Monday, July 26, 2010

Round Table Dialogue and WOCMES conference synthesis

Round Table Dialogue and WOCMES conference synthesis.
I asked the participants, around 20 in all, to sit in a circle so that we could see each other and talk. As soon as everyone sat in a circle, the feeling of communication and conversation deepened. Dr. Malik sat on one side, Dr. Adil on the other.
As I absorbed the following comments, the following ah ha! moments came through to me. The biggest one, after the conference and all the people I met, is that we could serve as a wheel center for grassroots efforts to join together in protection of water in the middle east. I heard the Palestinians and Israeli’s speak of the Hula wetlands, and a marsh arab culture there. In Lebanon, the Ramsar wetland there was destroyed with the Palestinians and Lebanese were refugees from Israel and Syria, and they are now implementing hima and restoring their wetlands. In Turkey, they are proposing to build 2600 new dams, many along the Black and Aegean Seas, and also the Ilusu Dam on the Tigris River. These dams are proposed as a type of renewable hydroelectric energy, to offset carbon costs from fossil fuel energy emissions.
The second is that we shall collect and tell peoples stories and perspectives, and translate these into ecological/ scientific information as well as a story of the soul through video, photography, poetry and other media.
Below are comments from people who attended the circle.
1. Dr. Nadia Fawzi stressed having a watershed approach for the entire Tigris Euphrates. She says the whole drainage needs to be evaluated, and water conservation measures implemented throughout the watershed including in Iraq. It was pointed out that many of the irrigation systems and continued drainage system implemented by Saddam were very inefficient and resulted in the loss of a lot of water. They are wasting water in Iraq with out-dated irrigation systems, and crops that are not that tolerant of higher salinities. Need to use cultivars that have been developed to withstand rising salinities.
2. It was suggested to touch the hearts and souls of people. Bruce Pavlik mentioned the Arabic poetry reading in the room next door, and to include other media than science to join people together such as poetry and art. Others in the audience recommended getting really good people to help with projects. They brought up a BBC special that is coming up. They suggested more popular media and more soulful media, not just scientific papers.
3. Someone brought up a recent meeting with oil companies and CEO’s, suggesting that we use the word nature rather than biodiversity.
4. They also suggested getting the NGO’s to talk to top level people, including the oil companies. If we had contacts, we could get funding for some of our networking and outreach
5. They stressed above all to tell peoples stories. People are interested in people. By telling people’s stories you evoke a more personal connection with the reader and an emotional response. That’s how they will support the project and will lead to more public support gurgling up to policy makers and politicians.
6. Reach out to international sustainable agriculture
7. Outreach within Iraq to people who can listen. Poverty is soul deadening. If you have no drinking water or food, you cannot care properly for your children, the marshes become irrelevant. Iraqi citizens who have jobs and professions, in parliament and middle or upper class, are in a better position to negotiate for the marshes.
8. Hima. The concept of Hima was brought up repeatedly as a concept that pre-dates Islam. It was brought up as a traditional land management tool on Arabian pasture lands. It was used for tribes to protect their lands for their community. There is a lot of poetry in Arabic around conserving and protecting your tribe and resources. It has a lot to do with protection of your tribe. For the Bedouin who moved around a lot, they would protect the water sources and leave a sign for travelers that there was water.
Someone pointed out that the Bedouin had a very harsh life in the desert. The Marsh arabs had more resources and less competition for resources, so could be softer and gentler in their interactions and behavior.

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