Oman Observer

Environservation: Creating environmental awareness at Unizwa

A new initiative was launched at the University of Nizwa Department of Foreign Languages last week, as 24 participant students in the Current Events Course, took the opportunity to offer their perspectives on the environment and conservation.
Dr Khalfan al Harrasi, Head of Department, said “the manner in which the students have grasped this opportunity, the breadth of their knowledge, and conceptual understanding of the issues, are amazing, and a complete vindication of the course objectives of developing opinions on, and legitimate responses to global issues shaping the world we live in.”

“Environservation,” is a quickfire opportunity for the students to speak out on what really concerns them on the environmental front, and Kawther al Aufi set the tone during her sixty seconds, in a statement of absolute clarity in saying, “Our environment is the key to the survival of our species, and in the face of widespread industrialisation and urbanisation we must demonstrate greater responsibility to ourselves, and later generations.” Al-Shaima al Hadrami too was critical of, or maybe just worried, about the planet our sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters, stand to inherit, if we cannot achieve balance between the needs of both nature and mankind.
Global warming may not be a popular topic, but its causes and effects appear to command a high level of awareness among the student population in general. Muzna al Kharousi explained why the “1 per cent increase in global temperatures during the last century is unsustainable,” while Reem al Amri supported her contention that “whatever we can do, we must.” A passionate reminder that “It is us, and not the planet, that global warming is about,” was delivered by Ashwaq al Hashimi, saying, “nature can’t fix itself, it’s relying on us, so we must do the re-use and recycle thing, now!”
Athari al Qarmshi threw “wave power, as a renewable alternative energy source,” into the debate, Buthaina al Riyami mentioned the “proven global increase in wind-harvesting,” as an example of what may not be pretty, but can be effective.
It wasn’t always a question of reactive debate either, as Maryam al Humaidi questioned whether “there may be a greater number of volcanoes today contributing to the global warming scenario.” She wasn’t negating the human impact on global warming but asking a question that millions have asked in everyday conversation.
Deforestation is an issue Safa al Sulaimi raised, suggesting that sustainable reforestation would appear as a simple solution. “If you cut down a forest, you should replant it,” she said. Nouf Ambusaidi left an impression when she spoke of the “Great Pacific Garbage patch, a massive floating ‘island’ of plastic and seaborne junk, being as big as 500 Jumbo jets, and weighing over 80,000 tonnes.” This was very disquieting pair of statistics, and actually appeared to bring home the realities of our environmental frailty in a very real and appreciable manner.
Of the environmental issues facing our planet however Zuwaina al Adawi correctly indicated water as a massive priority, “not only for the world, but our MENA region. We need water,” was her simple statement. Liali al Hinai and Shaikha al Maamari suggested that a good first step, particularly locally, as an achievable water conservation fix, is “for all Omanis to ensure that their household water systems are well maintained, and kept efficient.”
Yusuf Ali quoted Noam Chomsky, saying, “There are two problems for our species survival, nuclear war and environmental catastrophe, and we’re heading towards them, knowingly.” Though he was disappointed in the United States opposition, he was heartened by India’s acceptance of the Paris Accord, and French President Macron’s determination, that the agreement by 195 countries, “is here to stay.”
Rahma al Mehrzi had earlier praised the concept of wildlife reserves, on land and sea, as a means of sustaining habitats and species. Maryam al Khatri agreed, and praised the efforts of the World Wildlife Fund in promoting practical conservation methods for a number of endangered species globally such as the Panda. Hajer al Nadabi championed the cause of the ‘Dahl’s Toad-headed turtle,’ in Colombia, South America, of which there are only 1000 left, and those numbers are reducing at an alarming rate. Thuraya al Salmi meanwhile expressed her emotion, and anger at the plight of the ‘Kenyan White Rhino,’ as the last of the males perished recently, as she asked, “Why did they wait so long before protecting the cull of these beautiful animals with life imprisonment?”
Muna al Azri meanwhile, brought the discussion closer to home, with her praise of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos’ personally inspired efforts concerning the Arabian Oryx Reserve, which is also home to the endangered Houbara Bustard, and the Arabian Leopard sanctuary in Jabel Samham. Athari al Makhladi spoke passionately of the earlier travails of the Oryx “often having to walk 200kms for water,” while Shaima al Riyami criticised the lack of controls previously, saying that “recreational hunting should have been banned long before it was.”
Of course, the Ras Al Hadd Turtle sanctuary is dear to the hearts of all Omanis, and since its establishment in April 1996. Marwa al Riyami talked about the experience of visiting the reserve, Badriya al Hosni outlined the “dangers to different turtle species from pollution and global warming, with nesting habitats being affected,” and Aliya al Wardi discussed the calamitous effects of water pollution and plastics on the seagoing turtle population.
Prominent UK conservationist Dr Nigel Winser, with significant Omani experience previously working with the National Field Research Centre for Environmental Conservation was heartened by the student’s appreciation of the issues facing the nation, the region, and the planet.
He commented that “this level of awareness among these young Omanis is truly exciting, reflecting the lifelong commitment by His Majesty to safeguard Oman’s rich natural heritage for future generations. Sustainable development requires sound environmental understanding and brave leadership by a new generation of field scientists and teachers, and this bodes well for the future of Oman.”
It is important to note the concept of environmental protection should start at home, where children can be encouraged to love their nurturing environment, keeping it clean and safe, which can be later embraced as a lifestyle, for as Benjamin Disraeli said “Cleanliness and order are not matters of instinct, they are matters of education.” Ultimately, to paraphrase Anthony Douglas Williams then, “It is not whether the animals, our planet, and our environment will survive, but whether mankind has the collective will to save them.” With young Omanis as conscious as these, of environmental and conservation awareness, such a will may yet emerge.

RAY PETERSEN & Thuraya Al Salmi