Echoes of Injustice: A Call for Environmental Justice in the MENA Region

As I sit to pen down my thoughts, the air outside is heavy—not just with the heat that is characteristic of my native region, but with the weight of environmental challenges that loom over us. I am a woman, a writer, and a witness to the environmental injustices that plague my homeland and the broader region. To me, the concept of environmental justice is a daily struggle, a call to action, and a plea for fairness.  

In the Middle East, we are no strangers to the harsh consequences of environmental degradation. Countries like Iraq and Syria are ravaged by conflict, which only exacerbates their vulnerability to climate change. The fertile crescent, once the cradle of civilization, now faces desertification and water scarcity, with fertile lands turning barren. In Lebanon, the aftermath of the Beirut explosion in August 2020 has left a scar not only on the city’s face but also on its environment, highlighting the intersection of environmental issues with urban planning and social justice. In Egypt, environmental stresses exacerbate water scarcity, hinder food security, and displace populations, further destabilizing the Egyptian economy. Morocco’s situation illustrates the link between environmental degradation and socioeconomic challenges as the country grapples with water scarcity, desertification, and the adverse effects of climate change on agriculture.  

The challenge is not just combating pollution and soil degradation, it is about dismantling the systems and policies in place that have left marginalized communities, including women, to bear the biggest brunt of the consequences associated with climate change and resource scarcity. This is what it means to pursue environmental justice and equity—to ensure that all people have access to the solutions, resources and infrastructure needed to be resilient in the face of a changing climate. It is about ensuring that countries like Yemen, which already grapples with extreme poverty, are not left to face the brunt of climate change alone. It is about supporting countries like Libya, whose environmental degradation is already compounded by political instability, to ensure that it does not further hamper effective governance and adaptation strategies. 

Environmental justice is not a distant dream; it is an urgent necessity. As we navigate the complexities of environmental justice in the Middle East, we must remember that the health of our environment is inextricably linked to the health of our societies. We cannot achieve peace, prosperity, or dignity without addressing the environmental injustices that plague our region. It is imperative that we strive for a future where every individual has access to clean air, water, and a safe environment—a future where the voices of the most vulnerable are heard and respected in the halls of power. Only then can we truly achieve environmental justice for all. 

Then there is Michael DeBakey, whose pioneering work in the medical field has saved countless lives and set new standards for care. His legacy is a beacon of hope and resilience, showing us the potential for human achievement. 

– Hasna, the storyteller