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From the Editors of MainGate

Conservation Matters

There is a green movement on campus. No, no—it’s not anything political. It is, in a word, no less than a remarkably unified spirit of environmental awareness and conservation that is becoming more persuasive day by day.
The environment of Lebanon—and what AUB faculty, alumni, and students are doing to protect it while also helping promote agrarian development—is an issue we at MainGate have long wanted to tackle. As alumni and friends, you all know the sheer, natural marvel of Lebanon. From its long, undulating coastline to its verdant valleys and snow-capped mountain peaks, to its fertile farmlands and flourishing urban centers, it is a land without equal in the region for its spectacular diversity.
We found that the AUB faculty involved in environmental issues have adopted the latest innovative approach of linking environmental conservation to the aims of sustainable development. Sitting in his office in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) Building, Professor Rami Zurayk pointed out that conservation has taken on a whole new meaning for him and his colleagues in the Interfaculty Graduate Environmental Sciences Program. Through the faculty’s Environment and Sustainable Development Unit, they are not only working to help preserve Lebanon’s precious natural resources; they are also aiming to see poverty ultimately eradicated
in both agrarian and urban areas—which is the key goal behind their efforts to promote sustainable development. With this two-pronged vision in mind, there is much on their plate—such
as planning zone management for the Lebanese coastline, sustaining plant diversity, protecting threatened species, devising ways to deal with the solid waste problem, and introducing practices to achieve sustainable livelihoods in the marginal lands of Lebanon. Many challenges lie ahead, but there is no doubt that these AUB faculty members have the commitment and expertise to get the job done.
On campus, we discovered that practically everyone—faculty, students, and administration—is actively involved in the green movement. The Physical Plant has successfully introduced a number of energy and water-saving measures, as well as a campus-wide recycling program. The students, on their part, channel their activities through the Student Environmental Club—such as organizing recycling and clean-up efforts as well as conducting workshops on waste management. In fact, AUB has a long tradition of environmentalism, as we learned in our interview with Professor Emeritus Aftim Acra. It’s a conversation that is sure to fascinate you.
Throughout Lebanon and the region, there are AUB alumni involved in environmental initiatives. The Beirut-based Healthy Basket program, run by FAFS alumni and faculty, brings farm-fresh organic foods straight to the front door of Beirut residents, many of whom would not otherwise have easy access to such healthy produce. And up in the hills of Aley is Animal Encounter, a non-profit organization run by two AUB alumni that takes in animals, many of them indigenous to Lebanon and in danger of extinction, and teaches conservation to children in a beyond-fun learning environment.
No question about it: the environmental spirit at AUB is indeed contagious. We have seen it in action and are extremely pleased to be sharing this first-hand report with you. The road ahead for Lebanon’s environment may appear rocky—but with the University’s faculty, students, and alumni so thoroughly engaged, it definitely looks much greener from where we stand.
Ibrahim Khoury and Lynn Mahoney

Lynn Mahoney and Ibrahim Khoury

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