The Bottom Line / Environmentally Unfriendly

Independence Day has been institutionalized in recent years as Nostalgia Day: The press loves to list the state's accomplishments one after the other, and to measure the distance covered from the Declaration of Independence until now. The media is infused with the retro feeling; television dusts off old movies to broadcast; and newspapers are decorated with reminiscent pictures.

Few of the headlines dealt with the future of the state. Those interviews that did look ahead dealt primarily with security threats, handling terror or Iranian armament. Not one dealt with an area in which the state is deteriorating constantly and lags far behind the developed countries of the West - the environment.

A large portion of Independence Day celebrations appear to be the victory dance of the Polluting Israeli over whatever is left after 58 years of environmental anarchy. This is not only about the enormous waves of garbage left behind by the hundreds of thousands who "went out to nature." Out there in nature, hikers and picnickers encountered piles of construction waste scattered every day by hundreds of trucks on any scrap of exposed land that can be reached by vehicle. They also found jeeps and dune buggies crushing green spaces that will never recover from the off-road fashion.

And we haven't even said a word yet about the thousands of dunams lost to urban sprawl, accelerated rezoning and superhighways. Some of that development could have been saved by more environmentally-conscious planning.

Israel has pretty poor entry stats for a country trying to preserve its natural resources. It is one of the most crowded countries in the world, and as crowding increases, it gets harder to maintain cleanliness. The water shortage makes it difficult to maintain low pollution in streams and reservoirs, and in recent years the authorities have had trouble handling polluters in Palestinian Authority territory, which is still part of Israel's ecological system.

On the other hand, as a technology powerhouse, Israel has a great deal of technological means for progress and even leadership in the field of the environment, since a large portion of the problems can be solved using technology.

For instance, in the age of the computer and satellite positioning, it is not a problem to develop systems to identify and enforce laws against unauthorized construction waste dumping.

But as we take pride this Independence Day in our Western consumption and growth rates, the Environment Ministry budget is being slashed by a third, to NIS 200 million - the size of a routine, medium-sized Defense Ministry project.

Because Environment is a scrawny bone that gets thrown to a minister from the back benches.