30 March 2012

Earth Hour & Apathy

Tomorrow, 31st March 2012, marks 'Earth Hour' - the global initiative organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to encourage people across the world to switch off their lights for an hour.  The first Earth Hour took place in Australia in 2007 and over the following years has expanded to include participation by millions of people across 135 countries. Here in Oman the event has been championed by ESO, with landmark buildings like the Royal Opera House Muscat agreeing to dim their lights between 8.30 - 9.30pm.

Earth Hour is designed to raise awareness of sustainability issues and to send a message for action on climate change.  Whilst I'm all for raising awareness, we have to ensure that that awareness leads to real action and change.  My concern is that initiatives like Earth Hour actually allow a lot of people to simply feel like they've done their bit. It assuages their guilty conscience and they carry on as normal until next year. One hour, annually, of turning out the lights is not going to make any difference.  People need to live the changes. A token gesture is not enough.  I personally will not be taking part in Earth Hour. Not in protest and not because I would find it difficult to sit by candlelight for an hour, but simply because I don't believe that me switching everything off for an hour changes anything. I prefer to be aware of my energy usage every day and to do my best to save resources at all times.

I don't mean to denigrate those who do take part, and I do think awareness raising is crucial, but I do want to make it clear that people need to do so much more.  It often feels to me like I am surrounded by complete apathy.  So many people talk a lot but so few are willing to actually do anything.  Whilst social media can be a powerful networking tool, it seems also to have bred a generation of people who think that by Facebook 'liking' something they have made a difference. They may, in some abstract way, be showing their support for a cause, but they're changing absolutely nothing.  The petition to stop Lulu selling sharks is a case in point. Many people 'liked' the link to it on Facebook but didn't actually sign it! I don't care about being 'liked', I care about making a difference - and so should you!

On that note, Happy Earth Hour and, remember, "Be the change you wish to see in the world..."

27 March 2012

Clean Up Oman - this weekend! 29th March!

This weekend (Thursday 29th March) will see Oman's biggest ever clean-up taking place nationwide! Here in Dhofar there will be 4 clean-up teams at the following places:
  • Al Dahariz Beach, Salalah
  • Next to Municipality Playground, Taqa
  • East of Fisheries Harbour, Mirbat
  • Next to the Mosque in Town Centre, Maqshan
Start time is 4.30pm. Please go along and help out and spread the word to your friends/family and colleagues.  This should be a fun event which will also raise much needed awareness of the problem of littering. Water, T-shirts and bin-bags will be provided to participants and the Municipality rubbish trucks will be there to collect the bin bags at the end.
To find out about other locations across Oman check out the Oman Clean Up group on facebook.

26 March 2012

Sea Legends - Shark Expedition

I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Sea Legends, who are currently in Salalah as part of a 3-week long shark expedition.  The team is made up of a very driven, committed and passionate group of volunteers who have come together over a common cause - to protect Oman's sharks and to explore sustainable alternatives to fishing.  Over the coming weeks, this team of divers, activists & cameramen will be documenting shark fishing across Oman and its influence on fishing communities and the local economy.  You can follow their progress on facebook and also read more in this interview with Avi Bernstein - a marine protection activist and one of the core team members.  The expedition is only in its infancy, but already shocking images are emerging of scores of dead bull sharks (including pregnant ones), endangered hammerheads and eagle rays.  I wish these guys every success and the best of luck, and I sincerely hope that Oman wakes up to this issue before it is too late.  It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problem here, but it is also inspirational to be around people who care enough to self-fund and undertake a project like this.  I urge you to show your support!  The image below was taken this morning in Salalah fish market where over 50 dead baby sharks were seen, including endangered scalloped hammerheads!

Photo courtesy of Sea Legends

18 March 2012

Arabian Leopards in Dhofar!!

I had the pleasure earlier this month of meeting Phil Dickinson, who works for Earthwatch. Although I had heard of the organisation I was surprised (and delighted!) to learn that they run a programme of research in Oman, including right here in Dhofar!  It turns out that Phil was here working with Dhofari colleagues to run Field Skills training for rangers from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA).  The rangers manage the Jebel Samhan protected area which is home to the critically endangered Arabian leopard.  The current status of the Arabian leopards and their environment in Jebel Samhan is, I learned, being researched jointly by staff from MECA, the Office for Conservation of the Environment (OCE), the National Field Research Centre for Environmental Conservation, and Earthwatch

Although I was vaguely aware that Arabian leopards existed in small numbers in Oman, I am ashamed to admit that my knowledge did not extend beyond that.  It was fascinating therefore to learn that this work is taking place locally and to know that there are several dedicated organisations and individuals working to conserve this magnificent species.  Seeing some of the project's photographs of these rare leopards (captured on camera traps) was a privilege. They are incredibly beautiful and something Oman should be very proud of.  Leopards are, however, increasingly under threat and it is therefore crucial that all necessary efforts are made to conserve Oman's population of these creatures.

It is my understanding that two local experts are at the core of the leopard work - Hadi al Hikmani and Khaled al Hikmani. I hope to organise a talk by them in the near future to allow us to learn more about their work and have them share their expertise.  If you would be interested in attending a presentation on the Arabian leopards of Jebel Samhan please leave a comment or email me and I will keep you updated!

Photo reproduced from http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com (photographer: Andrew Spalton)

17 March 2012

Press Bug!

It's been a good month for Dhofar Eco Bug, with an article in The Week and a mention in RasKrabbel (a magazine for Dutch ex-pats).  I've always been conscious that this blog likely preaches to the converted - after all if you don't have an interest in the environment you probably wouldn't be here - therefore, any chance to get the message out to the wider public is always very welcome.  Thanks to everyone who has shown an interest and I hope to see an increase in readers and, more importantly, in local action!!  Oddly, the article in The Week  didn't actually include the blog's web address, but hopefully people will find their way here nonetheless...

The Week - published Wednesday 7th March 2012