanon is like a rumor mill. Hopefully it will work to our benefit,” he stated. Price-wise, Back to Health is very competitive. “When you take into consideration the time it takes and the gasoline – not to mention the stress – it is definitely worthwhile shopping online,” Debs said. “Aramex has been contracted to deliver the products. All orders would have to be a minimum of $30 and if one is placed before noon it will be delivered before noon the next day. However, if one is placed after 14:00p.m., it will be delivered the day after,” Debs added, stressing that customers must be precise with their details to ensure delivery to the right address.

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What happens in Brixton stays in Brixton Words and Photographs by cherine yazbeck

– The English town takes sustainable living to new heights.


he district of Brixton south of London is no longer in the news for its cannabis use. It has lately been making headlines for another reason – its not so filthy lucre. The multiethnic community joined in September 2009 the “transition town” concept, launching its own currency – the Brixton Pound. The project was initiated by a group of volunteers from Transition Town Brixton (TTB), a communityled organization for action on energy issues and climate change. While it is the UK’s first local currency in an urban area, it is not without precedent. It is the fourth “transition town” to have its own currency, following the Totnes Pound in Devon, Lewes Pound in Sussex, and Stroud Pound in Gloucestershire. The “transition town” movement is a socioeconomic development concept that saw the light in 2005. Designed in £1, £5, £10, and £20 notes, the Brixton Pound is aimed at encouraging local communities to become self-sufficient, working alongside and not replacing pounds sterling. The currency is for use by independent local shops and traders. From hair salons to music shops, cafés to gift shops, nearly 200 shop owners and small scale businesses have adopted the local currency thus far. Many businesses offer discounts to customers paying with Brixton pounds. Once collected, the pound can be easily exchanged into sterling pounds at places such as Morley’s – a famed family-owned department store – or the Dynamic Discount Market in Brixton Hill. On Electric Avenue, Atlantic Road, and within the Market Row, the Brixton Pound improves the local

market by promoting shops that might simply disappear shortly if nothing is done to support them. On Market Row you can find Rosie’s Deli Café, which is owned by the young and energetic Rosie Lovell, who authored Spooning with Rosie – making the market a trendy spot for foodies. Many shops have been encouraged to offer a range of responsibly-sourced and Fairtrade products as well as locally manufactured items, as selling locally produced items and developing local skill sharing is a genuine self-sustained community support program. In Granville Arcade, Hannah Lewis runs “Brixton Skill Share”, a project showcasing crafts from the Brixton community. The main purpose is to highlight the cultural heritage and back small scale companies that generate income to locals. “We had to convince landlords to lend us some space in this market to be able to provide locals with a space where they could show their work and get together,” Lewis tells Beyond. The local shop is also a smart way to revive empty spaces in the middle of the market and nurture potential skills. The community welcomed the opportunity, as the market has been listed and protected as a heritage site, making it hard for landlords to destroy it to build a commercial mall. But as Tim Nichols, Brixton Pound project manager, explains, it has not always been easy to convince people to use the local pound, “as some shop owners compared it to a monopoly banknote.” But given the crippling credit crunch, many shopkeepers in Brixton felt the need to strengthen community bonds and it was another way to boost local economy, as customers would only use the Brixton pound in their area. The Brixton Pound project is constantly evolving, having just launched their first eco-friendly reusable cup, slashing consumers coffee bill and helping reduce the amount of packaging going to landfill! We’ll drink to that!

White Core 2011



Corporate Social Responsibility…

Why it’s your business


he term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a catchphrase that multinational enterprises and industry moguls have been flashing at us a lot lately – for a wealth of reasons. The phrase has been in wide use since the 1960s, although the notion of business ethics and corporate citizenship can be traced back to the 18th century, when Adam Smith dropped his “free market” bomb.

start in Lebanon as soon as possible,” Chehab adds. “The idea is to create an environmental responsibility among private companies in the nation, even if they devote a very minimal amount of their profit for the environment, as this is the air we breathe and the future of our children,” he remarks. This does not entail becoming a green compliant industry overnight, according to Chehab. “We’re just saying start taking baby steps.”

There is not one single definition for CSR. One of which would be: “A commitment to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community at large.”

“For the first time, we have a very active Ministry of Environment that wants to change things in Lebanon, and corporations are an essential bridge to reach that target. So the private sector is invited to be responsible and join hands with the ministry,” Chehab says.

The European Commission refers to CSR as “A concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis.”

Beyond is answering the call. That is why our next issue will feature under the CSR Hall of Fame companies making us proud by doing the green thing.

However, the environment is a very recent addition to CSR, explains Edgard Chehab, assistant resident representative and the Energy and Environment Program manager, United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “It wasn’t until U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his famous speech at the Copenhagen Climate Talks summit in Denmark in December 2009 that companies began embracing the environment in their corporate social responsibility,” says Chehab, who is also the environment advisor to Minister of Environment Mohammad Rahal. Obama called on the private and corporate sector to think not only in terms of social responsibility, but also environmental ethos. “Obama called for a new trend in corporate and environment responsibility, which is still at its infancy around the world and which we need to effectively



Edgard Chehab assistant resident representative and the Energy and Environment Program manager

Socially and environmentally responsible companies‌


Who are they

Find out in the Spring 2011 issue.

Men in green

Holding her close

– Beyond meets up with a group of green gentlemen who express their sentiments about the cedar tree, which is sadly on its last legs in Lebanon. As it turns out, the national emblem is in good company, as these guys mean business. Photographs by Nada Karam

Philippe de Bustros – Managing director, AGC Equity Partners; President of the

Environmental and Public Gardens Committee, Municipality of Beirut

is Cedar of Lebanon. Cedar is my identity, my emblem, and my pride. It is engraved “Myonname my passport, my flag, and my heart. It is majestic and robust. I love it to infinity and beyond. ” 162


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Samer Hanna – CEO, Capital Outsourcing Ltd

of the most beautiful cedar trees I have seen was on a hill in the Italian countryside. “One The authentic Cedrus Libani was imported from Lebanon by Italian travelers and growing on that hill for decades – alone and unprotected – a major contrast with our massive protection efforts to preserve our cedar forests in Lebanon.



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166 166

essence ground

Dr. Tarek Husami – Plastic surgeon

cedar is our most important tree as Lebanese, as it represents our national flag and “The should represent our efforts to revive our country. ” White Core 2011




Karam Doumet – Industrial businessman and textile trader

“In my belief, the cedar is an icon of resistance, history, and beauty.” White Core 2011


Nabil Zard Abou Jaoude – Chairman, Renaissance Metn Holding S.A.L.

represent the symbol of Lebanon for its solidity, which reflects “Cedars the personality of the Lebanese people. ” 170


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Rony abi-aad – Owner of AZIZ sarl

“The Cedar is the symbol of life. It is eternity” White Core 2011


Roula Doueidi

May El Khalil

Anne-Marie Chahine Romanos


Raise your hats

– From planting trees to eco-chic table decoration, Beirut Race Cup goes the extra green mile his year. Photographs by rayya haddad


day at the races took on a whole new meaning this year, as Beirut Race Cup sported a fully eco look in its third consecutive edition. On Sept. 25, the country’s who’s who looked their best as they strutted down the red carpet for Beirut Race Cup 2010. Events Production s.a.r.l, which specializes in cultural events and promoting heritage, dressed up the event in conscious green, as part of a long term strategy to reforest the hippodrome. Held in collaboration with the Ministries of Tourism, Ministry of Environment, as well as the Municipality of Beirut and the Committee of the “Parc de l’hippodrome de Beyrouth”, it was one of the most happening and bespoke events of the year. Dignitaries were led by Minister of Environment Mohammad Rahal and Minister of Youth and Sports Ali Abdullah as well as Beirut parliamentarians. Jaw-dropping gorgeous women showed off their beautiful stilettos and original – even recycled hats – in line with this year’s theme. The evening was marked by the exclusive visit of Italian shoe and bag designer Salvatore Ferragamo, arriving in Lebanon for the first time with a craftsman who made handbags in specially designed workshops set up at the hippodrome. 174


Apart from the two races and the horses, which ran with a green spirit, highlights included a cocktail reception, green exhibitions, a Jaguar retro car lineup, a cigar lounge, and a gala dinner with two competitions – one for best hat, and the other for best table decoration. Bankmed, for instance, walked away with the award for best styled table, while the Byblos Bank table was rewarded for its originality. As for the ladies, Isabelle Bongia received a nod in the elegance category, for example, and Lama Tyan stood out for her creative hat. The jury that selected the winners was led by Ferragamo and included Beyond’s publisher Pascale Choueiri Saad, artist Hania Husami, publisher and journalist Siham Tueini, director Caroline Labaki, musician Khaled Mouzanar, among others. Four green associations made an eco spectacle at the event – G, Jouzour Loubnan, Clean Lebanon, and of course Beyond. Beirut Race Cup showed its green veins with the planting of a tree at the hippodrome in the presence of key state personalities, green parties, and sponsors. The event was also carbon neutral, with all resulting CO2 emissions to be replaced by the planting of trees at the hippodrome.

Diana Tannoury

Nada Tawil

Juan Carlos Gafo & Pascale Choueiri Saad

7 White Core 2011




Beyond takes the organizers aside

Events Production s.a.r.l. managers Roula Douaidy and Néda Ziade talk about the very special edition of Beirut Race Cup. BEYOND–What were the challenges of putting on the event this year? ROULA DOUAIDY & NÉDA ZIADE – There were many events in one. The hippodrome alone required a great deal of work. We had to transform the place. There were also many details to tend to, like doing the races on time and handling all the other events such as the Jaguar show. The day before the tables and chairs burnt down. It also rained heavily that day. In addition, we had very big sponsors. We had Salavatore Ferragamo from Italy, Jaguar from the UK, and Khalil Fattal & Fils (Dewars). The Italians and the English were very picky so we had to do things perfectly to show that the Lebanese are up to the challenge.

event and the help of associations, we will calculate how many trees we can plant and we will publically announce that. For instance, G is giving us fruit trees while the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Beirut is donating some money. All sponsors and people that were there are helping. Secondly, the whole event was carbon neutral. We realized that major companies and banks in Lebanon are becoming greener. So we jumped onboard.

The event also cost a bundle because you don’t have anything at the hippodrome. Plus there were the food expense as a thousand people attended. But thankfully, with the power of women, we made it work. The event fully met our expectations.

We also spread awareness in a very elegant fashion and not something boring. When people leave the event, they had awareness in the brochure, where even the ads were green. To elaborate further, even the jury was selected on an environmental basis. Some of the hats were recycled. The Byblos Bank table was made of bottles, for example. We also gave visibility to green associations for free because when you’re going green, you have to be green in your mind.

B–Why did you choose to go green this time around? RD & NZ–The hippodrome is a very important site that is almost a century old. The inaugural edition of Beirut Race Cup in 2008 was born out of the idea of rehabilitating the site and getting society back to the hippodrome in a very chic and glamorous way.

B–What was the message you wanted to relay? RD & NZ–Ecological awareness is very important. Planting trees is one thing but awareness is even more important because we need to leave our children something good such as public parks and gardens. Let’s give them room to breathe and let’s breathe ourselves.

The event is very exceptional. It places Lebanon on a different scale because you’re combining so many elements together, and there’s always a cause because we believe you can’t do nice things if you don’t help others. This year we thought that being in the middle of the city, it is sort of a green garden. So we thought we do our rehabilitation event and plant trees.

When you have a thousand VVIPs who represent the public sector and private sector in town visiting the green corner, you have this interaction between the public and the corner and the races. When you combine all these elements together, you can get very far and when you ask big institutions like banks and real estate companies to work with you, you are stronger. We wanted to show the world that the Lebanese are openminded, intelligent, and good looking people who are very aware and conscious. We think these messages got across.

B–How was it green? RD & NZ–Usually planting trees requires follow up, and we have a three-year plan for that. By winter time, depending on the proceeds from the

White Core 2011



The art of rebellion

– Cedar of Lebanon, Pledge of Eternity to donate proceeds to the renovation of Sioufi and Sanayeh Parks


scar Wilde once said, “It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.” One of the most radical and progressive thinkers of our time, the Irish writer and poet oftentimes called for a revolution against injustice through peaceful civil disobedience. And this is what happened on a fine October morning in Beirut – a first-of-its-kind documentary book on the eternal cedar tree was released on the Lebanese market. Cedar of Lebanon, Pledge of Eternity by authors Pascale Choueiri Saad, Lara Hanna Debs, and photographer Clement Tannouri is an oath “to keep Lebanon green by building a civic responsibility, especially towards the environment.” “Proceeds from this book will be donated to the reforestation of two public parks in Beirut, Sioufi and Sanayeh,” said Choueiri Saad, Beyond magazine publisher and co-owner of Green Cedar Lebanon. “We believe there is a strong need to create awareness about the enormous damages and environmental tragedies that our beloved country is encountering,” she added. Showing the majestic culture, history, and ecology of the national cedar, the book complements national efforts to enhance public awareness on the importance of preserving the Lebanese forests to avoid the colossal losses incurred. 178


Held under the auspices of H. E. Minister of Interior and Municipalities Ziyad Baroud at Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel, the book launch was attended by VIPs and the press. Baroud lauded the initiative by saying, “Our primary goal is to reduce illegal deforestation in Lebanon. We share Green Cedar’s commitment to protecting the natural environment, and we applaud all the involved parties for making Beirut a greener city.” Cedar of Lebanon, Pledge of Eternity is the second initiative of Green Cedar Lebanon, after Green Lebanon the Book, which grossed $100,000 that went to Akhdar Dayem Association. This year, proceeds of the book will be given to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for the reforestation of the Sioufi and Sanayeh Parks in collaboration with the Municipality of Beirut. “We hereby announce the launch of an environmental revolution and are delighted to have the UNDP through its environment and energy program join our troops,” said Philippe De Bustros, president of the Environmental and Public Gardens Committee and member of the Municipality of Beirut Council. Read about Cedar of Lebanon, Pledge of Eternity on pages 256 - 257.

Pascale Choueiri Saad, Clement Tannouri, Lara Debs & Ziyad Baroud

Pascale Choueiri Saad

Salam Hanna & Lara Debs

Ronald Saad & Adib Tohme White Core 2011



Edgard Chehab, Lara Debs & Pascale Choueiri Saad

Claude Hayek, Michel Tadros & Bahjat Salame

Hania Husami 180

Philippe De Bustros, Pascale Choueiri Saad, & Fadi Fawaz


Khalil & Lara Debs

Minister Ziyad Baroud

Pascale Choueiri Saad & Claudine Aoun

Chant Chinchinian, Mohamad Hout, Fadi Fawaz & Mariane Howayek White Core 2011



Green bride and groom Lana and Mazen Bacha

Tying the green knot To have and to hold… without killing the trees

– May Khalil is recognized as the strong, athletic woman at the helm of the Beirut Marathon Association. But this fall, she unveiled another side of her by marrying off her daughter Lana in a breathtakingly pristine location in a thoroughly eco-conscious wedding – down to the last nittygritty details.


he idea of a green wedding came very naturally to May Khalil, as her family is no stranger to eco-friendly living. “My eldest son did his masters in Green Business, my eldest daughter has been involved inenvironmental activism ever since I can remember, and the bride, Lana, is the president of Animals Lebanon, an NGO, which deals with animals and the environment. So how could we do it otherwise!” she tells Beyond.



Lana has always envisioned her wedding in the most organic setting – a virgin forest, trees, shrubs, and flowers, the proud mother of four continues. “She wanted everything to be real and raw, with neither pretense, nor the hint of ostentation. The spirit of the wedding should be just like its outdoor setting: Natural and relaxed.” The couple, Lana and Mazen, selected an abandoned forest that had not been trodden for

Mr. and Mrs. Khalil

White Core 2011



over 40 years as the heavenly site for the big day. They travelled across the country in the hopes of finding that “perfect enchanted space”, and as it was such a hidden treasure, they finally found it on Google Earth, Khalil adds. “The first and foremost priority was to keep the space intact, and ensure that no damage would be made to the forest.” For example, even the shrubs that were removed to create space were replanted in other parts of the forest. And everything was constructed around the preexisting space, cutting down no trees, and ensuring that all can be returned to the way it was after the wedding, she elaborates.



“As a souvenir to the guests, it was the wish of the bride that a basil plant be given, so each person can grow it in their garden. We gave away over 1,500 basil plants that night!” Meanwhile, the bride’s older sister, Zena, donated a tree in the name of every guest to be planted in Lebanon. Khalil goes on to say, “On Oct. 3, we planted 1,000 of those trees in the Arz Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, and a forest was created in honor of the guests and the wedding,” which took four months of preparations. For Khalil, this is a gift more valuable than a souvenir to take home, “as it is an investment in Lebanon and its natural heritage.”

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High street puts its green cloak on Words by Kristen Hope Burchill


ave you contemplated adorning your skin with fabric untainted by nasty chemicals? What about adding a little bounce to your step with a pair of shoes made from recycled car tyres? These might not be the main questions of the average shopper browsing in Beirut Souks, but the use of environmentally-friendly fabrics is gaining momentum in Lebanon – and not in upmarket boutiques where you may contemplate mortgaging your house before passing the threshold. In fact, ecologically conscious fashion is becoming increasingly available along Beirut’s high street stores.

A widely-known eco-friendly fabric is organic cotton. It comes from cotton grown without the use of pesticides, and is therefore both kinder to the environment and softer on the skin. Both Zara and H&M use organic cotton in several ranges, and such products are only slightly more expensive than their non-organic relatives. “The organic cotton is selling very well,” says Fadi Markiz, area manager Lebanon, H&M, noting that there is a growing awareness about organic cotton product in Lebanon. “Organic cotton is particularly popular in summer,” continues Markiz, given its light and soft texture. Organic cotton is also used in the H&M kids and baby wear ranges. The British-based retailer started using organic cotton in 2004. Since then, it has sourced some eight tons of organic cotton, and aims to increase that amount to 17 tons by 2013. Markiz situates this increase in the use of organic cotton within H&M’s broader commitment to ethical production methods, including the company’s policies that ensure its factories reduce wastewater, filter smoke emissions, and reject child laborers. Zara has been using organic cotton for several years as well, constituting the material of choice for many of its products in the Zara Basics line. Happy feet Organic cotton is also stepping on the footwear scene. Canadian shoe 186


company Camper, which recently opened its first Lebanese branch in Beirut Souks, features organic cotton in several ranges. Jad Khoueiss, sales associate, Camper, says that the retailer began using organic cotton as an alternative to its pioneering chromefree leather to create the more pocket-friendly Mediterranean Line. “People like the organic cotton because it’s more affordable,” notes Khoueiss. Camper raised the bar with the use of environmentallyfriendly materials in its Hybrid range, which uses organic cotton alongside recycled products. With the Hybrid shoes, the downsole is composed entirely of “cooked components”, a variety of rubbers originating mostly from car tyres, while the insole is also made of recycled materials. In other lines, Camper uses a technique of 360 degree stitching, which means that both pieces are attached without using glue, thus reducing the use of chemicals. While Camper shoes have succeeded in merging comfort, style, and ecoconscious consumerism into one item, other retailers are expanding their use of ecological fabrics. H&M has been making inroads into other eco-friendly materials, such as recycled polyester and Tencel, the registered trade name for Lyocell, which is a biodegradable fabric made from wood pulp cellulose. But are Lebanese consumers aware that such a variety of eco-fashion alternatives is increasingly available on their doorsteps? Markiz notes that many shoppers in the country are still more concerned with design and seasonal styles than ecology. Particularly in Lebanon, where the environment suffers from dangers ranging from generator fumes to widespread littering, Markiz suggests that retailers bear a key responsibility in raising the levels of environmental awareness. “For example, if we talk about organic cotton, the label on the back describes organic cotton and what H&M is doing”, which Markiz thinks is even better than distributing flyers because it saves paper. With new retailers opening up and a growing choice of products available, the fashion capital of the Middle East is taking “green” as more than just a seasonal hue and rendering it the statement of a new generation of conscious fashionistas.

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Preserving the soul of jewelry – Tarfa Itani wears her green heart out through the antique and vintage lines of her jewelry brand Falamank Words by Ana Maria Luca


very earring or bracelet has a soul, which must be saved and preserved. This is Lebanese jewelry designer Tarfa Itani’s credo. That is why she started her career by hunting old rings, bracelets, broaches, earrings wherever she goes around the world, cleaning them, putting back the missing gems in the same cut as the original to bring them back to life from under the dust of time.

the environment we live in. “If you see antique jewelry, furniture or architecture you see a lot of details, of handicraft. It tells a story. I was always fascinated by this, by the details in the antique jewelry. Every piece tells a story, it has a soul, it was worn by someone, and it brings somebody’s memories with it,” Itani points out. “You have no idea how difficult it is to find them. But if you’re passionate enough about it, you can do anything.”

Sitting in her office in the posh area of Verdun, the young stylish woman smiles joyfully while talking about her passion for antique jewelry. “Look at this watch! I found it in Turkey. Isn’t it precious?” she says while admiring a golden watch with a tiny bracelet and small diamonds. “It’s all handmade. The woman who wore it in the past was very small; look how small the bracelet is. I keep it for myself. It’s not for sale,” Itani explains.

Her vintage collection was also born from her passion for old jewelry. Itani says she would be inspired by old shapes, ideas, lines but also methods of crafting and then she would turn them into her own. Her piece de resistance is the hand of Fatima, her brand logo, a mosaic gold and diamond version of which she wears around her neck. “I introduced it as a piece of jewelry a few years ago. Now it is everywhere,” Itani says.

“Falamank by Tarfa Itani” is the only antique and vintage jewelry brand in the Middle East, according to the designer. Itani also recently started a modern collection, with much simpler lines than her vintage creations. “I believe in simple lines for modern jewelry. The eye has to catch one message, one feeling, without getting lost in details,” the designer explains.

Along with her care for saving and preserving memories in antique and vintage jewelry, Itani says she is careful with the environment. She says she works only with gems, never unprecious stones, and she never wastes anything of it. “When you cut a diamond to put it in an antique piece, you reuse the remaining pieces in the vintage collection. It’s not just care for environment, it’s the ethics of making jewelry,” she states.

Although she keeps pace with fashion and time, she says she is still much attached to the vintage and antique collections that she started with because she believes that preserving history and memories is as important as preserving



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green & glam

The ecolution of her wardrobe


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What Goes Around by Teacup and Chiffon. This little necklace by Nadine Mezher is made from three layers of gold plated chains tangled together with three center pieces. A vintage Czech faux pearl, a rare vintage rhinestone spiral that had a previous life as a broche recovered from an antique market in Salzburg, and a delicate and precious Jade stone found in the attic of Mezher’s grandmother, blend seamlessly together

2- Playful shirts with a message by Treeshirt.

Designed by a number of talented artists, “TreeShirts” are tees with ideas for people looking for original designs and who have passion for making this world a better place to live in. Every time you purchase a Treeshirt item, a share of its revenue will be donated to the Association for Forest Development and Conservation (AFDC) for the reforestation of different parts of Lebanon.



3-Roberto Cavalli vintage dress. You can find this stunning silk vintage jersey at Vintage Love. The store resells pre-owned designer’s items that are in good condition, and still look wearable. A big chunk of the proceeds goes to a specific charity organization that changes every season. Examples include Kafa, which helps abused women and children and Skoun, which works against drug abuse.

4- Samarkand by Elissar Haikal. Made in Beirut, the brass pendant was fully designed and worked on by Haikal. The beads are made of vintage Uzbek fabric pieces, cut and filled, then linked together using brass rings from Istanbul. It is in fact the designer’s favorite ever piece.

green & glam

Beauty and the beast... inside your cosmetics Words by Amal chaaban


he next time you begin your day with your beauty routine or round off a day of shopping with a splurge on beauty products, you might want to take a closer look at what you are putting on your skin. Beyond inspects your big brand, favorite cosmetics, and the alternatives available. Well what we found was not so good! Take a look at the ingredients on your bottle of shampoo or your foaming body wash. Foaming agents in things like cleansers for face and body and even toothpaste usually use Sodium Lauryl (or Laureth) Sulfate, which are ingredients also currently used in detergents and to clean engine grease. What about urea or formaldehyde? These popular agents are found in nearly all store brands of face, body, and hair care products as well as antiperspirants and nail polish. Nearly all of the chemical ingredients we found had side effects that ranged from being comedogenic (causing or aggravating acne) to being a suspected carcinogen. In a word, they dry up your skin like there is no tomorrow! Having found all manner of chemical agents in the more mainstream products, we went on the hunt for beauty products that were all natural and still worked. LUSH beauty products fit that criterion as the products are “effective [and made from] fresh organic fruits and vegetables, essential oils,

and ingredients that are ethically and sustainably procured from around the world.” LUSH is 100 percent vegetarian, 74 percent vegan, 65 percent preservative-free, thus cutting down your exposure to the unhealthy chemical cocktail that comes in standard cosmetic products. With names like Dream Cream, Sex Bomb, Ultra Bland, and Godiva Solid Shampoo, you can’t go wrong. LUSH is also a winner, as it is dedicated to the ethical sourcing of materials, minimal to no packaging, and absolutely no animal testing. Tom’s of Maine is another darling. With products ranging from toothpaste and deodorant to dental floss and soap, all of their ingredients are naturally sourced and carefully chosen. With no artificial ingredients or colorants, you will not be absorbing harmful chemicals. Tom’s is also an excellent corporate citizen with their philanthropic and environmental work. LUSH and Tom’s are not the only natural beauty products out there and with a little research, you can find more or make your own natural beauty products. Oatmeal and milk make a great exfoliant as do crushed strawberries. Olive oil soap is a great alternative to both chemical laden shampoos and so-called beauty bars. The next time you go out to replenish your beauty supply, keep in mind that your products truly are more than skin deep. White Core 2011




G r ee n s kie s ahea d


An urban legend – For Bernard Khoury, sustainability is not at all what the mainstream perceives of it. Words by M.M. Photographs courtesy of DW5


arrive 20 minutes before the interview – me the religiously tardy. I am trying my hardest to leave a good impression. As I make my way to the sprawling studio of architect Bernard Khoury in a former warehouse near Beirut’s port, I realize my hands are sweating, and I instantly berate myself for my choice of shoes.

He greets me fully garbed in his trademark black. His office is very sparsely adorned. There are some pencil scratches on the wall. Sitting across from me is the bad boy of architecture, the Lebanese Ian Schrager – some of the Western labels attached to Bernard Khoury. Seeking to describe Bernard Khoury in a few reductive or phantasmal terms is the very thing this man loathes. He hates, for instance, the sensational and romantic representation by the West of the capital Beirut, which creates an oversimplified fabrication of history. He hates how his BO18 project, an underground nightclub on the site of a 1976 massacre in Beirut, has been “over-exaggerated” by the West. “Some of the stories I read about this project have got to do with the fantasies the West has regarding the war and our history in general,” he says of the 1998 venture. “We should look at BO18 as a project of the present, a project very much alive and we should stop fantasizing about its macabre aura otherwise we wouldn’t get anywhere in Beirut.”

He also hates it that all buildings look the same in the capital. “It is a continuous interpretation of bad building laws. American corporate machines build blindly these big buildings and they became the benchmark or model in Beirut,” he told a crowd at Arizona State University, Phoenix in 2009. Much of Khoury’s work is a reaction to war and urban space. Among them, the way Lebanese society dealt with memories of the war. His entertainment projects in Beirut – Yabani on the former demarcation line, Centrale restaurant at the edge of the Central District, as well as BO18 in the Quarantine – are about recognizing and confronting different social realities, he says. 194


“Architects shouldn’t think of their work as representations of the city, instead, they should be real players in the city. City planners think of the city through morphological terms, I think of a city as experiences,” Khoury pointed out at a 2008 seminar on sustainability in Melbourne. The Harvard graduate spoke of his theory of “Evolving Scars,” a sustainable concept of rehabilitating buildings by displaying traces of war and putting them to new uses, instead of tearing them down and denying their past. When he returned home in 1993, he believed he “could be one of the many soldiers in the collective reconstruction efforts to rebuild our cities.” He was wrong, as he would soon realize. Having given up on institutions “because they simply don’t exist”, Khoury concentrates on the private sector. “Cities are built by the private sector through projects that are primarily driven by financial profit,” according to him. Khoury is not an advocate of a particular school. He is a school. But knowing his dislike of institutions and “isms”, I am sure he would disapprove of that description when he reads this. Throughout the 25-minute conversation, Khoury does not put his cigar down. He either fiddles with it or smokes it. He speaks in a low tone and does not like to be interrupted. This is not going to be easy, I think to myself. BEYOND–You have lamented that your Evolving Scars theory remained on paper. What were the difficulties in applying it? BERNARD KHOURY–It wasn’t a project that was meant to be literally built. This was an experiment done in reaction to events taking place on the ground. The possibility of the existence of this project is the result of the possibility of formulating our own history, something I raised back in 1991 and the question still applies today. We’ve been through decades of denial after the (1989) Taif Accord and the so-called postwar period. There are many things expected in the postwar situation that take

BO18 196


time but should happen that never happened in Lebanon. Our history stops in 1975 in our history books. We’re still incapable of understanding our own history. In the absence of a consensual history, there is no real construction of a nation. In my opinion, the war didn’t stop. It has been dangerously simplified. Obviously, the core issues are still there. B–But there are efforts right now not to wipe away history, such as the renovation of the Barakat Building in Sodeco. BK–I’m not very familiar with what will happen with this particular project, but I am also a bit skeptical about fetishizing the leftover traces of the war. That will be dangerously sensational. BO18 fell in that register. This is why I stress the fact that BO18 was not meant as a war memorial of any sort. Evolving Scars was not a project through which I tried to fetishize the ruins. This experiment ended up erasing the ruins. It was an important process. We get attached sometimes to physical and very obvious traces. I’m not one to turn a ruin into a postcard. B–We’ve been hearing a lot about efforts to erect sustainable buildings. What do you make of that? BK–I’ve given up on institutional efforts and projects in this part of the world in particular. I am concentrating my efforts on building and operating in the private sector through programs and commissions that are not necessarily serious to start with but I try to take them very seriously. In my initial years of building, I worked for the entertainment sector and other types of commercial ventures in Lebanon. I want to believe that these projects have a political charge. And in fact this is where things happen, not in the exceptional projects that try to promote or are the result of a political agenda. These projects are usually very consensual. I don’t see any consensus left in here. So I work outside these variables. B–Are you frustrated with the situation here? BK–I don’t think I’m frustrated. I think I’ve learned to operate on another territory. Here is very different from working in the West or other more stable climates. I think I’m faced with very pertinent and interesting situations through the projects we’ve been working on, and I’m not complaining. I think I’ve just developed a plan B. B–You’re quite established abroad and yet you choose to stay here. Why is that? BK–Because I think that what I’m dealing with here is far more relevant than what I see my colleagues worry about in other more stable environments. Things are really happening here. It’s not a sweet story, but… B–How would you define urban planning in Lebanon? BK–None. There isn’t any. B–Do you think the right laws for that will be passed one of these days? BK–I think it is already very late for that. The territory has been ravished. And the question is really not our practice of White Core 2011


urban planning. It is the absence of institutions, not the lack of involvement. I try to do my part in the modest tasks I’m given. I try to act responsibly whenever the situation allows. B–Minister of Culture (Salim Wardy) promised to take measures to preserve old homes. Do you think anything will come of that? BK–I wish him good luck with that. I think implementing the mechanisms required to do that is quite a tough challenge. There are modals for that around the globe. In most so-called historical sites or neighborhoods or old constructions in Beirut, if one is allowed to build only 5000 square meters on his/her plot, he/she is bound at some point to sacrifice the structure, sell the land, or develop it to its fullest extent. It’s not the owners of the plot that we should look at here. It is the lack of mechanism to compensate them. What is typically done in other cities is giving the plot owners ways to sell the remaining non-built surfaces on their plot to another location. So if they have another 3000 square meters they are allowed to build on, this surface’s value is estimated and they can sell it to another sector. But in order to implement mechanisms like that, you need serious, clean administrations, which is not the case here at all. 198


B–Sustainable architecture is a very hot issue at the moment. How would you define it? BK–I think talking about sustainability and a green ecological and sustainable construction is in most cases a big lie behind which everybody is hiding. So when you’ve got nothing to say you say that you’re ecological; when my work is not pertinent, a good way to hide behind the lack of pertinence of my work is to say, I’m going green or I’m LEED-certified. I’m very skeptical about this big alibi behind which everybody is now hiding. It is very funny to see very unsustainable buildings on many fronts that comply with the construction industry’s standards and also comply with certain certifications being marketed right now, because it is really turning into a marketing lie. They build buildings that won’t last 20 years. They use all sorts of bogus materials that are imported from the other end of the planet to wreck these buildings – buildings that are planned with absolutely no care of their sun exposure, shading, ventilation… They are basically Anglo-Saxon models not adapted with our territory. Yet they comply with certain certifications and pretend to be green/sustainable. So they go out and spend money on labels that comply with literally toxic standards of construction. It is very funny to see that buildings that used to be built 40 or 50 years before or buildings that our fathers or grandfathers used to build are far more sustainable than the labeled buildings they are trying to sell us today. In fact to understand sustainability, we should just look at some decades-old

traditional models of construction. Obviously, the further you go back in time, the more you realize that whatever was built here was built according to very basic climate issues… look at everything that was built prior to the 1940s and 1950s. They were naturally ventilated, the staircases were outdoors… But, look at the so-called sustainable buildings of today. You get out of the elevator at noon in the summer and you have to turn on the light. And you have dark corridors and deep slabs that are poorly ventilated. The overwhelming majority of those who tell you they they’re building green or ecological are architects who have nothing to say. It is the argument to hide behind these days, to mask architecture void of anything whatsoever but fulfills the strange standards of the industry that have polluted our profession. People look for labels simply because they have nothing else to say. I’ll say to those look at the basic recipes that our grandfathers used and then we’ll talk about sustainability. B–But your projects are done with an environmental conscience, and it says so on your Website. BK–I say it very discreetly because it is not the main argument behind my work. But yes my projects try to take full advantage of the extra surfaces that the law gives us such as balconies. Balconies are natural extensions of our interior. Most of my residential projects circulate around outdoor space, which is very complementary to the interior. Most care is given to natural

ventilation, to natural light coming in… we never build deep slabs. We don’t resort to the easy add-on extras that this industry imposes on you. We sell our projects as concepts and I strongly believe that the concept is the core issue in the project, not necessarily the material used. I don’t build particularly expensive projects so I guess I’m also sustainable in that area. I’m also very active with the local craftsmen. I also avoid making use of universal construction standards but I try to invite certain practices that are very typical to our part of the world – that does not imply the fake arch or the very thin layer of stone that is added to a façade to make it look local or any of the bogus postcard associations to the supposed regional architecture. I don’t believe in that. B–Last question. What’s in the pipeline? BK–We are working on over 20 projects right now on various scales. In Beirut, the majority of what we’re doing is residential at this point. We work mainly with developers of my generation; they are people who believe there is a room for other typologies of residences. We are at war with the typologies that have been established for the last 40 years, which is pretty much the same thing here and again – the dark core in the center of the building, the blindness that starts at noontime. We’re fighting the deep slabs, we’re trying to build a product that is more in tune with its natural environment and culture. White Core 2011


architects of change

Don’t build your city, grow it – If Mitchell Joachim could have it his way, the cities we inhabit would live and breathe – cities which adapt principles of physical and social ecology to architecture and urban design. Beyond meets the New York-based leader in ecological design and urbanism. Words by Alice hlidkova Photographs courtesy of Mitchell Joachim


itchell Joachim is an “urbaneer,” a term coined for his new approach in urban design: Growing buildings. “Don’t build it; grow it” is a slogan, which fits the eccentric American architect, who earned a Ph.D. at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master of Architecture in Urban Design at Harvard University. Formerly an architect at Gehry Partners, famed for building the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, Joachim spends his time in New York’s Terreform One + Terrefuge. Inside his lab, he works with artists, architects, and students to develop innovative solutions and technologies for sustainable energy, transportation, and infrastructure. The young urbaneers hope to inspire solutions for green design in cities around the world. His project, called “Fab Tree Hab Village,” entails living tree-grown homes, which are grafted into shape with prefabricated Computer Numberic Controlled (CNC) reusable scaffolds. Assembled to fit plant species, the 3D computer files are made from 100 percent living nutrients, which control vegetation development.



After the plants are grafted the scaffolding is removed and used for another dwelling to be fully integrated into an ecological community. The idea of bioengineering homes have been around for years but only recently been fully integrated in architecture. The technology already exists, argues Joachim, but application of new methods in design is a recent phenomenon. He draws on policy and economics, which have slowed progress in the last 60 years. “Urban design projects were based on physicality and branding,” he commented, “and not essence of design.” Creating material not only biodegradable but environmentally sustainable is the essence in city planning. How then can architects reinvent cities into ecological urban hubs and ensure positive impact? “Genetic engineering is the quickest solution but its effects can’t guarantee safe measures,” Joachim said. “Instead we need nuclear power in the next 100 years.” Until ecological cities can be powered by nuclear power, Joachim draws reference to existing cities with smallest environmental

(c) mitchell joachim

footprint. He highlighted New York City’s subway and apartment heating systems and Rio de Janeiro’s “favelas.” Individuals living within Latin American shanty-towns, a bottom-up construct, are very resourceful. Without cars and industrial manufactured material, they design and ensemble their living quarters with found objects. “These cities are extremely ecological,” he said, “even if they don’t have full capacity of an ecological city.” Joachim believes that such sustainable cities will sprout globally. “Change happens because it is exciting,” commented the architect, “like the Iphone, a small computer held in the palm of your hands.” Computers have advanced societies, and Joachim predicts that merging technology with ecology will have the same effect. But first, societies need to relearn the ways in which humans relied heavily on natural resources to positively impact the environment. His design concepts stem from American naturalist writers Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Emerson, who defined eco-centric sensibility, an early intent of “retreats, poets’ bowers, hermitages.” Joachim’s inspirations also include writers

and environmentalists Bill McKibben and Buckminster Fuller who believed humanity will soon rely on renewable energies. Joachim credits the organic life forms of architect Antoni Ghaudi, which inspired him to become an architect. “I was headed to be a sculpture and Ghaudi changed my mind,” he recalled. “I realized that artists could be architects and designers.” He also acclaims architect Peter Rice of the Australian firm Ove Arup & Partners who designed the Sydney Opera House. Joachim’s ideas can revolutionize the way we think of cities in relation to environment and serve as a model for cities in the Middle East. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have already applied new elements of urban sustainable design. Even if such cities have not yet begun using CNC reusable scaffolds, Joachim’s illustrations are not farfetched from our generation of environment sustainability watchdogs. “When you look at NASA space agency using Joel Burn’s illustrations of man’s travels to the moon previously, then such ideas of ecological cities will soon be possible,” argued Joachim.

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Built to measure Words by Aline sara Photographs courtesy of Serge Yazigi

– Beyond talks sustainability with revered architect and urban planner Serge Yazigi


rowing up, I was addicted to Cousteau’s novels on sea explorations...I think they taught me a fair amount about marine and wildlife, our ecosystem and its fragility,” explains Serge Yazigi. “I was also attracted to planning and design, so it was later in my life that I managed to combine all three,” he adds. Born and raised in Beirut, Yazigi has today grown into one of Lebanon’s urban planners and architects with a noteworthy social conscious. After studying architecture and urban planning at Lebanon’s Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts (ALBA), he pursued his studies in Italy’s Politecnico di Torino. 202


Returning to Lebanon during the early 90’s, he began working with municipalities, especially in coastal areas. He had first noticed the rampant construction of Lebanon’s mountainside during a few years living in Byblos. “I was concerned with trying to find a common ground between heritage preservation, nature conservation, and sustainable development,” he states. He became a private consultant, working both locally and abroad on a variety of planning projects, such as master planning for villages in the Qadisha valley, or contributing to urban strategies for projects such as the Lebanese Mountain Trail. He has also tackled several projects for the EU, throughout Hermel, Aley, and the Metn, but rather than just building, Yazigi’s projects consisted in strategic development and identifying projects that contribute to the area’s local growth. Among them were several ecotourism projects, some of which today, are in full bloom.

By 2007, having had his hand in a fair amount of ecoconscious projects, Yazigi founded MAJAL, the Academic Urban Observatory, IUA- ALBA- UOB, to promote sustainability in Lebanon. Launched after the devastating July 2006 war, the organism’s initial goal was to scientifically monitor the country’s rebuilding. Since then, it has greatly expanded, operating on three separate fronts, namely monitoring reconstruction, providing technical support to relevant urban planning decision makers, as well as lobbying to raise awareness on the importance of sustainable development and cultural heritage preservation. Yazigi also leads a consultancy practice that operates within both the private and public sectors, most of which pertains to master planning and large scale architecture projects. Regardless of the clientele, working on green awareness is one of Yazigi’s tenets. This is why he contributed to projects such as in Faqra, creating the concept of a

village within the village, a pedestrian welcoming area, free of cars but full of green spaces and eco-friendly architecture. “It’s a continuous battle,” he says, adding that the situation in Lebanon is already quite badly damaged. Quality of life, notes Yazigi, whether for habitants, tourists, or companies looking to establish themselves in Beirut is discouraging due to health hazards related to pollution among other related predicaments. “The government is most certainly lagging in the field…but the private sector has its share of responsibility too,” as until now, few serious projects have dared tackle sustainability as a full concept and not just a marketing tool, he opines. “We need to mobilize people, because they are taken by other priorities,” he laments. “Our basic resources are disappearing, and we simply don’t realize the consequences.”

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Plan G

The last ones standing – beyond investigates about the Save Beirut Heritage project

Words by Aline Sara Photographs by Rayya Haddad and Alfred Moussa




(c) Rayya haddad

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(c) Alfred Moussa

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plan g


eirutis are tired – tired of waking up to the sounds of bulldozers demolishing the few remaining homes of Lebanon’s beat-up patrimony. Luckily for some, restlessness leads to action.

Last spring, interior designer Naji Esther decided he’s had enough. “I used to live in a traditional art deco space on Rue du Liban,” he says. “When I left, I felt guilty and helpless, because I couldn’t do anything.” Esther and his family were forced out of their classic Lebanese home back in 2005, as the owner had plans to sell the building, possibly making way for another skyscraper to blend in with the rest of Lebanon’s dubaification. Years later, the building was still there, abandoned. “Now, it is one of the buildings I have saved. The law forbids the owner from destroying it,” Esther notes. The 22-year-old realized many shared his concern; and so began the story of the Save Beirut heritage project. “We joined forces on the issue and have been combining our work and ideas,” he explains. The project has expanded thanks to a rampant facebook group, which currently counts more than 5,800 members, even though Esther purports there are around eight to ten active affiliates.

Lebanon’s first media campaign to support law enforcement that protects heritage buildings has recently seen the light. Minister of Culture, Salim Wardy and environmental activists gave speeches to voice their support for the battle. The campaign, which depicted the tombs of Lebanese monuments, was broadcast on local TV and plastered along the walls of Beirut’s streets. Yet like most cases in Lebanon, an actual law with specific stipulations about controlling the voracious razing of the most sacred architectural splendors is still piling dust in parliament’s drawers, something that worries Esther. As such, Save Beirut Heritage organized in September a candlelight walk to honor Beirut’s vanishing heritage. From the infamous Paul Bakery in Gemmayzeh, to Mar Mikael, the peaceful manifestation made its way down the wellknown pub and restaurant colored Rue Gouraud. The event culminated with a press conference, held in Ahwet el ezaz, the quarter’s century old café, which the organizers assert will close by the end of the year. Esther estimates that to date, the movement has saved between 13 and 15 edifices, in Rue du Liban, Tabaris, Monnot, as well as Zkak el Blat. “Civil society has a big role in defending Lebanon’s land, roots and natural living space,” he states. At this rate, it’s now or never.

(c) alfred moussa

Split into various subcommittees, the group includes a number of foreigners. Affiliated with the Association for Protecting Historical Sites and Old Buildings in

Lebanon (APSAD) and the Association de Development de Gemmayze (ADG), Save Beirut is also working with the Ministry of Culture.



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(c) rayya haddad

(c) alfred moussa

(c) Alfred Moussa

(c) undp

White Core 2011


(c) UNDP

(c) rayya haddad

In Lebanon, an actual law with specific stipulations about controlling the voracious razing of most sacred architectural splendors is still piling dust in parliament’s drawers.

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A new stone age is dawning – Greenstone refines luxury and quality residential living Photographs courtesy of Greenstone

Karim J. Saadé, general manager, Greenstone


ts ongoing L’Armonial Beirut and La Brocéliande Yarzé projects are revolutionary on all scales, stirring a “green with envy wave” in town. But like all visionaries, it promised more, and is delivering more. Now, Greenstone, the real estate arm of Johnny R. Saadé Holdings, is unveiling Orientalys – its third residential project in the upper and exclusive area of Adma. One of the most dynamic developers in Lebanon putting forward high-end residential apartments that seamlessly combine luxury and green features, Greenstone keeps on leading the charge and confirms its positioning based on quality and commitment to sustainability. Beyond sits down with Karim J. Saadé, general manager, Greenstone, to discuss the idea behind the company, its underway projects, and the thorny issue of “green certificates”. BEYOND–What is Greenstone’s ethos and what led to its creation at this time? KARIM SAADÉ–Greenstone is one of the leading real estate investment and development companies in Lebanon. Established in 2005, Greenstone has been at the forefront of constructing unique buildings, which combine the art and science of residential architecture. The residential property projects of Greenstone reflect the cultural, environmental, and social concerns of its staff and clients. True to its corporate citizenship philosophy, Greenstone seeks to preserve the traditional character of the cities and neighborhoods it works in. B–Can we touch on the green and sustainable projects in the pipeline? KS–After La Brocéliande in Yarzé, which is the first residential



project in Lebanon that aims at the BREEAM certification, the widely used environmental assessment method for buildings, and following L’Armonial in Beirut, we are now launching a new project in Adma. Called Orientalys, the new development is made of six to seven private villas and like all projects developed by Greenstone, it will be environmentally friendly. We have defined the highest possible fundamental principles to integrate the project into local culture and landscape. In its conception, as in its layout and features, the building will offer all the possible standards of comfort while controlling utility costs. Being opened to the southwest dominating winds, the villa will benefit from natural ventilation, which is ideal in a temperate climate. B–Some parties think that green certificates are overrated and that they don’t work in Lebanon. Where do you stand on this? KS–I agree, this statement is somehow true. We are actually operating in a market which is not regulated and unfortunately, there is no official body to confirm the green features on a project. Green conformity is still at developers’ exclusive consideration and perception. B–How do you think Greenstone stands out from the other real estate companies attempting to “do the green thing” in Lebanon and the region? KS–As I mentioned earlier, our main concern when dealing with the green building accreditation was actually to apply international standards, in conformity with what is being requested and implemented worldwide. In that regard, Greenstone chose the Building Research

First villa of Orientalys in Adma, a six-villa complex

Consolidation of L’Armonial: Patrimonial façade

La Brocéliande in Yarzé

Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) certification scheme, which was developed in 1990 by the UK’s Building Research Establishment Ltd. (BRE). This is one of the world’s leading research establishments in the construction industry, delivering sustainability and innovation across the built environment. Meanwhile, Eco-Consulting Lebanon, an independent body, is helping us understand, apply, and achieve the BREEAM fivestar rating. Issues to be evaluated are many: Water, ecology and land use, energy, health and wellbeing, management, materials, waste, transport, and of course pollution. Within each category, a set of criteria is rigorously defined by BRE depending on the building type, location, and usage. B–Many real estate companies have been publicizing that they are being eco-friendly but there are serious doubts about what they are doing. How will you prove that you are truly serious and not doing this for the media hype? KS–Part of the BREEAM process, there are three levels of certification ranging from “good”, “very good”, to “excellent”. We aim for “very good” to “excellent” – it’s like the U.S. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, but it seems that BREEAM is the world’s most widely used and oldest environmental assessment method.

B –So, you’re saying they’re not essentially the same? KS–Yes. The advantageous difference between LEED and BREEAM is the following: BREAAM accredits plans before the construction to ensure the developer is headed in the right direction. Then they certify the project after construction while with LEED, developers are rated at the end of the construction only. Greenstone opted for BREEAM to guarantee that green features are respected throughout the whole process. Generally speaking, BREEAM accreditation seems more reliable, and is widely recognized by real estate professionals, and that is the major reason we selected BREEAM. B–All in all, do you think that people are now more sensitive to environmental issues? KS–I believe they definitely are. People are becoming more aware about environmental issues and one may note that there is a certain clientele emerging on the Lebanese market that is sensitive to green standards. This customer-base appreciates green features and looks for real estate developments in accordance with this philosophy, because they also know that it is ultimately a quality of life issue.

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Rocking this town again Tal Znoub on its way to becoming an eco-village

– Ravaged by an earthquake in 1966, the village of Tal Znoub in the West Bekaa was rebuilt with the help of the French. Now, the Ministry of Environment wants to transform this unique town into an eco-friendly one. Photographs courtesy of SES


he ministry asked Naji Chamieh, senior environmental advisor and managing partner, Sustainable Environmental Solutions (SES), to study how that can be done. And so Chamieh and three other experts set out to survey the village and conduct a painstaking research that took a month to finalize. The study considered various elements, and recommended cost-effective solutions to render the implementation phase easy on both the ministry and the municipality of the village.

waste management was also tackled in the study, and 50-liter bins for recyclables and street litterbins could be distributed throughout the village at a cost of around $10,000.

The team began by examining the state of existing homes (64 in total), many of which are in fair conditions. Water distribution/storage is another aspect that the team investigated before recommending a new tank tower to be erected and UV treatment systems to be utilized so that water quality improves. Some $80,000 to $100,000 is needed to upgrade the infrastructure of the water system, notes Chamieh.

Aesthetics were also heeded and the team recommended that the entire village be painted in a preselected range of colors. Around $100,000 is needed for the paintjob. Trees that could grow to towering heights were also suggested; pine trees are ideal and could cost around $25 per shoot, Chamieh says. Designated planting spots were selected for this purpose.

Another leap towards green is by installing proper street lighting, either by changing existing lights and using ones that are more energy efficient or by using solar PV street lights, Chamieh explains. The team pinpointed ideal spots for erecting solar PV street lights. The only drawback lays in the incurred cost of around $3000 per pole.

Boosting biodiversity was also considered in the study, and a plan was devised to distribute around 50 nests of swallows – bird species endemic to the area. In addition to their beauty, the birds help in pest control by eating insects; consequently, the municipality would not need to revert to spraying insect repellents.

Solar water heaters were also suggested to save electricity and minimize pollution. “With $80,000 to $100,000, we could have the whole town on solar water heaters,” explains Chamieh. “We could put the water heaters in some places but not in others like a lowpitched roof where it is difficult for the sun to hit. Since some of the houses have flat roofs, two neighbors could share the same flat roof for that purpose.”

“The whole project would cost around half a million dollars and needs around six months to complete,” maintains Chamieh. “From an environmental standpoint, we have looked at all the elements that could enhance the quality of life. What we are trying to do here is take something as is and improve upon it as much as possible. Tal Znoub will hopefully be the first experiment on how things ought to be done; it serves as a great example for other municipalities to emulate.”

The team also inspected the wastewater system. The village has an existing wastewater connection, but the houses are not connected to it. Tal Znoub could be connected to the wastewater station located in Jib Jenin, and this puts an end to dumping wastewater into the ground where it contaminates natural water reservoirs. The estimated budget needed to connect to the wastewater system is around $34,000. Solid 214



“…Tal Znoub will hopefully be the first experiment on how things ought to be done; it serves as a great example for other municipalities to emulate.” – Naji Chamieh

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Building a conservative culture The Aqaba Residence Energy Efficiency (AREE)

(c) Joseph Zakarian

(c) Joseph Zakarian

Words by Amal chaaban

AREE roof garden


n a world with increasingly unstable weather and dwindling natural resources, it has become necessary to change the way we live and the way we build. Luckily, there is a movement towards sustainable housing wherever and whenever possible. The Aqaba Residence Energy Efficiency (AREE), the first sustainable housing project in Jordan, is an example worth shedding light on. Beyond talked to owner Tariq Emtairah and architect Florentine Visser teamed up for the avant-garde project.

to principles of Passive Solar design for Cooling. Other corner plots had practical issues as well; therefore the municipality worked out an interpretation for these plots. For AREE, this meant a delay in the further design development,” she says. Another setback was a limited availability of materials and devices needed. The five-centimeter thick insulation panels were only available in Amman – around 400km away from the site. A local contractor was chosen in Aqaba to help bring the project to life and despite the challenges, it was completed in 2009.

Based in Sweden, Emtairah decided that a building would be a better demonstration of the savings in sustainable living than any brochure. A private competition was organized in partnership with the Center for Study of the Built Environment in Amman. The winning architect Florentine Visser’s building was not only designed to showcase sustainable housing; it was also designed as an information center for sustainable construction and building design.

AREE uses considerably less water than most residences because of the installation of water saving sanitary devices, such as water taps, showerheads, and dual flushing toilets, and a grey water recycling system for garden irrigation. The water from sinks and showers is collected in a settling tank, filtered by a ‘constructed wetland’: A gravel filter with bamboo, and a charcoal filter, then stored for garden irrigation. The building is designed to use passive cooling with shades to prevent solar heating. In addition, there is access to outdoor terraces from most areas of the house and the rooms that are used for shorter periods of time are set towards the hotter area of the property to act as a buffer zone.

Visser listed the difficulties involved in building the project in Jordan. One of the first challenges to overcome was with Urban Planning Guidelines for that particular area in Aqaba. “The set back regulation would create an ‘open corner’ to the south, catching the full solar heat, which has to be avoided according 216



(c) Matilda Nilson

(c) Joseph Zakarian

Eco furniture

AREE solar Cooling Storage Tank

(c) Matilda Nilson

Landscape Architect Matilda Nilsson of Sweden designed the gardens using information on local flora and fauna from the Center of Environment based in Amman. The selected plants are low water consuming and suitable for dry and harsh natural environment in Aqaba, where temperatures can surpass 40 degrees Celsius in the summer months. Emtairah comments on Nilsson’s feats, “If I had hired someone specifically to design the garden, it could not have turned out better.” and how well it all turned out. AREE’s success in sustainable energy use can be used as a blueprint in the entire Middle East where water scarcity is a very serious issue that only promises to get worse with time. In one year, the expected savings on water use alone is projected to be a significant 51 percent. Other ambitious projects in the region include Ziggurat, a Pyramid dwelling in Dubai that will be carbon neutral and powered by solar energy when complete. The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Riyadh is another environmental innovation underway. Looks like the region is finally wisening up!

AREE Garden

White Core 2011



A strong wood-power – Brazilian design genius Hugo França turns devastated trees to epic art pieces.

Photographs courtesy of Atelier Hugo França


any designers have been carving a name for themselves on the contemporary industrial design-art scene, but Hugo França is in a league of his own. His work is alive. His chairs breathe. His tables tell you stories. Architecture and design curators have described França’s art as “epic and of a heroic nature”. The toils of his labor are crude yet carefully crafted; they are beauty in its savage and sophisticated form. França, according to The New York Times, views his structure as “those of a total outsider, cut off from art world references and living in nature with no electricity or plumbing.”

França works with reclaimed wood, mostly sculpting furniture out of abandoned and burned pequi roots from the coastal rainforest. He does not wait for them to be shipped to him. Every 45 days, he goes off to his studio in the town of Trancoso, Bahia. He walks the jungle with the locals and indigenous people, who guide him to deserted trunks or sell him old canoes. With his assistants, he camps out in the woods and lives with the beautiful garbage during the course of unearthing and afterwards. França draws on the trees with chalk, considering their future look. Sometimes he decides their new fate on the spot. Sadly, the designer’s favorite rustic wood is reeling from the effects of deforestation and is expected to disappear in the coming years. Originally an industrial engineer who began as a contractor building houses, França’s green journey started as he carved furniture out of discarded wood. This is when his concern about the waste surfaced. In the years to follow, he would isolate himself in northeastern Brazil to learn the intricacies of working with trees. “The fact that I am using something that is abandoned and will probably go rotten in time is a fundamental part of the concept of the work,” França was quoted as saying in comments about

The Brazil-based designer’s work has ended up in St. Tropez, Hawaii, and Dubai, while Hollywood actor Will Smith owns one of França’s trunk sofas at his Los Angeles home. França’s designs appeal well to an international audience but only the well-to-do can afford to live with one, as a small canoe chair can sell for $18000 while a dining table can cost $100000. Acquiring the basics for his projected works and the creative process that ensues explain for all those zeros. 218



the sustainable factor in his art. “This is another one of my goals: To bring the tree back to people’s lives and houses. Usually, when wood comes into people’s homes it is so transformed that you don’t even recognize it’s a living thing.” Beyond talks exclusively to França. BEYOND–How did all this start? HUGO FRANÇA–In early 1990’s, I started to think about producing pieces of furniture that would, in principle, take advantage and enhance the natural forms of wood. I also wanted to give a second chance to wood that was left aside and abandoned for not having any commercial use. I began to work on canoes that were no longer being used by fishermen. They were my raw material. After that, I discovered

pequi wood debris. That was the wood that Pataxo Indians, the native inhabitants of Trancoso, made their canoes from. B–How do you describe what you do and why are you essentially doing this? HF–The outcome of my work process is sculptural furniture. They are one-of-a-kind pieces executed following traditional craftsmanship procedures and aiming to take the best of the original forms of wood while intervening the least possible. The work has aesthetic and conceptual senses that are important in the sustainable ideal. B–How is your work eco-friendly? HF–It is eco-friendly in the sense that it has nearly no impact on nature.

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Art and beyond

B–What, in your opinion, gives your work such worldwide appeal? HF–It’s hard to tell exactly which features appeal the most. Whatever it is, it is very rewarding to see it cross borders and mean something for people from other cultures. B–If such woods as the pequi cease to exist, what will you ultimately turn to? HF–I’ll simply have to research for other wood debris. B–What is the upside and downside of what you do? HF–I can’t really point to any negative aspect of what I do.



B–What are your major environmental concerns? HF–It worries me a lot to see how badly and neglectfully natural resources are being used, mainly those from tropical regions. B–What about upcoming plans/exhibitions? HF–We have an exhibition calendar for both national and international shows that we are constantly working on. I also plan to set up a school that trains people how to best manage issues related to the usage of any kind of debris or discarded material.

White Core 2011



When imagination takes flight – LA based MotoArt make furniture and home accessories from commercial aircraft junk Photographs courtesy of MotoArt

Coffee table




here is nothing out of the ordinary with intense male fascination with airplanes, engines, and propellers. It goes with the territory. But men who use dead aviation parts and metal scrap to create striking furniture items and unique home décor and go on to run a million dollar enterprise out of what they love doing, that’s extraordinary. That’s art! That’s green art engineering.

items on our Website with airframes that we have in stock. The customer tells us how long and what finish they want their piece made too. Production of their piece typically takes six-eight weeks.

Cylindrical reception desks, Mile High beds, 727 airplane conference tables, and propeller blade sculptures are but a few of the products you may gaze at and find yourself resisting to take home in the 12,000 square-foot hangar of MotoArt Inc. in California. This is where business partners Dave Hall and Donovan Fell work their magic. It was Fell who rescued in 1998 the first propeller from a scrap aluminum truck and created a sculpture from it. Hall had a background in sales and marketing and asked to represent Fell’s work. The two understood the same language: Designing state-of-the-art pieces out of abandoned airplanes.

B–On average, how long does it take to work on a new model from conception to implementation? DH–Hundred of hours can go into each piece. Sometimes, it could take years. We have pieces sitting in our yard that we’ve held onto for five years. However typically, we try to find a “sponsor” for the first piece. The sponsor will get number one of the series and will pay the least of anyone. It takes us the knowhow to build the first one, in order to price it out.

With a portfolio including Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, and a price tag that could range from $100 to $60,000, MotoArt hardly count as novices having a bit of a moment. The company has representatives in many parts of the world, including a Middle East sales office in Jordan, and their Website reads in English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, and Spanish. Beyond steals Hall away from his greasy planes for a bit to talk about MotoArt and why it is worth its metal. BEYOND–What inspired Motoart? DAVE HALL–MotoArt was created to preserve aviation history. Originally, we started by collecting old World War II propellers and one day we made a table from it. The DC-3 Martini Table became our first functional piece of art. From there we decided to continue creating functional art from vintage airframes. Each of our series on the Website is limited editions based on the availability of each part. B–Did you have to take any special courses to be able to do what you do? DH–Funny as it is, Donovan and I have never taken an art class in our life. B–Where do you collect materials from? DH–Most bone yards are commercial aircraft. There’s an abundance of Boeing and Airbus aircraft decommissioned. These we find in the California deserts and in New Mexico. However, the older more vintage airframes are very difficult to find. These we locate from all over the world. B–What kinds of materials do you use? DH–Almost all our pieces are aluminum. We work with mostly the control surfaces of the aircraft. B–What is the work process? DH–Each piece is made to order. We back up each of the

B–Who helps with the production? DH–We have a team of 15 employees who fabricate our work. About half of them are artists themselves. We have a wood and metal shop, and an eight-men sanding and polishing team.

B–Where are you available worldwide? DH–After ten years, we have established a good team of distributers and representatives. We have a showroom in Maryland, Italy, and Taiwan. Representation can be found in the Middle East and Hong Kong. B–Who are your clients? DH–Most of our clients are corporations who buy our work for their conference rooms and reception areas. They see it as conversational pieces and it’s literally the art of being green. B–Do you make seasonal collections? DH–Not really. We purchase and secure parts when needed, or when available. Sometimes, we get locked into buying something that we don’t even need because we either secure it, or it gets scraped. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. B–Where do you draw inspiration for new models? DH–We look for airframes that we know we can get multiples of. It has to be somewhat recognizable for it to be a marketable item. Once we can identify this, we reverse engineer the part to make something fun and practical out of it. B–What are the challenges of your work? DH–Finding and securing the airframes. Currently, we’re moving into a new 18,000 sq studio near Los Angeles International Airport after spending ten years at Torrance Airport. This has been by far the biggest challenge. It is not easy moving 10,000 airplane parts and keeping a business going. B–How do you define what you do? DH–I still haven’t figured that one out... It comes out of my mouth differently every time. If I say I build functional art from vintage aircraft, you can almost see their eyes roll. Then once they see some examples of our work, they totally “get it”. White Core 2011



Bed made from aircraft leftovers 224

ground Horizons

Dave Hall and Donovan Fell with one of their conference tables

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Naturally predisposed


ania Husami has been painting for as long as she can remember. “I was born with an innate love for colors and paint. I always had this thing for playing with colors and mixing them,” she says. She took painting and technical courses in Akron University, Ohio in 1990. She would paint from time to time. But having recently married, she would not fully devote herself to her art, although her creative passions burned strong throughout that period. It was not until 2004 that she decided to do her first collective exhibition in Faqra, Mount Lebanon. Various scenery from Lebanon, the natural environment, and flowers were prevalent in her debut exposé. A series of collectives would follow, all of which touched on nature and serene depictions of nature, mostly using acrylic and mixed media.

This show was also influenced by the nature of home. “I’ve always been touched by nature either the sea or mountain. The main painting of this exhibition was called ‘My adorable Lebanon’. It was about a village in my home country, and it was sold to Minister of State Adnan Kassar,” she adds. “I just love to experiment with colors,” says Husami. “My strong and vivid colors reflect my strong character and my joie de vivre,” she notes, adding that her work is a reflection of her mood, personality, and life. Husami now wants to show her strong connection with nature in other ways. “I want to dedicate one of my exhibitions in the near future to help protect the environment and nature,” she concludes.



(c) Hania Husami, Faqra, 2010

In March, she did her first private exhibition at Piece Unique Gallery in Saifi. “It was a big success. I used a special technique of mixed media with my touch of strong color and large spaces,” Husami explains.



(c) Hania Husami, My adorable Lebanon, 2010.



Last Boat (c) Jamil Molaeb, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 160 cm (39.37 x 63 in.), 2001 Property of The Mokbel Art Collection

Friends of the Sky Š Jamil Molaeb, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 160 cm (39.37 x 63 in.), 2001 Property of The Mokbel Art Collection


A blueming sight


amil Molaeb is not an emerging artist having a moment. He has been painting for decades, having taught at Ohio State University until 1988, when he returned to Lebanon, and currently teaches art at the Lebanese University.

There are many striking things about a Jamil Molaeb artwork, including his exuberant use of color. Equally moving the onlooker is the inspiration of nature in his pieces. His 2001 acrylic painting “Friends of the Sky” is a softly lyrical abstract work that treats landscape as an atmospheric dreamscape. With different shades of blue, the artist creates a unified, evocative mood. Moaleb divides his painting into two panels separated by the glowing sunshine reflected on the crest of the waves. And the prevalent blue sky in the minimalist piece acts as a sounding board against which the two exaggeratingly big birds gain their resonance. The sea gives viewers a sense of being recast as a bird, Molaeb says of the painting. One cannot help but notice the readiness of the birds to take off as they are perched on the rock. This suggests a troubling feeling of the unaccomplished, where the artist says he is looking beyond the human realm and makes us realize how small we are in comparison to the vast universe. Born in Baysour, a small village in Mount Lebanon, Molaeb studied fine arts in Lebanon and Algeria before obtaining his master’s in fine art and his PhD in artistic education philosophy in the United States. On the effect of nature on his work, Molaeb comments, “I’m a piece of nature. I grew up in nature.” It is also in Baysour that the 62-yearold painter has planted 400 trees, and constantly looks after them.

White Core 2011



Waiting (c) Jamil Molaeb, oil pastel on paper, 65 x 50 cm (25.60 x 19.69 in.), 2001 Property of The Mokbel Art Collection



Liberty (c) Jamil Molaeb, oil pastel on paper, 65 x 50 cm (25.60 x 19.69 in.), 2001 Property of The Mokbel Art Collection

White Core 2011



When art draws on nature – Balsam Abo Zour unleashes the beast within after secluding herself in the wilderness Words by Aline Sara Paintings courtesy of Agial Art Gallery


etite and seemingly fragile, Balsam Abo Zour is neither brittle nor shy. One of the freshest faces to Lebanon’s art scene, she has a very outspoken philosophy on life, which through her art comes out loud and clear: Man must learn from animals; mankind, in turn, must respect wildlife. Nature particularly animals, are like a school, and society to a certain extent, corrupts society. As such, babies are like animals and never bad intentioned.

Perhaps she owes it to her childhood and to growing up in the mountains, in the village of Natine. “It was close to banana fields,” she notes, “far away from the buzzing sound of the city.” She was 12 when her school teacher, Hassan Yateem as well as her older brother, Emile, encouraged her to take up drawing and painting during extracurricular classes. “They pushed me to take my interest in art seriously,” says the 28 year-old artist, alluding to memories of her painting and drawing on napkins and other such random and eclectic types of canvases.

With her rousseauan take on life, Abo Zour is convinced that in another world, man might have been subject to animal power. “Man could have been the meat you chop up and serve for dinner,” she explains. The strange and ghostly looking imagery of her paintings reflects just that, as man and nature mesh into one, interchangeable entity in her recent first ever solo exhibit, Phantasmagoria. In the piece entitled “Thanksgiving,” a massive turkey overbears a giant pot of miniature human beings being cooked up for supper. In several other paintings, humans are garnered with animal paws and feathers. A different twist than the usual, as half way into the show, 10 out of the 15 acrylic paintings on display had already been sold, explains Carol Chehab, creative director, Agial Art Gallery, Hamra. This is very impressive for a new artist, she adds. Abo Zour has already generated a lot of buzz in the local art scene.

Abo Zour gasps as the state of life in the urban setting, where she has been less than willingly coming for the sake of the exhibit, amidst none other but the busy Hamra side of town, a culture shock to the artist who lives secluded in a remote farm of the Shouf Mountains to which vehicles cannot get. Surrounded by abundant vegetation and animals, Abo Zour says she is more in touch with her five senses. “You can hear sounds you are incapable of paying attention to in the urban setting. You can smell aromas that are flushed away by city pollution. You can see the colors more clearly,” she says.

Although always fond of the arts, Abo Zour has rarely transmitted her passion for wildlife through her work. During her four years of drawing and painting study at the Lebanese University, assignments always constrained her. It was only until her fourth and final year that the professor informed the class that the ultimate project would be a “free topic”. For the first time, and quite coincidentally, Abo Zour became aware of the work she could produce combining all three of her interests in one. 234


Going back on her compelling interest in the relationship between nature and man, Abo Zour insists she had an extremely conservative upbringing, which she reckons threw her off a bit. Many things were taboo, such as sexuality. As such, upon discovering Freud at an early age and his habitual sexual interpretation for most happenings, she was caught by surprise. The combination of the absurd sexual interrelation between the animals can be seen through several of her paintings. Regardless of any such type of confusion or distress from witnessing the destructive nature of life in the city and a technology invaded society, Abo Zour has found a way of making her cry for worshipping and valuing wildlife heard.

‘Garden of Pleasure’, 100x100cm, acrylic White Core 2011



Going public – Mammoth public park is soon to land in Byblos as part of a mega plan to create and renovate green spaces across the nation Photographs courtesy of Ministry of Environment and Exotica


ebanon and its lively people have an affinity for many things public. We are infamous for our “public” political tirades. We like the “public” spotlight and are hooked on “public” social networking. We are also not afraid of some “public” display of affection. But one thing is for sure: We don’t do “public” parks, perhaps because there aren’t any worth writing about. Well that is all about to change and it is cause for “public” celebration.

An 18,000 square-meter swathe of land was reportedly due to be become another residence for a few thousand cars in the vicinity of Byblos. But it got a new lease on life when Minister of Environment, Mohammad Rahal, suggested turning it into a national public park. Overlooking the ruins of Byblos as well as the Mediterranean Sea, the plot will house a special playground for children and will be an informative and enjoyable experience for all age groups. “There will be different themes in the park,” says Mahasin Rahhal, advisor for diplomatic affairs, 236


Ministry of Environment (MOE), which is overseeing the project. “The aromatic side will be educational, where children can see all the aromatic trees and plants in Lebanon. Another part will be devoted to national trees and flowers.” A third section will host a small Japanese garden, she reveals. The public garden will also have an amphitheater. But where will we all our motors go, you may be wondering! The area engulfing the garden will still be a parking lot that can accommodate up to 4000 cars, as Rahhal indicates. The landscaping of the much needed breathing space, referred to for the time being as Byblos Park, is being executed by Exotica, a household name in flower arrangement and landscape design. The field experts will be operating on the land offered pro bono by the Municipality of Byblos, a move Rahhal openly commands. “Not all municipalities are willing to give away such a huge

plot for free,” she says. The Central Bank governor, Riad Salame, is shelling out a hefty $600,000 for the landscaping design and implementation.

message to the whole world through the park: That “Lebanon is still green”.

“We really appreciate the governor’s initiative,” Rahhal continues. “He’s been incredibly supportive of this beautiful project.” The Municipality of Byblos, on the other hand, is paying up for the infrastructure, which is already underway and due for completion by the yearend. After that, Exotica’s team of specialists will take over.

And this is only the beginning, as the MOE is attacking the whole of the nation. “We’re not going to stop at Byblos. We just signed on with nine municipalities to make public gardens around Beirut. We’re also going to sign with another seven mainly in the south and the Bekaa to make public gardens in areas that the municipalities are providing,” Rahhal says.

The unveiling is expected next May. “I think Byblos is going to be a lovely park, which we’re really looking forward to launching. That is why our main concern was not to let it drag on. We wanted it finalized in six months. So most of the trees there will be between 10 and 20 years old. That means you are going to enter a real park, and not need to wait years for the trees to grow,” Rahhal stresses. As Byblos is a natural stop for tourists from across the globe when visiting Lebanon, the stakeholders wanted to convey a

The southern cities of Sidon and Tyr are also on the agenda. “We want to make green spaces for children everywhere to play in and for people to sit and read, as unfortunately we don’t have that.” She continues, “We want to restore faith in the Ministry of Environment. We wanted to show people that we’re doing something for them away from the sectarianism and politicization. We’re doing something to promote Lebanon and its image.” And this is certainly worthy of a “public” round of applause. White Core 2011




White Core 2011


lush life

You can make Beirut greener – Exotica’s Marc Debbane explains how to show the darkened capital some green light

Words by Ana Maria Luca Photographs courtesy of Exotica


here is hardly any green left in Beirut. Lebanon’s capital is one of the world’s greyest cities, with only 46 hectares of gardens out of 20 square kilometers. Moreover, half of its green space is closed to the public, which is salivating for more oxygen. But “when there is a will, there’s a way” is a rule of thumb that applies here as well as everywhere. So if you cannot find your green zone on the street, you can bring it to your own house. Beyond meets Exotica’s Landscape Manager, Marc Debbane, to find out how any Beiruti can bring a drop of life and color to a concrete-stricken city. From plants on a balcony, to a rooftop garden, or even a living wall in the building or apartment, Debbane has more than a few tricks up his sleeve. BEYOND–A living wall is a very new thing for Lebanon and you’ve just installed one in Beirut. Who wanted to go through such a project? MARC DEBBANE–A developer. His building was located on a difficult plot of land and thus the design of the building is special with duplexes, mid-levels, and huge retaining walls that were a necessity. The idea behind the creation of a living green wall came from the need to embellish those walls, which are as high as 17 meters. It is a first in Lebanon and we’ve had a few inquiries since, and I hope they will see the day. B–Can it be done in an apartment too? MD–It can be done indoors as well. We have a few projects for clients who want to do this indoors as well, and they will see the day for those who want to have something different



White Core 2011


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inside their homes, hotels, or malls. Some restaurants in the Central District showed some interest as well. In this case, the designer was foreign and decided to include a living wall. Some interest was expressed by Lebanese people who have seen it elsewhere, and also designers who want to introduce it here. B–What are the main benefits of having a green wall? MD–Beyond the esthetics, the benefits are the same ones as any plant can bring. A green wall improves quality of air by recycling it. It also creates a cooling effect. This microclimate in the immediate surroundings is explained by the transpiration of the plants. B–How expensive was it? MD–Prices are in line with European averages since all raw materials are the same and are imported from there. We actually make up for transport and other costs by producing the plants locally, which ensures that all plants are suited for 242


each wall since conditions vary a great deal. We perform maintenance as well, like in a garden. If you don’t maintain it well, whether it’s a garden, a park, a balcony, or even vegetables, you end up with no crop or unhealthy plants. B–When did you start the living wall project? MD–We started this year. It could have been installed a bit earlier, but the building was not ready. I don’t think the building is inhabited yet. But I think they are quite proud to have it, because it’s a first. B–How about gardens on balconies or rooftop gardens, are they a trend in Lebanon? MD–For the balconies there are two trends here: People who turn them into gardens, and those who prefer to turn them into additional living spaces. On many new buildings, given the price hikes, balconies are marketed and sold as if they were part of the apartment anyway.

There is also one phenomenon, which is quite Lebanese, and that’s building concrete planters in the skeleton of the building. It is something that I haven’t seen anywhere else, and it started to show up 30 -40 years ago. The older buildings don’t have them. But if you look at the new buildings, they are trying to integrate green as much as they can. If you look at the buildings from the 1980s and 1990s, they all have built-in planters. B–How do you make a city like Beirut greener? MD–It all depends on how the matter is taken into hand. The municipalities should have more initiatives, because the public spaces are owned by them. And it is also a personal decision that each one of us can make. One of the main problems in Beirut is that there is no proper urbanism and master planning including green space and proper circulation too. There is no general overview known to the public of how the city

could become greener. The best initiative would be to create a private-public partnership where what’s missing from the public sector would be provided by the private sector and vice versa. B–What should any Lebanese think about when we speak about a greener city? MD–There are many benefits to having a greener city. If you go on any high building in Ashrafieh or Downtown and you look downwards, it is not a very pretty sight. You can improve that very easily by designing a little garden and planting a few trees on each rooftop. It would make a huge difference. This would help balance the increase in temperature, reduce pollution, and improve the view in Beirut. If you’re at sea and you look at Beirut, the only visible green area is the American University of Beirut. The rest is all concrete.

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White Core 2011




(c) frederic francis

lush life

Raising the roof Words by Dalila Mahdawi


ames Goodman stands on his roof terrace in a bustling part of Beirut, checking a blossoming jasmine bush for aphids. A car stuck in traffic on the street below blares its horn violently, but amidst his colorful flowers, vine tomatoes and fragrant herbs, Goodman hardly bats an eyelid. Not exactly a city famous for abundant green spaces or environmentally-friendly architecture, Beirut is the latest metropolis to start sprouting rooftop gardens. “The city is very grey and black, so I decided to plant the garden as way to gain peace of mind,” says Goodman. His efforts to do away with the concrete are remarkable. When he first moved into his apartment, the rooftop looked like many others in Beirut: Neglected, scruffy, and purposeless. Two years and many hours of loving pruning later, Goodman has transformed the space into the envy of many – a tranquil garden awash with life, food, and color. Bees buzz around beetroot, basil and chilies, and ladybugs clamber over cucumbers, radishes, parsley, and sunflowers. Although Goodman designed and planted his garden alone, landscape architects are reporting a surge in business for green roofs across Beirut. It seems city residents are desperate to fight against the urban jungle creeping up around them. As traditional houses are bulldozed to make way for high-rise apartment blocks, one of the other features that disappear along with them are gardens. With few other options, landscapers, urban planners, and environmentalists are turning to the roof to reclaim space for nature. High time “These spaces recreate the old feel of Beirut, only 50 meters higher,” says Zeina Majdalani Khabbaz, a landscape architect working on some of Beirut’s upcoming private rooftop gardens. MajdalaniKhabbaz has high-end clients who request things like Infiniti pools, but she insists rooftop gardens are not exclusive to those with deep pockets. “In the olden days we used to plant in milk tins or

any other containers available. So why not now?” Aside from being a way to maintain a connection with nature, roof gardens are an effective way for individuals to combat climate change and pollution. “They help mitigate the negative impacts of cities on the environment and encourage sustainable development by conserving energy and water, improving air and water quality, assisting in storm water management, absorbing solar radiation, and creating natural retreats,” says Frederic Francis, another landscape architect in Beirut who has been helping promote the burgeoning trend. “Green spaces give a sense of social place and belonging by fostering a connection between residents and the natural environment, thus allowing for a more livable city,” Francis adds. Rooftop gardens are also practical during the sweltering Beirut summer, as they help reduce urban temperatures, meaning less energy is expended through air conditioning. A recent study by the National Research Council of Canada concluded that “if widely adopted, rooftop gardens could reduce … urban heat … which would decrease smog episodes, problems associated with heat stress and further lower energy consumption.” Lebanese Majdalani-Khabbaz says the government should encourage residents to plant green roofs by offering tax breaks, as the German, Argentinean, and Japanese authorities are already doing. Both landscape architects advise anyone thinking of creating a green roof to consider the weight load their roof can accommodate, select plants which can survive wind currents and sea salt, and ensure their rooftop has the proper drainage systems in place. “It’s really easy to plant things like herbs and flowers,” says Goodman. “They smell great, they look good, and they’ve made the rooftop such a nicer space to sit in.” For Lebanon, the future of urban green space may well lie on the roof.

White Core 2011

‫مع هدم المنازل‬ ‫التقليدية النشاء‬ ‫مكانها مباني‬ ‫ اختفت‬،‫سكنية‬ ‫ ومع النقص‬.‫الحدائق‬ ‫ تحول‬،‫في الخيارات‬ ‫مهندسو الحدائق‬ ‫ومخططو المدن‬ ‫والبيئة إلى اسطح‬ ‫البنايات بحثا عن‬ ‫مساحات النشاء‬ .‫عليها اماكن طبيعية‬ ‫تقول زينة مجدالني‬ ‫خباز وهي مهندسة‬ ‫حدائق تعمل حاليا‬ ‫على تأهيل حدائق‬ ‫على اسطح ابنية‬ ،‫خاصة في بيروت‬ ‫«إن هذه المساحات‬ ‫تعيد لنا بيروت‬ ‫القديمة انما على‬ ‫» وبغض‬.‫ مترا‬50 ‫علو‬ ‫النظر عن كونها‬ ‫وسيلة للحفاظ على‬ ‫نوع من االتصال مع‬ ‫ تساهم‬،‫الطبيعة‬ ‫الحدائق على اسطح‬ ‫االبنية في مكافحة‬ .‫تغ ّير المناخ والتلوث‬ ‫ يؤكد‬،‫وفي هذا االطار‬ ‫فريدريك فرانسيس‬ ‫وهو مهندس معماري‬ ‫يساهم اليوم بتعزيز‬ ‫التوجه نحو انشاء‬ ‫ «ان‬،‫حدائق في بيروت‬ ‫الحدائق تساعد في‬ ‫تخفيف اآلثار السلبية‬ ‫للمدن على البيئة‬ ‫وتشجيع التنمية‬ ‫المستدامة من خالل‬ ‫الحفاظ على الطاقة‬ ‫والماء والهواء‬ ‫وتحسين نوعية‬ ‫ والمساعدة‬،‫المياه‬ ‫في إدارة مياه األمطار‬ ‫واستيعاب االشعة‬ ‫الشمسية باالضافة‬ ‫الى تهيئة اماكن‬ ».‫ترفيه طبيعية‬ ‫والحدائق على‬ ‫االسطح عملية‬ ‫ايضا خالل فصل‬ ‫الصيف الحار في‬ ‫بيروت فهي تساعد‬ ‫في خفض درجات‬ ‫الحرارة في المدينة‬ ‫وبالتالي خفض‬ ‫الطاقة المنبعثة من‬ .‫المكيفات الهوائية‬


lush life



(c) Zeina Majdalani Khabbaz

Comme les maisons traditionnelles ont été détruites pour donner place à des immeubles de grande hauteur, les jardins ont disparu. Et avec peu d’options devant eux, les paysagistes, les urbanistes et les écologistes se sont tournés vers les toits des immeubles en recherche d’espace de nature. L’architecte paysagiste Zeina Majdalani Khabbaz qui travaille sur certains jardins de toiture privés à Beyrouth, assure que ces espaces recréent la vieille Beyrouth mais à 50 mètres de hauteur. Et bien qu’ils soient un moyen de maintenir une certaine connexion avec la nature, les jardins toiture sont aussi un moyen efficace pour lutter contre le changement climatique et la pollution. Frederic Francis, un autre architecte paysagiste qui aide à promouvoir et bourgeonner cette tendance à Beyrouth explique que ces jardins aident à atténuer les impacts négatifs des villes sur l’environnement tout en encourageant le développement durable, en économisant de l’énergie et de l’eau, et en améliorant la qualité d’air et d’eau par la gestion des eaux pluviales et l’absorption des rayons solaires, et cela mène aussi à créer des refuges dans la nature. Les jardins toiture sont aussi pratiques durant l’été accablant à Beyrouth, car ils contribuent à réduire la température urbaine, ce qui signifie que moins d’énergie est dépensée par les systèmes de climatisation. White Core 2011




(c) Zeina Majdalani Khabbaz

(c) frederic francis

Aside from being a way to maintain a connection with nature, roof gardens are an effective way for individuals to combat climate change and pollution.

White Core 2011



Closing the distance – Live Lebanon promotes sustainable local development, linking Lebanese expats with impoverished areas. Photographs courtesy of Live Lebanon


host of efforts have been attempting to bridge the gap between Lebanese expatriates and their distant homeland, but few tend to connect them to local development, and flaunt a green heart too. Live Lebanon, an initiative launched by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in November 2009, has been doing just that. It aims to strengthen the engagement of Lebanese expatriates and local development projects and objectives in Lebanon. “The primary purpose of Live Lebanon is to promote sustainable local development in Lebanon by Lebanese linking the Lebanese expatriates with vulnerable and neglected areas at home,” Raghed Assi, program manager, Social Development, UNDP, explains. “This is achieved firstly through an operational and innovative Web-based platform and an active outreach and communication strategy. It is secondly made concrete through the implementation of funded projects in collaboration with local stakeholders.” 252


The program encompasses the fields of youth, incomegenerating activities, health, and environment. “We included environmental projects based on the local needs and the assessment that Lebanon’s biodiversity and natural resources are depleting. Our projects are prioritized by their longer term impact for the community at large,” Assi adds. Underway projects include the improvement and extension of an irrigation canal in Ain Yaccoub, in the north, for water use efficiency, and the restoration of a drinking water network in Beit Jaafar, in Baalbeck-Hermel. “What pervades all our projects is that they are all meeting the needs of local communities to sustainable environmental development and the restoration of green areas,” says Assi. “The project in Ain Yaccoub is an example where a previous irrigation canal network was circulating water for the local farmers, but due to its bad construction, most of the water was absorbed and lost in the ground. Additionally, the existing canal failed to cope with


the increasing number of inhabitants in the area and the result was a shortage of water supply to the new agriculture fields.” By renovating and extending the irrigation canal, the project ensured that more farmers were benefiting from the canal and it has also guaranteed that the water, which is a limited resource, is now used in a sustainable way. Likewise, the projects in Nabi Shiit, in the Bekaa and that in the Beirut suburb of Ouzai demonstrate how Live Lebanon complements efforts to restore green areas. “Both projects are establishing public gardens, which include recreational facilities aiming to serve big communities living in poverty, high unemployment rates, no social services, and no available space for outdoor activities. The public gardens, thus, not only serve to re-establish green areas, but also create areas for leisure activities, hence building better surroundings for the local community specifically families and youths,” Assi goes on to say. At a larger scale, these initiatives largely fall under UNDP’s mandate to promote sustainable human development and achievements towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, one of which is to ensure environmental sustainability. It also links with UNDP’s ongoing and committed support to the efforts of Ministry of Environment. Everywhere, everyday Covering all areas with a focus on those which have been comparatively neglected, Live Lebanon advocates

the inclusion of regions and villages that have not substantively benefited from previous interventions and support. It also links with other programs and projects operating in these areas to ensure coordination and a multidimensional approach to development. “So far 30 villages have been targeted and this number will increase substantially following the selection of the second round of project proposals,” in the near future, the program manager stresses. Tangible results have already been observed, Assi notes, saying the contribution of individuals and goodwill ambassadors are exponentially growing – which maintains the sustenance of Live Lebanon. “Live Lebanon aims to be a platform engaging individuals from the Lebanese Diaspora, civil society groups and local authorities, bilateral development agencies, the private sector, and the media,” Assi says, adding each greatly contributes to the continuation of the initiative. The conventional way of engagement is through private donations for projects over the Website. Another way is by becoming a friend of Live Lebanon by engaging in their different social media pages and Website, Assi elaborates. Live Lebanon has also been “proactive in appointing prominent Lebanese expatriates as goodwill ambassadors to promote the project and raise awareness in their respective regions,” he says.



The sea inside – Purple Reef attempts to protect marine life while involving the community.

(c) purple reef

Words by Andrew McCornack


upp-orrrrrt da looo-calzzz!” bellows Ziad Samaha with a wry smile and a confident Lebanese accent as he strides towards a group of new volunteers in the ancient port of Tyre. They are there for a weekend of environmental awareness and outdoor sporting activities organized by Purple Reef – a new Lebanese non-profit organization advancing the preservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Samaha and co-founder Mo Hammoud plan to show their guests the grave problems affecting marine life in the country. However, they intend to do it with a youthfulness and sense of humor that truly inspires their guests. “Support the locals!” may become a playful mantra for the weekend, but it also reinforces the notion that local communities are essential to any lasting environmental movement in Lebanon. Purple Reef is out to save the sea and seeks to do so



by targeting a spectrum of inter-dependent issues: Endangered species, fishing practices, water pollution, and sustainable tourism. The most important factor underling all these challenges is increasing public awareness and commitment to stopping harmful activities. Hence, Purple Reef is actively creating linkages with the local community in Tyr as well as with organizations and government bodies around the country. The group is working closely with the Tyr Coast Nature Reserve to coordinate efforts and strengthen conservation in the area. “There is no way for the reserve to monitor or protect the sea adjoining the reserve, so once turtles leave the safety of the beach they are exposed to fishing nets and pollution – they mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, which kill them,” Hammoud notes. “We are not here to preach. We want to emphasize

(c) Christina Malkoun

Purple Reef is out to save the sea and seeks to do so by targeting a spectrum of issues.

the economic benefits of conservation and ecotourism for fishing communities and for the government.” Purple Reef is working to give local groups a financial stake in protecting the environment for visitors from Lebanon and abroad. With local support they can increase pressure on the government to control fishing and pollution issues. Because the Purple Reef team also comprises avid scuba divers, they spend a lot of time in the water. They have a clear sense of the problems most people cannot (or choose not) to see. Hammoud and Samaha are passionate about the protection of turtles and sharks and they describe the critical role of these animals in the environment. For example, sharks, a great passion for the vivacious group, control the number of migrating fish and protect local species that cannot compete with invasive species. Samaha stresses: “We started as a small initiative after seeing a

large female sand tiger fished out in Beirut. This really upset us because we had known this shark for many years and she had attracted many tourists from places like Germany and Holland.” Sharks are often killed by fishermen and sold to restaurants where the meat can be given to customers in generic fish dishes such as “Fish Kebbe”. What is worse, the meat can quickly become contaminated and affect unknowing humans. What is next for the organization? “We are looking for funding and working on proposals. We want to conduct population studies and continue our awareness-raising,” says Hammoud. The growing team is looking for marine specialists, divers, volunteers, and university students to contribute in a number of challenging and fun ways. Those wanting to know more should join a trip to Tyr and discover firsthand how to save Lebanon’s sea life while “Supporrrrting da looocalzzz.”

White Core 2011



Immortal love story – Cedar of Lebanon, Pledge of Eternity vows to keep the nation green and engrave forever in our memories the history and beauty of the cedar.


hen the symbol of Lebanon – the cedar tree – is in jeopardy, sounding the alarm bell is the natural thing to do. That is what Pascale Choueiri Saad, Lara Hanna Debs, and Clement Tannouri did through Cedar of Lebanon, Pledge of Eternity, a first-of-its-kind documentary book on the iconic tree. The authors, through their recently launched publication, swore “to keep Lebanon green by building a civic responsibility, especially towards the environment.” In spellbinding 160 pages illustrated in both English and French, the book shows the majestic culture, history, and ecology of the cedar, in a bid to complement national efforts to enhance public awareness about the importance of preserving the Lebanese forests so as to avert further tragic losses. Captured in all areas where the cedar rooted itself all year round, “the images awaken a sense of pride grasped by such majesty, leading one to react to the danger against these mythical trees,” says Tannouri, who shot the breathtaking pictures. It also explores and traces back the history of the cedar tree and its uses across the world and ages. It even devotes a section on how to plant a cedar. The book proceeds will be donated to the reforestation of two public parks in Beirut, Sioufi, east of the capital and Sanayeh, on the west side. “We believe there is



a strong need to create awareness about the enormous damages and environmental tragedies that our beloved country is encountering,” commented Choueiri Saad, Beyond magazine publisher and co-owner of Green Cedar Lebanon. Choueiri Saad and Hanna Debs, co-owner of Green Cedar Lebanon, plan to donate the profits to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for the reforestation of the two parks in collaboration with the Municipality of Beirut. Cedar of Lebanon, Pledge of Eternity is the second initiative of Green Cedar Lebanon, after Green Lebanon the Book, which managed to raise a $100,000, which were donated to Akhdar Dayem Association. Founded in 2007, Green Cedar Lebanon was conceived in response to the massive losses of forest cover following the July 2006 aggression, the forest fires of 2007, and overall neglect of forests. The authors dedicated their book “to all those who planted our cedars, who rest in the shadow of their branches over their sacred soil, to all blessed hands which plant and will plant cedars in Lebanon and around the world, and to all who work hard to protect and safeguard our cedars.” The book is “a promise to immortalize the feeling of belonging and to engrave forever in one’s memory the history and beauty of the cedar,” Choueiri-Saad and Hanna-Debs said.


The gems we weren’t told about – Author of A Million Steps narrates an awe-inspiring story about her journey to Lebanon’s rocky edges. Photographs courtesy of Hana El-Hibri


er eyes well up. Describing transgressions committed against nature – atrocities that she witnessed while crossing the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) – is taxing on her soul. But her face changes the instant she recalls coming across beauty beyond belief along the 440-km trail, stretching from Kobayat in the North to Marjayoun in the South. A hiker who embarked on expeditions into areas as magnificent as Yosemite Park in the U.S., Hana El-Hibri could not believe that there are regions in Lebanon that measure up to the grandeur of North American natural wonders. Equally elating is the discovery of over 30 native wild orchid species. It was in 2009 that Hibri joined a group of six people on a walkthrough across the LMT to explore it for the first time. Her aim was to chronicle this one-month journey, accompanied by photographer Norbert Schiller, in her book A Million Steps – Discovering the Lebanon Mountain Trail. The book not only illuminates the rarely seen natural riches of Lebanon, but also sheds light on the colorful people inhabiting the villages through which the trail cuts. “You encounter a wide spectrum of people belonging to different cultures along the trail and this is what makes it so special – you learn about their lives, folklore, cuisine, and heritage,” she explains with enthusiasm. “Discovering Lebanon on foot is totally different than what one might expect. The whole area is not only breathtaking. The people are also so



hospitable, generous, and beautiful.” What also makes the LMT so unique, she says, is that it connects existing footpaths, which have been there for centuries. Hibri likens the experience to walking on history and encountering pieces of Lebanon’s heritage every single day. “An olive press, a Roman temple, and a Phoenician tomb are what you might stumble upon and this is utterly romantic,” she maintains. “And there are the Hadrian inscriptions in different places stating a decree by the Roman emperor that prohibited the cutting down of cedar, juniper, and pine trees.” But her voyage was not only about discovering that Lebanon is rich in varying landscapes, biodiversity, wildlife, and cultures. Hibri also came to understand the plight of villagers in terms of poor infrastructure and means of support. The experience made her reflect on potential solutions for empowering them so that reverting to harming the environment or abandoning their villages no longer become an option. Hibri believes that through ecotourism, which could be a sustainable source of income, villagers can realize the importance of conserving their natural surroundings and hang on to their roots. Consequently, activities like chopping off trees or establishing quarries would come to a halt. And she hopes that by showing us how beautiful and diverse our country is, we would all see to it that we preserve the environment for future generations – each of us contributing in his/her own way.

Green Instincts

Ghady Azar

Marketing Coordinator “Since global warming will have a huge ecological and economical impact on the long term, and taking into account that worldwide carbon emissions are one of its major causes, I would invest in the development of carbon capture technologies. While not optimal at the moment, they are expected to contribute to the reduction of Co2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030.”

Michel Ferneini Restaurateur


“I choose to solve air pollution caused by vehicles, factories, and generators, because we breathe the air; it goes straight to our lungs. Consequently, our health is affected. It also affects the global climate, causing global warming..”

Rouba Azar Masters Student

“I would treat each resident in Lebanon to a oneweek’s journey to Scandinavia. With $10 billion (four million citizens X $2500), we would solve all the ecological problems in Lebanon and many others. Considering that we spend much more to destroy our country, it is a very reasonable budget and the return on investment would certainly be very fast.” 260

Christina Geadah


“Water pollution and mismanagement pose a major threat to the quality of water used in Lebanon, affecting the ecosystems and the biodiversity, as well as posing a high risk on the population’s health. These threats create national economic losses. I will place this issue on the priority list of the political agenda, where I will call on major stakeholders to adequately finance and develop a sustainable water management plan .”

“If you had the financial means and the power to solve one ecological problem, local or global, which one will it be?”

Fady Moghabghab

Communications Consultant “If we leave the environment to take care of itself without any interferences, I think we would help it and us a great deal. In Lebanon, we have no sense about what the environment might mean. So I suggest applying stringent laws, employing dissuasive force, like peace-keeping forces, putting in place efficient education programs, and encouraging/rewarding initiatives and ideas, in the ultimate attempt to save what is still possible.”

Mireille Akel Jewelry Designer “I would pick deforestation because trees and plants are one of the best gifts that God has granted humankind... Forests were put on Earth for a reason; they help maintain a delicate balance between natural elements. By destroying forests through logging, farming, industrial practices, etc… we are placing this delicate balance in jeopardy.”

Tina Moufarrej

Anne-Marie Chahine Romanos



“I would concentrate my efforts on saving every drop of water in Lebanon, raising awareness about the value and scarcity of water, teaching children from a very young age to act responsibly and conserve water and turn to technology to be able to collect and protect water in the most efficient ways and keep it safe from waste and pollution.”

“Trees are to nature what lungs are to humans. Let’s plant new trees and preserve the existing ones instead of cutting them down. It is important to let the Earth breathe to provide a healthy environment for our children and future generations.”

White Core 2011


tech freakS

I have the power‌ to waste



– Marwan Arakji decides to record his daily abuse to the environment on any given day


’ve always been so great at figuring out what works for me nutritionally, down to that last calorie… so I thought instead of tracking my daily calorie intake, why not track my daily abuse to the environment! Hiding in those daily rituals of mine are very insightful little details, which we all seem to overlook, everyday...

I wake up early morning, A/C blasting, and I’m freezing… do I turn it off (and save a little energy)? No, I run hide in my hot steamy shower. Feels great! Wait, it’s getting too steamy, I want my A/C so I fling the bathroom door open, steam coming out, A/C coming in, and I’m about to start a tropical rain moment, and teleport my wife to Miami… am I aware of how much energy I’m wasting? Nope… not even when I get hit by my monthly electricity bill! So now I’m brushing my teeth, shaving, and water is running like there’s no tomorrow! I hear that cistern every morning, all the way to the seventh floor, pumping that “sweet” water… Oops, what’s that, a wrinkle? Now I’m staring at it in the mirror and thinking to myself “where did all those years go”… and that “sweet” water is running… Done, cologne, deodorant! Oh, it says its “ozone friendly”. How can chemicals sprayed out of metal cans with plastic covers be “friendly” to anyone but those selling or smelling them! … It doesn’t matter. I’m late… I slip into my “denim” jeans (I recall that documentary on the denim/stonewash process, that it’s a people/ environment killer). I’m rushing down. Not really… I’m being transported by this state-of-the-art elevator that lights-up and talks to me each time I’m in it... why would I take the stairs? Plus now I’m sweating from the shower steam-A/C clash … And she starts, gosh she sounds sweet! Eight cylinders, singing, humming, purring…Yes, I am a part-time Formula One driver, and that sports car with +400 horsepower is a must… It gets me to my office in as long as half an hour, mostly stuck in second gear… but hey, it does plenty to my

machismo, and so I just got to have it, regardless of that crap I’m dumping through those four exhaust pipes! Yes four, it’s a Freudian thing. But hold on, the steam, the A/C, and that V8 are nowhere near enough to get me going… Coffee, here I come… It’s a pit-stop, on my way to work, so what’s wrong with a little treat! Never in my life have I experienced a cup of coffee that does so much damage to the environment… paper cup, plastic cover, carton sleeve, two sugar bags, and two wooden sticks to shake it all …I’m sure the “recycled paper” label is all over, but I don’t really understand how that works… maybe those materials come from recycled paper, but will they be recycled after I’m through with them? No idea… I’m pulling in, entering my office, and so excited about my nice warm “large” coffee… I blast every A/C switch and every light switch in sight… I need my office very bright and cool; it’s been a long hard day! …But I do have a nice brand new laptop, which I rush to every morning, fire it up, and run it all day long… I do get those occasional messages to switch to “energy-saving mode” and “screen-saver mode”, but I refuse to have my laptop not running at full capacity, flexing its RAM prowess, at ALL times … and then I get this e-mail that says at the bottom, right next to the signature, “Before printing, think about the environment”, in green… What have I been doing! I now have this sudden urge to fix it all at once! Where do I start? Pour my coffee into a mug? Switch that A/C from High to Low? Switch off those lights in that empty conference room? I’m stressing out… Is SMART open? Will I lose a lot trading in my sports car? What about my status? Machismo? Do I print that e-mail, switch off my laptop and printer, and read it at my own ease, or I skim through it rapidly and go into “energy saving mode”… I don’t want to go back to “me Tarzan, you Jane”… Maybe I don’t need all that steam and blastin’ A/C (but I do need that environment-killer deodorant)… maybe I can take the stairs down, and elevator up… and maybe I can read a bit more and find out if it’s better to read that e-mail digitally and consume power, or use an A4 and read it in “analogue mode”… whatever I do, I think I better start somewhere, or soon the “me Tarzan, you Jane” scenario will be the future of our children…

White Core 2011


tech freaks

The button line

– Looking for some green gitzos but not sure where to go? Beyond will be your guide. Words by Antoine Naaman

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1 It’s your call 1-A phone that’s green at heart, the Sony Ericsson Elm is built from recycled plastics and free from hazardous chemicals. Also known by its trickier name K970, it has been named the most sustainable handset on the market and is, alongside a small bunch of phones and headsets, part of GreenHeart – the result of years of innovation from Sony Ericsson to present a portfolio of greener choices. Not only does the Elm introduce green innovations reducing the overall environmental impact of the phone, but it also boasts style and plenty of features. It allows you to connect to your social networks and update your friends on how green you are being straight from the phone’s home screen; it has a media player for music and videos, and a 5-megapixel camera with face detection technology, and built-in GPS for easy navigation and an extra hand in finding the way to your destination. Greenish time 2-The Bedol Water Clock is an uber-green clock powered by water with no need for batteries whatsoever. Just fill its tank with water and a sip of lemon juice – just don’t get too carried away and add Vodka – and you’ll 264


be able to eke out what’s over three months of accurate timekeeping. Once it’s time to top it up with liquids again, you won’t have to worry about losing a couple of precious minutes. This clock houses a built-in memory chip that saves the time and keeps working as you quench its thirst. While this model does not sport an alarm clock, you can always check Bedol’s eco-friendly portfolio for more designs, colors, and features. Pedal pushers 3-Cyclists rejoice! Some of your cycling woes are over. If you find yourself frequently running out of battery as you listen to music while cycling, you might want to consider the new Nokia Bicycle Charger Kit. Just hook this ecofriendly charger onto your bike with the provided mounting brackets and you’re good to go. As you start pedaling and reach the speed of 6 km/h –the normal walking speed – the kit starts charging your mobile and doesn’t cease unless you surpass the 50 km/h limit. Charging times vary depending on phone models and cycling speeds but you’d be surprised to know that 20 minutes of cycling at 10 km/h will pump enough juice to a low-end Nokia phone to give you one hour of talk time and over 70 hours of standby time.

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