You might be wondering “What do the social protests in the Middle East and global biodiversity loss share in common?” First, thanks for asking. Second, this article intends to explain this unusual connection.
Since December 2010 protests have effectively taken place in 17 Middle Eastern countries (including Jordan, Israel, and Palestine). Each country has had a distinctive reason to protest, whether it is political freedoms, unemployment, cost of living, government reform, housing affordability, extreme poverty, demographic factors, self determination, a combination of the above or all of the above. However there is one large resonating theme that continues to be echoed through the streets of Cairo, Amman, Tel Aviv, Damascus, Tunis, Doha, and more. This message is being heard around the world, “The People Demand Social Justice!”
Global biodiversity has been on a steady, sharp decline since the 1960s. Species of plants and animals on our planet are disappearing at a rate that is 50-100 times greater than that of natural extinction. The direct causes of these losses are due to climate change, over-harvesting, habitat loss and alteration, and pollution and pathogenic incursions. However, these causes are result of the true culprit: socio-economic drivers. The biodiversity loss that we are witnessing is a result of demographic change, poverty and inequality, consumption, public policies, ineffective governance, macro-economic policy, social change and unsustainable development. And unfortunately our current strategies for preventing biodiversity loss aren’t working.
To answer the question, social protests in the Middle East and global biodiversity loss share in common the need for social justice. Many of the same factors that are causing the social upheaval in the Middle East are the same factors that contribute to the onslaught of global biodiversity loss.
This brings us to the next question. How do we advance an agenda of social justice to both reverse biodiversity loss and increase the quality of living of the residents of the Middle East? This is an even more complex question than the previously stated, which many activists around the world and in the Middle East are trying to answer.
One answer may be found from international organizations such as the United Nations, who points towards sustainable development, which “requires the integration of economics, environment, and social components… facilitated by continuous dialogue and action in global partnerships” as the solution. This requirement demands a uniquely crafted cooperation between states, economic justice, social justice and environmental justice.
In these historic days of citizen empowerment, it is crucial that organizations like Friends of the Earth Middle East continue to work everyday with their Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian partners to advance sustainable development, to promote a fair share of our natural resources between people and the environment, and at the same time work towards rehabilitating and protecting our environmental heritage.
 Wood, et al. (2002). The Root Causes of Biodiversity Loss. London, UK: Earthscan Publications Ltd