I use my cab rides to practice Arabic. After a day or two interning with Friends of the Earth Middle East, I mastered a new Arabic script: a FoEME elevator pitch for cab drivers. Oh, I heard about them on the radio, drivers would respond.
I’ve interned with FoEME’s Amman office for the last two months. Initially, I was responsible for social media and, subsequently, I worked on faith-based outreach.
Advocating for environmental sustainability and peace – FoEME’s primary objectives proved a unique challenge. Our audience is diverse—geographically, linguistically, and ideologically—and I was eager to promote FoEME in a way which could reach everyone. Plus, as an American, I never wanted my linguistic and cultural biases to paint FoEME as an institution of the West. It is not.
Fortunately, FoEME’s work speaks for itself. Cooperation amongst FoEME’s three offices, grounded in solid field work, has improved environmental awareness and activism. In a political climate seeped with rhetoric concerning future water wars, FoEME demonstrates a rational alternative. FoEME’s successes prove that shared environmental challenges may present opportunities for regional cooperation, rather than condemn us to conflict.
On a personal note, I’ve followed Israeli/Palestinian relations from a young age, studied Middle Eastern politics and water issues throughout college, and have lived in the region for nearly a year. Before beginning my FoEME internship, I informally explored peace-building and environmental initiatives in the region. I travelled to farms in Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, visited the Jordan River, and asked anyone who’d talk with me about prospects for peace, water sharing, and environmental improvement. I encountered a lot of pessimism. “What is this recycling? We need to learn how to cycle, first!” Slowly, my enthusiasm for these issues began to wane.
Working with FoEME, however, restored my optimism. FoEME’s projects are refreshingly progressive and pragmatic. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such diligent and committed individuals, and proud to tell cab drivers that I work for FoEME.