On Monday we boarded the bus at 7:00 a.m. to have an information-packed day on the environment, both in the world, and more specifically, in Israel. Our day started out in Rehovot on the campus of an agricultural university. This is where I will be living and volunteering for part two. It was a beautiful campus and I am so excited to see into my glass ball a little bit on some environmental work I will hopefully be partaking in.
At the University we met with three different professors who are also researchers and scientists. We mainly focused on three approaches to biological control. This is a process of employing living organisms to suppress pest organizations so there is no environmental damage. There are three approaches to this: classical biological control (BC), augmentative BC [mass-production], and conservation BC [manipulate environment to favor natural enemies].
The one I found the most interesting was classical biological control because it is one we travelers may be found guilty of. It deals with importation. You know when you are on an international flight and you get a card to fill out that asks if you are bringing back any food into the United States? Well most people lie because, let’s face it, they don’t want their precious international food taken away from them. The problem with this though is that this food was grown on international farms and thus has different organisms living and growing inside it. These organisms are then entering the United States and growing in an area where they shouldn’t be.
Two major issues in the food industry right now are how to make ‘organic’ food comparable price-wise without using insane amounts of pesticides. Also, how can scientists take their discoveries and turn it into something marketable.
The faculty had a lot of unpleasant things to say about the food industry in the United States. For example, did you know genetically modified organisms aren’t available in Israel or in Europe? I am not sure about elsewhere in the world, but I do know they are readily available in America. The three men also asked us what we think ‘organic’ means and how we know if something is actually organic. We have to be sure here that the farmer himself is being 100% honest about using no pesticides or synthetics. And when it comes down to it, we are all human.
In case you are wondering, this is how I feel on the topic. Obviously I am a huge fan of eating healthy, and I truly believe that food should be thought of as medicine. However, the biggest problem for me in America right now is that a meal at McDonald’s costs less than a head of lettuce. There are way too many people who do not have the money to eat even a tomato. Organic or not organic, a tomato is a lot healthier than a meal at McDonalds, though unfortunately a lot less filling. For now we should be focusing on getting people who cannot afford healthy food to be able to afford healthy food.
As a marketing minor I also see a lot of words such as “natural” and “sugar-free” being taken advantage of. Those who are not knowledgeable think this means these foods are healthy, but seeing that on the box by no means means the food inside is all that healthy.
Anyway, at this point we cannot feed the world on organic practices. We must focus on feeding the entire world, and in a healthy manner. The amount of food that we have to offer can happily feed everyone in this world, but unfortunately it is not spread out that way so there are too many starving people. And if they aren’t starving they are filling themselves up on substances that should never be allowed to enter the human body the amount of times that it does. So that is my scpheel on that.
Moving on! After we left the agricultural university we made our way to a building called “Better Place.” Here they are creating the first-ever, electric car. These cars have no gas tank, no tail pipe, no odors, no pollutants, and it makes absolutely no noise. NO way!
70% of the world population wants an end to our dependence on oil. Better Place says they are “A small change, a global revolution.” Towards the end of 2011 the cars will be launched, both in Israel and Denmark. If it is a success there are other countries who have latched onto the idea, even some states in the U.S. (California and Hawaii). The idea is that there will be charging stations everywhere, much like gas stations. You also get one charging station to be put anywhere you want when you buy the car [i.e. your garage]. Israel is small enough a country for this to be an ideal place to see if a system like this works. If it does I would be one happy camper.
We were lucky enough to drive around in the cars that have already been built. They remind me a lot of hybrid cars in the lack of noise they make. They are bigger than most hybrids I have seen though and you would not be able to tell that the car was electric verses gasoline-powered. The ride was also extremely smooth sailing.
After Better Place we made our way to a garbage waste dump. There is an environmental education facility there where we spent the rest of our day. The building was created out of all recyclable materials and everything can go back into the nature. There was a café built inside where at-risk youth work so they can have a job and make money. Other youth who are at-risk frequent this café often, which is nice because it gives them something positive to do during their days. I obviously supported this café and bought myself a cappuccino. It was another time in Israel where I found a heart.
After eating some lunch we took a tour of the garbage dump and then we watched a short film on a new park that is going to be built on a mountain at the top of the dump. There is a highway nearby where a lot of traffic frequents and when there are jams, everyone can smell the gross odor coming from the garbage. For more than just this reason Ariel Sharon Park will open [by 2012] in its place.
This park will look a lot like Central Park in New York. It is going to be 2,000 acres, making it one of the largest parks in the world. It will also be one of the most environmentally-friendly parks in the world. The paths will be laid on beds of recyclable material and there will be recyclable water. Within the park there will be cafes, shops, and an ampitheatre. Why doesn’t this park already exist so I can take advantage of it while living in Israel?
One of the goals for this park is to help make Israelis more environmentally aware and conscious. Right now Israel lacks this and are much behind even the United States. They are making an effort though which is important. I think the Better Place electrical cars will be huge for them. This could be a worldwide phenomenon and the fact that is Israel is the first country to launch it will be great publicity and just great for the world in general.
I am a little late on writing up this entry, my apologies. I am kind of glad I waited though because I have a cute little ending. Tonight my two friends and I were in Tel Aviv for dinner (details to follow in another blog entry) and we went to a restaurant called Buddha’s Burger. It was a vegan restaurant and I was obsessed with pretty much everything on the menu. I know when I live in Tel Aviv I am going to be there a lot. There was a quote on the menu that really struck me and I want to end this entry sharing it with you.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead. I love this quote particularly because I can follow Margaret’s advice and do what I can to help make this world a better place. We all can. Let’s do it. Please.