Weapons Can't Be Green

Representatives of green parties from 88 countries gathered in Sao Paulo this month for the Second Global Greens Congress. They not only discussed the environment, but also health care, education and development.

More and more green parties are emerging around the world. Green party representatives from 88 countries, including three from Israel, gathered this month in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for the Second Global Greens Congress. The conference was dedicated to Ingrid Betancourt, the former leader of Colombia's Oxygen Green Party, who was kidnapped by a guerrilla group in 2002 and is still being held hostage.

The conference's discussions centered on mega cities, such as Sao Paulo, Mexico City and New York, and environmental problems, foremost among them global warming. "The main problems occupying most party representatives are too much traffic and air pollution, producing electricity from renewable sources, and waste management," says Hadas Shachnai of the Green Party, who represented Israel along with Mosi Raz of Meretz and environmental activist Eran Binyamini. "For example, representatives from New York complained that while the city has efficient public transportation, it is flooded with garbage."

The congress was the first of its kind with a substantial presence of green parties from Africa and even from Mediterranean countries. However, the strongest green parties come from Europe, Australia and North America, where environmental awareness is more established. In these countries, green party representatives sit in parliament and hold senior positions in the big cities.

So far, the greens' greatest success has been registered in Germany, where the Green Party was a member of the government. The Germans are very involved in the activities of green parties the world over, through the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which promotes the activities of green organizations. The foundation also has offices in Israel.

The greens' situation is completely different in countries like China, the main stage for environmental problems today, because of its accelerated pace of development. The Chinese authorities have banned several parties. Shachnai relates that the green party representative in China openly voiced concern over his own fate and his name was barred from publication.

The situation is a lot better in places such as Paris, where the greens play a key role in city hall. They have recently promoted several environmental initiatives, including setting up the infrastructure for renting and riding bicycles. Green Party member Denis Baupin is the deputy mayor of Paris. In a meeting with Shachnai, he presented several ambitious objectives his party wants to promote: significantly reducing the use of private transportation over the next two decades and, as a result, increasing the use of public transportation. Another objective is to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases within the city by two-thirds.

One of the main objectives of conferences such as the one held in Sao Paulo is to create a common agenda for political movements from different countries. This agenda was formulated in what the greens defined as "the 21-points plan for the 21st century." This is not merely an environmental action plan, but also the herald of decisions calling for supporting democratic regimes and promoting activities to enhance health care, education and nutrition in developing countries. There is even a call to limit the global arms trade, which increased by 50 percent over the last four years.

"We aren't ashamed to state that green politics support peace," the program stated. "Our strategy, which entails conceding the use of gas and oil and opposition to nuclear energy, is intended to provide security for the energy supply and to prevent conflicts."

The first section of the greens' action plan states that they will work to replace the Western economic model, based on the use of different types of gasoline that cause pollution, inefficient energy use and a culture of consuming products and then disposing of them as waste.

The alternative model will consist of an economy whose prices will reflect both social and environmental costs. As such, income tax will be reduced and, simultaneously, a tax will be levied on acts that cause pollution. Subsidies that encourage pollution will be replaced by investment in renewable energies and in activities based on reducing emissions of carbon, the main greenhouse gas.

The action plan calls for reducing greenhouse gases by up to 40 percent by 2020. The greens are also calling for a halt in cutting down natural forests and for imposing strict supervision over wood products, to ensure that there is no trading in wood from forests where cutting has been prohibited. The greens assert that nature preservation in developing countries should be ensured by means of financial aid from the wealthy countries, which are largely responsible for the ongoing destruction of the world's natural resources.

Local butterflies face extinction

Over 100 species of day-flying butterflies are found in Israel. Now hikers can get acquainted with them, thanks to a pocket guide to butterflies. The guide, published by Teva Yisraeli publishers, is a continuation of the series that has already produced guides to flora and mammals.

The new guide, edited by Noam Kirschenbaum, features illustrations by Richard Lewington and Tuvia Kurtz and contains scientific descriptions by Dr. Oz Ben Yehuda. Many of the species appearing in it can be found in Israel, including in urban areas and their outskirts.

Day-flying butterflies live for just a few weeks and feed on nectar. Butterfly larva feed on plant leaves. Many butterfly species today face extinction due to the damage to their natural habitats and collectors' activities. The plans to expand such cities as Hadera and Safed threaten some of the last remaining habitats of particularly rare species. Among the species facing danger are the tree nymph, the largest day-flying butterfly in Israel, and one of the most stunning. Butterfly lovers recently waged a campaign that succeeded in delaying construction plans that would have damaged the butterflies and they are trying to add some species to the list of protected wild fauna in Israel.