Creating some [green] space – World Environment Day in Beirut

Cynicism aside, it’s interesting to see the diverse responses to  “activism days” around the world. I’ve had the chance in the past few years, to celebrate  UNEPs World Environment Day  (actually June 5) in Madagascar, Canada and Tajikistan. Today, I was in Beirut, where we sat on  turf pieces in the middle of a typical Beirutian intersection.

“A citizen initiative to protest the lack of green and public spaces in Beirut, “Green the Grey” is to take place on Saturday June, 4 in Achrafieh, on Sassine Square. The concept is to transform this place into a park for a day.”

I’m constantly appalled at the urban [non]-planning of Beirut; no mass public transport, little access to public coastline, essentially no parks to speak of, or just plain ‘secular non-commercial space.’ The city  is in desperate need of public space [period].  But particularly, green public space. We heard today that city planners are accountable to provide only 1 sq/m of green space per person.

There’s a growing social media movement on the topic; check out this blog on Beirut Public Space. This type of open dialogue is what Lebanon needs more of, to counter the general sense of governance inertia which seems to hang over most issues. Many young people I’ve spoken with in Beirut are frustrated, saying that it’s difficult to get citizens to mobilize around social issues in general. It seems like creating a space, for people to talk, is a good starting point.

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