The Israeli ‘question’ and anti-semitism are in the news. We need a Green perspective. The following piece might provide one element. It is an extract from a recent article by an Israeli academic, Professor Alon Tal a faculty member at Ben Gurion University :
Israel offers a microcosm of the global situation: A meeting point of three continents, at the middle of the twentieth century, this tiny country was still home to an astonishing assemblage of mammals, birds and reptiles. That’s because in 1949 there were one million people living in Israel. Today there are eight million. The equation is simple: more people means less wildlife. Accordingly, about a third of the country’s 115 indigenous mammal species today are either endangered or critically endangered. The amphibian population is almost entirely extirpated.
Israel has a remarkable program of conservation and its powerful Nature and Parks Authority set aside 25% of the country for reserves. But growing human settlement continues to fragment habitats and undermine the benefits that nature provides. These go far beyond any individual organism. When humans encroach on open spaces, they also lose the free services that nature provides: filters for clean water, protection from hurricanes, natural pollinators, soil integrity and recreational resources. The rapid rise in populations also tends to sabotage basic social services: schools are crowded, medical care overwhelmed, the legal system backed up, transportation gridlock unbearable and accessible housing inadequate. Infrastructure has a very hard keeping up with relentless growth.
Technological Pollyannas suggest that today’s technologies mean that we in the West needn’t be concerned. But of course we should. There are global limits that affect us all. Even Israel, whose ultra-hi-tech agriculture probably yields more “crop per drop” than any other country is only able to produce 45% of the calories required for its growing population.
Professor Tal directs our attention to the big question ignored in all the currents, namely that all contending forces in the Israel-Palestine area and indeed the entire Middle East are putting grossly unsustainable pressures on underpinning life-support systems there. Growth in local human numbers is the prime driver.